If you’re familiar with that stretch of La Brea Ave between Trader Joe’s and Pink’s Hot Dogs or the vegan food corner of Tik Tok, you might already know about this counter-service spot. Commonly referred to as the “vegan McDonald’s,” Mr. Charlie’s has taken the global fast food chain’s image and turned it on its head. Instead of a Happy Meal, they serve an “Unhappie Meal.” Rather than the signature smile, they offer red boxes emblazoned with a yellow frown. And instead of $2.49, a meal here costs over $15. You order everything on a touch screen at the counter and since the upstairs seating area is about the size of a dorm room, most people take their food to go. Their small menu of cheeseburgers, nuggets, and french fries are all on par with Mickey D’s—simple and mildly addictive. But ‘good food’ is not the point. You’re really here to experience what feels like a parallel fast food universe or some kind of interactive art installation funded by a vegan tech CEO.
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