Healthy food is important - no one’s denying that. But in this era (and city) of oversaturated health food consciousness, we’ve reached a breaking point. Most of it is overpriced, absurdly expensive, and in the end, probably not even that good for you.
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 you might look back on with regret. Instead, you need to find those great places where you can eat a reasonably healthy dinner, hang out with friends, and not spend a fortune. Without a mention of the word “cleanse” anywhere. Here are some of our favorite LA spots to accomplish just that.
It sucks when you order the grilled vegetables and have to watch while your friends shovel pizza into their mouths. That won’t happen at Daw Yee: the best dishes at this casual Burmese spot also happen to be pretty good for you. Order the tea leaf salad or the ohnoh noodles, and await the apologies from friends who made fun of you for ordering a salad.
Even the cocktails at Botanica have vegetables in them, so you can drink knowing that you’re doing your body good. (Because cucumber and carrots definitely cancel out scotch and vodka). Regardless of whether you can count a beet cocktail as one of your five-a-day, you’ll probably meet your vitamin requirements in the food, which is heavy on fresh, seasonal produce and simple meats/fishes to go along with them. The space is also exceedingly pleasant, with an excellent back patio.
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.
At a certain point, if a patio looks enough like a garden at Elton John’s fourth holiday home in France, you don’t really care how the food is. Luckily, Plant Food and Wine has one such patio and food that’s actually good. The menu is entirely plant-based, and has the kind of dishes you’d see at any upscale, American restaurant - just with cashews and mushrooms instead of meat. It’s the ideal place for healthy food that still feels special enough for a date night or celebration dinner. Get the vegan cheese to start, because it’s weirdly great.
You want to eat healthy, but your friends count “healthy” as actually eating the side salad that comes with a burger. Compromise at Mh Zh, the Mediterranean place where it’s very possible to eat a vegetable-heavy meal, and just as possible to eat a lot of rich, meaty things. Everything here tastes amazing, so healthy or not, you’ll leave happy. Just make sure to go on a warmer night - you’ll almost definitely be sitting outside, since there are about three seats inside. And be prepared for a wait.
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, 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.
You’re meeting friends for dinner in West Hollywood, and the only healthy place that comes to mind is Gracias Madre. Stop right there, and head to Rosaline instead. You still get the kind of bright, modern atmosphere you’d find at Gracias Madre, but you also get to eat food that’s good and also be around people who are actually eating it, rather than just taking photos of it. Go heavy on the ceviches.
Lunch at this Venice spot is a madhouse, but once the tourists have left the beach and the tech founders have left for their evening meditation classes, dinner is surprisingly calm. That’s good news for you. You get to eat their insanely good rotisserie chicken/nightly special/whatever else from the giant menu looks healthy, without having to wait for a guy in a black turtleneck to finish pitching his cloud dishwashing platform so you can sit down.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, the great unhealthy items remain. Short rib sandwich? We won’t tell if you don’t.