The vigorous spur of seasonal, local and organic eating out feels like green shoots after rain, so much desired in the drought-tormented Los Angeles. Weather aside, the LA’s healthy café scene has sparked fireworks over the Hollywood sign in the past decades. This sudden, but forceful boom of organic Los Angeles cafés fascinated me. I have been scanning the menus and savouring the self-pronounced healthy culinary experiments of the outstretched metropolis for years now and chose the best.
With each visit, more brightness shone into the real deals and I was able to discern the honest, health focused organic Los Angeles cafés as well as the serious restaurants from those obscured by foxy marketing tactics. The fumes of entertainment seem to have literally stoned many local minds into apathetic naivety. There is now so much to choose from, but not every organic café is as healthy and rejuvenating as it claims. Strikingly, often these magic nourishment promising bombs pack unnecessary calories into their condensed meals and ‘super’ drinks. Some also need a serious sanitary upgrade and I would not entirely trust their food’s safety. I chose the best smart options for you, that survived the booming medicinal food battle on steroids over the past decade. When needed, I also highlight some traps, and advise you to always ask the staff what allergens, how many calories and what and how much sweeteners are in your dish. In the US this is a law and any fast food provider must provide you with nutritional information.
Survival of the fittest willing to assimilate trends
Despite being a well-serving veteran, Urth-Café became so last decade, slowly fading trend. This organic Los Angeles cafeteria still serves gigantic American portions of organic salads, gluten-free oily and sugary cakes, conventionally pressed juices and high-quality coffee drinks, the ex-hotspot still attracts the celebrities seeking crowds. The real health pursuing stars are long gone, though.
There were worse offenders, though, but luckily dozens of amateurish, self-taught-chefs openings, went out of business. Playing into the consumers advantage and since the competition is so rife, the menus need to diversify substantially in order to survive in the LA’s hive of the vegan at al. activity, so I picked the most distinct, independently thinking cafés that are equally invested in the quality of their take-outs.
Refined sugar, GMOs, trans-fats and hydrogenated oils are taboos for all of my following selections of organic Los Angeles Cafés.
Healthful organic Los Angeles Café leaders – innovation, great taste, and nutrition:
While shopping in Beverly Hills or on Melrose pop for a breakfast, a quick healthy lunch or a snack to M. This macrobiotic café and take-out designed in European contemporary café style has kept over the years many of its popular staples on the menu. Since macrobiotic dining may confuse many novices, myself together with their well-documented celebrity following like their straightforward, for California unusually uncomplicated approach. Everything at M Café is made without any refined sugar, dairy, eggs, poultry or red meat, and using only organic whole grains from the California-based Koda Farms (Kokuho Rose brown rice) is all in sync with the macrobiotic lifestyle. Eastern Japanese inspiration, as well as local Cal-Mex favourites like tacos on Tuesdays, form the clear-cut menus. Gluten-free options are highlighted. I do not count as a fan of their macro sushis, but love their burritos and ready-made house salads. While guiding the essential food combinations, the otherwise flexible Macro Meal lets you accommodate your, in the moment, cravings into a wholesome macrobiotic plate. Their agave-flavoured lemonades can be quite sweet, and if you are guarding calories opt for cold-pressed vegetable juices instead.
Families are welcome as the Kid’s menu caters to the youngest generation while a special Cleanse program for a total health reboot can be delivered directly to your house or hotel.
MUST HAVE: hearty Breakfast Burrito; breakfast Tofu Scramble; The M Chopped salad; Egg-Less Salad with dill; mayonnaise-free Coleslaw; M Café Macro Meal, carb & calorie-free “Miracle Noodles” with a choice of broth and protein.
Kreation is a trendy organic Los Angeles vegetarian hotspot that has been recently moving away from the raw and vegan-only menu. Stretching its branches across the city now its liquid “super foods” even cruise around sold casually from a juice truck. Since Kreation is centred around extensive juice offerings (perhaps the most creative blends in town) and four levels of “Kleanses” (shipped only locally for freshness, no shipping outside the city), some locations are only for take-aways, but the large Kafés offer casual sit-down spaces with mostly raw, vegan and also some cooked healthy plates. Often inspired by the founder’s Persian roots, yet most of their USDA Organic Certified ingredients are sourced from the local Santa Monica farmers market.
I am not too keen on their gigantic Amaze Bowls based on açai or the Jungle Bowl of honey sweetened frozen green juice, both served with fresh fruits and crumbles of granola. I find them too sweet and shockingly high in calories for a regular breakfast. You won’t find calories and nutritional info on the take-away packages though, so beware! If you are not an athlete, they should be indulged in as a treat. Depending on the batch, the Sour Cream Kale Chips can be too chewy. For a glowing skin, rather snack on the simple but highly addictive and simply dehydrated Coconut, Almond and Apple Crisps. Beauty and wellness tonics such as Skin, Energy, Libido, Candida, and many others constantly being invented and reinvented are sold in small bottles promising to be “good for what ails you“. Your inner naturopath will be emotionally taken by the curative and make-yourself-prettier shots.
MUST HAVE: Chia Yogurt (now called “Vanilla Almond Yogi”); Coco Apple Crisps; Green 3; Skinny & Marjan’s Favorite juice; Cantaloupe and Rose water; Matcha coconut milk latte, Gazpacho Soup; Garbanzo Bean Hummus Wrap in Collard Greens; Garbanzo and black bean hummus, Chocolates with herbs, seeds, and dried fruits.
Life Food Organic
Life Food Organic’s new location on Pico Boulevard remains focused on raw vegan food, preserving enzymes, sprouting nuts and seeds for easier digestibility as does its more rustic branch in Hollywood. Customise your juice blends, let your creativity soar, and pick from one of their natural sweeteners to assure your complete satisfaction. A recently fixed patio at the back creates a better dine-in ambiance and serves daily for a couple of hours as an open-air yoga studio. It is brighter and like its original Hollywood location space embraces holistic lifestyle by bringing yoga and meditation under one roof.
For all the in-house made drinks and meals, including the ice cubes, a nine-stage water filtration removing chemicals is used. Bottled drinks include Synergy kombucha, various flavours of iced tea, and by crystals activated water. Most of them are sourced from other US brands specialising in health drinks. All day breakfast is convenient. Energy surge is guaranteed by consuming the cooling antioxidant spike of the Açai bowl, chewy Buckwheaties Cereal in almond milk or savoury Breakfast Burrito.
Beware while sampling the “Wellness Elixirs” since most can shock your taste buds or digestive system with cayenne hot, vinegary (Candida Clear, Alkaliser) or oily (Three Immortals Hot Tea) potions tasting like a bad Chinese medicine. While these drinks might overwhelm with disgust, others are delectable adding to a more complete organic Los Angeles lifestyle.
MUST HAVE: Vanilla Almond Milk; Sea Wrap; Green Burrito; Green Healing Soup – nut and spices free gazpacho for a healthful recovery; tamari almonds; Vietnamese Spring Rolls.
MAKE OUT suggests naughty indulgence, yet it rather offers raw vegan gustatory pleasure involving your stomach, not other body parts. Tucked behind the historic Culver Hotel on a pedestrian walkway, the recently relaunched simpler, more catering and a take-away focused sister to the, sadly, closed plant-based restaurant MAKE in Santa Monica. The expanding string of new ventures directed by the raw culinary maestro Matthew Kenney has opened a fancier restaurant Plant Food and Wine on the ultra-hip Abbot Kinney Road in Venice Beach.
At MAKE OUT the take-out menu of its cosmetically stripped of its predecessor’s sophistication making it more suitable on-the-go. The MAKE OUT Salad does not strike my taste buds with the coconut “bacon’s” sweetness and the Kelp noodles with olives are quite boring. On the other spectrum of taste is their superb, although messy in your hands, Cobb Wrap, as well as the Ginger & carrot kelp noodles. The dehydrated snacks are a treat and lighter than most raw snacks sold at Wholefoods. What Kenney does best though is creativity and portion control. His are the smallest and lightest vegan dishes I have had in the entire America. The juices are not always made to taste great, so be prepared for some awkward moments.
MUST HAVE: Cobb Wrap; Ginger and carrot kelp noodles; anything with macadamia truffle “cheese”.
In the realm of food and snacks, the seeds, beans and grains are all being “activated”. By soaking them and draining the liquid, the naturally present toxic phytic acid in beans is removed and the beneficial enzymes are encouraged, activated, while aiding digestion. These activated “super foods” together with original blended juices fuel sufficient energy to the muscles of the athletes and hikers stumbling into on of the smartly located branches of Moon Juice. Their packaging might seem quite woodoo-ish, promising magical healing through food, but their original mixes of raw foods are really intense at least on your palate. Some of their raw snacks explode with calories, such as the tiny dessert of Probiotic Cream Cheese on a carrot, ginger, and nut-based cookie patty, the not so tasty Addictive Wellness chocolates, and Activated Maca Mesquitte Walnuts sweetened with maple syrup, bananas, and dates and coated in an almond butter batter (so delicious!). They are rather indulgent, but less processed than most conventional energy bars. An ideal boost to your stamina prior to an intense workout and can sooth your later sugar cravings. Their dehydrated raw veggies and activated seeds crackers such as Green Fermented Seed Crisps with cultured cabbage, burdock, dandelion, and many other ‘magic’ ingredients, are daring an acquired taste for some. Packed with plenty of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals they seem a better option than any heavily processed savoury snacks. Burn it out through an intense activity and you will shine throughout your organic Los Angeles journey.
MUST HAVE: Juices and nut “milks”; Chipotle Chile & Lime Raw Mango with a pinch of pink salt; Activated Maca Mesquitte Walnuts; Activated Turmeric, Coconut & Lime Pepitas; Carrot Gingerbread & Probiotic ‘Cream Cheese’ Icing.
Healthier treats in Los Angeles:
The current hype in beverages calls for a wide selection of naturally flavoured fizzy kombucha on tap, the fermented mushroom beverage tastefully upgraded in LA from its austere Euro-Asian original. The more upscale Café Gratitude, Sun Café and other fashionable healthy stalwarts went beyond lemonades and juices as they got into fermenting their growing mushroom brew or buy kegs from reputable kombucha makers.
- a kombucha heaven, is a perfect drinks spot but also a casual tapas bar. Their kombucha creations are perhaps the most creative in town and, unlike most of the mushroomy tasting fermented fizzy sisters sold elsewhere, they taste great! No ice is added into their drinks, so no cheating and no shock for your metabolism is guaranteed.
If you crave gelato, then LA also has a guilt-free tasty option:
Kind Kreme‘s vegan ice creams
- based on coconut or almond milk and blended with super foods, so they turn the frozen sin into tongue-dazzling guilt-free treats.
- the fully organic health foods only market that since 1968 set the standard for other businesses in town. For years, there was only one location in LA near the Grove in West Hollywood, but another, more polished had recently opened in the hip sea-tucked hood of Venice. Their tonic bar serves fresh juices, smoothies, brewed tea, mushrooms-based hot drinks, kombucha on tap as well as the frozen acai and pitaya bowls and organic coffee by Victoria. There are shaded tables outside to devour the ultra-nutritious meals prepared daily on the premises. Even the brown rice sushi rolls like the spicy tuna (sustainably caught) are great! Erewhon is a temple of the health-focused organic Los Angeles foodies.
Overwhelmingly, the wave of resentment towards processed food pushes the Angelenos to craving relentlessly their next superfood and make-me-beautiful-and-healthy magic potions in their daily, no gluten please, meals. Perhaps encouraged by the Hollywood perfectionism, the local organic offerings thrive, but as I stressed at the beginning of this post, scrutinise and keep the portions reasonably sized as overeating, even through these “healthy” foods will not make you feel well. Finding the best casual organic LA cafés is a work in progress since so many new healthy businesses open.
Despite my efforts to pull the strings of hindsight to the maximum, the coming years may disprove the health claims of some of my choices. As it constantly happens in science and nutrition, in particular, progress never stops and with it, each claim is either supported or uprooted. What is hard to argue with though is that balance is good for our health and La Muse Blue will always support and encourage this value for its readers. Enjoy all the organic Los Angeles and you will also support sustainability.