LA’s First Vegan Butcher Thinly Slices Away At Your Expectations
Maciel’s Plant-Based Butcher & Deli in Highland Park is serving up classic deli fare like their Rueben sandwich, soon to come with a pickle at the request of more than one older Jewish customer.
I’m not gonna lie. I was pretty stoked to hear about Maciel’s just as a concept.
It's the kind of place that makes a vegetarian like me feel like a kid in a candy store. While there’s a lot more plant-based options out there, it's rare to be able to order anything on a menu.
As a vegetarian for the past 27 years, I’ve seen the plant-based market explode. And I’ve admittedly lived off Tofurky-like sandwiches for more of my life than is probably healthy for an adult person.
So I immediately responded to the fun of a proper deli and butcher where I can order anything I want!
But eating there definitely pushed me beyond novelty.
When you give up meat, there can sometimes be a sacrifice that’s made in either flavor or texture. A mediocre veggie sandwich is often a small price to pay for getting to enjoy a meal out with carnivorous friends. Sometimes this is even true at vegetarian restaurants. (Don’t get me started on chunks of roasted veggies on dry bread)
But there’s nothing lacking in a meal at Maciel’s. Chef and co-owner Maciel Bañales is a professional nutritionist who has cracked the code.
Don’t get me wrong. It's not meat. And I don’t think the point is to be exactly like meat. But it achieves what real meat does, which is to hit the right flavor notes, and feels hearty and natural to chew. There’s no rubbery bounce that I have found in a lot of grocery store fake meat products.
A vegan butcher, you say?
A vegan herself, Bañales was looking for healthy options to eat that weren’t over processed with high sodium and preservatives like you find in the supermarket. “So I started cooking and doing my own stuff,” she said.
As the number of meats she could make grew, Bañales and her husband and business partner Joe Egnder started having people over to taste her concoctions.
She wanted to open her own vegan business and said Egnder had the idea for a deli format.
“It's just easy, like a comfort food,” said Bañales. “We like the idea of going somewhere that is good but also is quick and you can grab it and go.”
On top of the classic deli sandwiches and a butcher case, there’s hints of Mexican flavors from agua frescas to a fridge filled with homemade salsas and Mexican chocolate mousse.
“Maciel is from Mexico,” said Egnder. “And we wanted the shop to have a Mexican influence to it.”
But at its core, the couple says their shop is just like a meat butcher.
“People want their meat to be maybe better quality and they want it fresh,” said Egnder. “So they swing by the butcher on the way home and grab their meat. It's the same idea. People who want plant-based meats, but want something made in house, local, fresh, then they'll swing by Maciel’s on the way home and grab their weekly meats. And then also grab a sandwich or two.”
What’s to eat?
The deli section has drinks, potato salad, coleslaw and a host of sandwiches
I got to try the Italian Sandwich. Behold it in its all glory before it was devoured.
I confess to taking a polite bite in front of Joe. And then — about 40 minutes later in my car — consuming the rest of it like a ravenous werewolf.
Other sandwich offerings include:
- The Breakfast made with your choice of Maciel’s chorizo or bacon, vegan cheddar cheese, JUST Eggs (made with a mungbean base), tomato, and onion on a vegan brioche bun.
- The Sloppy Pepe with chorizo and queso made by Maciel, black bean spread, avocado, tomato, onion, and jalapeño.
From the butcher case
There’s pastrami, salami, turkey, bacon, mexican ribs, and crabcakes. Also a jalapeño-cheddar and a queso made by Maciel.
What’s in the “meat”?
The meats are mostly bean-based.
The pastrami is made with cannellini beans and seitan, the salami with kidney beans and seitan, and the bacon is made of chickpeas and seitan.
The two gluten-free options are the Mexican ribs, made of jackfruit with chickpea powder added for protein, and the crab cakes are made with chickpeas and hearts of palm.
The hours and location
- 5933 York Blvd, Los Angeles
- 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. Note: They intend to expand hours and menu items soon. Check their Instagram account for updates.
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