Z: Ever have the urge to meet up with a few friends, take in some great grub, and just hang out for a while? Check out Jax Vegan Café! It's new, cozy, savvy, and ultra relaxed. Located on the west side of Westwood Blvd. just a bit north of Santa Monica Blvd., the cafe is set back and not easily noticed from the street. The saving grace is the sizeable sign on the cafe's exterior.
R: Vegan Los Angelenos have recently become mightily enriched with the flurry of new eateries catering to their cruelty-free dining desires. Jax Vegan Cafe opened in mid-November 2007 and is already a happening scene for the 20/30 crowd. We wandered in on a Tuesday night during a quiet lull that lasted only briefly. At one table a lone laptop user was taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi, while a student at another small table was taking notes from a huge stack of books.
Z: Soon a small gathering of 15 or so celebrants meandered in to join friends at a lively birthday party. Without hesitation they began shifting tables and chairs to accommodate their growing numbers. With the espresso machine swooshing, eclectic music playing, and lively chatter humming, the room was buzzing like a hive of happy bees. Jax is just that kind of cool place.
R: Listed on the chalkboard behind the dark wood counter were the featured daily specials: Spicy Black Bean Soup, BBQ Chicken Sandwich, and Hot Cocoa--how could anyone miss! Our friend Susi ordered the BBQ Chicken Sandwich, Zel chose a giant bowl of the Spicy Black Bean Soup, and my friend Wayne and I each selected different sandwiches and switched halves.
Z: No problem for the Jax staff, the guys each got to chow down half of the BLTA and half of the Pesto Chicken Sandwich and each came with a side of either Veggie Chicken Pasta Salad or Mixed Greens. The baby greens topped with shredded carrots won out. Curious about the salads, I decided on the Vegan Cobb that comes with chopped tempeh bacon, avocado, tomatoes, and vegan blue cheese on romaine, dressed with their homemade vegan ranch dressing. Sadly, they were out of blue cheese but generously substituted chunks of vegan mozzarella at my request. The salad arrived heaping over the rim of a humongous bowl that tempted Reuben into some vigorous tasting. A huge plus--the romaine was perfectly crisp, the salad homey and delicious with its tasty ranch dressing.
R: Each of the sandwiches received an enthusiastic thumbs up, but the favorite, without hesitation, was the uniquely composed Pesto Chicken Sandwich. I chose the toasted, oversized, thickly sliced wheat bread over the ciabatta and was richly rewarded with each bite of warm veggie chicken oozing with an extraordinarily tasty pesto embedded with a generous portion of shredded vegan mozzarella, and layered with bright red tomatoes. This is not fancy food by anyone's standards, yet I was definitely experiencing a taste nirvana.
Z: My special taste nirvana came with each spoonful of the Spicy Black Bean Soup. Happy that I ordered the large bowl, I was thoroughly pleased to discover different little tidbits with each spoonful. Well seasoned with a pleasing body, the soup lived up to its name with a defined zestiness, yet, the spicy quality was perfectly tempered. Included were tiny bits of carrots, celery, onions, corn, and barley with some whole black beans floating in the very tasty puree of black beans.
R: The BLTA and the BBQ Chicken also sported the oversize wheat breads and were packed with hearty, thick fillings--smoky tempeh bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, and garlic vegenaise for the BLTA and oven roasted veggie chicken smothered with BBQ sauce, vegan mozarella, spinach, sauteed red onions, and garlic vegenaise for the BBQ Chicken Sandwich.
Z: Other offerings included giant-size salads like Apple Walnut Balsamic, Sesame Ginger Chicken, and Jax Vegan Ranch with more great sandwiches like Veggie Turkey, Vegan Club, Veggie Chicken Salad, and an Avocado and Cucumber. Other daily soup specials feature Lentil Soup and Potato Carrot Leek.
R: The Hot Cocoa special listed on the chalkboard was not forgotten. Raring for a taste of chocolate, we ordered a round of Hot Cocoa Jax style, a rare treat we seldom encounter. Chocolate lovers could easily go wacky over this papa-bear-size cup of steamy, cinnamon laced, hot chocolate. Every last sip was wonderfully aromatic, went down easy, disappeared quickly, and provided the perfect finishing touch to a fun, informal meal.
Z: Jax Vegan Café, the concept of Mareine Perlmutter and her dad, has the comfortable, easy going ambience that invites one to unwind, enjoy a cup of locally roasted organic coffee, choose a pot of tea from one of the blends on the counter, feast on a tasty, wholesome sandwich, relish a dessert from the refrigerated case, or find the perfect T-shirt, tote bag, or vegan purse stacked on the shelves.
R: Prices are reasonable and offer good value. Service is friendly and accommodating. The hearty sandwiches average about $9 while the generous salads range from $8 to $10.25. Next time, Zel and I want to sit on the high-back love seat near the window and get down on some great live music featured on Friday nights.
Reviewed February 2008