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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Vegetarian Restaurant Review

Costa Alegre R: Because Mexican restaurants catering to vegan palates are such a rarity in Los Angeles, Costa Alegre in Echo Park stands apart with its full, colorful menu page of delicious vegan-friendly "authentic, traditional" Mexican dishes.

Z: The restaurant also excels in many other ways. Driving down Sunset Boulevard, hardly anyone can miss the intensely brilliant yellow building and large red, white, and blue sign announcing 'VEGGIE MENU." The restaurant offers brown rice as well as white. The pinto and black beans are cooked without lard or other animal products. Foods are prepared with "healthy grape and veggie oil," the menu says.

Costa Alegre
R: Even the guacamole is freshly prepared rather than coming from a packaged mix found at some Mexican restaurants. These vegan-friendly features add up to some savvy offerings that give vegans the opportunity to enjoy tasty Mexican foods sin preoccupado (without worry).

Costa Alegre Z: Located at the convergence of Sunset Boulevard and Reservoir Avenue, Costa Alegre provides a small parking area and a delightful outdoor covered patio that gives the impression its visitors have traveled to a charming village in Mexico. Every corner of the patio is dripping with ambience from its brick floor to the bamboo ceiling: tropical birds hanging from the ceiling or walls, a fountain in the corner, colorful flags draped across the ceiling, red vinyl tablecloths, a bar in the far corner, and a garden of healthy-looking greenery bordering the patio.

R: Complementing the patio environment is a pleasant variety of background Mexican music from romantic ballads to lively Folkloric dance music and even Latin jazz. Anna, our wonderful server, greeted us warmly and showed us to a table. Dressed in a bright orange peasant blouse with Mexican embroidery, she even wore a large red flower in her hair.

Costa Alegre Z: Because I'm so fond of spinach, I selected the Spinach Enchiladas. Reuben is a burrito aficionado and had to choose between the Wet Veggie Burrito and the Rice and Black Beans Wet Burrito. He opted for the Rice and Black Beans Wet Burrito. When Anna asked if we wanted brown or white rice, we realized how special it was to have that option. We began with a small order of Guacamole, the perfect size of delicious, fresh avocado coarsely mashed and dotted with chopped tomatoes and onions.

R: My man-size, flour tortilla burrito was muy gordo (very plump), topped with an addictively delicious tomatillo sauce, and garnished with a twisted orange slice. The filling was a succulent medley of brown rice, black beans, fresh pico de gallo, green bell peppers, onions, spinach, and broccoli. Delicioso!

Z: Reuben's selection looked a bit stark with only the burrito on the plate topped with a pool of tomatillo sauce, but it proved to be a very hearty meal with everything you can name rolled up inside the giant tortilla. My sweetie was a happy diner that night.

Costa Alegre R: Zel didn't complain either. Her two spinach enchiladas served on a large oval platter also sported mushrooms and onions and were also topped with that delicious tomatillo sauce and garnished with diced red bell pepper. Accompanying the enchiladas was a generous serving of perfectly cooked brown rice and a small bowl of black beans.

Z: We returned to the restaurant a few days later with our friends Gregg and Jen. Reuben was curious about the Tofu Enchiladas and remembered Anna saying they were quite spicy.

R: No matter. I brought my fiery taste buds and gobbled my delicious dinner with passionate enthusiasm. Gregg also ordered the Tofu Enchiladas and loved the filling of green onions, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers and a generous serving of tofu sautéed in soy sauce. The spicy red sauce topping the enchiladas made this a spectacular vegan dish that was accompanied with black beans, brown rice, and a garnish of guacamole over the enchiladas.

Costa Alegre Z: I was curious about the Veggie Empanadas, which were large, deep-fried, white flour turnovers usually filled with spinach and cheese. Replacing the cheese were sliced mushrooms. Also on the platter was a bowl of delicious pico de gallo and half of a small avocado. I was glad I ordered a side of brown rice and black beans and found myself reaching into Reuben's dish for bits of his Tofu Enchiladas. I didn't realize the empanadas would be deep fried and hoped for a heartier filling.

R: Vegans can dine well on a delicious variety of Mexican dishes at very reasonable prices. Entrées of burritos, enchiladas, tacos, or empanadas range from $8.99 to $9.99. There's even a no-meat burrito bowl lunch special featuring black beans, lettuce, tomato, onions, cilantro, and guacamole for only $6.99. While the restaurant serves breakfast all day, there are no vegan options. Guacamole comes in three sizes from $1.25 to $6.99. Non-vegetarian entrees are priced from $6.99 to $14.99.

Z: While we were totally taken by the pleasant patio ambience, we found the indoor dining area equally delightful with floral upholstered booths bordering the walls and lots of colorful décor. The many hearty vegan options and the cozy dining with excellent service make Costa Alegre a go-to place for vegans who want to share delicious Mexican food with their non-veg friends.

Costa Alegre
1901 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026
Phone: 213-484-6121
Hours: Monday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Website: http://www.costaalegrerestaurant.com

Reviewed August 2012

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