Travel | Los Angeles, CA: Eats

Monday, April 22, 2019

"Did I tell you how divinely and utterly happy I am?"- Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany's

Holly may have been lying to herself while saying this line to Paul/Fred, but this quote rings super true to how I am choosing to live my life in 2019. 

This work trip was my first of the year and I approached it with a bit of trepidation. My coworker and I decided to stay for an extra day in order to take advantage of professional opportunities, but my mind needed a couple of days before solidifying our plans. She pointed out that whenever I push myself out of my comfort zone, I always look back on those experiences as being my most favorite. This statement could not have rung more true for this trip. 

In addition to eating at the wonderful restaurants below, we visited the company headquarters of one of my favorite cult beauty brands, was a guest on a well-known cruelty-free beauty podcast, saw a living legend in concert (post to come), and attended Indie Beauty Expo LA for the third year in a row.

This trip was the perfect way to kick start my year and I am so grateful. I truly felt like these three days were a YOLO experience, with so many more to come.

Au Lac | I have been wanting to eat at this restaurant for years as it has quite the reputation for being one of the go-to Los Angeles vegan restaurants. However, after dining at Au Lac, I have lukewarm feelings about it. It has a wonderful ambiance and very friendly staff. I also love that it is completely vegan with a ton of gluten-free options. 

That being said, I think this restaurant is a hit or miss depending on what you order. For instance, I ordered the pesto mushrooms and Cali roll and was not impressed by either one. The mushrooms were room temperature with a very light filling that wasn't very flavorful. The Cali roll, which I was told was very substantial and "for sharing," was a pretty small portion size for a main course. I found the nut cheese inside very rubbery and flavorless. The best part of the dish was the dipping sauce. Since I was still hungry, I ordered the Yucca fries and they were phenomenal. They were super crispy, but light, and had a wonderful bite to them. The dipping sauce was like a watery ketchup, but I liked it.

Overall, I would come back to Au Lac for the Yucca fries and try other menu items, hoping for a more satiating experience.


Cafe Gratitude | I had eaten at another Cafe Gratitude location when I was in LA a few years ago, so I knew it was going to be a great experience. My colleague and I had a late lunch/early dinner here before attending a work event. We both took advantage of the lunch special where you order an appetizer and main dish from a handful of selections for a discounted price. Since lunch specials are often smaller portion sizes, I asked the waitress and she confirmed that the appetizer was single serving, but the main dish was full size. My colleague and I both chose the Brussels sprouts appetizer (Ecstatic) and forbidden rice bowl with butternut squash and beets (Devoted) as our main dishes. I also ordered a roobois tea and my colleague ordered a lemonade. 

Our appetizers arrived quickly and we both blown away. I savored every bite, they were so good, and my colleague enjoyed them so much, she ate them in record time. Next, our main courses arrived. They were so flavorful, with a satiating taste and texture. I ate so slowly and intentionally, enjoying every morsel. I think the only thing that could have made the dish better would be some nuts on top. We both left the restaurant feeling fed, but not overly full, and our bellies were very happy. We also appreciated the attentiveness of our waitress and that she consistently refilled my tea cup with more hot water and provided my colleague with free refills of lemonade. We can't wait to go back next time we're in town.


Wild Living Foods | It can be so tricky finding a place to eat lunch when attending an Expo all day. Luckily, Wild Living Foods was right around the corner from our location (The California Market Center). My colleague and I popped in to this little grab and go place for lunch. We were hoping to order and have our meal prepared fresh and sit at one of the tables. However, due to construction going on that day, we had to take our meal to go. 

Rather than have the kitchen prepare our meal (which was offered), we took salads from the to go case. To be honest, we were not super confident that we'd enjoy our meals. However, we were blown away. My Ojai salad was so satiating. I loved every element; the kale tasted fresh and crispy, the avocado was not mushy, the almond croutons added a complex texture and flavor, I loved the Brasil nut cheese, and the ranch dressing was out of this world. I savored every bite. My colleague got a quinoa Mexican inspired bowl and loved hers, as well. She appreciated that there were several dipping sauces/dressings. 

The staff was super friendly, the store super clean, and I appreciated their accommodating nature and the fact that they have pre-made items for sale in their refrigerated section. We cannot wait to go back next time we are in town.


Takami Sushi | My colleague and I had dined at this restaurant two years ago and were so excited to go back. One of our unofficial travel rules is that we eat sushi at least one night. We made 5pm reservations before taking a red eye back to the east coast. We were seated immediately and, while looking over the menu, received our beverage orders (club soda and green tea). I let the server know that I am both vegan and gluten-free, and was provided with a special gluten-free menu. We both decided on edamame for an appetizer. I had the steamed edamame, which was perfected steamed and salted. My colleague got the butter garlic edamame and was in heaven. Our server even told her how to make it at home! 

Next, we each ordered three of the veggie rolls, which are vegan and gluten-free by default (most of the sushi is by default not gluten-free). The texture and vegetable combo of these rolls is next level. My colleague and I have our favorite sushi restaurants in the different cities to which we travel, and we both agreed that this sushi is our favorite so far. Additionally, when I told my server that I love wasabi, he was super generous with providing extra. 

Everyone at the restaurant is super friendly, our drinks were refilled often, and we were able to finish dinner quickly before the dinner rush and to get back to our hotel in plenty of time to get to the airport. In addition to loving our meals, the ambiance of this restaurant is incredible, as it provides a wonderful view of LA, with dim lighting and comfortable booth seating. We cannot wait to visit again next time we are in town.



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