Native Foods' Suggestion: "Eat Different."
The biggest problem with being a Vegan or vegetarian is finding variety. Sometimes we feel like an insomniac switching past the same channels at 3 am... everything looks/tastes the same. "Healthy" shouldn't be synonymous with "boring." If it is, the chef is usually stubborn or ignorant. Thankfully, Westwood's cramped, but creative Native Foods shatters two myths at once: (1) Vegan food tastes bad and (2) it's expensive. Their entire [non-dairy] menu includes earth- and artery-friendly burgers, tacos, meat-lover pizzas and fries. Best of all, entrees start at $7-9. The only pricey items are the pizzas ($9-12).
At the Westwood location, you order and pay first, then you seat yourself. Our first impression was that the restaurant was too small. But, like an A-Frame, there is small eating nook located above the kitchen. Additional seating is available outside. The decor is simple... almost cafeteria-style. Our favorite part of the interior were the chalkboards with phrases like, "Eat Different!" and "Einstein was a vegetarian. Think about it." We were treated to the sounds of David Bowie's I'm Afraid of Americans while we perused the menu on the wall.
After skimming through the items, we opted to sample the Bali Surf Burger ($6.75). The sandwich consisted of sauteed and grilled tempeh with lettuce, tomato, red onion and Vegan mayo on a whole wheat bun. We had ours blackened (+50¢) and added guacamole (+$1.25). The result was a rich, tasty sandwich. Rarely do chefs offer the option to blacken soy products. That's unfortunate... it definitely gave it a heartier taste. The spicy pepper, creamy Vegan mayo and smooth guacamole combined perfectly. The sandwich was served with a side salad that resembled coleslaw. Of course, it was Vegan and lighter than the real thing.
The soups, salads and side dishes are tempting. While waiting for our sandwich, we ordered a cup of the Vegan split-pea soup. Unlike many restaurants, Native Foods does not purée their split pea soup... It has the viscosity of hummus--just chunky enough and not too watery. Additionally, it tasted like the chef added a pinch of ginger to the soup. This was unexpected and welcome. The soup was served with toasted flatbread (also tasty!).
Normally we save room for dessert, but we ate every last bit of the Bali burger. With treats like Organic Apple Cobbler and Key Lime Parfait, we'll pace ourselves next time. Next time? Yes... LAist will return to Native Foods, without hesitation. What it lacks in decor, it makes up for in quality and value.
1110 1/2 Gayley Avenue
Westwood, CA 90025
Open daily, from 11am - 10pm