Many of my friends are becoming vegans and one of them is into raw foods, so dining out has become an adventure. Seeking tasty meals that will satisfy organic, vegan, and raw, even in the natural food mecca of Los Angeles, is like searching for alternative fuels in a gas guzzling economy; they exist, but most are not yet available or accessible enough for mainstream consumption.

There are a few jewels which promise to advance the cause. If you are courageous enough to be one of the pioneers to sustain the movement towards tasty organic, vegan, and raw foods, I have a few finds to share today.

Leaf is has all the qualities that even the most strict raw, vegan, organic foodie could want, and it has the added quality of taste and green philosophy for those of us who are more concerned about flavor than guidelines. For people new to raw food, this is a great place to begin with familiar appetizers like their cole slaw, hummus, or guacamole. Their salads are beautifully composed creations with organic vegetables, like carrots, sprouts, red cabbage, tomatoes, and mixed greens. For the more adventurous, they offer sprouted chickpea falafal croquettes with tahini sauce, sun dried tomato and walnut croquettes with spinach pesto sauce, and wakame seaweed in ginger shoyu sauce, All their salads can be wrapped in a collard green leaf or a sprouted grain tortilla (not raw). Their freshly juiced drinks and wheat grass shots are fantastic either with your meal or as stand alone smoothies.

They have very simple (raw) decor, and give you a vegetable as your number if you eat in to show the server where to deliver your plates. It’s not the most relaxing of atmospheres, so my advice is to order your food to go and enjoy your feast at home. Portions are big, so even if you do eat in the restaurant, you will probably end up taking some of it home (to be eaten the same day).

For a nicer atmosphere and food options that include cooked organic vegan foods, try Native Foods. They have several locations from Palm Springs to Orange County, but the one in Los Angeles is in Westwood Village. They have creative names to go with the creative flavors that mimic familiar classics, like the jerk burger, a Jamaican jerk-marinated seitan steak, lettuce, carrot, red onion, and vegan mayo. Or their Tijuana tacos, with soy taco meat, salsa fresca, Native cheese, shredded romaine lettuce and guacamole on grilled corn tortillas. For stricter diets they offer Mina’s Macro Macrobiotics in a bowl, with brown rice, quinoa, tempeh, steamed veggies, sea veggies, sauerkraut & sesame salt garnishes, served with mighty miso sauce. I love how tasty and flavorful everything is on the menu and they explain what seitan and tempeh are in detail on the menu, so that you get a nutrition and history lesson as you decide what to order. Parking in Westwood is difficult, but they do offer their meals to go, so consider coming to pick up a meal if you find limited time street parking. It really is worth the hassle. Consider taking public transportation here (especially with the price of gas these days), since this is prime UCLA territory, numerous bus routes stop here.

Both restaurants offer cooking and educational classes so you can learn about the food you are eating as well as how to prepare it at home. That is really at the heart of this movement; learning why and how food can enhance your well being and your life will change what and how you eat. Once a palate is awakened, it can never again go back to white processed chemical food.