“What do you want to eat?” “I was thinking something vegan.” “No, like what place do you want to eat at?” “I actually mean Something Vegan. The place in Toluca Lake!”
While the name can be confusing at first, regulars know that Something Vegan is indeed reliable with their quality vegan cuisine in the surrounding Burbank area. While Los Angeles is known for their wide range of vegan food, it is sometimes more difficult to find here in the valley beyond the Hollywood Hills. Something Vegan changes all of this, conveniently providing the public with many vegan options while nestled among studios off the 134 freeway.
Within the past few years, vegan restaurants in California have doubled – from 168 in 2014 to 323 in 2019. This dramatic increase reflects not only on the growing number of vegans, but also of “flexitarians” in the United States. Flexitarians look for ways to cut down animal products in their diet when possible; however, they do not lead a strict vegan lifestyle.
These social changes have caused meat alternative companies to improve their taste and texture. This, in turn, encouraged vegan restaurants to change by offering more selections to their menu beyond easier dishes, such as salads and soups, just like the growing variety that Something Vegan incorporates.
Faux green shrubbery accents the first wall as you enter, brightening the room with fresh color. Sitting down next to their cozy electric fireplace, I notice the neon crimson glow of their name is featured above it, bouncing off the slick tables and neutral walls. Tea-lights accompany the tables, accenting the bolder lighting with their innocent flickers. The staff is continually friendly, meeting every inquiry with a smile from when you enter through the bright red door and until you must again return to the bustle of the city.
"Social changes have caused meat alternative companies to improve their taste and texture, and encouraged vegan restaurants to change by offering more selections to their menu."
Summer Rolls – $10 An appetizer, these fresh spring rolls are a delight to the eye and playfully introduce different textures within each bite. I found that the smooth rice paper is quickly contrasted with the crisp greens, soon mixing with the soft marinated tofu and buckwheat noodles, then once again contrasted with the crunch of a crispy roll. The peanut sauce perfectly complements the rolls, bringing a bright and bold flavor with just a hint of spice.
Pad Thai with Cauliflower – $13 As an iconic Thai dish, Something Vegan does this classic great justice. The noodles are rich in flavor, their golden-brown color beckoning me to an extra scoop after my first. The seasoned cauliflower added a pleasant shift from a typical protein one might expect in a noodle dish. The beansprouts add a surprising chomp to the silky rice noodles, and the diced green onion add a bold flavor to the blended spices of the tamarind sauce. Delicately ground peanuts are served on the side to add a slight crunch, if you so please.
"The noodles are rich in flavor, their golden-brown color beckoning me to an extra scoop after my first."
The Coconut Curry – $16 (suggested with Brown Rice – add $2) By far, this is one of the most impressive-looking dishes on their menu. This exotic curry is served inside a fresh young coconut with a bright paper umbrella. Steam rose through my face as I lifted the lid and the aroma overtook my senses.
This spicy curry is home to soft tofu, crunchy baby corn, bamboo shoots, flavorful bell peppers, and fresh basil, with pieces of melt-in-your-mouth coconut slipping off the sides as you scoop a spoonful out. I recommend pairing this with their Brown Rice as it adds another dimension of texture to the dish; the firm rice contrasts the silky curry (and helps cut back on the spice with its slightly nutty flavor).
"Pieces of melt-in-your-mouth coconut slip off the sides as you scoop a spoonful out."
Atmosphere – 7.5/10 Something Vegan is definitely cute and cozy, but is not the most striking restaurant. The outside of the restaurant is inviting, yet average to a degree where you could walk by it without noticing it. However, the inside is decidedly more interesting with its warm, deep colors and faux shrubbery accenting some walls. I particularly enjoyed the neon light above the fireplace where I dined, it was a fun addition to the room.
Price – 9/10 While this isn’t the cheapest place, it is definitely at a reasonable price point for vegan food in the greater Los Angeles area. The portions are slightly above moderate, with some noodle dishes able to be split between two people for lunch or could potentially provide some leftovers for one person.
Convenience – 8.5/10 This place is close to a lot of media entertainment buildings and is easily accessible off the 134 freeway from surrounding areas. Parking is usually not too difficult; there is plenty of street parking on both sides of the restaurant. However, there are not a lot of things to do around that neighborhood, as much of it is other eateries or business buildings.
Menu Variety – 10/10 For a vegan restaurant, there are a lot of options on this menu! While I picked more items from the Asian fusion side of their menu during my visit, Something Vegan has a large array of options. Although they have the typical vegan salads and soups, their mock meat selections range from burgers to chicken dishes to their delicious bacon cheese fries. This is definitely a place that vegetarians or vegans could bring their meat-loving friends and introduce them to meat substitutes.
Overall – 8.75/10 Something Vegan is a wonderful place to experience so many types of vegan cuisine while enjoying their cozy atmosphere. There is something for everyone to enjoy here, so it is a great place to go out with friends or family whether you are flexitarian, vegetarian, vegan, or just in the mood to take a break from animal products.
"This is definitely a place that vegetarians or vegans could bring their meat-loving friends and introduce them to meat substitutes."