Written by Silvik Hagopian
Stepping foot into The Vegan Joint, an immediate greeting is given by the only waitress in the restaurant, an Asian woman clad in a bright turquoise T-shirt and black short hair severely cut to her earlobes.
The entrance room looks like a small café upon walking in. Overwhelming sunlight floods into the mustard-colored room, making the light seem brighter than in reality, ricocheting off the wooden tables. It gives the room a warm glow. The whizzing of cars mingle with the sounds of stainless steel utensils and chefs talking in the kitchen. “You Make Me Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley is playing in the background.
Guests are quickly led through an archway, and introduced to a room a bit bigger than the size of the entrance room with a more conservative, classic vibe where they are seated. Black, white and toned-down grey with a swirling design on the wall, drastically turn down the notch of the visuals from the mustard-colored room.
The customers in the restaurant are diverse, varying from a businessman in a suit on the phone and an old woman well into her 80s seated by the large window, to a young woman with a yoga mat propped against the vacant chair at her table.
About the only thing consistent in the hodgepodge restaurant The Vegan Joint is the high quality of its meat-free food. Items in the menu are well-priced and range from $1.00 to $9.95. Although commonly-listed things such as “shrimp, chicken, and beef” are written, nothing is actually meat, though they taste and look just like it.
A great way to start the meal is with a sweet and fresh raw coconut. The refreshing milky drink gives a cooling sensation and almost instantly hydrates.
Staring down at the transparent wrapping of the fresh spring rolls with bits of green and orange peeking through, this appetizer looks as if it is a caterpillar cocoon. A single bite, and a mixture of crunchy, fresh and sweet vegetables and soft, stringy, spiced faux chicken are introduced. Cucumber, lettuce and carrots, intertwined with a nutty savory peanut sauce and with a tinge of a slightly salty aftertaste mingle with the spices and chewy texture of the chicken and clear outer wrapping. The clear rice noodles sticking out of the spring roll wriggle like little worms with the slightest movement of the hand. Though different, this appetizer satisfies, but with just enough room and appetite for more food.
Not all the items at The Vegan Joint are Thai-inspired; the menu includes classic American dishes such a dish of a burger and French fries. On a whole wheat burger bun, with speckles of black pepper sprinkled on the roasted eggplant, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms and onions, this burger was just as satisfying as one with meat. While biting into the soft bun and tender, perfectly cooked fragrant vegetables, bits of alfalfa sprouts plop down into the plate and vegetable juices run out of the burger dripping all over. Spicy pepper and sweet succulent caramelized onions provide a perfect sweet and spicy contrast while the smoky grilled flavor from the vegetables contrast with the fresh tomato and lettuce creating a unique and delicious blend of flavors.
Dessert options are not very extensive; however, vegan cheesecake, cupcakes and cookies of all sorts fill a stand by the cash register. A giant chocolate chip cookie larger than the palm of a hand to proves to be quite a crumbly, sweet, chocolatey delight.
Though The Vegan Joint only offers vegan food, it is an excellent casual place to eat at, regardless of your diet.
Phone: (818) 884-6383
Hours: Monday – Saturday @ 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.