Top Vegan Restaurants in Orange County

Au Lac vegan restaurant in orange county
“Living” curried rice at Au Lac in Fountain Valley

Vegan restaurants are sprouting up everywhere with creative fare appealing to plant-based diners and carnivores alike. See our list of top vegan restaurants in Orange County.

By Benjamin Epstein, adapted from the summer 2016 issue of WHERE Orange County Magazine


Cafe Gratitude, which has three Los Angeles locations, recently unveiled chic Gratitude in Newport Beach. Chef Dreux Ellis’ dishes are names for affirmations such as “Whole,” “Welcoming” and “Fearless,” and diners order accordingly, saying, “I am Whole,” “I am Fearless,” and so on. “Inviting” features Brussels sprout sliders with blackened tempeh, cashew ricotta and an amazing maple mustard; the sprouts are the “buns.” But most memorable are the “Feliz,” a portobello-mushroom tostada with black-bean puree, Mexican coleslaw, coconut “bacon,” cashew “queso” fresco and avocado, and “Humble,” Indian dal with red lentils, spinach, roasted garnet yams, coconut mint chutney and spicy tomato jam. Jason Eisner, recently featured in Vogue magazine, designed the cocktails. The gin and tonic—with botanical gin and wild chamomile tonic—is spectacular, arriving in a glass globe filled with teas smoke and tea flowers. 1617 Westcliff Dr., Newport Beach, 949.386.8103.


Au Lac
Orange County’s oldest vegan restaurant presents “beef,” “chicken” and “shrimp” dishes made from soy and tempeh, plus—ever since owner Mai Nguyen met chef Ito in 2001—”living” dishes using ingredients either raw or cooked by means other than heat. Ito dubs it “humanese” cuisine. The must-haves: slat-and-peppered “shrimp” sauteed in jalapeno and cilantro, kung pao “chicken,” and “beef” watercress. On the “living” menu: the cream cheese starter of flaxseed chips topped with avocado, pesto, basil, bell pepper, marinated mushroom and crisp onion, or the hot-and-sour soup—curry broth over sea veggies, coconut and bell pepper with olives and macadamia cream. Finish with “Tirawmisu.” 16563 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, 714.418.0658.


Healthy Junk
“Eat Happy” is the motto at this casual north Orange County vegan destination. Located in a food court on Center Street Promenade in Anaheim, Healthy Junk excels in Snack Junk such as kale chips and curly yam fries. Favorites under Buns with Junk include an Anaheim chili-pepper burger, which finds a whole crispy chili atop a marinated patty and cheddar Chez. Start with shots of Ku sweet potato/soju “vodka” or sweet-potato/agave “tequila” at the Junk Bar, which specializes in organic beer and wine and elevated sodas. 201 W. Center St. Promenade, Anaheim, 714.772.5865.


Seabirds Kitchen jackfruit tacos

Seabirds Kitchen
Seabirds Kitchen made the transition from food truck to restaurant with a delightful patio at the Lab in Costa Mesa. Our picks: artichoke drumsticks, which resemble nothing so much as KFC, served with maple mustard and hot sauce; purple taquitos with purple potatoes, chipotle sour cream, fermented curtido, almond feta and cilantro (wash it down with a local IPA); and the Chaffle churro waffle, topped with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and chopped pecans. The popular brunch, unusual for a vegan restaurant, has a separate menu. 2930 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 714.549.2584.


Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine
A tasty vegan option at Andrei’s is the Moroccan wrap of quinoa tabbouleh, roasted red bell pepper, avocado, chorizo seitan and baby arugula. Vegans and non-vegans can happily share a table at Andrei’s. 2607 Main St., Irvine, 949.387.8887.


Old Vine Cafe
Old Vine Cafe, though not a vegan restaurant, is sympathetic to the cause. Chef Mark McDonald offers several four-course tasting menus; one is always vegan. A typical course is seared hen-of-the-woods, shitake and beech mushrooms with extra-virgin olive oil and chives. 2937 Bristol St., Suite A102, Costa Mesa, 714.545.1411.


Most indicative of the sea change is the effort that Hilton Anaheim is making to meet vegan requests. A tasting at the new chef’s table in the Mix kitchen featured dishes that executive chef Frederick Castan recently created for groups staying at the hotel. One course presented a spectacular trio of salads: compressed watermelon and ginger with arugula and balsalmic; baby beets, mâche, avocado spread and aged sherry; and baby gem lettuce with pickled cucumber, olives and blistered tomato. Hilton Anaheim, 777 Convention Way, Anaheim, 714.740.4412.


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