Last month, I wrote about my search for places where I could eat delicious food and still maintain my healthy diet regimen this summer. This month, I decided to continue the hunt and bring report back with my findings. For those of you in California, make sure to give these four places a try:
Happy Veggie Garden
1015 Nogales Street
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
During our two months in China, my serious food-loving friend Diana told me a lot Buddhist cuisine – zhai cai (斋菜), the type of food eaten by monks in temples and monasteries. There’s a restaurant in the local Chinese strip mall called Happy Veggie Garden; I’ve walked by any number of times but never went in.
We sat down and opened our menus: sweet and sour ribs, green pea leaves with scallops, Japanese-style grilled eel, salt and pepper crispy chicken. Everything sounded great…and not vegetarian. I shrugged it off though, thinking that they probably just offered vegetarian and vegan options alongside their regular Chinese dishes.
We ordered a smooth and creamy pumpkin bisque sealed with a layer of crispy puff pastry, a sizzling hot pot with tender fried tofu, eggplant and a healthy helping of fresh basil, spicy fish and tofu with a tangy bean sauce, and deep-fried crispy-on-the-outside, moist- and meaty-on-the-inside pork chops.
“So, does this mean that Buddhists can eat meat?” I asked Diana as a waiter placed our steaming dishes in front of us.
“Wait,” Diana said beginning to laugh, “do you think this is meat?”
It turns out I was thoroughly confused. The entire menu was written with the assumption that all dishes would be made without meat; they have all the same offerings as a normal Chinese restaurant, but they are skilled at using non-meat alternatives to replace the protein in the dishes customers are already used to eating.
For example, our katsu-style pork chops were made from soy meat and had a meaty texture; I would have assumed it was meat if Diana hadn’t told me it wasn’t. The fish was made out of tofu and came in flat oval slices slightly chewier and spongier than fish that absorbed the sauce the way a normal, flaky fish would. And sweet and sour ribs, Diana told me, would probably be made out of taro.
We had a good laugh and enjoyed our food, everything filling and delicious and surprisingly – for a carnivore – very satisfying.
2435 E Imperial Hwy Ste A Brea, CA 92821
There aren’t too many good, healthy lunch options near where my parents work, so when we heard about Green2Go in Brea, we decided to give it a shot. We built our own salad from the “Living Salad Bar,” lined with fresh, organic and locally grown vegetables, toppings and hand-made dressings, served up by award-winning chef Adam Navidi. We also ordered a really nice prime tri-tip panini with basil, roasted tomato, micro arugula, and house mozzarella, plated almost like bruschetta. Check out the behind-the-scenes video on their food philosophy here.
8759 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Healthy eating is really important to my work colleagues, who enthusiastically introduced me to Tender Greens for a relatively guilt-free fourth meal. Each plate comes with a salad, a “hot plate” item, and a crusty garlic herb crostini. Or you can order one of their many “big salad” options, like the “Happy Vegan,” “Tuna Nicoise,” or “Thai Shrimp.”
For my part, I had the Romaine Hearts salad with Caesar dressing, parmesan and garlic croutons, with buttermilk fried chicken with white and dark meat, rosemary and thyme and Yukon gold mashed potatoes. With nearly a dozen locations all over California, Tender Greens makes it possible to eat out and eat healthy.
305 N Harbor Blvd #103
Fullerton, CA 92832
One of my favorite local cafes in Orange County, Green Bliss is dedicated to high quality organic coffee and locally-sourced ingredients. Besides my usual latte, my favorites are the savory mushroom bread pudding and the garlic mushroom flatbread, but Green Bliss also offers several yummy vegan options for breakfast and lunch.
I’m waiting for my next chance to try the rosemary potato flatbread (made with cashew cheese) and the quinoa salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and my favorite avocados dressed with balsamic vinaigrette.
What are your favorite healthy-but-delicious restaurants? Share them in the comments!