To vegan or not to vegan? That was the question in the weeks following my last dining experience.
Should I make another attempt to delve into the world of meat and dairy substitutes, forgo any qualms I may have, and go somewhere I don’t have any other choice? I’m no quitter, so I did those things and more at Real Food Daily in Pasadena, where I fell in love.
Located on Del Mar Avenue just across the street from The Shops on South Lake Avenue, RFD is an airy restaurant with a beautiful outdoor patio and ample seating inside, particularly on the weekday evening my friend and I arrived for dinner. Inside, Real Food Daily looks like a dining room you’d see on Pinterest, only cozier and more intimate. There are two other locations if you ever find yourself in the LA area — West Hollywood and LAX.
To start, we played it safe and ordered the baked mac and cheese ($8), which is made with cashew cream and baked panko crust. Even to share it was a generous serving, and we both loved it. Cheese often seems to be the deal breaker among those who toy with the idea of making the switch, but if all vegan cheeses are like whatever they are cooking up at Real Food Daily, (more on their ricotta later) then sign me up. It tasted less creamy than a mac and cheese made with dairy, but it was musky, garlicy, and thick in the best way possible.
In between spoonfuls of our starter, I decided to try their homemade green lemonade ($6), mixed with clover juice and made with kale, cucumber, celery, spinach, pear, cilantro mint, and lime. The combination of flavors tasted refreshing and took a regular old lemonade up a few notches. It didn’t hurt that it made me feel like the epitome of health with a large glass of green juice at my table. Among bottled juices, they offer a wide array of juice made in house (all $11) such as the Power C with orange, carrot and celery, and the All Green, made with parsley, spinach, kale, celery, cucumber and apple. For those who prefer alcohol, they’ve got you covered. The menu features wine, bottled and canned beer, and of course, kombucha on tap.
For our entree, my friend ordered the mushroom pizza ($18), made with white sauce, pesto, seasonal mushrooms, cashew mozzarella, parmesan and white truffle oil. The truffle wasn’t too strong, the mushrooms complimented the white sauce, and the pesto was the perfect addition to an already well-balanced, melt in your mouth dish. It’s important to note that although the menu lists “parmesan” and other dairy ingredients or meats without noting they are vegan directly next to each item, everything is, in fact, vegan. While I’m a happy camper with greasy chain pizza, it’s nice to be reminded how amazing fancier pizza can be, and in this case, lactose free. Any pizza can also be ordered as a calzone as well as gluten free for a $2 upcharge.
While I was completely torn between a burrito that was jam-packed with goodness or the lasagna (which is my favorite dish), I left it up to our friendly server. He quickly and confidently suggested the lasagna, so I knew I was in good hands. It’s made with creamy cashew ricotta, spinach, cremini mushroom, and marinara sauce, and I was pleasantly surprised, although that’s putting it mildly. The “ricotta” had every element that real cheese ricotta does from the flavor, the consistency, down to how it looks. While this cashew alternative is creamier, thus making the entire dish velvety, I didn’t mind. My friend summed it up well by saying she wished she had something to dip into the plate. On the other hand, I would gladly dip into a pool of Real Food Daily’s lasagna if I could.
There is an endless list of amazing dishes on the menu, but a few I’d recommend that I need to try are the buffalo cauliflower pizza ($16), the street tacos ($17) made with jackfruit, and the ramen bowl made with sriracha grilled tofu ($17). They also serve breakfast all day, offering a tofu patty sandwich ($13) made with tempeh bacon, hash browns, spicy mayo on a brioche bun, a breakfast burrito ($13), a breakfast pizza ($16) and pancakes ($12). With such a diverse roundup of food, drinks, and treats, Real Food Daily is the real deal — even for a non-vegan like me.
While our diner experience was amazing overall, we decided to take advantage of the Bengees Ice Cream next door, which happens to serve quite a few vegan options. Ice cream can be ordered from a single scoop ($4 for regular or $4.50 for vegan) to a flight of 4 scoops ($8 and $9) in a cone, cup, and can even be enjoyed stuffed between a cronut ($6.50). After our filling meal, we went simple. I ordered the vegan chocolate with Oreo crumble topping and my friend ordered the salty caramel topped with graham crackers. Both were delicious and the perfect way to end our dinner excursion. If you ever find yourself in need of the perfect date night, girls night, or are in the mood for takeout, Bengees and Real Food Daily are a sure bet for a delicious experience.
Real Food Daily
899 E. Del Mar Blvd., Pasadena
Bengees Ice Cream Crafters
901 E. Del Mar Blvd.,