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The Three Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Orange County, CA

As a vegetarian, I'm always on the lookout for tasty vegetarian restaurants.

Vegetarian Food in the O.C.

If you're a vegetarian/vegan like myself, or just in the mood for a vegetarian meal, check out these O.C. favorites of mine and my family.

1. Native Foods in Costa Mesa

Native Foods is a small SoCal chain with locations in Costa Mesa, Westwood, and Palm Springs, but the Costa Mesa location is unique in the building's shape: a giant octagon. (Probably some architectural travesty from the 1970s but they've made the quirky shape work; it feels like a circular diner.)

The food is great, with both vegan and vegetarian options, mostly twists on American and California favorites (like burgers, tacos, and pizzas) with a healthy vegetarian twist. There are also a few raw options if you're trying a raw food diet, and a nice bonus is their unique iced tea, a nice blend of hibiscus, lemon, and apple juice.

Here are some of the dishes I've had here:

  • Farrah's Fattoush: Great Middle Eastern salad, big enough to be a meal
  • Scorpion Burger: Seared tempeh burger with a spicy chipotle sauce
  • Hollywood Bowl: Steamed veggies, tofu, and spicy peanut sauce over brown rice
Au Lac

Au Lac

2. Au Lac in Fountain Valley

Au Lac is where you go if you want to try unusual, but really extraordinarily tasty raw vegan food. Chef Ito's raw menu is separate from the usual Vietnamese food served here (which is also really good), but despite the prices (up to $20 per entrée) the food is really worth it.

If you're scared at the thought of eating raw food...don't! Not here, at least. I've been to several other vegetarian restaurants (including Cafe Gratitude, Parawdise, and Raw!) and none are as good as this one. Au Lac's dishes are really rich, flavorful, and deeply satisfying.

Here are some of the dishes I've had here:

  • Pistachio Bread: More like a soft cookie, but really delicious
  • Raw Spring Roll: Tasty spring rolls using thin zucchini slices as the wrapper
  • Pasta Primavera: Pasta is thin strands of zucchini; rich and suprisingly flavorful tomato sauce with "not cheese"
  • The Green Pyramid: Highly recommended! Two pyramids of soaked rice, cashews, avocados, corn, seaweed, and flax crackers. It sounds a bit weird, but everyone who's tried this has loved it. Tons of food so you'll be fighting over leftovers the next day.
Mother's Market & Kitchen

Mother's Market & Kitchen

3. Mother's Market & Kitchen (4 Locations in O.C.)

I've only been to the Mother's Market & Kitchen in Huntington Beach, but there are also locations in Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Laguna Woods. This is a natural foods market with a kitchen off to the side. Similar to Native Foods, it offers twists on American favorites, with a slightly more "granola" feel to it. But you get generous portions for a very reasonable price, and the quality is excellent.

  • Veggie BLT: My mom's favorite; veggie bacon but otherwise a great BLT
  • Ma's Lentil Nut Loaf: My dad's favorite; very similar to meatloaf, with gravy and mashed potatoes
  • Thai Tofu with Udon Noodles: Delicious! One of my favorites
  • Iced chai latte: Also delicious
  • Virgil's microbrewed rootbeer: An authentic rootbeer that tastes great