16 Great LA Restaurants To Eat Something Kind of Healthy
photo credit: Jakob Layman
We've had it with the city's oversaturation of spirulina bowls. Sure, they're blue like the gorgeous LA sky, but that doesn't improve their Playdough flavor. Just because you'd Iike to have a meal where you'll leave feeling light and chemically balanced doesn't mean resorting to choking down a $25 anti-bacterial soy burger in a vitamin store. Let's switch it up. LA has plenty of restaurants serving glorious vegetables and non-fried proteins, as well as beverages devoid of the word "cleanse." Here are some of our favorite healthy-ish spots in town when you're looking to eat something life-affirming and probably green.
Elf Cafe in Echo Park has a Turkish, Lebanese, and Italian-influenced menu that’s vegetarian-friendly and sticks to the “whole foods” mantra: roasted carrots in a garlicky herb sauce, meatless tagine, warm hummus with a baguette for smearing, and non-fried proteins, like juicy lamb shish kebab that hit the table steaming hot. Perhaps eating “whole foods” doesn’t sound very sexy on paper, but the food here is delicious, comes out quickly, and it all takes place in a tiny, low-lit space we wish we could call our neighborhood spot.
Even the cocktails at Botanica have vegetables in them, so you can count a beet drink as one of your five-a-day. (Those nutrients cancel out the mezcal, right?). The Levantine-leaning menu at this Silver Lake spot consists of simple meat and produce combos, like tahini-baked halibut with potatoes and roasted cauliflower coated in fermented honey. Botanica also serves a great weekend brunch, if you’re in the mood to cut into Turkish eggs on a sunny patio after a hike.
Borit Gogae is as zen as a spa, except no one's exfoliating four layers of skin off your back. At this Koreatown spot, $30 gets you a massive barley rice feast, complete with banchan, creamy chicken soup, and a sweet pumpkin porridge that tastes like food fit for a baby prince. The fermented sides make this meal probiotic heaven, ending with a cinnamon punch. Everything is incredibly light and nourishing. Just don’t let the calming music lull you to sleep at the table.
The mariscos at Coni’Seafood in Inglewood are great because they’re simple. Most of these Mexican seafood dishes involve just three or four ingredients, and no feeling of oily heaviness. Take an aguachile served in a citrusy salsa verde, for example, or the two-bite tostadas topped with marlin paté. If you're with a few friends, order the whole snook marinated in Coni’s signature salty sauce that permeates every nook and cranny of this butterflied masterpiece. It takes a solid 30 minutes to prepare, so order your fish as soon as you sit down and toss back a few oysters while you wait.
Think of Tocaya as a cheaper, better, and more convenient version of places like Gracias Madre and De Buena Planta. This full-blown chain with over a dozen locations across SoCal self-describes its menu as “Modern Mexican.” That’s just marketing jargon for, “we have plant-based options, too.” But the vegan dishes are where Tocaya shines. Get a spicy picadillo bowl with cauliflower rice and fried maitake mushroom tacos topped with sweet-smoky chipotle crema, and see what we mean.
Hugo’s in Weho has been serving “whole food” meals since the ‘70s and has managed to avoid all the nauseating pretension that comes with having a health bent. They serve unfussy dishes like chicken tacos in spinach tortillas, turkey meatloaf, and gluten-free macaroni and cheese from 7:30am through dinner. So head to Hugo’s if you need a light meal in Weho or if you're avoiding wheat or dairy.
Mizlala makes vegetables taste so incredibly interesting, it's like the Men In Black have zapped bland, boiled veggies from the collective consciousness of the place. This casual Israeli spot has three locations across town (in Sherman Oaks, West Adams, and Sycamore), and serves plates of chicken shawarma and juicy lamb-beef keftas. The vegetable sides steal the show, though. Crunchy brussel sprouts come coated in smoked paprika and lemony broccoli with capers is a must-order. (Yes, it’s fried. Yes, live a little!)
Ethiopian cuisine is generally vegan-friendly, but Rahel on Fairfax is the only all-vegan restaurant in Little Ethiopia. This neighborhood staple has developed a well-deserved following for specialties like lentil stew and meat-free dulet. Get the $40 "Millennium" combination platter, which comes with ten different signature items like pumpkin stew, cooked greens, and mixed salad all on top of spongy injera. It's enough food to feed two people or one smart person who has a kink for leftovers.
Grocery store rotisserie chickens are one of life's emotional rocks. They’re always there, from last-minute dinner needs to prepping a week’s worth of chicken salad when even boiling water may be too much to handle. But grabbing a full meal at Kismet’s more casual, chicken-centric sibling is also super convenient. (Their birds taste like they’ve happily witnessed many sunsets.) This Los Feliz spot sells quarter, half, and whole birds with crispy skin, plus vegetable-forward sides that put any fancy salad bar to shame. Non-negotiable adds include the charred, yogurt-roasted cabbage, sweet and tangy carrot slaw, and Kismet's signature schmaltzy potatoes.
If you're in a soulless cycle of bowls or wraps that taste like printer paper, take yourself to lunch at Destroyer. This restaurant in Culver City serves seasonal dishes that look like sci-fi art. Order something that looks like a small parfait but is actually smoked cod buried in salted yogurt or a bird's nest of leafy greens hiding caramelized chickpeas and poached egg underneath. Everything warrants an "ooo" and "ahh," so apologies if you have a hard time going back to your usual Sweetgreen order.
Yes, it’s true that Highly Likely makes a delicious fried chicken sandwich that’ll make you skip all the way back to your car. But their non-fried items are just as exciting, including a comforting shiitake-dashi porridge topped with a poached egg, or a little gem salad dressed with a lip-smacking tart yuzu vinaigrette. There are plenty of outlets to plug in your laptop, the coffee is great, and so is the natural wine. Regardless of who you bring and when, find an excuse to eat at this pleasant, open-air spot in West Adams.
Health and wellness is Simply Wholesome's entire shtick. This grocery store in View Park-Windsor Hills has a restaurant in the back that does a mix of vegetarian and meat dishes, plus a drinks menu that goes 50+ smoothies deep. (Erewhon could never.) Pair your guava "thirst quencher" with lentil burgers, hard shell tacos stuffed with black-eyed peas, and blackened chicken that makes a good case for rebranding grilled breast as a star. If nothing else, get a Jamaican patty (or three) under the "small bites" section of the menu. They're consistently the best things available.
Sometimes you bite into something so loaded with antioxidants that your organs send you a thank-you note (this comes by way of feeling great). Surawon’s soondubu has that effect. This Korean spot in Ktown makes all of its tofu from organic, non-GMO soybeans, and the special black tofu tastes noticeably fresh—well worth its $1 upgrade fee. The next time you have a cold, come for tofu-packed, spicy seafood stew and expect to hear from your pleased organs.
Gjelina in Venice birthed LA’s kale salad cliche. But the place is so much more than a kale salad spot. Come with a group and fill the table with Gjelina’s fire-kissed veggies (and, realistically, the lamb sausage pizza). The menu changes with the seasons, but some stand-outs include blistered zucchini in a creamy turmeric sauce, chunks of Japanese sweet potato that get an edge from jalapeño yogurt, and oyster mushrooms that soak up the grill's smoke like a sponge.
The name of this Studio City spot sounds like somewhere that offers Groupon deals for B12 shots in your buttcheek. In reality, it's a casual all-day spot serving hearty, plant-based dishes like nachos with vegan chorizo, a spicy buffalo "chicken" sandwich, and penne in a creamy walnut broccoli pesto. There are lighter options, too, like lemony quinoa salads and marinated cauliflower steaks, which means there’s something for every coworker you’ve been meaning to take out for a 1:1 lunch, but never actually do.
We’ve all heard that a "Mediterranean Diet" is key to outliving David Attenborough. If you subscribe to such beliefs, eat the seafood spread at this casual Israeli restaurant in Tarzana until you're 100 years old. Tel Aviv Fish Grill grills and fries all kinds of fish, like a particularly good butterflied branzino slathered in harissa. Every order arrives with tons of pita and mezze dishes, including hummus and spicy pickles, to name a few.