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    Jul 1, 2015

    Vegan Taco Tour Of Los Angeles

    Two vegans ate their way through 22 tacos in one day to help you find the best tacos in Los Angeles.

    Vegan Wanderlust / Via veganwanderlust.org

    After our Ryan I completed our vegan dumpling tour of Los Angeles we started brainstorming what food we could eat a lot of during my next trip to Los Angeles. Nachos, pizza, samosas? Then Ryan hit on the idea of tacos. Los Angeles is the city of tacos.

    Just one day after my vegan dumping tour of New York City I hopped a flight to Los Angeles where Ryan picked me up from the airport for a Vegan Taco Tour of Los Angeles. Ryan planned out the trip by scouring local food blogs to discover critically acclaimed tacos and peppered the route with his own knowledge of Los Angeles's vegan restaurants to give us a focus, not on authentic Mexican tacos, but on eating a variety of different delicious tacos.

    1. Komodo Foods

    Vegan Wanderlust / Via veganwanderlust.org

    Order: Four "Soi" Tacos

    Komodo dishes up a variety of Asian-fusion tacos with one clearly-labeled vegetarian option that is also vegan—the "Soi" taco which their website describes as a "vegetarian fried soy tempeh & fresh tofu salad, bean sprouts, tomatoes, cucumbers, fried shallots w/ Thai peanut dressing." All that on a couple small tortillas—not bad!

    The tacos were light—fresh feeling. You can tell "salad" is a keyword from the description. The tempeh was easy to miss (just look for yourself!) and the tofu—because it was plain tofu—didn't have much flavor. There was a nice nutty flavor to the tacos overall, but they'd greatly benefit from marinating their tofu. More tofu and tempeh and less salad would be OK with us.

    Komodo Foods has two locations and a food truck, but we visited the location at 8809 West Pico Blvd. in Century City, Los Angeles | 310-246-5153.

    2. Sky's Gourmet Tacos

    Vegan Wanderlust / Via veganwanderlust.org

    Order: One Veggie Vegan Meat Taco and One Wild Rice and Yam Taco

    The Sky's Gourmet food truck was parked outside their restaurant so we got a two-in-one experience. They had a full vegan/vegetarian menu which includes things like veggie torta, veggie quesadilla, and vegan nachos (mental note for possible future vegan nacho tour).

    Ryan ordered the Wild Rice and Yam taco which was the real winner. It's packed with toasted almonds, raisins, cabbage, and their "sassy sauce." I know it was delicious because I ate all the filling that fell from Ryan's taco (which was a lot). My less unique TVP and veggies taco didn't have as much flavor.

    Let's be real, there's really no point in having vegan cheese on a menu if you're not going to figure out how to melt it. We all know it's not going to melt on its own. I think the vegan cheese took away from our tacos, so don't pay the extra dollar to have it added—especially on the yam taco (I don't know what Ryan was thinking when he added vegan cheese to his).

    Vegan Wanderlust / Via veganwanderlust.org

    Sky's Gourmet Tacos is located at 5408 W. Pico Blvd in Miracle Mile, Los Angeles | 323-932-6253.

    3. Mas Malo

    Vegan Wanderlust / Via veganwanderlust.org

    Order: Mock Ground Beef and Pickle Tacos (no cheese)

    My heart (or was it my stomach?) sank when our server placed the basket of fresh, warm tortilla chips on our table. I have no self-restraint and Ryan does. I knew I would eat them all. A basket of tortilla chips is not what you want when you're eating about a dozen tacos in a day, but they were delicious!

    I had been to Malo (not Mas Malo) back in their $1 taco days, but Mas Malo upped the ante. The restaurant is "set in a historic former jewelry store circa-1923." Their website describes the "grandeur" of the place—I'll just say it was "cool" and "pretty." It seemed like a nice place for a date.

    The tacos came with rice and beans—which I ate all of because of Ryan's restraint. The tacos were fried in a crispy shell. You had to really bite in to get to the flavor—lots of shell to get through—and the salsa was a necessary addition. I would double up on the pickles—that's where the fun flavor comes from.

    Vegan Wanderlust / Via veganwanderlust.org

    Mas Malo is located at 515 W. 7th Street in Downtown, Los Angeles | 213-985-4332.

    4. Guisados

    Vegan Wanderlust / Via veganwanderlust.org

    Order: One Chiles Toreados Taco and One Bean Taco

    The woman who took our order was blunt: "Do you like pain?" she asked. We don't like pain—but we were looking for adventure so we ordered the three-chiles-spicy chiles toreados taco. We got it without meat so it was just chiles covered with a hot habernero sauce.

    Guisados is the most authentic Mexican place we went and is one of the most heavily Mexican American neighborhoods of Los Angeles—Boyle Heights.

    Ryan took two (small bites) from the right side of the taco pictured below. He pretty loudly shouted out in alarm before grabbing his water. He patted his mouth down wiping away chile residue and mopping up the spit spewing from him mouth. In a moment of bravery I took one (big) bite from the left side of the taco below and quickly chewed and swallowed. I had a brief moment of zen before the heat hit me.

    Did I enjoy this taco? I couldn't say I did. I experienced it (and kept "experiencing it" the next day). That's what I was looking for. It was the hottest thing either of us had ever eaten (if you can call those nibbles Ryan made eating).

    Vegan Wanderlust / Via veganwanderlust.org

    We also ordered a veggie taco (we had to specify no butter on these for them to be vegan), but I just used that to try to put the fire out of my mouth. I can't claim to have tasted it. This brings us to a total of 10 tacos so far, but we left most of one of them uneaten.

    Guisados has three locations, but we visited the original location at 2100 East Cesar E. Chavez Ave. in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles | 323-264-7201.

    5. Sage Vegan Bistro

    Vegan Wanderlust / Via veganwanderlust.org

    Order: Two Baja Avocado Tacos

    Confession: I love Sage. I've eaten there a million times. That's an exaggeration, but on this two week trip to Los Angeles I ended up eating there a total of nine times. I've eaten through their delicious menu.

    You could do a vegan taco tour just sitting at Sage. They've got a fun collection of vegan tacos including raw tacos in a lettuce shell, root vegetable tacos, "fish" tacos, and street tacos filled with jack fruit. We ordered two Baja avocado tacos a la carte. The website describes them as "tempura battered and fried avocado topped with cabbage and habanero cream sauce"

    I would describe it as a taco for avocado lovers. It's a thick battered avocado covered with some veggies, but it's really all about the avocado. It tasted more avocado than Baja—a subtle flavor the seeped out as you bite into the wedge of avocado. But let's be real—Ryan and I are still trying to recover from Guisados. My taste buds were probably a bit dulled from that experience. Sage isn't first and foremost a taco place so it's not surprising, but the tortilla itself was not as fresh feeling as the taco places.

    Sage Organic Vegan Bistro is located at 1700 Sunset Blvd. in Echo Park, Los Angeles | 213-989-1718.

    6. Cowboy and Turbans

    Vegan Wanderlust / Via veganwanderlust.org

    Order: Two Aloo Gobi Tacos

    Cowboys and Turbans, as the name implies is a Tex-Mex/Indian fusion restaurant. It's also very vegan-friendly and occupies a beautiful outdoor space. According to their website it was even voted Best Outdoor Restaurant in Los Angeles—but it doesn't say by whom. The sad reality is it's really hard to take a nice photo of tacos when you have a pretty fire in front of you.

    The server accidentally gave us their mushroom tacos by accident. When I didn't taste any aloo or gobi beneath the layer of lettuce, tomato, and cilantro we sent them back—but not before deciding that the mushroom tacos were bland. The aloo gobi tacos were only slightly less bland. Ryan was a fan of the sweetness courtesy of the chutney. Similar to the pickle tacos as Mas Malo—I would up the aloo gobi and have less lettuce and tomato.

    Cowboys and Turbans is located at 2815 Sunset Blvd., in Silver Lake, Los Angeles | 213-483-7778.

    7. Loteria Grill

    Vegan Wanderlust / Via veganwanderlust.org

    Order: Two Nopalitos Tacos (sin queso)

    The man sitting next to us at the bar, who was interested/appalled by our small order, told us a story that included concluded with the line, "what the fuck do you know about Mexican food, you're white." Now he didn't say this to us—he was saying it to a person in his story—but we got the idea. He wasn't supportive of a couple white guys blogging about tacos, but apparently we weren't totally off base because he also said Loteria Grill is the only place in town that reminds him of the food he grew up with in Mexico.

    Loteria Grill serves up authentic Mexican food in a city stuffed full of faux-Mexican Cal Mex and Tex-Mex cuisine. Well that's what their website claims—how would I know, I'm just a white guy. They serve four types of vegetable tacos—all need to be ordered without the queso fresca to be vegan. The nopalitos has a "fresh cactus paddle salad and salsa verde cruda." There were simple and the vegetables fresh. Ideally there would be a substitute to the lack of the cheese as another layer of flavor would be ideal, but right now (writing after recovering from this taco tour) I'd happily eat half a dozen more of these.

    Loteria Grill has multiple locations, but we visited the location at 6627 Hollywood Blvd in Hollywood, Los Angeles |323-465-2500.

    8. Leonor's Vegetarian Restaurant

    Vegan Wanderlust / Via veganwanderlust.org

    Order: One Vegan Shrimp Taco, one Vegan Beef Taco, one Vegan Chicken Taco

    How have both Ryan and I never been to Los Angeles' long-standing all vegetarian Mexican restaurant (the only until Gracias Madre graced SoCal with its presence)? Because the food doesn't taste good.

    Our server was wonderfully friendly—chatty and supportive of our taco tour. But the food was beyond bland. We were warned when the food was delivered that they don't use any salt, including in their beans—and handed Braggs Liquid Aminos and Spike all-purpose seasoning to give our food flavor. So basically it was like eat at my apartment.

    After the small nopalitos taco at Loteria I thought I could handle two tacos here and ordered the vegan beef and chicken while Ryan stuck with the vegan shrimp. These were big tacos though and it was a struggle to get the tasteless tacos down. If there was a difference in the vegan beef and vegan chicken it was lost on me. 19 tacos down.

    Vegan Wanderlust / Via veganwanderlust.org

    Leonor's Vegetarian Mexican Restaurant is located at 11403 Victory Blvd. in North Hollywood | 818-980-9011.

    9. Atwater Village Tavern

    Vegan Wanderlust / Via veganwanderlust.org

    Order: Three Papas Tacos

    Atwater Village Tavern is a quiet and atmospheric restaurant bar that I plan on going to again. The papas tacos, which are clearly listed on the menu as "vegan option available", are "3 mini corn tortillas, red potatoes, soyrizo, grilled onions, tomatillo salsa."

    I loved the textures—the soft tortilla, the crunchy lettuce and the large pile of potato. The tomatillo salsa literally topped it off. You can see from the picture that the potatoes are suffocating under lettuce like at some of the places we went. Ryan ate one and I ate two, of course. These were a good note to end on.

    Vegan Wanderlust / Via veganwanderlust.org

    After eating 55 dumplings in a day I've wondered how much of different things I can eat. I can eat 13 tacos (plus a large bite) before I want to curl up in a ball.

    Atwater Village Tavern is located at 3216 Glendale Blvd. in Atwater Village, Los Angeles | 323-644-0605.

    Final Count of the Day: 22 tacos of 13 varieties from nine different restaurants in nine different neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

    After all this we've barely scratched the surface on what Los Angeles has to offer in terms of tacos. There are some other highly praised places we didn't make it out to on the taco tour, including the Kogi trucks (Korean tacos), Gracias Madre (where of course we've both been before because it's amazing), and hole-in-the-wall hipster hangouts like Taquerias El Atacor.

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