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Vegan Village Internet Cafe: Down Home Good Cookin'

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Photo by Zach Behrens/LAist

Soul Vegetarian opened up last summer in the nightclub space, but quickly closed a couple months ago. Not to fear, however, Jewel, who owns the building, continued the short lived soul food vegan restaurant near the corner of Pico and Crenshaw. "I've been a vegan for twenty-some years," she said, "and it was a dream of mine to open up a vegan restaurant."Soul Vegetarian (not to be confused with Vegisoul on Jefferson) finally filled that void last July, but when it closed down, she didn't want to let it go, so she hired Soul's chef and opened up Vegan Village Internet Cafe.

When you think Internet Cafe, you don't think what you get at Vegan Village. The 1923 two-story building that is known as Jewel's Catch One has history. Their claim to fame is as the nation's first black gay and lesbian dance club. It opened in 1972 and these days, is open too all races and sexual preferences and acts more than just a club, offering a community center (acupuncture, AA meetings), non-profit medical clinic and the vegan food internet cafe.

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Every night has a different event. For example, Monday nights is Ground Control. They say it's "L.A.'s only home for true alternative karaoke music. Where else in the world will you find experimental karaoke tracks by the Dresden Dolls, Nitzer Ebb, Joy Division, KMFDM, Bauhaus, Psychic TV, The Normal?" One of the Ground Control employees said the music selection is "certainly not the largest, but definitly the most unique."

Upstairs is the club space where the Game Room (it's a bar that used to have pool tables), the dance hall and the Roots Room. "You can tell by the name of this room when it was titled." The Roots Room has a grandiose circular bar in the middle decorated with noir-like Egyptian decor. Madonna had her album release party for Music, Music on this floor.

From its opening until the riots and the Arlington Heights neighborhood's ethnic profile change from predominately black to Asian, the club was always jam packed. Locals could easily walk over to the club back in the day. Today, Jewel's Catch One still does well and so does all the other activities that surround the community center.

And all of that leads back to the vegan food, the newest addition. It's still soul food, but now with some Mexican flair. Even though the restaurant officially opened Sunday, the complete menu has not been released yet. What's there is still delectable. The BBQ Tofu Tid Bits ($4) is cooked in a sweet classic Southern BBQ sauce, the tofu tender and warm. The tamale ($6) is not traditional to what Mexican tamales are, but rather a corn-like cake surrounded by veggies and an enchilada like sauce.

The internet works fine, but wall plugs might be the hardest to come by when it's busy. That's at least for now. It seems like for Jewel, if there is a will, there's a way. Part of the reason she wanted to keep the space vegan friendly was also to have a place to get food that's healthy as an alternative to the loads of fast food in the area.

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Vegan Village Internet Cafe
4061 West Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA (Arlington Heights neighborhood)

Cross Street: 2 Blocks East of Pico at Norton
Parking: Large parking lot in the back, small driveway off Pico, west of Norton