[A NON-VEGAN TRIES VEGAN FOOD is Best of Vegan editor Sara Vierra‘s column sharing her experience of embarking on an exploration of Los Angeles’ vegan restaurant scene as a skeptical non-vegan. All opinions expressed are her own.]
Walking into Craig’s LA was like walking into home. Unlike home, I’d never been there before, but I knew all about it because it’s Craig’s.
As soon as the door opened, I was hit with a little bit of Gatsby, a little bit of American Psycho’s Dorsia, and quintessential classic Hollywood. None of which I’m complaining about. Despite how familiar everything felt, Craig’s is certainly in a league of its own. Within the first few minutes, I was wildly impressed with the service, and I wasn’t even at a table yet. And, obviously people come to eat, but the original art created by local artists is enough reason to stop in for even just a drink. It was a captivating buzz sans alcohol.
“I was wildly impressed with the service, and I wasn’t even at the table yet.”
As a kid, I spent a lot of time at restaurants that felt like the Golden Age of America circa the 1940’s – like Craig’s. My 26-year-old memory recalls these establishments being filled with cheesy, creamy pastas, larger than life cuts of meat, freshly baked bread, and real dirty martinis. Not much ‘Vegan’ to it, whatsoever.
Standing near the bar with my friend, Nicole, who was joining me, I had to actively remind myself why I was there —Best of Vegan. Craig’s has extensive vegan options despite popular belief, must try them a… – “Heya! Are you Sara?” (cue Craig).
In the flesh, it was Craig of freaking Craig’s LA. He was a dream. More than a dream. Not only did he greet us, get us seated in a prime location, and tell us exactly what to order, but he sat and dined and visited with us. It was a spiritual experience.
At this point, I had to let my objective of being there fly out the window so that I could just be present. This approach went hand-in-hand with the restaurant’s approach to having vegan options on the menu. From the get-go, Craig made it clear that he didn’t want vegans to feel like “they could find something to eat” when proposed for dinner —he just wanted them to want to dine at Craig’s because it’s that good across the board.
We ordered the American Chopped and the Tuscan Kale salads, two of three that were certified vegan, the Spaghetti Squash Primavera, Vegan Chicken Marsala, and Puttanesca alla Vodka as entrees, and probably one of each vegan ice cream flavor they had to offer (heyyyy @craigsvegan). One of the ice cream options even came out with a chocolate hard-shell and coconut shavings.
I don’t want to waste time telling you how amazing it was because you really just need to go experience it for yourself. The salads were fresh and full of flavor! The Primavera was the perfect balance of light but substantial. I’d never experienced such Puttanesca; this one’s sauce whipped to perfection from cauliflower and nutritional yeast, and the Vegan Chicken Parm, my absolute fav, was 100% the real deal.
All of that said, my favorite part about the whole evening was just seeing the vegan section on the menu. It wasn’t hidden on the last page, the ratio of options in comparison to every other section (pizzas, seafood, entrees) was even-set—it was simply there like others and like it belonged. Because it did. I felt seen, and I felt heard. And, I’m not even vegan!
Craig’s LA is located on 8826 Melrose Ave in West Hollywood, CA 90069. Click here to view their menu.
Text & Photography by Sara Vierra.