I just returned from a week in Los Angeles with my family. Everybody had their own reasons for wanting to visit the City of Angels. My companion and I were excited to sample the many vegan delicacies the city had to offer. Before visiting, I'd read a lot of articles in magazines and on the Web about the proliferation of vegan joints in the land o' sunshine & smog. In fact, Los Angeles has a reputation for being way ahead of the curve when it comes to vegan food options.
Turns out Los Angeles wasn't a whole hell of a lot more impressive when it came to the availability of vegan foods than where I live in Waterloo, Ontario. Sure, there are now numerous vegan restaurants in L.A. The website "Vegetarians in Paradise" offers a long list of vegan eateries in the greater Los Angeles (and not-so-great Los Angeles) area. I admit that in the short span of a week - with a very packed schedule - I wasn't able to dine in most of these joints.
But the real test of any city's vegan-friendliness boils down to how easy it is to find vegan products in non-vegan restaurants and in neighborhood markets. And in this department, Los Angeles didn't seem too terribly advanced. We ate out a lot on our trip, and many menus didn't have vegan foods. We even ate at one joint renowned for its healthy food (I won't name names - but I've linked to it here) and let's just say their vegan offerings were none too spectacular.
And the restaurants that served vegetarian/vegan food aren't necessarily staffed by people with a great deal of knowledge on the subject, as the Vegetarians in Paradise website notes:
So as much as I loved getting back to Los Angeles, a city where I've spent a great deal of time in the past, I must say that like most other places, L.A.'s non-vegan community still has a ways to go to "beef up" (excuse the terrible pun) their vegan offerings.
Still, the city has improved. The wonderful actor/vegan Casey Affleck, who became a vegan in the mid-1990s, remembers a time when vegan food was damn near impossible to find in Los Angeles. The city, like the rest of North America, has made great strides. And it seems to have a thriving vegan community that spreads out far beyond the city limits. But real progress will be measured when vegans are no longer outcasts in their own communities, and they encounter menus at popular omnivore restaurants that make them feel welcome, too.