It probably won’t surprise you that Los Angeles is a vegan haven. Even during the worst of the pandemic, new spots were opening across the city—and they’re not just confined to tourist or recently gentrified areas. But 30 miles east in the Pomona Valley, another cruelty-free hotspot has emerged. And I’m lucky enough to live in the thick of it.
There are slightly varying opinions on the official boundaries of the Pomona Valley, but I’m going to go with this one: the cities between (and including) Pomona to the west, Rancho Cucamonga in the east and Corona to the south.
I feel it’s now important to add a map, because some UK readers might think I’m making those city names up…
This triangle (flanked by the 210, 71 and 15 freeways, which I find oddly aesthetically pleasing) is currently home to nine fully vegan establishments. They range from Thai to Mexican to burger joints and, honestly, they are all worth visiting.
Let’s get to it, then. My absolute number one recommendation is Madre Tierre in Upland. Specifically: their breakfast burrito.
This is a humongous tortilla filled with the perfect breakfast foods—bacon, hash browns, egg, cheese, avocado and their house sauce. The fake egg and bacon are mind-bending replicas of the real thing. Throw in a bit of their hot sauce (the green one for me—the red sauce is waaay too hot for my tender mouth) and you’ve got yourself one of the best meals ever.
Look at it. It's a work of art.
While Madre Tierra serves mainly Mexican cuisine, it’s also known for its vegan sushi. I’ve yet to try it, but it certainly looks fun.
Upland is also now home to the first of a new chain called Spotless Burgers. The cool thing about here is that it’s set up just like a typical chain burger restaurant, complete with drive thru. It offers chicken and beef-style patties as well as loaded fries, “chik’lits” and their take on tater tots.
I can confirm that the Alpha Chik burger and loaded fries are so good that I felt like a five-year-old in McDonald's for the first time.
Spotless looks like it’s expanding fast: a location has just opened in Glendora and there are more on the way throughout SoCal.
Moving six miles west, Loving Hut sits in the middle of Claremont Village. If you recognize the name, that’s because it has over 200 locations worldwide, although each restaurant is operated independently and sets its own menu. (There was also a Loving Hut in Upland but sadly that’s just shut up shop.)
So, if you want one of the most delicious pasta meals ever, complete with huge “M-Balls” and mouthwatering mushroom sauce, you just have to come to Claremont. The menu is one of the most diverse I’ve seen for a vegan restaurant, with pizza, burgers, Asian fusion dishes and lots of other pasta options to choose from.
I have well and truly fallen in love with this meal
We’re heading slightly south now to the city of Pomona, where Just Vegana is making a name for itself. The meals are huge, and they too do a very good job of making you doubt the veganity of their meat substitutes.
It’s a fully Mexican affair with tacos, nachos, burritos, tostadas and a whole lot more. Sadly they don’t currently deliver, so you’ve actually got to get off your butt and visit them. Totally worth it though.
Beleaf Burgers sits in a supermarket food hall in Chino, just south of Pomona. It offers a range of burgers and sandwiches along with signature nuggets, fries and “Nozzarella Sticks”.
So far I’ve only managed one visit, but the fried chicken sandwich (made with seitan) is up there with the best imitation fried chicken I’ve tried. I’ll absolutely be back.
I'm getting so distracted by food I cannot proffer a witty caption
So where’s next on our tour? At the southern tip of the Valley lies Corona, the old lemon capital of the world—but it’s now better known for being where I spend half my working week. Oh, and for being hard to Google recently for some reason.
Organic Junkie is a vegan café that sits inside a swanky new multipurpose complex on Main Street. For those craving a healthier alternative to the options listed above, this place is as good as any.
It has a great selection of smoothie bowls, salads, and even kombucha on tap, if that’s your thing. Me, I can’t help but opt for a burrito or a panini; specifically, the tofu scramble or pizza panini. These are both messy delights and taste even better than they sound.
I did say they were messy
The owner of Organic Junkie has also managed to find the time to establish the Vegan Depot—" SoCal’s first 100% vegan farmer’s market”. It’s currently held every other Saturday at City Park in Corona, but it’s about to not only become a weekly event, but a second weekly evening location has also been added in nearby Riverside.
Our last stop on this comprehensive tour of local vegan restaurants is in Rancho Cucamonga—an establishment that’s been serving delicious veganized Thai food to the area for over 12 years (based on their first Yelp review, at least).
Bright Star Thai Vegan is an unassuming little restaurant set in the corner of a strip mall off Foothill. It boasts a huge menu of mainly Thai food, with a few burgers and sandwiches thrown in.
More often than not, I order the Pad See Ew, which consists of thick, flat noodles, meaty tofu chunks and broccoli in a delectable house sauce. Can I pull off using delectable? I’m not sure. But anyway, really, you can’t go wrong with most of what they offer.
There’s a lot more to discuss when it comes to vegan food in the area—I haven’t even got round to mentioning my favorite local pop up, so it’s best to consider this the first of a few vegan-centric posts. Don’t worry, I’ll spread them out.
Since I moved in Summer 2019, the options available to vegans in Southern California have just kept growing—and it was already pretty great to begin with. What’s probably helped is that non-vegans seem more inclined these days to try animal-friendly options, for whatever reason. The popularity of the Vegan Depot is all the proof you need that the demand for vegan food in this area is growing fast.
There have inevitably been some casualties recently with the horrendous impact of the pandemic, but it looks like the vegan market has lots of room for growth in this little pocket of the world.