I’d like to think I know all the vegan hot spots in LA. I’d like to think that someone who has only been to one vegan restaurant in his lifetime (thanks to me) would not know another one that would rival them all when I had never even heard of it. I’d like to think when on a date I could control my voracious appetite and not order five items off the menu. I’d like to think a lot of these things and more, but sometimes I don’t actually know as much as I pretend to and the wonder of reality far surpasses anything I could conceive. Yes bubbles were burst this Saturday but all for the sake of feeling like a gypsy princess. Where? Well I was treated to another fabulous date night in my very own Santa Monica, at Vardo Cafe, which I am now declaring the BEST vegan date spot in LA. Tall order? Yes. But this Mediterranean gem has made me a glass is half full kind of girl.
235 Main St
Los Angeles, CA 90291
- Hours: Mon-Wed 10:30 am – 10 pm, Thu-Sun 10:30 am – 11 pm
- Parking can be tricky on Main on weekends but luckily we parked at M’s gym which was a few blocks away so we were in the clear. It was a gorgeous night out, the mini dress and flip-flops type of weather us Californians live for, so I was already loving the brief stroll to the cafe. When we got there I think I shreaked a little bit. I mean look at this place! It’s so cute and romantic and not something you would expect on Main Street let alone Los Angeles. What can I say, I’m a sucker for ivy and twinkle lights. M made a rezzie which I suggest you do as well because this place is very intimate. A few tables inside and a few outside. The walls are speckled with old guitars, eclectic art work and ornate mirrors. The ambiance is sexy, romantic and intimate and transports you to a different time and place, like taking a trip to Greece. We were seated next to a bachelorette party who were enjoying their BYOB (or wine) selections (that’s right this is BYOB people … and it gets better) who were all clad with tiny mustaches and big puffy skirts. If this was the company for the evening I was already to in. Our adorable waitress brought us water served out of a giant fish ….
- She also brought a candle to the table along with the menus and told us about their teas that night.
- The menu is eclectic and ethnic vegetarian fare with plenty of vegan options and even some raw vegan ones too! We decided to start with the Tea Ceremony for Two because who doesn’t want a ceremony at dinner. Even the descriptions of the teas and dishes were magical sounding. We chose their Assamica Assam black tea which also had some passion fruit in it if I remember correctly for our “ceremony.” I was excited to see what this was all about.
The tea was fantastic. Fruity, full-bodied but not too perfumey. It was also really fun to pour thanks to the tiny glasses and ornate heavy teapot. It was like drinking out of a piece of artwork. The glasses came with fresh mint leaves inside them and a side plate with two large medjool dates. I was loving it.
After getting some recs from our waitress, M and I decided to split a bunch of things for our appetizer and entrees. We started with their kale salad. You are all shocked I know, but since M is a kale lover like me (smile) it was a no-brainer.
This salad reminds me A LOT of Veggie Grill’s amazing All Hail Kale Salad, which I still slightly prefer, but this one was totally delicious too. Much better than Elf’s thanks to the appropriate dressing allocation. We ordered the entrée sized version of this which was huge! Clearly we ate it all. I would absolutely order this again, but it was nothing compared with what was to come. Ooooweee! Up next? Three vegan stews over bastmati rice and the Mediterranean Pizza. I was SO excited when they both arrived at the same time. It was on.
Oh my lawwwd were the stews good. I LOVED every bite and loved that we got to try three of them. The spinach Sagwala was probably my favorite but they all were incredible, perfectly spiced, and not overpowering. My one complaint was that there was not enough of each one on the platter and the ratio of rice to stew was heavily skewed in rice’s favor. More stew less rice will be my request in the future. because M and I each only got a few bites. Weh. Luckily we had the Med Pizza to devour next…
This was the winner of the whole night. If I was ever to become the vegan Giada De Laurentiis, this would go on my episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Yes, seriously, this may just be the best thing I have ever eaten. I WISH I could come close to describing the wonder that is this gypsy gem of a pie but I fear it wouldn’t even do it justice. This is just simply my favorite thing at a vegan restaurant in LA and I have not stopped talking about it since. The humus is perfection, the falafel is blow your mind incomprehensible good, the tzatziki sauce is to die for, it just really goes on. I don’t even understand the magic that is this very unconventional pizza. All I know is that I died and went to gypsy heaven.
After we savored every last crumb of the Pizza things at Vardo started to get intense. A woman with a guitar emerged from behind the curtain in the back ala Wizzard of Oz and began to sing. She was shortly accompanied by a belly dancer who had chimes on and used castanets and soon after all the restaurant patrons started to join in, including a very stoned old hippie that walked in off the street to partake in the exotic celebration. I was beginning to think this was a dream after all.
The belly dancer taught the little girl at the table next to us how to dance and seeing her try to shake her hips was beyond hilarious and adorable. It was too much fun! This entire experience was just unbelievable. I was clapping my hands and smiling and chair dancing and having an absolute blast. And then the drum circle happened. How is this real life???
After a long while of the festivities, music and dance, M and I had somehow worked up more of an appetite and decided another entree was in order so we picked the daily special which was a burrito with soy chorizo, grilled veggies, black beans and vegan cheese.
This was absolutely spectacular too. I loved that it was seemingly mad in a panini press resulting in a perfectly grilled burrito with ooey gooey cheese. Yum yum yum. Special shout out to he cukes and tomatoes which tasted like they were grown in the backyard and freshly picked. Again we pretty much cleaned our plates. How is this so good!??!?! At this point we were debating dessert, but after seeing the bachelorette party get an ice cream trio I knew what had to be done. We ordered the waitress’ pick of vegan rosewater saffron ice cream.
Now rose-water and anything edible sound like a potentially unappealing combo but this was superb. Such a unique flavor palate. A true trip of the senses in ice cream form none the less, perfectly ended the meal. M even said, “I liked this way better than Real Food Daily.” And I whole heartedly agree.
This dining experience and date night was simply perfection. 5 stars, loved everything, would order everything again, service was incredible, live music, dancing, singing, fun, amazing staff, amazing customers, romantic, cozy and vegan. It was like a dream, or better yet like reality – which I could have never planned or predicted. Clearly I cannot recommend this restaurant highly enough. Even if you don’t come here on a date this place would be perfect for any occasion (oh hi my next birthday). I absolutely cannot wait to come back…
So that about wraps up my Saturday night at my new favorite vegan restaurant. Will I get a vegan date three with M the new-found Vegan Avenger and discover another faboo uncharted hot spot? A girl can dream….
Your Vegan Girlfriend