To highlight the delicious perks of her vegan lifestyle, Daily Bruin staffer Alejandra Reyes-Velarde showcases 10 diverse vegan restaurants in the West Los Angeles area. She will be joined by Daily Bruin staffer William Thorne to bring a meat-eating perspective to vegan cuisine. They will alternate reviewing a restaurant each week.
The claustrophobically small space filled with surfers, yogis and average Joes was overwhelming when I walked into Fruit Gallery on Venice Beach.
The smoothie bar’s line of customers filled the room and extended out of the small building, as people waited impatiently in the sun to be served by just three frantic men.
My first time on the boardwalk after becoming vegan, I felt exhausted and hungry, unable to find something to eat among the overpriced pizza, burger and pretzel food options on the strip. It is definitely not a world that caters to vegan customers quite yet, but Fruit Gallery is proof there is definitely something for everyone.
Biting into the vegan teriyaki chicken wrap on my first visit to the Fruit Gallery, I was immediately convinced it was among the best I have tried.
On Saturday, Will and I visited again, this time to try the vegan ginger chicken wrap. As I usually do when I’m suspicious of restaurant’s vegan options, I inspected the vegan chicken – to my disbelief it was made with soy. The hearty and chewy vegan chicken with a tangy and spicy flavor deceived my senses. I asked an employee at the smoothie bar how they make the meat. The cashier responded that they don’t make the meat. They buy it from Costco.
After the safe choice of the vegan chicken wraps, I steered my attention to the smoothie bar’s small but intriguing raw vegan menu. The menu consists of three items, all of which I’ve tried after multiple visits: the raw burrito, raw crepe and raw spaghetti.
Raw vegan foods are free of animal products, but are also uncooked. Raw vegans eat fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds in their natural state. For some, this lifestyle is another level of extreme. For me, raw vegan foods offer the opportunity to try foods in a way one may not have thought possible
For Fruit Gallery, this came in the form of the raw spaghetti, a dish commonly known as a staple in the raw vegan community, made with blended tomatoes and other vegetables for the sauce, and strings of zucchini. I looked down at my plate pleased with the bright colors of the green salad and noodle-like zucchini strips and had high expectations. But after digging in, my high hopes fell slightly, realizing the pile of green leaves overtook the raw spaghetti. The plate was almost more than half-filled with plain green salad.
Though the zucchini was too small a portion for being such a light dish, I thought it did well in mimicking spaghetti in its marinara-covered taste. The sauce was blended with bits of vegetables, giving it a thicker texture.
For dessert after the meal, Fruit Gallery’s raw crepe was a sweet bite, but different from non-vegan crepes. Instead of holding the crepe like a cone or cutting into a savory crepe with a knife, I had to pick the crepe up like a pizza and bite into a solid base. Regular crepes have a pancake-like texture, but the raw crepe was sticky and bent like chewy candy. The texture was achieved by liquefying bananas and almonds and being laid out to solidify. It was not unpleasant, but definitely not crepe-like – except in its appearance as it sat on the checkered napkin.
From my experience, and realizing the vegan meat comes from Costco, it became clear Fruit Gallery knows the benefits of targeting a vegan market, but doesn’t understand what vegan truly means. Unlike Sage Organic Vegan Bistro or Thai Vegan, Fruit Gallery lacked innovation and creativity in its dishes.
I could not leave a smoothie bar without trying a smoothie, of course, so I ordered a super version of the smoothie. Fruit Gallery’s super smoothies are packed with ingredients such as bananas, dates, almonds, coconut milk and chia seeds. The dense blends seem catered to protein-seeking health junkies, and after a surfer in front of me ordered “The Warrior,” I decided to follow along. “The Warrior” did the trick, filling up what lacked in the raw spaghetti. Unlike typical smoothies, the super smoothies were sufficient to replace a full meal.
But the variety of smoothies alone – super and regular fruit smoothies – isn’t what draws people into the tiny Fruit Gallery. Instead, its appeal comes from catering to all – vegans and non-vegans – who are looking for something fresh on a hot day on the beach.