Where to Eat Virtuously in the City of Angels

Los Angeles has long been known for its healthy dining options. Here are a few of the best healthy eats the city has to offer.
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©Sean Pavone 2015

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Beyond Green Juice

Much of the country mocks Los Angeles for being the land of kale smoothies. People think it's because the average Angeleno's first priority is physical appearance. It's not. In a city with an average of 292 blue-skied days per year, it's no wonder its residents are consumed with feeling good: It's hard not to be fit when the weather constantly beckons you outside. Sure, green juices are huge, but sunny LA's long-established health food scene goes well beyond liquid meals and granola. World-renowned chefs, local families and conscious-living specialists are cooking up fare that's just as bold as it is nutritious. Here are the top healthy restaurants in the City of Angels.

 

Photo via Sean Pavone/iStock

Plant Food + Wine

Vegan whiz kid Matthew Kenney is currently in the midst of a plant-based comeback, with new restaurants in New York City and Miami. His burgeoning empire started in Los Angeles at his sleek Abbot Kinney spot. Reminiscent of the Mediterranean coast, the crisp interior boasts a rustic fireplace and plenty of reclaimed stone. The back patio features cushioned seating underneath an olive-tree canopy. Old World coastal flavors and ingredients are incorporated into the food, but the technique is animal product-free avant-garde. The ever-evolving menu features new takes on classics, like cacio e pepe made with kelp noodles, snap peas, pea tendrils and dehydrated olives. Flora artisanal cheeses, such as almond ricotta and white truffle cashew-macadamia, are served on platters with pickles, mustard seeds and almond fennel crackers.

 

Photo courtesy of Erica Rae Brown

Plant Food + Wine

Sweetfin Poké

Poke tops the list of food trends for 2016, and new joints are opening at an astonishing rate.Sweetfin Poké has been packed since it debuted in Santa Monica in April 2015. It’s so popular that founders Seth Cohen, Alan Nathan and Brett Nestadt have already announced plans for a five-store expansion. The small storefront offers customizable bowls highlighting raw albacore or yellowfin tuna, salmon, snapper, tofu or chopped veggies over a base of bamboo rice, kelp noodles or citrus kale salad. A handful of sauces (think yuzu kosho, Sriracha ponzu and classic shoyu-sesame) and choice of a couple dozen add-ons top it off. If it’s too much to figure out, go for one of the already designed signature bowls. It’s healthy, flavorful and fast, the ultimate option for eating well on the fly.

Sweetfin Poké

True Food Kitchen

Based on the principles of Dr. Andrew Weil's anti-inflammatory diet, this Arizona-based chainlet has found a solid home base in Southern California. Four of its 12 locations are housed in the area: Santa Monica, El Segundo, Newport Beach and San Diego. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options abound. The menu features cuisine inspired by the world’s healthiest populations, with wholesome dishes designed to highlight the health benefits and flavors of each ingredient. That means items like street tacos with grass-fed steak or sustainable fish, Moroccan chicken and red chili shrimp, or a mix of Chinese broccoli, spinach and shiitake mushrooms over sesame noodles. Gluten-free shirataki noodles can be subbed for an extra $2. Spelt and flax or gluten-free pizzas are offered in interesting combinations like wild mushrooms with roasted garlic and Taleggio, or housemade chicken sausage with tomato, fennel and fontina.

True Food Kitchen

Crossroads Kitchen

Once upon a time, plant-based fare was reserved for granola-loving hippies. Chef to the stars Tal Ronnen is one of the vegan chefs at the forefront of changing that perception. He's best known for prepping Oprah Winfrey for her 21-day cleanse, and for catering Ellen DeGeneres and Portia De Rossi's wedding. Plebeians can sample his fare at his high-end WeHo hot spot. There, he offers Mediterranean small plates along with fine-dining ambiance. Start with sophisticated snacks like charred "ricotta" with apricot-thyme glaze on crostini, before moving on to creative hot plates such as artichoke oysters. The latter mimics a classic bivalve dish with fried oyster mushrooms presented on artichoke leaves, topped with yellow tomato bearnaise and kelp caviar. It's bohemian and modern.

 

Photo by Lisa Romerein, courtesy of Artisan Books. Copyright © 2015

Crossroads

Shojin

It's difficult to dislike sushi. It's flavorful. It's light. And if you skip the fried Spider Roll and don't go overboard with sauces, it's generally very healthy, since fish is high in protein and low in calories. But like everything in life, too much sushi can be too much of a good thing. Mercury can become a problem when you're consuming large amounts of fish high on the food chain. Shojin is the solution, offering vegan and macrobiotic rolls with mostly organic ingredients. The fare is modeled after its namesake Buddhist teachings, shōjin ryōri. No refined sugar, animal products, artificial seasonings or chemicals are used in anything served in its two locations Downtown and in Culver City. The gluten-free, onion-free Dynamite Roll 2.1 is a vegan riff on the classic and is a must-try. Spicy tofu and avocado are rolled in seaweed and rice. Then the roll is smothered in spicy mayo, lightly bruleed, and served with dynamite sauce and spicy beet sauce on the side.

Shojin

EVO Kitchen

Run by a sister-brother-mother trio, Michele, Craig and Kay Orlando, this West Hollywood spot aims to appease the entire family in healthy fashion. Vegans, meat lovers and gluten-free diners sit in the LEED-certified dining room feasting together on dishes made from locally sourced, organic (when possible) fare such as free-range roasted chicken breast, Niman Ranch mini BBQ burgers and veggie avocado wrap with tahini. Many omnivores go for the specialty pies served on their choice of organic traditional, multigrain or gluten-free crust. Build your own or opt for one of the creative topping combinations with selections like pear and gorgonzola, BBQ chicken and V for Vegan (house marinara, soy cheese, mushrooms and roasted peppers). There's something for every palate and dietary preference. Wash it all down with sustainable wines and local craft beers on tap, offered by the glass or the flight.

EVO Kitchen

Maude

Aussie chef Curtis Stone is not just a pretty face. The 25 seats at his Beverly Hills tasting-menu place are considered the most coveted in town. It is not your traditional health-food restaurant, though (and in fact, that's not how it’s even billed). You'll find foie gras and other fatty foods, but the portions are small. Veggies make up much of the meal. Each nine-course menu is built around one monthly seasonal ingredient and a bountiful array of market-fresh produce. In March, it was pistachio: The nut was infused into dishes ranging from peas and seaweed to lamb tartare. In January, carrots were featured throughout, in porridge with pumpkin seed and argan oil as well as bonito. In May, the menu starred garlic; in June, cherries. This is the place where health-minded folks go to "splurge" — if they can score a reservation.

 

Photo courtesy of Clay Larsen

Maude

Café Gratitude

Don't be surprised if you sit down and are promptly given an affirmation (think abundance) to discuss while dining at this Larchmont, Downtown LA or Venice restaurant.Café Gratitude takes its "sacred commerce" business practices to heart in every aspect, from the friendly service to the local and sustainable ingredients. Everything on the menu is plant-based and 100 percent organic. It includes a wide selection of appetizers, bowls, wraps, salads and entrees with crunchy titles like Liberated, a raw pad Thai made from kelp noodles. The satiating macrobiotic bowl is called Whole, filled with nourishing butternut squash, adzuki beans, sea vegetables and more over sprouted probiotic brown rice or quinoa. It's rounded out with wine, beer and sparkling cocktails. For those eschewing booze, there's a selection of health-giving juices, spritzers, elixirs and smoothies.

Cafe Gratitude

Kreation Kafe

The motto of Kreation Kafe, which was founded in 2005 by Marjan Sarshar, is, "You are what you eat. Don’t be cheap, fast and easy." Sarshar's mission is to educate the masses about the healing powers of food, and it looks as though she's making progress. Since opening the first Montana Avenue location a decade ago, the company has expanded to 12 locations serving 100 percent USDA-certified organic cold-pressed juices, smoothies and superfood snacks. Three (Santa Monica, Abbot Kinney and Beverly Grove) of the dozen are full-blown cafes and juiceries serving salubrious Iranian-inspired fare. Shakers of sumac sit on tables to liven up dishes like Niman Ranch ground beef kebab, kale salad and the Shiraz Frittata, organic eggs scrambled with caramelized onions and tomato, and baked with turmeric and basil.

Kreation Kafe

Açaí Nation

Another day, another superfood reigns supreme. No matter the changes, acai has been placed high on that list for the past decade. Some studies indicate that regular consumption of the Brazilian berry improves digestion, increases ability to focus and strengthens the immune system. This casual place, with locations in Brentwood and Pacific Palisades, proffers bowls and smoothies that are just as tasty as they are nourishing. Sweet selections include options like the Classic Acai Bowl #1 with energizing guarana, banana, strawberries, coconut flakes and granola. The Super Berry smoothie subs out the last two items for raspberries. The namesake item is peppered throughout the menu, but it's not the only superfood base. Heart-healthy cacao fruit, vitamin C-heavy acerola cherry and antioxidant-filled dragon fruit can be swapped in for varying flavors and benefits.

Açaí Nation