Restaurants to Start the Year Off Right

Bowl of Fruit

Follow Your Heart on Sherman Way in Canoga Park is a well-established, locally beloved natural foods market that also houses a small café and outdoor patio. The menu features dishes that are often vegan, often organic, and always vegetarian.. Though open for both lunch and dinner, some of their best dishes appear on the breakfast and brunch menu, like their delicious buckwheat pancakes and crispy Belgian waffle. Of all their sandwiches, the grilled cheese is especially delicious, topped with sprouts, tons of gooey raw milk cheddar and broiled tomato. On any sandwich, Follow Your Heart’s signature vegenaise, vegan mayonnaise, is a must, as are the vegenaise-based salad dressings they offer in the cafe, and in retail locations like Whole Foods Market.

Mani’s Bakery and Café on Fairfax is a relaxed venue serving up healthy, gourmet versions of traditional American dishes. While the café offers a wide array of vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, low fat and high protein options- complete with a handy set of symbols to designate what’s what- the bakery is the really exciting part of this tiny Los Angeles spot. Co-founder Mani Niall recently authored a book, entitled Sweet!, on baking with alternative sweeteners, and the fruits of his knowledge make their way into Mani’s bakery menu in the form of all kinds of delectable treats sweetened with fruit juice reductions, barley malt, organic maple syrup and agave nectar.  The Chocolate-Dipped Chocolate Chip Cookie and Mani’s signature Carrot-Raisin Cupcake, both of which are vegan, are standouts. Mani’s also offers a huge array of cakes, tarts, turnovers and other dessert treats, though not all are available at the café on a daily basis, so make sure to check beforehand if you’re looking for one in particular.

Leaf Cuisine serves up raw, organic dishes in three locations- Sherman Oaks, Culver City and Redondo Beach. In a relaxing, nature-inspired environment, diners can choose from the many affordable options that Leaf offers. For breakfast, try a creamy, filling smoothie made with any combination of dates, nuts, or coconut milk and fruit. Or for a satisfying take on a traditional breakfast favorite, try the cinnamon rolls, a delicious concoction of shredded apples, nuts and cinnamon, topped with coconut cream and more walnuts.  The house specialties portion of the menu offers a colorful dish of Pad Thai “noodles” made with raw kelp and squash or, for the more lenient raw foodies, Leaf’s array of wraps can be made on sprouted wheat tortillas, rather than kale leaves.

Claiming to cater to those seeking “gourmet health supportive cuisine,” Real Food Daily treats its guests to a large menu of creative, playful takes on some favorite American and ethnic classics. The “TV Dinner” of tempeh loaf, the “Salisbury Seitan” of wheat meat cutlets with mashed potatoes and gravy, and the “Viva Las Pasta” of spinach fettucine and tempeh meatballs all satiate the need for comfort food, vegan or not. Real Food also offers specials that are posted monthly on their website, consisting of a special meal for a set price. Each week of that month offers a different meal and a different price. Real Food has two locations, one in Santa Monica, which is connected to a Real Food Daily Bakery. The other, which also serves Sunday brunch, is conveniently located on La Cienega, making it the perfect dinner destination for those going out for the night in WeHo.

Finally, for a more upscale experience, try Madeleine Bistro in Tarzana. In a dimly lit, white-table cloth environment, guests enjoy the cuisine of acclaimed chef Dave Anderson. Here, each menu item sounds more delectable than the next, whether you go for a Fresh Organic Donut at brunch or the Cabernet Braised Tempeh served with celery root puree, chef Anderson never fails to amaze with his culinary finesse and beautiful presentations. Other not-to-miss dishes include the Waffles and “Chicken” at brunch and, for raw foodies, the Seasonal Raw Primavera on the dinner menu.



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