As a vegetarian, I'm always on the lookout for tasty vegetarian restaurants.
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
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.
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
BobDavisOC from Orange County, CA on January 26, 2012:
walts wharf in seal beach
Daisy Mariposa from Orange County (Southern California) on November 29, 2011:
You forget The Wheel of Life Restaurant, a 100% Vegan Chinese / Thai restaurant in Irvine (Orange County, CA):
14370 Culver Dr # 2G Irvine, CA 92604
MarieOaks from Mexico on January 27, 2011:
The menus and suggestions are great. Thanks!
dawit justice on December 04, 2010:
AU LAC IS THE BEST VEGETARIAN PLACE 2 EAT & HAS BEEN!!!!!ALL THE OTHER PLACES HAVE SOME GOOD FOOD,FOR SURE, BUT ALL AROUND,AU LAC IS #1...
Solar Hippo on October 31, 2010:
First of all, these are employees writing for most of these restaurants that are on here.
There is only 1 healthy vegan raw food restaurant in orange county and that is Au Lac. IF you know any people that eat raw food regularly this is where they go to eat, PERIOD.
Now let me "vegan/raw food" I eat out all meals and can tell you where to get the best vegan food or vegan dishes, if you read this you will want to thank me.
Au Lac: The best! Portions, Energy, Chef hasn't spoken in 10 years. So much flavor you'll think again before eating cooked food. Cooked food is really vietnamese, so if you're not into that don't try it. Raw food is amazing and tons of variety.
Run, save yourself, bring a bag literally. I have eaten there about 20 times or so even though I have thrown up twice from it and almost a 3rd time. I was trying to be careful and order simple with less nuts to not make me sick. It doesn't matter, your stomach is going to go into washer and dryer mode anyway. Beautiful restaurant, the chef is the sweetest girl in the world, but the food will literally make you sick. Even the smell in there is odd, it smells like pinenuts or something and the smell never goes away. Sorry, This is the worst raw food I have eaten, worse than a salad at denny's with apple cider vinegar and oil.
Good to Go: Like I said there is really only one raw restaurant in orange county. This place has cooked food, cheese and raw food. The food is decent, the price is good, now here's the big gamble. Even ask them "THEY DO NOT USE ORGANIC INGREDIENTS WHATSOEVER," other than their bottled kombucha. This poses a problem, when you are eating raw food and you eat a multiple amount of pesticides "raw food has many ingredients" you are getting a large dose of dozens of not more pesticides in your food. This means, don't even order it raw, you are safer cooking the raw food. I have gone there often as aulac is closed on monday. The workers always seem to be new, nice and a bit clueless. The owners are the strangest pair I've talk to, don't believe me, ask to speak with them about anything and see what you think. I have only thrown up once here. Between here and 118 it is the only 3 times I have thrown up in the last 2 years. The only thing worth ordering is the peanut butter chocolate pie, it's expensive but it's good.
Mothers Grocery Store Deli:
Believe it or not the second best raw food in Orange County. Inexpensive, predictable selection. Raw Hummus is the best. Apple pie, pudding, alfredo pasta. The fresh juice is the best deal anywhere!
If you want really good raw food other than AuLac go to LA. PlanetRaw, BetterLife, Rawvolution, KindKreme are all amazingly good.
Hope this saves you time and stomach aches, I've done all the work for you.
MyMastiffPuppies on September 11, 2010:
Great information and details on the these unique restaurants. My aunt lives in California and she is always telling me about all the great choices they have on food. Although I am not vegan, I love trying new and healthy foods, sounds like you have some great choices!
What's News on September 01, 2010:
This is a great list of vegetarian restaurants. If I make my way out to Orange County I'll be sure to drop in on one.
Leenie Pooh on April 25, 2010:
I love Native Foods but I'm into healthy eating, so no surprise there. What really impressed me was that my friend brought her husband and step daughter along to lunch, neither of which cared at all for healthy food and both LOVED the food. That's definitely a thumbs up when someone who doesn't care if it's healthy or not likes the food.
Veganholic on March 14, 2010:
I visited native foods for first time based you this page review. Belive I loved that restaurant. It has an eclectic type atmosphere on Saturday. Definitely recommend anybody who love veges and visiting OC.
Scotty on February 21, 2010:
I was referring the Loving Hut in Orange.
Scotty on February 21, 2010:
Loving Hut rules! Cheap prices and delicious food!
Dane Jenkins on August 15, 2009:
Native Foods is OK but the staff is very full of themselves and the service can be slow. I have been twice and am going to give it another try
veg_head_Ed on July 22, 2009:
WOW! Avanti Cafe in Costa Mesa / Newport is also AMAZING! They also have vegan on the menus. In the same strip as Mother's in Costa Mesa. I always see Mother's employees eating at Avanti -- tells ya somethin ;)
douglas novack on May 09, 2009:
118 Degrees is a very important vegan/raw restaurant in Southern California. The Chef is one of the most creative and passionate raw food advocate within the raw/vegan movement. The food is elaborately prepared and tediously detailed to preserve the freshness, quality, nutritional value of any restaurant i have been at.I highly recommend all vegans to dine at this one of a kind restaurant. And if you are not vegans, you will certainly entertain becoming one when you taste how delicious and healthy raw vegan food can be prepared. Besides the restaurant, Chef Jenny caters, teaches raw food cooking,lectures and has a book out on raw food and the preparation. The staff is totally dedicated and knowledgeable of not only the origins of all the food prepared and the nutritional value but also is well versed on the benefits of being a raw vegan and can answer any questions. I have been coming to 1198 Degrees since they opened and I am always greeted hospitably and as many times as I have been there, the presentation and taste of the food is always of the highest caliber. The décor is very hip, the music changes as to the preference of the staff and the cleanliness is as tediously attentive as each and every item on the menu. 118 Degrees is not just any restaurant, as son as you walk through the doors you will feel the tone and the pulse of the personality of the restaurant. When someone comes up to you and welcomes you into the restaurant, the really mean it. The vibes are genuine and the character is as fresh as the food. I am a native of Orange County and I am moving to San Francisco but my motivation to come back to Orange County will be the friends and family atmosphere you will experience at 118. The menu changes from time to time and the staff will accommodate all your nutritional and special needs. They have a brunch on Sunday that is secret until the morning of the brunch. The menu is a special creation of Chef Jenny and the staff and you will never forget dining on Sunday. Most people make 118 more regular than church. Dining at 118 is very inspirational and I am sure that you will feel the same way. OH YEA....The wines are special chosen by Chef Jenny and the executive staff and they search small wineries in California for vegan wines and amazing taste.Each wine has a special story behind it if you have time, after the staff entertains you with the history and nutritional value and the benefits of being raw, ask them about the wine!!!!!
Catherine on May 02, 2009:
Thank you so much for posting this! I live in OC and recently became a vegan so I will be visiting all these restaurants. :)
stacey on April 08, 2009:
118 DEGREES is terrible. I agree with Bryan! The food is disgusting, no vegetables, just a powdered kind of substance that resembles slime. Their prices are crazy and the service is funny! The waiter is hilarious with his descriptions of everything being AMAZING! So we ordered some AMAZING enchiladas and my GF ordered some guac. and some sort of weird pesto dish. So the quac comes out and there is no crackers so we asked for some crackers and the waitress brought us like 3 crackers and they charged us like the same amount for the quac so for this little cup of avocados with mostly tomatoes sauce and 3 crackers we paid $12. The other stuff was hideous so we jammed as quickly as we could. I couldn't understand why they promote healthy cuisine and do not serve many vegetables or offer more options. anyway, check it out and see for yourself. Maybe we just had a bad night there.
Jenner on March 23, 2009:
You all have to try That's Amore Italian Pizza Kitchen. 13349 Artesia Blvd. Cerritos 90703. 562-926-2112. They can make most to everything on their menu vegan. Our fav: Potato Rosemary Pizza. If you go you have to try something with their Bechamel sauce because it is amazing. They even have vegan cannoli.
bryan on March 22, 2009:
118 Degrees is the worst restaurant there is. First of all, they do not have many vegetables, just green slime stuff. If you go to yelp, check out all the reviews and see how many people got sick, including me. It smells, the people are dirty and check out their makeshift kitchen, it is out in the open where everyone passes by and where they put the dirty dishes. They are always out of everything and all the food taste the same plus the prices are ridiculous.
Kelley Martin from Tulsa on February 26, 2009:
OOOh, I miss good food like that, can't get Vegan anything in Oklahoma when dining out. Good article, made me hungry.
oc native on February 19, 2009:
forgot avanti cafe in costa mesa, off 55 on 17th street, same shopping center mothers market located.
small place, half menu split between veggie and vegan, good prices, organic food, nice atmosphere, beer/wine.. had vegan pizza, soooooooo good. son had cupcake that he said was more like a wedding cake, that yummy.
oc native on February 10, 2009:
also try veggie grill [vegan sandwich/soup/salad] by uci and wheel of life [vegan asian] off 5/south culver in irvine
the new mothers market in santa ana off 22/ south main st, next to main place mall, has huge buffet style.
nothing wrong with natives, been going for years, love the mad cowboy, and my son always gets pizza.
being wanting to try 118 degrees [raw food] in same location as natives in costa mesa, off 405/south on bristol.
if in LA, go to RFD [real food daily, american vegan], the location in santa monica has new bakery next door.. few streets down from shopping on 3rd street prom.
Kat on February 07, 2009:
Native's is so far the best OC Vegan restaurant!!!.....try their chilli cheese fries ....WOW!!!....Everything there is YUMMY!!!!
crystal on January 22, 2009:
Oh, Native Foods is sooo yummy! I love it! My fav is the Portobello & Sausage Burger but the Native Nachos are delish as well. Of course no meal is complete with out the Carrot Cake! =)
Isa on December 26, 2008:
Native Foods is the best! I go just about every day when I travel to the OC. The Soul Bowl & Scorpian Burger = Yummmm.
Good To Go on November 14, 2008:
The listing of vegan friendly restaurants is fantastic, BUT you are missing Good To Go in Huntington Beach! We are an awesome VEGAN/VEGETARIAN/RAW restaurant with a creative selection of good eats! Stop in any time for your favorite treat!
Jason Menayan (author) from San Francisco on June 02, 2008:
Jeanie - Funny you should mention 118 Degrees. I just saw a review of the place on YouTube a couple of weeks ago. Definitely an intriguing raw/living foods menu and from what I saw, great ambience, too. Will definitely check it out when I'm down there again.
Jeanie on June 02, 2008:
You are all missing the bet of the century if you have not yet tried 118 degrees at The Camp in Costa Mesa, right down the street from South Coast Plaza. It is all raw, organic, beautiful to look at and delicious. Unlike many raw restaurants, portions are generous and the whole look and feel of the restaurant is elegant yet fresh, relaxing, and welcoming. Food presentation is stunning. It makes you want to order everything that is coming out of the kitchen! Service is uniformly outstanding. The most incredible deal is Sunday brunch. 5 courses, new and innovative every week, and only $22 (and that includes organic tea, coffee, or a mimosa!) We go every Sunday to energize our week and get lots of great new ideas to experiment with during the week.
Jason Menayan (author) from San Francisco on April 28, 2008:
Nancy - I've been to Bodhi Tree and had 2 experiences that were awful there. One time, the entire restaurant smelled like Raid insect spray and the food was cold, and another time, there was a giant hair in one of our spring rolls. We will never eat there again.
Nancy on April 22, 2008:
Don't forget about Bodhi Tree Caffe in Huntington Beach!
olyv on January 01, 2008:
i'm sorry, but native (costa mesa) is horrible. the employees have a stuck up attitude, it always takes forever for my food to come out and i've received sandwiches with out the tofu...it's annoying!!!!!!! i have stopped going to native all together.
cgull8m from North Carolina on July 10, 2007:
Hope to visit California soon, the above list sounds nice. Thanks for sharing them. Cheers.
Angela Harris from Around the USA on July 09, 2007:
AAh! I'm currently attempting a raw foods fast. There is nothing like these restaurants in my region. I will look these up when I visit California. Thanks for the information.
Lorna Lorraine from Croydon on July 09, 2007:
I am sure a lot of people will thank you for this. If ever I am in the area I will check them out