n recent weeks I have been attempting to change my diet for health reasons, to eat more gluten-free, dairy-free food (cue the eye rolls), although I’m not very strict and this job allows me what I would consider “cheat days,” making it all the more enjoyable. Ironically, I wound up on another vegan adventure this week, which was not entirely intentional. After some time revisiting the website of Green Earth Vegan Cuisine in Old Pasadena, and again salivating over photos they’ve posted, I decided it was finally time to try it.
When I walked in the first thing I noticed on the back wall in the center of the room were a couple of rows containing books on vegan dieting. Cookbooks, clinical studies and firsthand accounts of people who converted to a vegan diet, all on display. Although I wasn’t sure if diners were free to grab one, I began to understand Green Earth Vegan Cuisine is not like the hipster, “cool” overpriced vegan spots that strive for Instagram likes and popularity. In fact, Green Earth doesn’t seem to have a large presence on social media at all, but it is still one of the better-known restaurants in the area, and has a huge following of all kinds of dieters.
There were only two other parties in the restaurant, so my friend and I were seated right away. Their menu is so extensive, with a large array of choices, that I genuinely had a hard time deciding on appetizers. My friend, on the other hand, is one of the most carnivorous people I know, so he was just along for the experience and had me lead the way. We went with the quinoa sushi ($9.50), rolls made with quinoa, carrots, cucumber, avocado and portabella mushroom wrapped in sushi nori. Both are gluten- free and soy-free, and were delicious. I love sushi, and while it is obviously not like the real thing it’s an amazing alternative for anyone missing it or who just wants to try a delicious quinoa roll.
Our favorite starters were the golden crispy rolls ($6), which were the equivalent to a veggie egg roll, minus the egg. They’re served with lettuce, cucumber, mint and Vietnamese vinaigrette. Throughout the entirety of the meal our waiter was extremely helpful in answering questions we had, and as a lifelong vegetarian then later vegan himself, was very knowledgeable. When he brought over the crispy rolls he asked if we knew how to eat them Vietnamese style, and then showed us the proper way: Take a roll and roll it in a piece of lettuce along with a slice of cucumber and mint leaf, then dip it all into the vinaigrette. If I was served this blindfolded, I would have never guessed it was egg-less or filled with vegetables only, thanks to the overabundance of flavor packed into such a small roll.
To drink, I ordered lemonade made from freshly squeezed lemons ($4.50). Our waiter asked if it was too sour, but it was perfect, and my friend ordered a Thai iced tea with soy milk ($4). I had difficulty deciding on our main entree as well, because they have about every type of pastas (lasagna included), rice plates, noodles, ramen, pho, won tons, hot and cold salads, burgers and sandwiches, all with soy protein or tofu options. The possibilities were endless, yet somehow all I was craving were noodles. I asked about the pad Thai ($10) and he said that although it’s not listed on the menu, they are actually spicy, and I was sold. A few bites in I could definitely taste the kick, but a few more and I found myself alternating between water and my lemonade to find some relief for my tongue, which was on fire. Still, I loved it. It is made with stir fry rice noodles (which are gluten-free), tofu, mushrooms, carrots, bean sprouts and broccoli, garlic, all flavored with tamarind and topped with toasted peanuts.
It was hard to imagine that my friend’s gourmet burrito ($11) would be as good as my plate of spicy goodness, but it was. The burrito was made with textured vegetable protein seasoned to taste like beef, brown rice, lettuce, guacamole and pico de gallo, wrapped beautifully in a whole wheat tortilla served with a choice of fries or side salad. I had a few bites and couldn’t believe it. Surprise is a common reaction each time I venture into the world of vegan eats, and he was right there with me. Put simply, it tasted like it could be served at Taco Bell as “real” beef, only with much, much higher quality and far better ingredients, of course. I could go back just for the crispy rolls and the burrito and be one happy camper.
One thing is clear: Green Earth Vegan Cuisine does not skimp on the flavor. Every dish on their menu is made with a list of ingredients that harmoniously blend together in a way I know both tastes great and feels great.
Green Earth has a hefty list of desserts they make in house, but we wanted a few minutes to walk off our dinner, so we made our way across the street to Paradis Ice Cream. It’s a small shop with several locations across Southern California, but another I had yet to enjoy prior to that day. Upon entering, a staircase leads to an open seating area upstairs and immediately to the left is the glass casing filled with unique flavors. After taste testing a few, including the Oreo, which is typically my favorite, I decided to keep with the theme and got the cookie crumble vegan flavor in the single scoop ($4), which was delicious, and my friend got two scoops ($5.50) of the banana sundae and peanut butter bar.
Between an amazing dinner and tasty dessert that we enjoyed as we walked up and down Colorado Blvd., I was reminded yet again of how lucky we are to live in a city with some of the most well-known, sought after and hidden treasures in which to dine and share a special evening with loved ones.
Green Earth Vegan Cuisine
37 S. Fair Oaks Ave.