The Health-Conscious Los Angeles Guide
It can be easy to scoff at LA’s devotion to sweat lodges, juice cleanses, and cryotherapy, but there’s something about living in a sunny metropolis that makes us want to look and feel our best—all the time. Luckily, the metropolis makes it easy. Not only are there miles of hiking trails and countless waves to surf, virtually every zip code in the city has an incredible farmer’s market (or two), restaurants that cater to every quirky dietary restriction, and more yoga and Pilates studios than you could possibly try in a year. Welcome to the world capital of wellness.
Baroo5706 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood | 323-929-9288
Next time you drive past one of Los Angeles’s many, often tumbledown, strip malls, look closely. Nestled between the laundromat and the questionable massage parlor might be one of the city’s best restaurants. Petit Trois, Sushi Gen, Jitlada...all in strip malls. Baroo is no different, and for chef Kwang Uh—a Noma alum—the choice of location is deliberate. Affordable rent means more research trips abroad for fresh ideas and new ingredients. The dishes at Baroo are hard to describe: experimental, deeply savory, and Asian-inflected. Pickles take center stage to the point that the only decoration in the otherwise sparse space is jar upon jar of Uh’s fermentation projects. Surrender and roll with the chef’s recommendations, although we’re partial to the Amira basmati rice, coated in a ton of herbs, coconut, dried shrimp, and pickled things. Most of the menu is vegan, it’s all under fifteen dollars, and the house-made kombucha is essential.
Botanica1620 Silver Lake Blvd, Silver Lake | 323.522.6106
Botanica sits on a stretch of Silver Lake that feels like a real neighborhood (a rarity in LA). It’s both a restaurant and a market—pop in to re-up on local eggs, fruit, vegetables, and house-made specials like the Aleppo-Urfa butter and thick labneh. There are few prettier spots for a healthy breakfast of Mediterranean-inspired dishes, the freshest orange juice, and really good espresso. We go for the soft scramble (creamy soft-scrambled eggs with a side of lemony greens); the crunchy, garlicky bread; and the entire pastry case. (Bear in mind that portions are on the light side, so order with abandon.) Whether you're alone, with a friend, or coming with kids, the space is comfortable and inviting, with high ceilings and airy décor. Sit on the terrace out back and work your way through the biodynamic wine list (we’ve moved on to lunch now), and snack on one of the epic seasonal vegetable boards. The selection of wine and cookbooks is a godsend for last-minute gifts.
Café Gratitude639 N. Larchmont Blvd., Hancock Park | 323.580.6383
Everything on the menu is an affirmation, so if you can stifle the giggles at names like "I Am Connected"—which is actually an amazing zucchini cilantro hummus—you'll find that the vegan food here is delicious, even for those who normally refuse to go meat- and dairy-free. There are picks for every sensibility, from coffee milkshakes (made with almond milk) to cashew-cheese-topped corn tacos to Indian curried lentils. There are three locations—Hancock Park, Venice, and the Arts District—and the Café Gratitude team just opened Gracias Madre, a Mexican iteration, in Hollywood.
Crossroads8284 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood | 323.782.9245
Only in LA would the bar inside a vegan restaurant be a major scene (it's kind of the best place to sit for a full meal, too). While vegan food rarely seems to get the upscale touch, it certainly does at Tal Ronnen’s dimly lit, luxurious bistro. There’s no mention on the menu of the fact that every dish is plant-based: Hearts of palm masquerade as crab cakes and calamari, and almonds pretend they’re cheese. Without the clever naming conventions, the food would still stand on its own. In short: You won’t miss dairy or meat. There are also lots of workarounds for the gluten-intolerant as well.
Dune3143 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village | 323.486.7073
Scott Zwiezen, who was the chef at vegetarian LA restaurant Elf, opened Dune in early 2015, and it quickly became known for its excellent falafel. Dune is a casual joint—you order at the counter and then, if you can, grab a counter seat or a patio table outside. It serves hummus plates, salads, and sourdough toasts, as well as a pickled beets sandwich and a lamb one for carnivores. But again, the falafel sandwich is the real star of the show here.
Forage3823 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake | 323.663.6885
Local, sustainable, and fresh ingredients are the focus at this rustic-meets-modern spot, so much so that if you bring your own home-grown produce, they'll exchange it for credit. And the credit is worth it: The roasted salmon bowl is particularly excellent, though there are very few misses on Forage's constantly changing chalkboard menu.
Gjelina1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice | 310.450.1429
It’s been several years, but Gjelina—a restaurant that ushered in a new sort of veggie-centric California cuisine—is as mobbed as ever. The crowds make a lot of sense: Everything is always excellent, from the aforementioned vegetable sides to the whisper-thin jalapeño and smoked mozzarella pizza. Come when it opens so you can snag a table on the patio out back. (If the lines are too long, grab something to go at GTA, its takeaway spot next door.)
Gjusta320 Sunset Ave., Venice | 310.314.0320
Sister bakery/deli/café to the much-adored restaurant Gjelina, Gjusta literally does a little bit of everything. They also smoke their own fish, which means the cured and smoked mackerel, salmon, and trout—served open-face on fresh-baked bread or bialy—taste amazing. At the other end of the spectrum is the chicken parm: light, cheesy, and addictive. Seating is limited to scattered outdoor furniture (there are rumors of an expansion), so it’s best to take your order to go.
Gracias Madre8905 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood | 323.978.2170
When we think of Mexican food, it's often tender pulled-pork carnitas or spicy beef tacos that come to mind. Gracias Madre serves up those same complex, spicy, tangy flavors we associate with Mexican cuisine with the following disclaimer: It's all vegan. The quesadillas are filled with butternut squash, caramelized onions, pumpkin seed salsa, and nutty cashew cheese; enchiladas con mole are reimagined using sweet fried plantains, black beans, and cashew crema. This food is super satisfying and layered with those salty, zesty tastes we all crave. Aside from the feat of creating vegan Mexican food that's actually delicious, Gracias Madre also has a patio that is arguably one of the most beautiful in LA—trees (studded with little lights), plush sofas, and mosaic-topped tables. Request a seat outside and start with an order of chips and guac with the signature mezcal margarita, or if you're feeling adventurous, a CBD snow cone (lemon, agave, hibiscus hielo raspado, and cannabidiol oil).
Honey Hi1620 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park | 213.221.7810
A new-ish kid on Echo Park’s Sunset Strip block, Honey Hi is a very welcome addition to the neighborhood. Owned and operated by two best friends (one of whom is a nutritionist), Honey Hi offers a menu full of the type of food you wish you ate more often: gluten-free, refined-sugar-free, GMO-free, and seriously satisfying. A small, pleasantly bright, but no-frills space, this little café is the perfect place to grab a late breakfast, lunch with a friend, or a smoothie to go. While everything we’ve tried has been excellent, a few highlights include the Moroccan bowl, the miso bowl, and the matcha moringa drink. Oh, and the chocolate chip cookies made with cassava flour, grass-fed butter, and Maldon salt are no joke, either.
Jewel654 N. Hoover St., Silver Lake | 323.522.6927
Rather than adopting one specific credo (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free), Silver Lake’s Jewel simply characterizes itself as plant-based. Everything’s good here, but we’re especially big fans of the pizza, which uses Jewel’s own house-made gluten-free activated-charcoal crust. Our favorite pie is the Black + Gold, topped with squash blossoms, basil pesto, almond milk ricotta, and Fresno chili. And the cozy leather booths and subway-tiled bar give it a chic modern diner vibe.
Kye’s1518 Montana Ave., Santa Monica | 310.395.5937
We're big fans of this genius lunch spot on Montana, which serves self-named KyeRito’s: In lieu of beans and tortillas, though, you’ll find things like wild seared salmon and macro-pressed veggies wrapped in nori, collard greens, or romaine leaves. And to keep the mini burrito from getting soggy, the interior ingredients are packaged in a slip-wrap that you pull out before eating. It's a grab-and-go place, though there are a few tables and benches.
Kismet4648 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz | 323.409.0404
On the border of Los Feliz and Hollywood, this all-day, full-service restaurant comes from chefs Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer, who ran the kitchen at Glasserie in NYC before stealing Angelenos’ hearts with their vegetable-centric falafel joint, Madcapra, in Grand Central Market. Teaming up with Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (of Animal, Jon & Vinny’s, and Son of a Gun fame), they’ve successfully brought their Middle Eastern/Californian cuisine to the East Side. Be sure to order the flaky bread with labneh, preserved lemon, and honey; za’atar squash tart; Persian cucumber salad with labneh and rose water; and squid with saffron, pine nuts, and cilantro, to name a few goop favorites.
Little Pine2870 Rowena Ave., Silver Lake | 323.741.8148
At the end of 2015, Moby opened an organic vegan restaurant in Silver Lake that features Mediterranean-inspired and California-style cuisine along with wine, beer, smoothies, and kombucha. It serves lunch and dinner daily and a weekend brunch. Even better, a few months after Little Pine's opening, Moby announced that all of the restaurant's profits will be going to animal-welfare organizations.
Malibu Farm23000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu | 310.456.1112
Malibu Farm is our go-to restaurant for impressing out-of-towners, thanks to its sweeping views of the ocean in both directions (and even of Catalina Island on a clear day). You can watch surfers and stand-up paddleboarders on iconic Surfrider Beach, plus the white sangria is perfectly refreshing on a hot day. Enjoying a zucchini pizza on the porch while you watch the sun set is pretty much as California as it gets.
Mh Zh3536 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake | 323.636.7598
Despite being the most unannounced restaurant in LA, with no sign, no website, and menus written on strips of brown paper, Mh Zh (pronounced "Mah Zeh"), on a Silver Lake corner of Sunset, is packed seven nights a week. The food is vegetable-heavy, Israeli-inspired, and designed to share. We’ve all had hummus and vegetables before, but chef Greg Shemtov’s version is different—the hummus tastes like a smooth tahini and garlic cream. Eaten with the vinegary pickled vegetables and a side of charred Bub and Grandma's bread, it’s the perfect marriage. Most of the seating is curbside and it doesn’t take reservations, but, Mh Zh is arguably the best-priced, most satisfying meal to be had in this part of town.
Necco1929 Westwood Blvd., West LA | 310.446.5241
Health-conscious Necco serves super fresh small Japanese dishes, with an emphasis on tasty root vegetables like ginger, daiko, lotus root, and carrot. The dishes are prepared in satisfyingly innovative ways, and the restaurant's clean, minimalist décor suits perfectly.
Plant Food + Wine1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice | 310.450.1009
When the long-standing Axe shut its doors, a lot of West Siders were pretty bummed—but then chef Matthew Kenney, a force in the plant-based movement, swooped in to take over the space, turning the upstairs into a plant-based cooking academy. The place still has a light, low-key vibe, with exceptional outdoor seating; the difference is the menu is now completely vegan. Kenney’s restaurants across the country all do things with veggies and nuts that you don’t see anywhere else. They’re known for their aged-nut-cheese plate, fantastic salads, and the (amazing) curried cauliflower tacos.
Shima1432 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice | 310.314.0882
Tucked away behind an unmarked gate (visible only because of its smattering of lanterns), Shima flies wonderfully under the radar on a street full of high-profile restaurants. At this elegant Japanese spot, you'll find brown rice sushi that's mouth-wateringly fresh. Menu adds like spicy lotus root and mushrooms sautéed in white truffle oil make this more than your typical sushi spot.
Sqirl720 N. Virgil Ave., Silver Lake | 323.284.8147
What started out as a toast and jam pop-up now commands long weekend lines: A quick scan of the outdoor tables reveals that most people are digging into their signature Kokuho Rose Brown Rice Bowl, complete with nut-free pesto, preserved Meyer lemon, feta, black radish, and a poached egg. Don’t leave without picking up a bottle of the jam that made Sqirl famous.
The Butcher’s Daughter LA1205 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice | 310.981.3004
Taking up prime real estate on Abbot Kinney, this beloved NYC spot has finally made it out west. And it's not just East Coast transplants who have been lining up for a table in the beautifully turned-out dining room (there's also an indoor-outdoor terrace that's pretty perfect for people-watching) or a seat at one of two bars; everyone can appreciate the veggie-friendly menu (just brunch, breakfast, and lunch, for now), which includes standbys like avocado toast and breakfast burritos. The teeny but well-stocked retail space out front and the cold-pressed juice cooler are welcome little add-ons.
The Trails Cafe2333 Fern Dell Dr., Los Feliz | 323.871.2102
While The Trails Café in Griffith Park is a bit out of the way, it's the perfect pit stop before a hike up to the Art Deco observatory (and its sweeping views of LA). The avocado sandwich is epic, particularly when enjoyed at a picnic table among the trees and string lights.
Triniti1814 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park | 213.822.2103
Chef Joseph Getskopf (formerly of Culver City’s Destroyer and Copenhagen’s Noma) opened this Echo Park restaurant-café hybrid late last year, adding yet another stylish caffeine pit stop to this gentrifying East Side neighborhood. Coffee beans come straight from San Francisco’s Tartine Manufactory, while the food is at once healthy and decadent (we’ll call it healthyish). Take the savory breakfast porridge, for instance, made of farro and mustard seeds and served with brown-butter-roasted broccoli and mushrooms. Or the addictive buttered yam lattes made with dairy-free oat milk. The space itself is so pleasant (high-ceilinged, flooded with natural light) that an entire afternoon seems to pass by in an instant when we’re here.
Zinc Café & Market580 Mateo St., Downtown | 323.825.5381
Zinc got its start down in Orange County (there are similar outposts in Laguna Beach, Corona del Mar, and Solano Beach), before branching out to the Arts District downtown in the summer of 2014. The airy, bright space is marked by an open kitchen and a smattering of tables and chairs for low-key breakfast and lunch meetings, though many carry out. Baked goods, really delicious salads, and wood-fired pizzas round out the mix.