A vegan’s guide to Westwood

by Vasilisa Nestscheret

Moving to college is stressful enough, but figuring out where to find healthy, sustainable meal options is a whole other story. UCLA is known for its top-notch meal plans, but while food on campus is amazing, sometimes you want to explore your college town with friends and grab a bite with them outside. Whether you are vegan or just trying to make an environmentally-conscious decision with your food, finding a spot with good options can seem daunting. This article is here to show you some tempting vegan options in Westwood that aren’t just simple salads or french fries.

1. Native Foods

This fully-vegan restaurant is what I would call plant-based paradise! They offer American-inspired foods like burgers and wings, as well as healthy options such as salads and bowls. Their Buffalo Chicken Tenders are a popular starter, and I’d definitely recommend their Nachos to share with the table.

Native Foods has four different types of burgers, which are loaded with all sorts of vegan goodies like cheese, bacon jam, crispy onion rings, mayo and much more. They even have pretzel buns! If you’re not feeling a burger but still want a hearty handheld meal, you can choose from their eleven sandwiches and wraps, ranging from Buffalo Chicken Run Ranch to a Cauliflower Chickpea Shawarma Wrap.

My personal favorite is the ‘Crazy Good Grilled Chicken Sandwich,’ which definitely lives up to its name with its perfectly soft pretzel bun, flavor-packed truffle aioli and crunchy truffle potato chips. In addition, you can order a nutrient-dense and lighter meal by getting a bowl like the ‘Buddha Bowl,’ a salad or even soup. To end this mouthwatering meal, you can satisfy your sweet tooth craving with one of their treats, like a peanut butter parfait or chocolate chip cookie.

2. Broxton

Broxton is one of the nicer restaurants in Westwood and is perfect for when you want a more traditional restaurant experience rather than a quick and casual bite. It is not labeled as vegan, but it has an extensive selection of plant-based foods. This makes it the perfect spot to go with a group of friends since it caters to so many different types of diets!

For appetizers, you can start off with Buffalo Cauliflower, a Picked Veggie Platter, or some Red Beet Hummus. The Very Green Salad is simple and refreshing; if you want some extra protein you can add some tofu or Impossible meat. The Grain Bowl can be made vegan by removing the feta cheese and adding some of the offered plant proteins.

Broxton’s sandwiches and burgers can easily be made vegan per your request; just ask for an Impossible patty and no cheese or aioli. For an entree, you can choose between Blackened Tofu, which comes with a side (there are five vegan options!) or a Roasted Cauliflower Steak. Come on a Tuesday and enjoy their vegan Fried Chicken Taco or Smoked Brisket Taco. Just thinking about this is making my mouth water!

3. Falafel Inc

Falafel Inc opened not too long ago and has already made a mark on Westwood. Not only is their food amazing, but their mission is impactful, as every meal you buy helps donate to refugee food-aid efforts. Not only are you enjoying some crispy falafel, but you are helping those in need at the same time!

Eating out can get pricey, but Falafel Inc has reasonable prices with a falafel bowl going for $4 and their sides only being $3. The falafel and tahini sauces are vegan and absolutely delectable. While fries are a dreaded option for vegans when it tends to be the only option, Falafel Inc has some of the best fries I’ve ever had. They are coated in a zaatar seasoning blend that immediately transports me to the Middle East.

4. Fat Sal’s

Westwood is known for Fat Sal’s and its crazy-loaded sandwiches. These sandwiches are larger than my face and are stuffed to the max with all sorts of things like meat, mozzarella sticks, chicken tenders and more.

Clearly, this place is a meat lover’s heaven, but don’t worry because you can easily enjoy this goodness while being vegan. The Vegan Fat Falafel sandwich is a hearty yet fresh sandwich with crisp cucumbers, lettuce, refreshing tomatoes, crispy fries, hearty falafel with hummus and creamy vegan tzatziki. Another great option is their Vegan Impossible Cheeseburger which pairs well with their perfectly crispy tater tots.

Don’t want a sandwich? No problem: the loaded fries have your back. The Vegan Buffalo Chicken Cheese Fries have the perfect level of spice which is balanced with the creamy vegan ranch and mozzarella cheese. This place is definitely worth a try to satisfy your fast-food cravings!

5. Hangry Moon’s

Located right next to Fat Sal’s, Hangry Moon’s is a fried chicken fan’s go-to spot in Westwood. They are known for chicken tenders and sliders with Texas toast and Hangry Moon’s sauce. It sucks going to a fried chicken place and finding out your only vegan option is fries, but do not fret because Hangry Moon’s caters to your plant-based needs. You can order the Grilled Tofu Thicc Fries or Nachos without cheese, which comes with a sweet and tangy teriyaki sauce, pickled cabbage, tomato salsa and jalapeños for that extra kick. In addition, you can order an Organic Sesame Tofu Bowl and choose from a base of white rice, cilantro brown rice or spring mix. A couple of other options are the Organic Tofu Taco and Grilled Sesame Slider!

6. Sweetfin

Sweetfin has some of the freshest and best-tasting poke I’ve ever had, and they even have a whole plant-based section in their menu. While you can customize your own poke bowl with tons of veggies and yummy sauces, you can also choose from their three creations. The Miso Eggplant and Mushroom comes with miso sesame shoyu, Japanese eggplant, shimeji mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, shiso and market radish. The Sweet Potato Ponzu Lime is served with ponzu lime sauce, avocado, carrots, edamame, cucumber, daikon sprout, serrano, napa cabbage and some of the best sweet potato I’ve ever had. Lastly, the Shiitake Chile Tofu comes with miso sesame shoyu, chile oil, cilantro, rapini and pickled fresno. You can also choose between five different bases for your bowl, which include bamboo rice (the most popular option), forbidden rice, cauliflower rice, kelp noodle slaw or citrus kale salad.

7. Tocaya

Tocaya is a modern Mexican restaurant that has locations all over Los Angeles, including one right in Westwood. They have a very versatile menu that caters to all sorts of accommodations, like vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten-free diets and more. Tocaya serves salads, bowls, quesadillas, burritos, soups and sides. All these options can be made vegan with their meat options like vegan chicken and adobo tofu as well as vegan cheeses like mozzarella and chipotle jack. They also have other protein-packed options like beans, mushrooms and quinoa, which are all seasoned with pungent flavors. If you want to have some appetizers before your meals, you can have some chips with salsa, guacamole or vegan queso! While this isn’t an authentic Mexican restaurant, it definitely satisfies your craving while keeping the meal healthy.

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