Whether you’re a self-declared flexitarian, pescatarian, vegetarian, a straight-up carnivore or a fully fledged vegan, it’s never a bad idea to load up on greens or skip meat for a meal here and there.
Personally, I pivoted to a vegetarian (occasionally pescatarian) diet last November and I haven’t looked back. Over the past year, I’ve been on a mission to explore everything plant-based Long Beach has to offer. And there were a surprising amount of places that made that transition easy as pie.
Since Nov. 1 is World Vegan Day and the rest of November is World Vegan Month, I thought I’d share some of my favorite veggie-head eateries around Long Beach.
And if you’re imagining biting into a bland kale and sprouts sandwich or one of those black-bean burgers that were around long before the days of high-quality meat mimicry, hear me out, things have changed.
Get with the times by trying one of these plant-based restaurants listed below—in no particular order.
Vegan Castle – 2400 Santa Fe Ave.
From the moment I took a bite of sashimi at 15 years old, sushi became my favorite food. And I blame this wonderful Japanese cuisine as my one holdout to fully claiming a strict vegetarian diet. That being said, when I discovered Vegan Castle on the Westside, it unexpectedly quelled that nagging sushi craving I have never been able to stifle.
This plant-based wizardry of a sushi restaurant really hits the spot. If you go, try the rainbow roll, the shrimpless tempura roll and the ocean roll. Plus, they have a great selection of beer and sake.
PlanTita’s – 1950 W. Willow Street
PlanTita’s (not to be confused with Plantiitas on Retro Row) is Long Beach’s newest vegan offering, and it’s also located on the Westside. Owner Aileen Castañeda has worked hard to replicate her grandmother and mother’s traditional Mexican recipes sans meat or dairy. PlanTita’s offers dishes like the pozole verde made with jackfruit, aguachile using hearts of palm instead of seafood, elote fried “Ribbs,” queso-loaded fries with braised soyrizo and more.
The Plant Butchers – 500 W. Broadway
Two words: vegan deli. Yes, this is a thing. The Plant Butchers, which opened on Oct. 1 in Downtown, is where Long Beach vegans can finally indulge in a whole spectrum of meatless meat and cheeseless cheese. They serve breakfast, salads, ribs, charcuterie, sandwiches, pastries and beyond. The deli opened next to LA-based Sugar Taco (we’ll get to them next), and both vegan ventures are co-owned by Nia Gatica Campos. Try the Reuben: House-made pastrami, sauerkraut, provolone cheese and Russian dressing on marbled rye—nut, dairy and meat free.
Sugar Taco – 500 W. Broadway
When the powerful vegan taco craze swept Los Angeles, Sugar Taco was at the forefront in 2019. This spring, Gatica Campos and her fellow co-owners opened a third location in Downtown Long Beach, where they make their own seitan—a key ingredient to mastering healthy meatless meals. For starters, try their fish taco, which is served with a gluten-free tortilla, tofu-based breaded fish, chipotle crema, curtido and cilantro. For die-hard baja fish taco lovers, you’ll hardly taste a difference.
Wild Chive – 2650 E. Broadway
If you haven’t heard of Wild Chive, you’ve either been hiding under a carnivorous rock or maybe you’re new around these parts. If you’re looking for some serious southern comfort food or just a hangover-quelling brunch, this is your new spot. From the Monte Cristo to the Southern Fried Chick’n Sammie—this is where you’ll find some of the city’s best vegan soul food.
Hart and Soul – 3418 Long Beach Blvd.
And speaking of soul food, Hart and Soul is another new-ish plant-based eatery in Long Beach. Here are some of the mouth-watering menu items I’m dying to try—Coulda Fooled Ya Chili Carrot Dogs: two carrot chili dogs with cashew cheese served with a side of tater tots, and Tony’s Nuggets: Fried oyster mushroom “chicken” nuggets with a side of tots. They also offer taco Tuesday with jackfruit tacos.
Nice Burger – 2620 Long Beach Blvd.
If you’re looking for a concerningly convincing old-fashioned burger, Nice Burger will be your new best friend. They’ve got four bright and colorful fast-food locations in Orange County and now they’ve got a spot in North Long Beach. They have menu items that pay eerily similar tribute to classics you might find at Carl’s Jr., McDonald’s, Burger King and more. For breakfast, try the NiceMuffin: sausage, egg and cheese. Personally, I’m smitten with the Big Guy: cheese, lettuce, onions, pickles and Thousand Island.
VBurger – 420 Cherry Ave.
Another spot to get your guilt-free burger n’ “cheeze” fix is VBurger. Owners Paula and Alex Armstrong set out to open a vegan pop-up driven by animal rights values in 2019 and ended up gathering enough of a following to open up their own shop. They are now beloved for their classic Beyond and Impossible meat burgers like the Deuce Deuce and other items like the V Breaky Sando, the V Cali Burrito, Super Nachos, asada fries and more.
Seabirds Kitchen – 975 E. Fourth Street’
For whatever it’s worth, Seabirds Kitchen gets my official date-night stamp of approval for those looking to leave animal-based proteins out of their outing. This cute little spot on Fourth Street does so much right. For starters, can we talk about the Bibimbap Bowl? It’s brown rice, steamed kale, Korean jackfruit, fermented cauliflower, fried kimchi, crushed peanut, gochujang, ali yolk creme and green onion. Their Beets Me Burger and jackfruit nachos are also delicious.
Cena Vegan – Partake Collective, 456 Elm Ave.
And last but certainly not least, is Cena Vegan. Long before this taco stand started drawing long, snaking lines when it appeared in Highland Park in 2016, Mike Simms told his wife Carmen Santillan that he had to transition to a vegan diet to reverse clogged arteries.
“If you’re vegan, we’re vegan,” she told him.
And you can taste the love that Santillan poured into veganizing the Mexican recipes of her late mother that now make up Cena Vegan’s menu. Years on, that menu has a massive following, operating out of three collective spaces in LA County today. This year, they landed at Partake Collective in Downtown Long Beach. Take it from me, the Big Vegan Burrito Bowl or the vegan barbacoa nacho boat will leave you mystified it’s not meat.
Side note: I know I mentioned Seabird Kitchen’s Bibimbap Bowl, but if you’re looking for some authentic and incredibly addicting vegan Korean food, Sura in Downtown has a vegan menu. My Achilles heel is officially their Vegan LB Mushrooms Tofu Soup: Signal Hill cultivated seasonal oyster mushrooms, button, enoki onion, scallion, rice and banchan. You’re welcome.
Did I miss your favorite local vegan restaurant? Email me: [email protected].