Healthy food is important. We need it to live well and to live long - no one’s denying that. But in this era (and city) of oversaturated health food consciousness, we’ve clearly reached a breaking point. Most of it is overpriced, kind of gross, and in the end, probably not even that good for you. Quick hint: You’re only going to eat healthy if you actually enjoy doing it.
We aren’t going to tell you how to live your life, but choking down an anti-bacterial soy burger in a fluorescent vitamin store will be a phase in your life you undoubtedly look back on with regret. Instead, you need to find those welcoming places where you can eat a reasonably healthy dinner, hang out with friends, not spend a fortune, and actually have a pleasant time. Without a mention of the word “cleanse” anywhere. Here are some of our favorite LA spots to accomplish just that.
Check out the rest of our Guide To Being A Little Healthier.
We’re still unsure what P.Y.T. stands for (the waitstaff won’t tell us either), but we’re guessing maybe Pretty Young Turnip. The salt-baked turnip at this vegetable-focused restaurant in DTLA is strangely attractive, but having said that we prefer some of the other dishes here, especially the baby carrots with cauliflower and the ricotta cavatelli. Even the cocktails have vegetables, which definitely makes them healthy, right? Right.
You’ve probably been to a restaurant hidden behind another restaurant that you need a password for, and you’ve definitely eaten in a fancy restaurant in a strip mall. But Parus is the real deal when it comes to actually-hidden gems. Behind a gate on Sunset in East Hollywood (you’ll need to get buzzed in) is a tiny dining room with some tasty vegetarian South Indian food. Go for the dosas and a bunch of curries to share, with a big bottle of imported Kingfisher beer to wash it all down.
The Mexican seafood dishes at Coni’Seafood are simple. Many involve just three or four ingredients, and a lot of them taste citrusy and light. If you’re not scared off by staring into the eyes of the shrimp you’re about to eat, order the aguachiles, and if there are a few of you in tow, the whole snook (yep, that’s a fish) is something you won’t find anywhere else. While the south Inglewood location makes this a destination restaurant, getting down here is a drive you won’t regret.
Sushi Spot19658 Ventura Blvd
We don’t ever head to Sushi Spot for the atmosphere (whiteboards list stern instructions and don’t you dare take out your cell phone), but we do head to Ventura for the $37 omakase. There’s a mix of traditional sushi and things like snapper with shiso leaf, and all the raw fish definitely cancels out all the rice carbs.
You can definitely go the not-healthy route at Baroo (we’re pretty sure that celeriac pasta dish isn’t doing our waistlines any favors), but with all the fermenting going on here, this is the kind of place where you can eat kind of healthy without actually trying to. Especially if you order the Bibim Salad, which involves at least 16 vegetables. While they’re often slammed for lunch, Baroo is the kind of low-key dinner place perfect for a Tuesday night.
Grand Central Market might seem like a pain in the ass, but so much of the hassle disappears if you head there for dinner. And Madcapra makes it all worth it anyway. Yes, we know falafel is deep fried, but hear us out. The main event at Madcapra isn’t the falafel - it’s the presence of vegetables in literally everything, from your sandwich or salad to your beet-flavored soda. Eat the Green Salad and wonder why all good-for-you food can’t be this enjoyable.
The kind of Mexican food we often eat in LA doesn’t exactly have a reputation for healthiness, but Tocaya, a mini-chain with locations in Venice and West Hollywood, is an outlier. There are tacos and burritos here, but the emphasis is on the salads and bowls, as well as the mostly organic produce.
Little Pine is like your friend who won’t eat a lettuce leaf unless she knows the exact type of earth it was grown in, only way less annoying. Everything here is vegan and completely organic and, of course, is in Silver Lake, owned by Moby, and donates 100% of profits to animal welfare organizations. Despite all this earnestness, Little Pine rubs nothing in your face, won’t give you a lecture, and serves food that tastes really good.
Poké is exciting because it’s sort of like froyo except that it’s raw fish and instead of sprinkles you get vaguely healthy toppings like seaweed and sesame seeds. The poké craze has hit full-on party mode in LA and quality spots are popping up everywhere, but Sweetfin is one of the best around. Though they have their “signature bowls,” your move is to build your own and walk out feeling healthy and accomplished. Just be mindful of that Creamy Togarashi sauce. Even while draped on fresh fish, mayo has calories.
With a name better suited for one of those humiliating LAX kiosks where you buy a $17 dried-out turkey club because it’s the closest thing to your gate and you hate yourself, Fresh Corn Grill could easily have slipped into LA’s infinite health food abyss. But they’ve survived (and thrived) off of good food, a beautiful space, and a wide-ranging menu with everything from pastas to tacos. Also, hidden parking in the back.
Hugo’s is delightful, and despite being a full-fledged “health” restaurant, it’s avoided all the nauseating pretension that accompanies that category. Open daily at 7:30am through dinner, Hugo’s is simply your everyday neighborhood spot that also happens to serve healthy food. If you are of the gluten-free variety, this is your El Dorado.
Generally speaking, we prefer to order our chicken without quotation marks around it, but in the case of Sage Vegan, we make an exception. Because time and time again, Sage has proven to be some of the best meatless food in the city, with a cool space you don’t feel ashamed to be in. Also, their takeout operation is excellent, if you’re running late to your Bachelor viewing party.
At the end of the day, the crippling fear Americans have of calories probably isn’t the worst thing. But it’s also misplaced. Real calories are good. Weird, processed, 50%-fat-free bullsh*t calories are bad. Sorry Mom. And at Forage, a cafeteria-style spot in Silverlake, you’re going to eat calories. But you’re also going to know (down to the exact farm) where they came from and how good they are for you. Forage is real food, from real sources, and your body will thank you.
Located on that stretch of Ventura by Universal Studios where not much of anything happens, SunCafe has developed a rabid cult following of people seeking fantastic organic food and one thing you don’t often see at places like this: a solid beer list. Is this perhaps slightly counter-intuitive? No, get over yourself. Anytime there’s good food, great beer, and a casual space, we are there.
Nothing about a trendy marketplace on 3rd St. full of girls (and guys) in yoga pants bitching about how their ClassPass app is glitching sounds appealing. And yet, Joan’s On Third continues to reel us back in with good food and a great sidewalk patio. They’re only open until 8pm, but popping in for an early grab-and-go dinner is never a bad idea. And while Joan’s menu will always be somewhat health-conscious, some major splurge items remain. Short rib sandwich? WE WON’T TELL IF YOU DON’T.