food & drink

Latino Food Is Getting The Vegan Makeover Thanks To These 11 Southern California Restaurants

xochitl.vegan / alchemyorganica / Instagram

It’s hard to imagine that just less than a decade ago, it was a mission to find vegan options in neighborhoods such as Highland Park or Santa Ana. The lack of restaurants forced these innovative chefs to start creating homestyle Latino dishes with some vegan-friendly flair. Now those same neighborhoods and so many others throughout southern California catering to this cuizine and they are as Instagram friendly as they are delicious. Here are 11 spots you must visit in southern California.

1. Xochitl Vegan

This vendor is not a wallflower when it comes to using hibiscus to add flavor and color to burritos, tacos and nachos. Now we want to add some purple power to our nachos. Yum. Hibiscus is truly the unsung hero of Latino cuisine, both vegan and non-vegan.

2. Un Solo Sol

This Boyle Heights restaurant is taking pupusas up a level. They make spinach pupusa, mushroom pupusa and zucchini pupusas. For some extra protein, pinto beans take over for the cheese in a traditional pupusa. Genius.

3. Blue Window LA

If you’re looking for a plant-based breakfast while jetting out of LAX, this Highland Park-based eatery has got your back (and your stomach.) Blue Window LA’s soyrizo breakfast burrito is made with caramelized onions, breakfast potatoes, corn salsa, spinach, peppers and of course, soyrizo.

4. Señoreata

Cuban and Brazilian chef Evanice Holz makes Cuban comfort food that is delicioso. From Cuban sandwiches made with jackfruit asado to meat pies made with plant-based picadillo, you’re sure to find your favorite Cuban treat with plant-friendly ingredients.

5. Alchemy Organica

Scroll through celebrity chef Denise Vallejo’s Alchemy Organica Instagram feed and you will never see Mexican cuisine the same again—all the traditional dishes are reimagined with plant-based ingredients, like this ceviche made out of coco. Other dishes include family recipes handed down to Chef Denise, such as Mexicali-style ‘asada’ tacos and a traditional Mayan pumpkin seed dip called Sikil Pak.

6. Vegan by Victoria’s

If you’re looking to have pan dulce without all the artificial sugar but still want some sweetness, head on down to Santa Ana to visit Victoria’s Bakery. Baker Earvin Lopez is mixing up donchas, manteconchas, beloved spinkles cookies and more in a way PETA would be proud of.

7. Just Vegana

Quick: Can you spot the difference between your abuela’s tamales and these vegan ones by Just Vegana? Neither can we! This chef also makes mouthwatering pozole and tacos. Now your family has some non-meat tamale options when winter rolls in.

8. Vegatinos

Clever name, clever culinary skills. This pair of vegan Latinos are turning jackfruit into birria, tortas and tamales. Sign us up for that next pop up.

9. Cena Vegan

If you can’t make it out to one of Cena Vegan’s pop-up events, then head on out to one of their partner stores and buy yourself a bag of their plant-based meats such as carne asada or al pastor.

10. Mi Riconcito Azteca

This Pasadena restaurant that serves both Mexican food and antojitos from Central America has a plant-based option if you’re craving a huarache. Corn, calabacita and salsa verde come together on this mouth-watering plate.

11. Plant Food for People

Chef Genise started Plant Food for People in 2011 when she didn’t have any vegan options in her hometown of Highland Park. Now she is running a thriving food establishment serving up tortas, tacos and nachos to hungry Southern Californians.


READ: Here Are 11 Vegan Versions Of Staple Latino Foods That Will Make You Consider Going Vegan

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Mexican-Inspired Dishes That People Think Are Mexican But Are Not Even Close To The Original

Food & Drink

Mexican-Inspired Dishes That People Think Are Mexican But Are Not Even Close To The Original

toonsyla / hlifsaevars / Instagram

A note to aspiring restauranteurs: Mexican food doesn’t mean putting a dollop of sour cream, cheddar cheese and pico de gallo on an entree. Try to push the envelop and really elevate the dishes millions of people love. Change up the ingredients or change the flavor palate to truly make your take on the dish unique and exciting. Also, don’t claim the food is authentic this or that. Be honest and just say it is inspired by something. That will go over so much better. Here are some foods that missed the mark.

1. Chipotle’s queso dip

Chipotle arguably does a lot of stuff right. Their burrito, fajita and carnitas bowls are delicious, especially when drizzled with guacamole. Even their burritos are something everyone should enjoy at least once. However, when the casual chain decided to release a queso dip, the restaurant got into a sticky situation with dissatisfied customers. The soup-y like consistency of the dip did not get rave reviews and even affected stock prices.

2. Pea guacamole

We are still shuddering at the fact that peas and guacamole can be put in the same context, but that’s the food travesty that New York Times columnist and cookbook author Melissa Clark introduced to the internet to back in 2015. Twitter erupted with foodie backlash about the recipe saying they would not be using peas in his guac recipe.

Even President Barack Obama took a stand on the issue.

Imagine your recipe being so ridiculous that even the president of the United States takes time to tweet about it.

3. Hard shell tacos

The crunch sound you hear while eating at a Mexican restaurant should either come from chips or some bomb flautas and taquitos. Sure. You might find some hard shell tacos in Mexico but they are usually in super tourist neighborhood and restaurants. Instead, just use two soft corn tortillas, which make for a great time.

4. Canned red sauce for enchiladas

We aren’t above using canned food shortcuts to re-create some of our favorite Mexican dishes, but when it comes to enchilada sauce, homemade is best. You can taste the difference when you are digging your fork into some bright red sauce sprinkled with cheddar cheese versus a homemade sauce topped with some queso fresco.

5. Esquites with crushed red pepper

The former La Mexicana Cantina & Grill in Miami served up our beloved esquites with crushed red pepper flakes. Yes, *those* red chili flakes from your fave pizza joint. There is nothing wrong with using those flakes for food and flavor, but try sticking to the powder pepper we are all used too. This just strays to far into Italian territory.

6. Taco salad bowls

Another food item on your run-of-the-mill, non-authentic Mexican food restaurant is a salad slapped with a helping of lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, black beans and corn housed in a taco shell bowl. According to research done by writer Gustavo Arellano, taco bowls were not invented by a Mexican chef, but by none other than the founder of Fritos chips, Elmer Doolin. A Mexican family may have run Doolin’s Southern California restaurant, but to us, it’s not technically a true Mexican entree.

7. Chimichangas

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Treat yo’ self 👏 #chimichanga

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This deep-fried burrito dish was first served up in Arizona in the 1920s according to urban legend, when the owner of a Mexican restaurant dropped a burrito in the deep fryer by accident. We get that burritos are Mexican and they are delicious, but these need to be marketed as Tex-Mex and never as Mexican cuisine.


READ: These South American Foods Are Getting A Revamped Kick Thanks To Some Clever Fusions

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