I Don't Want Salad: A Guide to Vegan Dining in Long Beach
By Alex Furmansky
One of the most irritating things about being vegan is that when I dine at a restaurant that isn’t exclusively vegan or vegetarian, the only vegan options they offer are salads. It is extremely frustrating, and I find myself struggling not to roll my eyes when I ask if there are any vegan options or if I can make any dishes vegan without completely changing the entire dish. The server always gives a half-hearted “We have salad” response. I don’t want to hear it. So, here are some excellent vegan and vegetarian establishments that offer so much more than salad and will leave you feeling happy and healthy.
1. The Grain Cafe - 4403 E 4th St, Long Beach, CA 90814
As a broke college student, I’m always looking for places to stuff my face without breaking the bank; The Grain Cafe provides exactly that. This cozy—and most of the time empty—establishment not only boasts a completely vegan menu with excellent desserts on display, but they also serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner at all hours of the day. Breakfast served all day is always a deal-maker for me, personally. I’ve dined there a few times, but my first time was the most memorable. I decided to go hard for my birthday and ended up ordering the The Fiesta Plate. This dish comes with two enchiladas—one with cheese and salsa roja and the other with chicken and mole sauce—one chile relleno, nachos with guacamole and sour cream, served with Spanish rice and black beans. My mouth started watering again just thinking about this insane and affordable dish. This plate serves at least two people and comes in costing $21.95. Read ‘em and weep.
2. Veggie Grill - 6451 Pacific Coast Hwy, Long Beach, CA 90803
This chain is always a safe bet when I’m not sure what I want to eat. While is it on the pricier side, whenever I’m done eating here, I’m completely satisfied. For those of you who haven’t tried the Beyond Meat burger patties yet, I would definitely recommend getting their Steakhouse Burger or their VG Beyond Burger. The Steakhouse comes with provolone “cheese,” steakhouse sauce, vg (vegan) bacon, tomato, iceberg lettuce, blue “cheese” dressing, and cracked pepper, all served on a brioche bun and accompanied by a side of crispy fries. Quick disclaimer: the blue “cheese” dressing can be overpowering and I strongly suggest getting it on the side. The VG Beyond Burger is a vegan version of your no-frills cheeseburger and is, of course, going to be less expensive. If you’ve already had the Beyond Meat burger, which is also sold at many Whole Foods locations and other grocery stores, I would try the Barbacoa Torta. I adored this sandwich. It comes with Cena Vegan’s barbacoa, mashed pinto beans, lettuce, tomato, mashed avocado, and pickled onions all stacked neatly atop a telera roll. This sandwich does not disappoint. If you don’t feel like eating a burger, this is the way to go.
3. Steamed - Organic Vegetarian Cuisine - 801 E 3rd St, Long Beach, CA, 90802
Steamed is a quaint and adorable cafe with outdoor seating that also offers wine and beer, which is always nice after a long school day. While this restaurant is not completely plant-based (they offer dairy products), virtually all of their dishes can be made vegan with minor modifications without completely changing the dynamic of the dish. When I dined here, I got the Tiny Dancer Bowl: rice, beans, pesto (contains walnuts), guacamole, sour cream, walnut meat, and salsa with a side of chips. Since I wanted this dish to be vegan, the only thing they had to remove was the sour cream. At only $11, this dish is super healthy and very filling; I wasn’t even able to finish the whole thing in one sitting. Needless to say, Steamed is perfect for those who are really hungry and still want to eat healthy or for those who like to eat small amounts and want to buy one meal that will serve as both lunch and dinner.
4. Seabirds Kitchen - 975 E 4th St, Long Beach, CA 90802
Whenever the weekend rolls around, Seabirds is the first place that pops into mind for brunch. During the weekend of the Tropicalia Fest (Nov. 3-4, 2018), I decided to get a quick bite before all of the music festival shenanigans. For those of you who have attended music festivals, you know how expensive festival food is and probably try to refrain from buying food inside the venue. Seabirds was the perfect place to dine before a special event. It was light yet filling and most importantly, exquisite. I have yet to find a breakfast sandwich as perfect as the Biscuit Bomb, and I am a connoisseur of breakfast sandwiches. The Biscuit Bomb contains a seasoned breakfast round, maple-fennel tempeh, baby spinach, aji yolk sauce, and sweet maple drizzle all on a rosemary cheddar biscuit. Thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes because of what a perfect breakfast creation it was. But it’s only served during brunch hours on Saturday and Sunday. You’re welcome for helping you decide where you’re going to brunch this weekend.
5. Ahimsa Vegan Kitchen - 340 E 4th St, Long Beach, CA 90802
Ahimsa was my most recent vegan cuisine exploration. While most people were buying bowls, which honestly sounded amazing, I was really craving a sandwich or a burger. After taking 15 minutes to decide on what I wanted, I ordered the Avocado Jalapeño Cheeseburger, and per my server’s recommendation, I ordered it with the bacon add-on. I am thrilled to say it did not disappoint. The burger consisted of a house-made veggie patty, melted vegan mozzarella, avocado, jalapeños, tomato, romaine lettuce, and vegan mayo served on a ciabatta roll. And if that weren’t enough, it came with a side of deliciously crispy corn tortilla chips and house-made salsa. This burger was everything I was craving and more, especially after adding the bacon. I’m also a huge fan of ciabatta, so I was pretty stoked when I saw it used as a substitute for hamburger buns. The cheese was perfectly melted, which can sometimes be quite a feat for vegan cheese, and the bacon was the crispiest, most delicious vegan bacon I have ever had in my life. In fact, I have been trying to contact Ahimsa everyday since dining there to try to find out what magical bacon they use. I need it in my life, and so do you. I’ve been spoiled with Beyond Meat burgers and the Impossible burger, so when it comes to veggie patties, I can be pretty critical. This patty, however, has my seal of approval and I am looking forward to going back again...mostly because I need to have that bacon.