The Unvegan

Recent Posts

10 Years of Unvegan
A Quick Bite at Burrito Express
Serendipity at Northern Waters Smokehaus
Twerks and Burritos at Casa Amigos

‘West Coast Chains’

Beers and a Burger at Yard House

Not a beer.
Not a beer.

Yard House is one of those places that, before entering, you can’t decide if you want to love or hate. On one hand, it has one of the biggest beer selections a bar can possibly have and bar food to go with it. On the other hand, it’s more than a little bro-ish. Yet, the first hand was the dominant hand and I entered the LA Live location hoping for the best.

The Hat Full of Pastrami

Any fries there?
Any fries there?

The Hat is one of those local LA fast food spots that has been around forever and seems to be in no rush to change. It has “World Famous Pastrami,” but is not limited to just one meat, because the place also serves burgers, roast beef dip and crazy big portions of sides. I mean crazy. Just look at that order of chili cheese fries on the left and try to comprehend how small the individual fries look.

Missing White at Burger Lounge

Shaking things up.

Not too long ago, a new place called Burger Lounge made its way into Beverly Hills. Well, new is a relative term, as the place has been hanging out in San Diego for years. As with all intriguing burgers, I knew I had to test out it and recruited my buddy from San Diego to accompany me. He had frequented the lounge down in SD back in the day and I thought he would be helpful in my quest.

Make Way for Cafe Rio

The pearly gates of Utah.

I have a coworker who has a problem. The problem is she is a vegetarian. Gross, right? But not by choice. You see she is lacking the enzyme that breaks down meat in her body, so the simple act of eating meat makes her violently ill. It’s really the only acceptable form of vegetarianism, yet there is one place she will always eat meat, stomach be damned. That place is Cafe Rio. It’s a seemingly generic Mexican place that I have driven past many times in Manhattan Beach and brushed off. But little did I realize that Cafe Rio is huge in Utah. Like real huge. And it’s about to get even huger. There are currently 40-something locations, but they are planning an expansion on the scale of 100 restaurants. So when one opens across the street from you, remember you read about Cafe Rio on The Unvegan first. With my coworker in mind, we finally stopped at Cafe Rio to what all the meat fuss was about.

The First Pizza Factory

Best sukkah ever.

While there may be 120 Pizza Factories in five different states, the original Pizza Factory has humble roots in the town of Oakhurst, just outside of Yosemite National Park. And after a long day of staring at and walking through giant sequoias, very little sounds better than some greasy pizza. I hoped Pizza Factory would be able to deliver said pizza. Plus, with a tagline like “We Toss ’em, They’re Awesome” it’s hard to go wrong.

A Late-Night Mess at Norm’s Diner

Which part of the Mignon is this filet from?
Which part of the Mignon is this filet from?

A long night of drinking compelled me to head to Norm’s Diner in West LA. Of course, this decision wasn’t the best I’ve ever made, but my decision of what to eat at Norm’s was a far worse one.

When I walked in the door, their specialty of the night/morning was on display and even a long look at their long menu couldn’t take my mind off of it. The special was a Filet Mignon, with eggs, hash browns and pancakes. Yes, pancakes. Whoever thought of this one was clearly on something that made him happy and delirious. Best of all, it was a whopping 10 bucks.

A Crazy-Good Deal at Togo’s

An amazing deal.
An amazing deal.

I discovered a Togo’s coupon at work that seemingly granted me one of the cheapest meals ever. It said that I could get a free sandwich with the purchase of chips and a drink. Not too shabby in a world that usually offers minor discounts on chips and drinks after you purchase the sandwich. I decided to try it out and see how good of a deal it really was.

I handed the lady behind the counter the coupon and proceeded to order the meatiest sandwich available. The best I could find was the capicola, salami and provolone. Keeping it simple and veggie-free, I didn’t get anything else on it. I picked out my chips and drink, and went to get rung up. Amazingly, the total came to $2.73! I couldn’t believe what a deal I had somehow been granted. Cheap, however, is not always the best thing. I had to make sure it still tasted alright.

A Very Happy Hour at Islands

People just seem to think carrots and celery belong with wings...
People just seem to think carrots and celery belong with wings…

The never-ending search for a great happy hour in LA led me to Islands, a burger chain out in the west that reminds me a bit of Applebees with an island theme (what island that is, I cannot tell).

For their happy hour, they offer a great discount on drinks, as well as half-priced apps. They had some good-looking unvegan apps like Tiki (Chicken) Tenders and Cheddar Fries, but when places offer half apps, there’s really only one food I have in mind: Buffalo Wings!

With the knowledge that the wings came with carrots and celery, I made a great personal sacrifice and allowed the dish to come with them so my girlfriend could eat them. I know that makes me look soft, but at least I had spicy wings and beer.

The Authentic Experience at the Original Tommy’s (CLOSED)

What part of this could be unhealthy?
What part of this could be unhealthy?

NOTE: While this location may be closed, this review unquestionably applies to all other Tommy’s

When I first moved to LA, a friend of mine told me a story about Tommy’s Burgers. Apparently the success of the original Tommy’s spawned a multitude of strange chili cheeseburger places with various spellings of the word Tom or Tommy. In all this confusion, I didn’t know where to find the place that started it all, until my friend enlightened me to the location of an Original Tommy’s in Santa Monica. Now, even though it is called Original Tommy’s, the true Original Tommy’s is on LA’s east side. Confused? I was too. At least until I got to Tommy’s.

Once I got there, everything became clear to me. Having just finished a game of tennis, I found the way to reproduce all the calories I had incidentally burned, the Mega Combo. This combo featured a triple chili cheese burger and chili cheese fries, with a drink bigger than my office’s water cooler. This Mega Combo is not just a meal, it’s a gamble that you’ll survive eating it long enough to look back on it with pride, like storming the beaches of Normandy. I had to make it mine.

Free Grilled Chicken War at El Pollo Loco

It doesn't look like much, but free goes a long way.
It doesn’t look like much, but free goes a long way.

Not to be outdone by the free grilled chicken giveaway at KFC, El Pollo Loco decided they were going to give away some free chicken of their own on April 28th. Rather than simply giving away a free drumstick, El Pollo Loco jumped to the next level by giving away a drummie, a thigh, two tortillas and, of course, salsa from the salsa bar was included. There was a catch, however, that you had to say “I wanna taste the fire” when you ordered. Being my shameless self, I had no trouble proclaiming my desire for fire when I reached the front of the long line.

Within a few minutes, I had received my food. They were working like an assembly line in the back of that restaurant, giving them the edge on KFC for timeliness.