The last two nights of my 2017 USA roadtrip were spent in one of my all-time favourite states: California. We had a few nights and a full-day in San Diego (which is turns out is nowhere near enough time to do this beautiful city justice) and a morning in L.A. before we had to head over to the airport and back home, sob.
So this is in nothing like a comprehensive guide to either place, but there were so many great vegan eats that I wanted to share these highlights with you dudes nonetheless.
After checking into our hotel and having a few cocktails in the Fancy As Flip rooftop cocktail bar we headed to La Puerta, also in the Gas lamp district. Their website says “If you’re looking for the best Mexican food in San Diego, you’ve found it!” and that seems like some big big talk but honestly, it was exquisite. I had some kind of tequila cocktail upon arrival at La Puerta and subsequently felt utterly wasted, and so can’t remember what I ate – I’m sorry! – but I do know it was delicious. From the chips and guac, the strong cocktail to my mystery main – all delicious. It’s a very popular place and is omni, which is helpful if you’re going with a group of friends. Other restaurants where I ate and do remember the experience include:
_ _ _ _ _ _
Evolution Fast Food
Location: 2965 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
Price: $30 for two lunches including soft drinks
Good for: All vegan, super friendly service, lovely little patio outside as well as being a drive-thru
Bad for: Long line out of the door the whole time we were there so be prepared to wait
There was a heatwave in San Diego whilst we were there and by the time we arrived at Evolution Josh and I were hotter than the sun. Two words: clammy thighs. So the cool, relaxed patio outside was very welcome indeed. The service was so friendly – everyone I talked to was, frankly, lovely. I went for the Artisan beef patty burger with cheese, pickles and mayo. It came with fries and I ordered a strawberry milkshake too. Josh ordered some chicken tenders. All was delicious, nourishing and felt pretty healthy. The queues were huge here both for walk-ins and the drive-thru and I can see why.
_ _ _ _ _ _
Location: 1845 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
Price: $64 for two main meals + 1 dessert, no booze.
Good for: A dedicated vegan menu, alongside omni Italian fare
Bad for: Our waiter was kinda rude.
After our afternoon of boozing and sun, we spent the balmy evening in Civico 1845. As well as traditional Italian fare they have a dedicated vegan menu. It was hard to choose as everything looked beautiful but I went for the House-made Fettuccine with a slow-cooked Seitan Ragout. The serving was massive and it was a really knock-out meal. Even though I was fit to burst I ordered a Strawberry Custard Cake, which wasn’t in any way horrible but didn’t rock my world. The prices were great value and the atmosphere – in Little Italy – was lovely. The only fly in the soup was the service which was weirdly aggy. Not sure if our waiter got out of the wrong side of the bed that day?
_ _ _ _ _ _
Location: 631 B St, San Diego, CA 92101
Price: $8 for 2 doughnuts
Good for: So many great doughnuts, buzzy staff, nice coffee
Bad for: I have nothing but love for this place
Having tried one of these incredible doughtnuts at the Donut Bar in Vegas at the start of this roadtrip, when I saw they had a store in San Diego too I knew I had to go back. And again they had several vegan-friendly donuts, amongst the omni ‘nuts, including matcha and apple strudel flavour. Again I went for the Creme Brulee because I just couldn’t get enough of it. Soft chewy dough, luscious vanilla cream filling and a crisp caramel shell. So many incredible flavours and textures. I was in doughnut heaven.
_ _ _ _ _ _
Location: 1253 Vine St # 9, Los Angeles, CA 90038
Price: $23 for food and soft drink +tip
Good for: FOOD THAT MAKES MY HEART SING.
Bad for: I can’t find a single thing wrong with Doomies!
After enduring L.A. traffic – I CANNOT EVEN describe how awful L.A. traffic is – it was brilliant to arrive at Doomies, step out of the car and into gorgeous sunshine. It was even cooler that one of the first people I saw in Hollywood was Forest Whitaker – he was smiling after a trip to Doomies and when I finished eating there I could see why! I ordered a Fried Chicken Basket: 2 pieces served with mac ‘n’ cheese & animal-style fries. After a little wait and a chat with the friendly and laidback wait staff, it arrived and I have to tell you it was amazing. The chicken was crisp on the outside and tender inside, the fries were sickeningly tasty and the mac was cheesy and delicious. This was vegan junk food done right and I wouldn’t hesitate to head back here if I’m ever in L.A. I’d been perving on their instagram feed for yonks and was delighted it all lived up to my hype.
_ _ _ _ _ _
After I’d finished eating my Doomies, we wandered over to Umami Burger, which Josh had heard served mean burgers. When he was given his menu he spotted that they were serving the Impossible Burger (a vegan burger which is billed as the “the only veggie burger that looks, handles, smells, cooks and tastes like ground beef”) and he decided to give it a whirl. I was already full and it came in a brioche bun with dairy-cheese on top, so I couldn’t go halvsies with him, but I had a tiny taste of the burger itself and WOW. It is a game changer. It tasted and smelt so much like beef it made me tear up a little. Not because I’d missed eating beef, but because this burger could prevent so much cruelty and be so positive for the environment. Josh thoroughly loved it and thought that it could fool a meat-eater. I am really hopeful that I’ll get to eat an Impossible Burger – with vegan-friendly cheese, mayo and bread someday soon.
I want to give a shout out to Bar Kindred in San Diego which wasn’t open at the time I intended to go there – damn it! – but looks, from their instagram-feed to be a very swanky and tasty place to hang out.
Most of our time in SD was spent going on a beer-crawl as my husband is a huge craft-beer fan. We started at Modern Times as their tasting room in North Park has 10+ taps pouring a selection of their finest.
Then we walked the six or so blocks to Bottlecraft, a great bottle shop and bar, before arriving at Toronado, an awesome dive bar with what seemed like hundreds of taps. Feeling a little tipsy by this point, we jumped into an Uber and over to the Blind Lady Alehouse in the Normal Heights neighbourhood, home to another million taps of incredible beers.
As you might know, I just love a tiki bar. After hanging out in tiki bars during this trip in Vegas, Palm Springs and in Hawaii I was pleased that I got to end the vacay with a visit to one last Tiki Bar. And it was a gorgeous one. Hidden within another bar: Craft & Commerce, False Idol boasts wall-to-wall Polynesian artifacts, a rock/water/fire wall, beautiful woodcarvings and a bevvy of seriously strong tiki cocktails. I absolutely loved it here and couldn’t resist buying a Tiki Mug to add to my collection.
During our time in San Diego we stayed at the Kimpton Solamar. In general you can’t go wrong with a Kimpton: the staff were as friendly as ever, the coffee in the lobby was delicious and the location in the Gas Light district was great. The only downsides were the cost of parking ($50 a night!!!!!) and because our room was one of those that had a (locked) adjoining door we could hear our neighbours very clearly as well as the noise from the rooftop bar. So not sure if I’d rush to stay here again.
Because we didn’t have much time in San Diego we didn’t get up to much but we did wander around the city and to the waterfront to see the Unconditional Surrender/Embracing Peace statue. The statue is based on a wartime photograph taken by Victor Jorgensen of an American sailor returning from the war and embracing a nurse. The statue provoked some debate given that it depicts a sailor kissing a woman unknown to him, and the original name “Unconditional Surrender” has in most cases been changed to “Embracing Peace”. Its an interesting statue to go and visit in any case, and its right next to the giant USS Midway aircraft carrier and museum, if that’s your kinda thing.
We also spent a bit of time catching rays in Balboa Park and at Mission Beach. Both of which were lovely. In L.A. we only had time to see the Griffith Observatory (shout out to LA LA Land fans!) and the Hollywood Hills sign before we had to set off – very early, that L.A. ruddy traffic – to LAX but I was surprised at how much I liked L.A. from my brief time there.
I would certainly go back, not least because a tonne of people I follow on Instagram seem to eat some of the most decadent, delicious-looking vegan food in this city!