R: While most Mexican restaurants have little on their menus to offer vegans, Cinnamon Vegetarian Restaurant in Highland Park welcomes veggie amigos with a menu bulging with wholesome food for vegans. Informal, yet with the ambience of a warm, spacious dining room, Cinnamon is a thriving eatery with a welcoming embrace.
Z: We popped in for dinner on the day the restaurant opened in September 2006 and experienced a full-on mob scene of vegetarians eager to taste the Latin cuisine. It was a somewhat rocky start for the restaurant. Most who embark on an adventure in the restaurant business experience a period of growth and change and Cinnamon certainly has evolved into an exceptional dining spot. We salute Cinnamon's owners William and Norma Cano, and Williams's sister Esperanza with three exuberant cheers for remaining steadfast in their mission to turn traditional Mexican favorites into vegan and vegetarian dishes that stay true to their Mexican roots.
R: On our recent return visit, we stepped into the restaurant to meet our friends Ryan, Warren, and Lawrence for dinner and sensed a warm glow of comfort in the large room. Credit goes to the soft lighting delivered by colorful stained glass Tiffany droplights poised over each table. The upper portion of the walls wears a warm shade of green complimented by a dusty fushia below the wainscot.
Z: While the décor is simple, it expresses good taste in creating a comfort zone that invites diners to return frequently. Light wooden tables with darkly stained wood chairs are placed a good distance apart from other tables, giving diners comfortable privacy. Those who love watching the kitchen action can sit at the high wooden counter with barstools facing the open kitchen that occupies a good portion of the right side of the long room.
R: Ryan ordered an appetizer of Guacamole and chips to share with the group. Freshly made to order, the avocado starter was thick, lightly spiced, generously dotted with diced tomatoes, and very delicious. Though the appetizer section of the menu was extensive and offered many more temptations like Cheese Quesadillas, Sopes, Empanadas, and Potato Flautas, we plunged right into the entrees that offered several soy-based dishes. We loved the many choices of sides that truly made us feel we could have it "our way." Lawrence and I chose the Chicken Mole and were offered a choice of black or refried beans, salad or beans, white or brown rice, and corn or flour tortillas. My choices were black beans, brown rice, and corn tortillas.
Z: The Mole arrived steaming hot with three soy chicken drumsticks garnished with a spray of sesame seeds and resting on a pool of rich, lightly sweetened mole sauce with a reddish sienna hue. Of course, I reached over for a taste and gave it my thumbs up for great flavor and creativity. I ordered the Spinach Enchiladas with white cheese inside and out, salad, and brown rice. My platter held two plump enchiladas generously filled with spinach, chunks of sautéed zucchini, and plenty of shredded white Daiya cheese. The enchiladas were topped with a luscious green salsa made with tomatillos and seasoned to perfection. Accompanying the enchiladas was a salad of multicolored baby lettuces, slices of cucumber, and chopped fresh tomatoes along with a small cup of balsamic vinegar.
R: California Tofu was Ryan's choice. The tastefully seasoned California Tofu consisted of sautéed chunks of tofu enveloped in pleasing pesto sauce spooned over chopped steamed vegetables and served with brown rice. The veggies were a colorful collection that included cauliflower and broccoli florets, an abundance of julienne carrots, onions, zucchini, and bean sprouts--a plate that displayed the eclectic nature of the menu. Sharing little tidbits of each other's entrees gave us an opportunity to taste and appreciate the diversity and creativity of Esperanza's talent.
Z: Warren's entrée was the Tamale Combo accompanied with refried pinto beans and brown rice. Wrapped in banana leaves and steamed, the vegetable-filled tamale was blanketed with a gleaming red sauce. Warren agreed that those who have never tasted Mexican vegetarian foods have missed the dining pleasure of truly exceptional flavors in these traditional dishes.
R: As we neared the last bites of our entrees, we began thinking about dessert and settled on sharing Key Lime Pie and Chocolate Pie. The community pies traveled among us, becoming smaller with each of our little bites and receiving enthusiastic raves. Both pies made for a great finish, but the winner was the Key Lime Pie attractively garnished with vegan whipped cream, lime zest, and a slice of fresh lime.
Z: Cinnamon sported a number of little touches, like mushroom-shaped ice cubes in Lawrence's Horchata, Ryan's carrot juice served in a tall, elegant footed glass, and my cup of Canalaza accompanied with a miniature cup of maple syrup. These features went a long way to create positive impressions, showing the restaurant owners took pride in making the dining experience memorable.
R: The dishes we chose were only a smattering of the menu offerings. There are veggie Shrimp and Salmon dishes, Chorizo, Chicken or Steak Fajitas, Burritos, and even Pozole Soup priced reasonably from $6.50 to $13.95. Juices, smoothies, and shakes range from $4.00 to $5.25 to $5.75 and Salads $5.95 to $8.50. Burgers and Sandwiches are $6.25. Desserts are $3.50 to $13.50. Early risers can feast on breakfast offerings like fruit salad, oatmeal, tofu scramble and omelets from $4.50 to $7.95.
Z: A dining treasure for Los Angelenos, Cinnamon Vegetarian Restaurant is living testimony that great tasting vegan and vegetarian Mexican food is not only possible but also a delightful reality for those fortunate enough to live nearby.
Reviewed February 2010