A Comprehensive Guide to the Best Brunch Spots in LA
We’re in the middle of a brunch renaissance. Start checking off these 13 restaurants.
Breakfast is a meal, brunch is a culture, or so the adage goes. What could be more fun than sharing a meal with friends in the morning…and potentially turning that morning into a long, drawn-out lunch hour plied with plenty of booze and sunshine? But the churn-and-burn culture makes brunch the first service to get scrapped. It’s a lower-margin meal for most restaurants, as price points don’t jump as high on eggs and sandwiches. Plus, ask any server worth their salt when the worst customers come in, and the answer definitely involves bottomless mimosas.
All that be damned: A brunch revival is springing up across Los Angeles. And something else is cropping up on daytime menus along with it: a plethora of plant-based options. L.A. has always been one of the best places on the planet to pursue the no-meat lifestyle, but recently, a lot of vegetarian and vegan dishes are going mainstream. As that happens, ideas around what plant-based food looks and tastes like are shifting. Even fully vegan menus are available in a new way.
Or at least, that’s what veteran chef Mario Alberto is counting on with his new Koreatown restaurant, Olivia, which has been racking up accolades lately for its kimchi pizza. “Our approach is: How do we create a dish that is full of flavor and pop with it being fully vegan?” Alberto told InsideHook. “Then, we work our way around the ingredients and make a decision about the addition of cheese.” Cheese is one of the only things that determines whether a dish at Olivia is vegetarian or completely plant-based, and their “crab” avocado toast with hearts of palm and chilaquiles topped with tofu egg is practically indistinguishable from the real thing. Those chilaquiles come dusted with real cheese, though, as some meltiness is simply irreplaceable.
“I feel vegetarian food has a stigma of not being very good or rather boring,” Alberto continued. “People associate vegetables with health, and that also comes with its own preconceived ideas. At Olivia, it’s about getting back to cooking simple, soulful food that begs the question: Does it really matter that we are plant-based?”
Great question! In that spirit, here are some of the best places in L.A. to gauge how you feel about plant-based brunch, along with a few more standard menus that shine in other ways.
From the chicory salad with peaches to the French toast covered in black sesame coconut creme, this thoughtful, completely vegetarian menu by a Gracias Madre alum (that’d be Mario Alberto) helps drive home just how accessible vegetable-forward plates can be. A properly massive wet burrito is stuffed with coconut rice, jackfruit and salsa verde, and quinoa corn cakes with parmesan “butter” and rum maple syrup are über decadent.
Chef John Fraser has been insisting that plant-based cuisine and fine dining can live together long before it was cool, and two of his past projects, Dovetail and Nix, won Michelin stars while serving largely meat-free menus. Ardor, his gorgeous, plant-lined restaurant on the ground floor of the West Hollywood Edition Hotel, is a “vegetable-forward” spot, as posh guests dining on the Sunset Strip expect certain extravagances. So breakfast at Ardor — served weekdays and weekends — offers up all the classics, with additions like a spiced veggie patty or heirloom tomatoes, available as sides, and a couple of fresh-pressed juice blends available at the top. To his credit, Fraser does pastries as well as anyone, but if you want to understand his brilliance go for the forest mushroom omelet with feta and crispy potatoes.
Like Olivia, Seabirds Kitchen is one of those spots where there aren’t any meat options at all — but Chef Stephanie Morgan has been at this for so long even a carnivore will be safe in her hands. Initially launched as a food truck that was prominently featured on Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race, Morgan’s latest expansion from Long Beach is to a space in Los Feliz that’s practically guaranteed walk-in traffic — it’s next to the Starbucks Reserve on Hillhurst. Purple taquitos mean purple potatoes stuffed into blue corn tortillas, fried, and covered with sauce and cheese, and a fried avocado taco is equally inventive and familiar at the same time. But the real star here is the chipotle florentine, polenta cakes topped with spinach, avocado, tofu “eggs” and a spicy, creamy vegan hollandaise, egg yolks be damned.
When Chef Enrique Olvera says jump, I say, “How high?” That’s the kind of grip this Mexico City-based master cook has on his acolytes. After hitting it big with Pujol, and a handful of other spots in Mexico, Olvera came north of the border to give Angelenos a taste of his contemporary Mexican cuisine in 2020. Getting a table for dinner at Damian usually means a 20-minute wait — and that’s with a reservation — so brunch is a slightly less chaotic time to feast on his fascinating reinvention of Latin classics. This place isn’t vegan, and a buttery carnitas burrito makes that quite clear off the bat, but quesadillas fritas (fried quesadillas) and guacamole with herbs are great starters for the plant-based, and a soft-serve parfait with papaya and granola will make you rethink what dessert should be like in the morning.
With a jazz duo or trio regularly holding court on the patio, and dishes like vegan crab cakes with black eyed pea hummus, or kale and endive salad with roast squash, there’s plenty more than meets the eye at this proudly Black-owned institution. Shrimp and grits, oxtail hash, and chicken and waffles are all on offer, but no one plant-based will be disappointed if a catfish nugget-craving friend drags them over here on Sunday.
One of a few sustenance options when you’re staying at the historic Hotel Figueroa in downtown L.A., the coastal Italian vibes of Sparrow definitely make it the crowd favorite. Guests are seated either looking out onto the pool, or in close proximity to it, giving the meal a seaside feel even miles from the beach. Again, this is not a decidedly vegan or plant-based menu in its definition, but standouts like the pistachio pesto, focaccia panini with cashew mozzarella, and the tomato and avocado toast — a vegetarian dish that can be vegan at request — make it a safe haven for any of your vegetarian buds. For the pescatarian folks, go for the mussels and shoestring fries and never look back.
Some of the best restaurants these days are situated within hotels, and the new outpost Ella in Beverly Hills’ Sixty is no different. Now a neighborhood staple, Ella’s weekend morning menu includes playful twists, like the “PB&J overnight oats” that make chia pudding, almond butter and strawberry-rhubarb compote into unlikely companions. A breakfast-leaning pizza can be made with bacon or Impossible Sausage, and a host of salads and sweet dishes are effortlessly vegetarian. A burger, BLT and BEC (bacon, egg and cheese) are also available, but for my money the salmon plate with dill and chive schmear rules supreme where animal protein is involved.
Always inspired by his native L.A., Chef Ray Garcia’s newest project Asterid takes a left-field approach to familiar California ingredients. Dinner at this downtown spot, tucked in a corner near the Walt Disney Concert Hall, turns carrots, beets, sunchokes and cauliflower into hero ingredients, and brunch is no different. The mushroom hash combines potato rosti, maitake mushrooms and black garlic into a whirl of flavors — get it with or without goat cheese and scrambled eggs for a vegetarian or vegan approach to breakfast. Those beets, served with pistachio brittle and orange blossom honey, are also on offer for morning appetizers. For carnivores, everything from a tuna melt to oxtail, bibimbap and pork belly banh mi illustrate Garcia’s dedication to the city’s multicultural influences.
One of the most aesthetically pleasing new restaurants on the Sunset Strip, Lavo expanded from dinner service to let guests enjoy its golden light during the daytime, too. A zucchini blossom torta and baked eggs with spinach are the dishes prioritizing green things on this massive menu, which also includes a whole host of brunch-y salad options, with or without protein additions. Avocado toast with black truffle is another way to go plant-based, or asparagus salad with rucola will get you there, too. No matter what you eat, bathing in the light inside this coastal Italian restaurant is the best way to start a lazy weekend.
Don’t get it twisted — you can dine on fried chicken and waffles with a side of bacon at Poppy + Rose and be in complete bliss. They’ve got pulled pork hash, burgers, steak and eggs, and more meat. But then they mix it up with their avocado Benedict, a nice twist on the usual spinach of a vegetarian offering, or the grain bowl, which combines rice, quinoa, pickled carrots and mushrooms. There’s also a hearty mushroom gravy, if you want to get some smothered biscuits without sausage involved. Gone are the days where a place known for their fried chicken didn’t have poultry-free options on offer, too. Here, the acai is just as delicious as the pork sausage, and anyone looking to support a Black-owned business in downtown L.A. will wait for a table, even if it means aimlessly wandering the streets of the Fashion District for a half hour first.
If you’re looking for that long lost day-party vibe, then Tatel is definitely the place to go. Smack dab in the heart of Beverly Hills, this Spanish spot ditches their stately, moody dining room during the day and leads guests out back to a private, turfed-up outdoor space dubbed El Patio with a DJ bopping chill house tunes and unlimited brunch pours that lead you down a deliciously hazy path for your weekend. Grab a pair of avocado and pickled mushroom and fig and honeycomb toasts to keep things light, or that open-faced steak and arugula sandwich for an omnivorous approach. If you did come with meat in mind, noshing on their jamón Ibérico in the unassuming ham and cheese sandwich is worth the steep price point — Spaniards know their ham.
Nomoo is open seven days a week, so brunch is just one of the many options for this technicolor outpost on Melrose Avenue. Opened by entrepreneur George Montagu Brown — who previously founded a “a Costa Rican luxury eco-resort” — Brown is often on-site at this alt-protein burger joint to serve guests himself. Nomoo starts with a Beyond burger patty and makes their own variations, covered in American cheeze (vegan and melty), while also offering facon (bacon) and a housemade faux chicken (chick’n). Crispy fries are on hand with a series of vegan dips, and the thick milkshakes are also miraculously vegan! All sandwiches can be served as lettuce wraps, or with gluten-free buns, and even the chicken “wings” are fried mushrooms instead. With a retro diner feel and plans to franchise, Nomoo is the ideal, meat-free hangover cure on the weekends and beyond.
Last but certainly not least, let’s not forget the plant-based scion of this trendy little neighborhood up north. Currently a haven for all manner of delicious cuisine, Kitchen Mouse has been doing it before any of the newcomers emerged in the last few years. People swear by the vegan, gluten-free chilaquiles, huevos rancheros and breakfast tacos, but the buckwheat and oat corn pancakes are another standout. They’ve got cashew “queso,” veggie-heavy bowls and salads, and a plethora of vegan favorites on the side, like tempeh “bacon,” jackfruit “carnitas” and mushroom “sausage.” There is no meat here, but real eggs can be added for anyone too far out of their comfort zone.
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