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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Dining in Paradise



Editors' Note: On this page in our September, 2001, issue we published a review of Lydia Taylor's Vegetarian Affair. We are sorry to report that this excellent restaurant has closed its doors. They will be missed.

Lydia Taylor's Vegetarian Affair


R: It had been eons since we had eaten at a diner. Many years ago we abandoned the cattle call and left the hamburgers, hot dogs, and fish fries behind. So, there we were - staring at a typical little 50's style diner, a long ivory-colored building with a flat roof, rounded corners, a drive-up window on the side, and an art deco touch at one end that reminded us of a building trying to reach for the sky

Z: This little diner is so unique looking, it would stand out anywhere. The name Vegetarian Affair prominently displayed in attractive green lettering against a yellow banner background helped us locate our destination.

R: We truly didn't know what to expect. The description that brought us here read "Tasty vegetarian fast food that's mostly vegan." Adventurous souls that we are, we even brought friends to share our dining experience.

Z: We were greeted by Aryial, our friendly server, who recognized that it was our first time here and described many of the special dishes, some that were not even on the menu. Then she brought us a sample plate with five different items to help us decide. And did we ever decide! We actually wanted to try much more than our stomachs could handle but restrained ourselves - well, somewhat.

R: Right from the start, our experience here was extremely fulfilling. Instead of the "plain-wrap" we had expected, soon our little table literally exploded in an array of deliciously prepared fast food that had Lydia Taylor's special homemade touch. I quickly tuned in to the brassy sounds of Miles Davis' "Sketches of Spain" playing in the background - a perfect complement to the diner atmosphere

Z: We all ordered different soups to expand our tasting experience. Reuben and I shared the Sixteen Bean Soup, Vickie ordered the Chili Bean, and Cliff ordered the Vegetable Soup. We loved our delicious, thick, and well-seasoned bean soup, Cliff gave the Vegetable Soup an enthusiastic thumbs-up, and Vickie, new to the vegetarian scene, simply could not believe her tasty Chili Bean Soup was meatless.

R: Before we finished our soups, our main dishes began to arrive, and space became a challenge on our small, round stainless steel table, actually the only table in the little diner. Zel and I ordered a Chicken Chop Sandwich, the Special Bar-Be-Que Enchilada, and a Spinach Salad. Ordering vegan was no problem. Restaurant owner Lydia told us that most of her clientele is vegan. She even showed us the giant jar of Vegenaise she uses on the sandwiches.

Z: The hearty Chicken Chop Sandwich features a thick chicken-flavored soy-based patty that was fried to create a crispy texture, topped with lettuce and tomatoes, and layered in a wholesome whole-wheat sesame bun. The Special Bar-Be-Que Enchilada was a giant meal that could have served all four of us. Plump and fully 9-inches long, it was filled with soy-based chunks of meat slathered with slightly sweet barbecue sauce, rice, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and vegan cheese. The garnish decorating the top of the burrito was a thin guacamole sauce and vegan sour cream. What an indulgence! We couldn't finish it all, but we forged onward and certainly did it justice.

R: Clearly this is a restaurant that compels people to order more than they can reasonably consume. The portions are more than generous, the foods wholesome and full of flavor. Cliff and Vickie agreed after ordering the Fish Sandwich served with a side of vegan, typical deli style Potato Salad, and the Bar-Be-Que Cup also served with the Potato Salad. We were nodding approval to each other and sharing tastes of everything with the exception of the Fish Sandwich that was fried in egg white batter. When our Spinach Salad arrived we held our sides and shook with laughter. Aryial said, "I'll pack it to go." The next day we shared the colorful combination of fresh spinach, shredded carrots, shredded red cabbage, and sliced tomatoes with two vegan dressings, Honey Mustard and Creamy Italian.

Z: At this restaurant the focus is on fast food and relaxed informality. Plastic plates and styrofoam bowls and cups were accompanied by stainless forks and knives. Instead of tables, there were stainless steel counters along the bright white walls complete with stainless steel foot-rails and black leather stools. Our little table also had black leather stools. The deli case that divides the dining space from the service and kitchen area was filled with a wide selection of prepared salads. Bottles of Snapple and Hansen's juices are heaped among the ice cubes in a giant, open ice chest across from the deli case.

R: To carry out the 50's diner theme, the lower half of the walls were tiled in black and white squares, and there were two white fans whirling overhead. Lydia told us that before she took over the restaurant five years ago, it was an Eat-a-Burger diner. The dining area is tiny and spotless, but the six tables outside can accommodate 24 more diners.

Z: Cliff, who enjoys cooking himself, is new to vegetarian cuisine and was impressed with the array of exceptional flavors and textures the diner offers. When he asked Lydia where she gets her recipes, she smiled and answered, "About every six months I pray to God for a good recipe, and so far I've gotten help every time." Lydia Taylor is a Seventh Day Adventist and has been vegetarian for many years.

R: Aryial did her best to tempt us with their Sweet Potato Pie, Bean Pie, Carrot Cake, Deelishus Zucchini Muffins, Non-Dairy Peach Cobbler, or a selection of Uncle Eddie's Cookies. We were too full to even think about it, but Vickie couldn't resist the Carrot Cake and took some home.

Z: We wondered how this tiny little diner could survive with such limited seating. Lydia explained that during the regular school year she prepares lunches for 400 children at a private school. It was obvious she takes pride in her food preparations. She told us she cooks with love in her heart - it really shows. We definitely came away with warm feelings and sated appetites.

R: We found the prices quite reasonable for everything from Burgers, to Sandwiches, Hot Dogs, Salads, Soups, and Fries. There were even Fresh Squeezed Juices and Smoothies, mostly vegan. They do have regular cheese for those customers who still enjoy dairy cheese.

Z: Our friend, Cliff, commented on something that we had been thinking. He noticed another person working in the kitchen who seemed to smile at us more than once, and he took note that Aryial was very pleasant and eager to please. "When the staff is happy, it says positive things about the management," he said. We agreed.

Vegetarian Affair Restaurant
3715 Santa Rosalia Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90008
Hours: Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Monday through Thursday 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Friday (summer) 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (winter) 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Closed Saturdays and Holidays

Inexpensive

Reviewed September 2001


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