The Best Vegan Eats in Irvine
Living a plant-based lifestyle in Southern California is no longer the burden it once was. Orange County still lags behind Los Angeles in the plant-powered movement, but Irvine is one of the most vegan-friendly cities in Orange County. With its great range of diverse cultures, Irvine welcomes every kind of cuisine as well as people to its community. With over 65 square miles to its limits, Irvine is a big place to navigate – but, don’t fret, we’ve got you covered. Whether you’re a full vegan or vegetarian-curious, we’ve compiled the best vegan spots in Irvine for your plant-based adventures.
At the top of our list is Butterleaf. Although it is a fast-casual counter-spot, the food coming out of Butterleaf is delicious and satisfying, regardless of whether you’re a vegan or just veg-curious. Simple and straight-forward, Butterleaf offers diners five main options for food and additional side dishes, drinks and sauces. The Burger, Burrito, Tacos, Bowl and Salad are hugely portioned and all mouth-wateringly good. The Avocado Bombs and Poutine appetizers are also huge and decadent. If you can find parking at the Trade Food Hall, you’ve got to stop by this awesome little vegan gem.
A slightly less impressive but equally delicious vegan option is Blaze Pizza, which offers vegans and gluten-free folk a cheap and easy pizza that they get to customize to their hearts’ desires. This chain’s traditional and gluten-free crusts are vegan, and it also offers Daiya vegan cheese to go on the customized pies. For a vegan sauce, try the classic red, spicy red, barbecue sauce or just a simple drizzle of olive oil.
The unsung hero of this rundown is The IRV. Yes, this place is the café inside the Whole Foods in Irvine, but this casual dining spot has table service, craft beer and cocktails, and innovative plant-based (and gluten-free) cuisine. The Vegan Cauliflower Nachos, vegan sushi rolls, Market Vegetable Flatbread, and Kung Pao Veggie Noodles are some of our favorites, but there are tons of options here for the vegan and gluten-intolerant crowd. The best part – they have brunch! Grab your crew and head over to The IRV for some awesome mimosas or bloody marys and indulge in a healthy Plant Pusher Bowl with chipotle Field Roast Sausage, hashies, tofu scramble and avocado. YUM.
If you’re craving traditional Thai food with a vegan edge, Thai Café is the only place you should go. With no website and an unassuming house-like brick-and-mortar facade on the corner of Jeffrey Road and Walnut Avenue, the Thai food served at this tiny local favorite is mouth-watering. Just writing about it now, I am salivating. Vegan and gluten-free friendly, you can alter just about any dish to make vegan if you aren’t satisfied with the already vegan and vegetarian section, and the servers are hard-working and personable. Thai café is great for takeout or dine-in, and has a casual but pleasurable dining room experience.
The Wheel of Life
This environmentally-friendly Thai-Chinese fusion restaurant has been around for ages and is the perfect place to take recent converts or Chinese food-loving vegans who rarely get the satisfaction of eating faux dark meat Asian cuisine. Luckily, the food at The Wheel of Life is actually healthy for you! With favorites like Beef and Broccoli, Sweet and Sour Chicken and Pad Woon Sen, this humble family-owned vegan Asian restaurant has great service, diner-esque ambiance, and delicious vegan Asian comfort food for all.
Pho Ha Noi
A quiet Vietnamese sit-down restaurant with a lot to offer vegans, Pho Ha Noi is a casual but friendly spot to get delicious vegan Bun, stir fry or spring rolls. There is no website to view menu items, but their pho and bahn mi are not vegan. There are, however, many classic Vietnamese options that are. The Lemongrass Tofu Bun is a local favorite and the Tofu Spring Rolls are gigantic, delicious and cheap.
The ultimate secret vegan hot-spot in Irvine is a Shabu Shabu bar called Mokkoji. Although this place serves many other kinds of diets, they offer a vegan plate option, vegan apps, and even a gluten-free sauce option for those who need it. They have rotating craft beers, amazing servers who actually care about your dining experience, and a wait that will make you feel like you’re in Hollywood – but it’s worth it! Their spicy miso broth, ponzu sauce and goma sauce will make you feel like you cooking your own food at a restaurant is the only way to eat out. Their music is hip and loud, the ambiance is steamy and personable, the beer and sake are amazing, and the food is fresh and healthy – a great vegan date night spot!
With two locations within Irvine city limits, Veggie Grill is an easy and accessible casual dining spot with seasonal specials and a variety of flavor profiles for vegans. Vegans generally consider Veggie Grill one of the last resorts for full-vegan dining options, but for mixed parties of vegans and non-vegans, this chain satisfies many. The menu is designed to fulfill the newly vegan’s non-vegan cravings with comfort food at the forefront of their options. With strong-flavored sauces and dressings, and internationally-inspired options, Veggie Grill is a solid choice for quick and tasty vegan food.
A surprising vegan underdog in Irvine is Yard House. If you can stand the constant stream of sporting events on televisions that show up every three feet or so and the dull roar of the bros and their crews that frequent these watering holes, the Gardein menu at Yard House is exceptionally vegan-friendly. Now, not every Gardein dish on this menu is vegan (strangely), but it is a pretty large menu nonetheless. With burgers and sandwiches, Asian-inspired dishes, and even classic bar food items, Yard House offers vegans a lot of options to satiate their cravings and still feel like a part of the pack.
If you’re craving good Mediterranean food, CAVA is a perfect location for your vegan Mediterranean needs. A chain of gorgeously curated fast-casual Mediterranean cafes, CAVA allows diners to choose every aspect of their meal. Taking cues from the Chipotle model, at CAVA, you get to start with a base of salad, bowl, pita or combo, and add spreads, protein and toppings. The Falafels and Roasted Seasonal Vegetables are delicious and their hummuses and harissa are vegan and delicious. This is an easy and casual option for a vegan Mediterranean meal in Irvine.