New LA vegan restaurants cross cultural boundaries, step up flavor

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Jackfruit sopes at Chicana Vegana. Photo by Mona Holmes

In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic and a struggling food industry, LA’s vegan restaurants are experimenting with different and unusual ethnic flavor combinations, often with delicious results.

Eater LA reporter and KCRW contributor Mona Holmes re-joined Greater LA to talk about her top vegan dishes

Holmes stepped away from contributing to Greater LA for a few months and explains why.

“When I learned about the accusations of a hostile workplace earlier this year, I believed them, and it was a very specific, familiar hurt, so I wanted to take a step back and see how the station would handle it.”

During Holmes’ leave, KCRW has dedicated substantial time and resources to work on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), which has included DEI trainings for staff, hiring an outside company to support the station in systems change, and forming task forces on workplace diversity, source tracking, and pay equity. For more information, check out www.kcrw.org/dei.

Holmes says she has been glad to see the steps taken in recent months by KCRW and was happy to return as a Greater LA contributor.

Holmes says sustainability is a big focus for many vegan chefs in LA. “Just about every single vegan chef or restaurant owner that I speak to talks very openly about reducing their footprint.” For example, Chef Angela Means of Jackfruit Cafe in West LA calls herself a ‘mindful capitalist’ who invests in compostable utensils to create less waste.

Along with Jackfruit Cafe, one of Holmes’ top vegan choices these days are the sopes from Chicana Vegana in Fullerton. Chef Jasmine Hernandez uses jackfruit carnitas and shredded cabbage with vegan crema and cheese.

Many restaurants during the pandemic have stepped up to help those in need, and Holmes says vegan restaurants are no exception. Holmes points to Support + Feed, an organization started by Maggie Baird, mother of Billie Eilish and Finneas, whose mission is to feed those who are food insecure while supporting plant based restaurants who have struggled because of COVID.

Holmes says, “I am really inspired by what they have done in addition to being a huge fan of her kids, to support people within the city of LA as well as business owners is something truly remarkable.”

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