R: It was Pure Luck for new owner Ben Ling and Pure Luck for vegan diners that Pure Luck, a dingy, run-down Korean restaurant in an area known as E-Ho, went out of business. Within a short time, Pure Luck Restaurant located near L.A. City College, experienced a grand re-birth and opened its doors in June 2007 as a vegan eatery and brew-pub.
Z: Ben Ling, a young, creative, vegan enthusiast has fired up an avalanche of vegan patrons with nothing more than word of mouth spreading the message that the veg community can find a great place to plunk down for an evening of unique, informal vegan dining and enjoy any of eight brews on tap including some from Craftsman Brewing Company in Pasadena.
R: When we arrived about seven that Saturday night, we glanced at the mob scene and thought a film celeb or rock star had just entered. The place was rockin' with adrenaline. Every table was filled and a line of hungry vegheads were waiting to order at the attractive, natural, knotty pine counter that dominated a good portion of the room.
Z: A massive forest of giant, ceiling-high green bamboo wallpaper hugs the wall behind the counter with the bamboo theme carried forward in hand-inked abstract form onto the mod-style natural wood tables designed by Alex Amerri, graphic designer and architect. The unique design of the restaurant, Kristen Erickson's creation, features the artful mantelpiece, the prominent counter, and the elemental materials that give Pure Luck its defined presence. The counter and tables sport a distinct, arty, ultra chic charm, yet the restaurant's ambience with its large bay windows and high ceiling, makes a statement of stark simplicity.
R: Bringing bold color accents into the room are the red lacquered chairs and the colorful crowd of bicycle shop regulars from the Orange 20 Bikes next door and the Bicycle Kitchen across the street. The Bicycle Kitchen is a shop that not only repairs bikes, but also teaches people how to repair their own bikes and is active in helping to make Los Angles more bicycle friendly.
R: While we waited for our friends Eric and Annie, Kathryn and Sascha, our super friendly servers, offered us small tastings of a couple of the special all vegan brews on tap. Settling on the Stone Smoked Porter, we noted how smooth and rich it tasted and that it was strikingly full-bodied and almost syrupy compared to the light beers that have become so popular.
Z: We ordered the Sweet Potato Fries to nibble while waiting for our other dishes and were surprised at how thick and impressively long they were--about eight inches end to end. The heap of bright orange yam strips were resting on a bed of shredded cabbage and were accompanied with a great tasting smoky, tangy barbecue sauce for dipping.
R: The fresh soup of the day, Vegetable Curry Soup served with a wedge of lime, was a winner. Lightly spiced, robust, and packed with lots of veggies, the soup brimmed with distinct curry flavor and was pleasantly warming.
Z: Reuben ordered a Taco. Offered a choice of tofu or jackfruit filling, he chose the jackfruit with its unusual texture that sometimes resembles shredded meat and sometimes tuna fish. Also filling the soft corn tortilla were onions, cilantro and fresh tomato salsa. Jackfruit, a colossal-sized tropical fruit, is a perfect stand-in for "carnitas" and dishes that beg for hearty textures. This fruit also embraces any seasonings it encounters. Though we could not consider the taco a hearty-size portion, it was truly unique and tasty enough to beckon us back for more.
R: Until the day we arrived, the restaurant was serving a steady flow of patrons, but was operating with two less employees in the kitchen on this night when it seemed every vegan in Los Angeles decided Pure Luck would be their destination. Ready to plunge our forks into the next exploration, we enthusastically greeted our Torta Sandwich that arrived looking more like an abstract assemblage than a neat sandwich. It was going to be messy any way we approached it so we opted to take to the fork.
Z: The Torta also offered a choice between jackfruit or tofu, and, again, we opted for the jackfruit. Between the layers of the telera roll was a tasty amalgam of jackfruit, well-cooked pinto beans, lettuce, tomato, onions, avocado, tomatillo salsa and vegan mayo. Very messy, very moist, and totally engaging, the sandwich contained ingredients that were familiar, yet combined to result in an irresistibly delicious 'wich with its own special karma.
R: While the Torta filled half the plate, the other half consisted of a generous portion of Cesar Salad with giant croutons and flavorful Lemon Garlic Cesar Dressing. Our friends Eric and Annie had been coming to the new Pure Luck from its inception and their favorite dish is the Todd's BBQ Sandwich with barbecued jackfruit "pulled-pork" with pickles, onions, and vegan mayo and a choice of fries or salad.
Z: The menu is small, yet varied with amazingly low prices. Diners can munch on a host of starters like Spring Rolls, and unique French fries that make great accompaniments to the brews, while light offerings include salads like the cold rice noodles on fresh spinach, Glasgow Salad, or Spinach Salad. Mexican dishes like the Burrito or Avocado Tostada Plate and two pasta entrees provide heartier vittles.
R: On the brew menu is a good mix of lagers, ales, porter, and stout with eight rotating varieties of microbrew on tap every day. Also on the beverage menu is Soju Ku, a Korean sweet potato-based liquor similar to vodka. Pure Luck also offers a bottomless glass of fresh lemonade, a bottomless mug of hot tea, refillable gourmet coffee, and natural juices. While few vegan restaurants are open beyond 10 p.m., this neat brew-pub encourages the late night crowd with a midnight closing and sometimes beyond.
Z: Is it any wonder Pure Luck is becoming L.A.'s hot vegan gathering spot? Ben Ling, owner and creator of the unique food offerings, could be the innovator of a new trend in homestyle, down-to-earth, inventive bistro grub that attracts an enlightened enclave of vegans and carnivores alike. Friendly service, tasty food, and a little brew--It's what keeps the savvy locals returning again and again.
R: And don't try to find dessert on the menu. Dessert is right across the street at Scoops, a popular little ice cream parlor that offers four innovative vegan flavors every day in addition to two vegan sorbets.
Reviewed December 2007