DTLA's NEW HOT SPOTS FOR VEGAN DINING
Downtown Los Angeles is spreading its vegan wings as new eateries savvy to the vegan trend find a welcome home close to the Broadway theater district. Because there was a recent flurry of vegan restaurant openings in the DTLA theater district, it was definitely time to update our listings with a journey to the wilds of downtown. We boarded the Metro in the San Fernando Valley and headed for Pershing Square.
On this visit, we focused on two, all-vegan pubs gaining a pack of loyal fans who enjoy flocking together for some tasty pub grub and a glass of brew. We found our day so enjoyable, we simply had to share the news with others who find a plump vegan burger or burrito and a cold glass of beer great fun.
Our downtown visit gave us two great places to add to our Vegetarians in Paradise online restaurant reviews and listings.
R: On a recent exploration of the vegan scene, we felt heartened to discover that vegan dining had literally exploded onto the streets of DTLA! Within just a few blocks were a rich cache of dedicated, casual vegan eateries from pubs and bowls to a charming, super-modern all raw restaurant.
Z: It was a rewarding discovery, and we wondered if we were imagining this bevy of vegan dining spots. But, no!--there is a definitive, growing movement of people wanting to embrace lighter, healthier, plant-based foods that taste great, make them feel good, and are kinder to our planet--and it's actually happening, not just downtown but all over Los Angeles. Here, we'll focus on the lively "watering holes" attracting a swarm of happy vegans.
R: It was lunch time and we were ready to explore the food offerings, so we headed for Beelman's on the 600 block of Spring Street. The sign read "Plant Based Pub Food." The restaurant was easy to spot with its bright yellow umbrellas shading the sizeable number of outdoor tables.
Z: The ambience inside was casual and instantly made us feel at home. We slid into one of the yellow vinyl-covered booths that ran down the center of the dark-paneled room and took note of features that made this pub so appealing. The long bar along the left side of the room featured yellow comfy bar stools with backs. The bar wall was lined with a large selection of spirits for preparing cocktails, about a dozen beer taps, umpteen bottles of various beers, and wide selection of wines--and every one of these alcoholic beverages is totally vegan.
R: Vance Daniels, the very cordial general manager, was eager to answer our questions and told us that Beelman's opened in 2014. By October 2017, they decided to go all vegan and now enjoy a dedicated following who finds it just as homey as we did.
Z: The back wall is so plastered with photos of Los Angeles celebrities and old downtown buildings and scenes one can barely find the paneled wall itself. Along the right wall are high tables and wooden stools with metal backs. The cool music we were enjoying at that moment was funky, early rock and roll featuring the Rolling Stones of the 60s and 70s.
R: It was time to get serious about some tasty eats. The menu had everything from Bar Snacks like seasoned Adobong Mani Peanuts and Wonton Bites to Crispy Garbanzos, and Pretzels, perfect nibbles to enjoy with a drink. The Street Food features Stinkin' Fries, Chili, Tachos (a variation of nachos), and Avocado Toast.
Z: And, if you're into veggies to munch on, be sure to check out the Greens section of the menu. We went right to the Mains and decided to aim for the hearty Breakfast Burrito that we could share and ordered a pint of McCasey's Stout we also split. McCasey's is a local brew by the Arts District Brewing conveniently nestled in that area.
R: On our second visit, we ordered the Double Impossible Burger with a mountain of Fries. We could have chosen tater tots or salad as a side, but fries were top of the list that night. Our friend, Chuck, had the giant Viet-nom-nom Wrap and was happy to share bites. We loved them both!
Z: Our plump burrito was so big we asked to have it cut in half. Even then, I couldn't get my mouth around it and had to settle for taking more manageable little bites around the edges. No complaints, though--it was a delicious combo of tater tots, Soyrizo, smoked tofu, pinto beans, avocado lime salsa, and gochujang crema all tightly wrapped in a flour tortilla.
R: Accompanying the burrito were flour tortilla chips that looked homemade, along with a unique dipping salsa. Zel couldn't help reaching for the Sriracha and had a great time squirting it over her burrito half. That stuff is way too fiery for a spice wimp like me, but I enjoyed the McCasey's stout enough to come back about midnight for another pint at the end of our vegan journey. That's when the place was in full swing, the bar was super busy, and the room was buzzing with lively activity. Even the tables outside were a bustling gathering spot for clusters of happy people enjoying a good brew and plenty of things to nibble.
Z: Vance told us Beelman's was the only all-vegan eatery in the area when they took the big step--going vegan. It didn't take long for others to catch up. This is the smaller of the two vegan pubs in the area but has a larger outdoor patio in front where drinks only are served. There''s even a convenient order window on the patio. Whether it's lunch, dinner, or just a few drinks, Beelman's is a warm, inviting, and cool place to hang out.
THE DANKNESS DOJO/MODERN TIMES
Z: I could tell instantly this place is a raging success from the gathering crowd outside and all the busy outdoor tables buzzing with lively conversation. The moment we stepped inside we were engulfed in a whirring beehive of activity. It was only 5 in the afternoon, yet this pub eatery was as busy as the 7th Street Metro Center Station at rush hour. We made a reservation with the host at the door and returned at 6 for dinner and brew.
R: The Dankness is a large brew-pub complete with a restaurant and giant, shiny brew-kettles behind the large bar at the end of the long main aisle. The long brick wall on the right is splashed with unusual, very colorful and imaginative constructions above the wooden booths. One section featured an array of colorful Mexican pinatas, another a flock of black birds with green heads in flight. A row of fully occupied tables hugged the main aisle, filling every usable space with people.
Z: We were seated in a sun-splashed alcove near the front window, a quieter corner where we could easily view the humming activity this place generates with servers delivering brews and food and people coming and going. Adding to the hum is a blast of old-fashioned rock and roll music.
R: Our very cool and knowledgeable server made some helpful beer suggestions and we settled on a 5-ounce pour of Black House, an oatmeal coffee stout with 5.8% alcohol and a 5-ounce pour of Fruitlands, a tasty sour made with passion fruit and guava at 4.8% alcohol. These arrived on a small wooden tray--done with style. Both are brewed in San Diego and are dispensed from two of the 30 taps.
Z: We were actually considering Monster's Park, an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels but decided the 14.2% alcohol was a bit more than we could handle. That's when we switched to the Fruitlands, which we enjoyed very much.
R: The menu offered some typical pub grub like burgers, tacos, and burritos plus a couple of unique items like banh mi and chilaquiles. We decided we would share the Double Burger consisting of two Beyond Meat patties, smoked mushrooms, American coconut cheese, pickles, and roasted tomato spread on a house-made sesame bun. This was accompanied with fried onion rings and a pickle.
Z: We also shared the heaping Banh Mi sandwich on a house-made French bread split open and loaded with grilled 5-spice seitan, pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber, sweet jalapeno spread, and a seasoned mayonnaise.
R: The fully loaded Double Burger arrived looking very tall--I'm guessing it stood at least 4-inches tall with a serrated knife poked straight down into the burger, the handle sticking straight up and looking quite fearsome. The sandwich not only featured a dramatic presentation, but was also a genuinely tasty burger! It was a little challenging to eat, but definitely delicious, messy, and fun.
Z: On our second visit, we tore into a delicious starter from the section called Apps. Marrow of the Earth was the magnificent creation of an innovative chef who hollowed out the center of a roasted parsnip and filled it with a well-seasoned mushroom puree. The parsnip sections stood tall on a saucy bed of herb vinaigrette, accompanied with garlic confit, grilled house bread and spicy greens.
R: Our friend, Chuck, ordered the very colorful Tacos loaded with seitan, tomato pico, avo, little bits of cactus called nopalitos, and a chipotle crema. This cheery concoction heaped on two house-made tortillas was accompanied with a generous bowl of very well-seasoned corn kernels.
Z: We dug into our shared, roly-poly of a Chile Relleno Burrito. The poblano chile, with its lively touch of spice, kept company with beans, potatoes, chili verde, onions, and cilantro all wrapped up in a large flour tortilla topped with a half avocado. Our server was happy to deliver a small cup of hot sauce--the perfect finishing touch.
R: There's some serious bread baking going on in the Dankness kitchen. It's not many pubs that bake their own burger and banh mi buns. Too bad we didn't save room for dessert. The dessert choices consisted of Strawberry Shortcake, S'Mores, an Ice Cream Sandwich with six irresistible ice cream choices, and an Affogato, which translates to a shot of espresso with a scoop of artisan ice cream.
Z: For the early-riser weekend crowd, there is a very tempting Brunch menu served on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon. Coconut Crepes, Biscuits & Gravy, and Chile Relleno Burrito, are a few of the tempting choices. There's also something for the pancake lovers, burger fans, and a creation called Party-Fait that featured cherry cashew cream, coconut yogurt, fresh fruit, and house-made granola.
R: The success of this place is enviable, considering it only opened in February 2018! The well-established, original Modern Times brewery in San Diego has a devoted following that has helped to make this downtown location the go-to hot spot in such a short time. In 2017, Modern Times became California's first employee-owned brewery.
The Dankness Dojo http://www.moderntimesbeer.com/tasting-room/los-angeles
Reviewed July 2018