By Ryan Cady
It's getting easier to be vegan nowadays, but dating a vegan–especially if you're a carnivore–is still kind of shitty. Sure, you could be an asshole and drag your animal-loving significant other to a Korean barbecue place and force them to watch, horrified, as you consume pounds and pounds of delicious, char-grilled critter–but at that point, why are they dating you in the first place? Sure ain't the panchan.
No, relationships are about compromise, so, as the omnivore, sometimes it's nice of you to suck it up, act like you think animals have souls, and take your precious PETA proponent out to a nice vegan meal. To help you out, here are five vegan restaurants in Orange County that won't make you want to gargle Novocain.
5. Sensitive Sweets
We're gonna break the rules here and start with dessert, because, as a rule, vegan sweets are almost always pretty gross. No ice cream, no milk chocolate–hell, how are you supposed to eat cookies without milk? But Sensitive Sweets over on Brookhurst and Slater has some of the best treats in town crafted either through some form of pagan witchcraft or just good ol' fashioned culinary talent. Better yet, all of them are vegan AND gluten-free (in case you're paleo, or something).
Bread, cupcakes, muffins and cookies not only look like what they're supposed to, but they taste like it too. Sensitive Sweets also make a point of avoiding nuts and soy in their desserts to maintain a hypoallergenic an environment as well.
Ordinarily, this would make you ask just what the heck is in this stuff? But in this case, everything's so good that it's probably best not to ask questions and just enjoy the sugar rush instead. 17431 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, (714) 968-9169; www.sensitivesweets.com
4. The Seabirds Truck
Food trucks might be a little stale now, but if you're willing to do a little Twitter detective work, you might find yourself nostalgically transported back to the days when hitting up Kogi in a high school parking lot was as trendy as making Charlie Sheen jokes.
Your standard food-truck-fusion-fare, the Seabirds crew travels around Irvine and its surrounding areas dishing out some seriously tasty tortilla meals, including their now-famous beer-battered avocado tacos. I mean, they're tacos made of beer and avocado. Jesus couldn't come up with a more perfect dish. Seabirds also serves some delicious salads and sandwiches, but who goes to a food truck and doesn't get a burrito? And don't forget their new restaurant! Follow Seabirds on Twitter @seabirdstruck
3. Veggie Grill
Every date can't be a super romantic night out–sometimes you just need to grab a cruelty-free bite together on your lunch break, and that's where Veggie Grill comes in. Slowly taking over the United States with their promises of sweet potato fries and devil-may-care attitude towards tempeh, the Southern California chain was a pioneer by making vegan cooking acceptable to suburbanites. It offers a relatively quick, relatively cheap selection of “American comfort food” with a vegan twist. Here, there's a tortilla wrap that tastes remarkably like there's asada in it. Here's a chicken Caesar salad that, if you can stomach kale, really tastes like a chicken Caesar salad.
And, most importantly, Veggie Grill serves the most goddamn-delicious, meat-free Buffalo wings you will ever get your little enlightened little hands on. With a side of a cool dressing vaguely resembling ranch, grab an order and help fight speciesism…or just placate your SO. Find your nearest Veggie Grill at www.veggiegrill.com,
2. Native Foods
If VeggieGrill is the veghead's McDonalds (and boy, is that a loose analogy), Native Foods, another SoCal chain, is the Red Robin.
Yeah, their décor is a little weird (and, the social justice-minded readers among you might think, a little culturally appropriative), and their baked goods are nothing to cry home about, but they've got some serious quality going on. Using an extensive variety of soy and plant protein products to craft sandwiches (Meatball sub? Sausage Po' boy? You betcha), salads, and other perfectly edible treats, Native Foods also has one incredible feature that few other vegan eateries can match: French fries. REAL French fries made out of real potatoes.
A little warning, though? If your herbivorous sweetheart recommends the Oklahoma BBQ Bacon Burger because they "couldn't even tell the difference,” don't listen to them. It's nothing like a burger. Not even close. (Sorry.). Find your nearest Native Foods at www.nativefoods.com
1. Wheel of Life
Of all the soy-saturated, veggie-slinging eateries in Orange County, none comes closer than Irvine's own Wheel of Life. An environmentally friendly take on Thai and Chinese, here you'll find favorites such as "beef” and broccoli, sweet and sour "chicken,” and even satay skewers–all of which taste pretty much like they're supposed to. Most importantly, Wheel of Life even manages to get the texture pretty close to correct – the orange chicken has the consistency of a fried hot dog…which, I'll admit, sounds a kind of gross, but beats the hell out of a big, soggy chunk of soft tofu. And don't forget the owner who shakes your hand as you walk in