Dumpling Duo: These are the best vegan restaurants near Cal State Fullerton

In Food, Lifestyle
Illustration of Hannah and Tracy battling a medley of giant vegetables
(Dalia Quiroz / Daily Titan)

We’ve tackled juicy, fried chicken sandwiches in Los Angeles, burgers and ramen in New York, spam musubi at Cal State Fullerton and now we’ve ventured into new and uncharted territory: vegan food.

Suggested by a handful of our coworkers (mainly Caitlin Bartusick, assistant copy editor, and Briggetta Pierrot, opinion editor), we decided to try and eat a little healthier this week. But there aren’t that many Dumpling Duo-worthy vegan restaurants around campus, unless you want a comprehensive and in-depth review of the overpriced and under flavored Green Bliss cafe in Downtown Fullerton.

We took to our newsroom vegans and veggie heads to ask for some suggestions, and these are the unhealthy “healthy” foods we loved, and in some cases didn’t.

Vegan Pizza

Briggetta pointed us in the direction of this pie place, and the thought of “healthy” pizza that tastes like the real thing excited us. We took Amy Wells, one of the news editors, to pick up some pizza and indulge.

Vegan Pizza, a small shop in Garden Grove, is a 100 percent plant-based restaurant serving all the things you’d imagine a pizza place to serve. Besides pizza, they also have pasta, meatballs and calzones. The tiny spot was crammed when we got there as people stood around and waited for their orders.

The menu selection was overwhelming, offering us basics like a pepperoni pizza to more complicated pies like the Indian-style pizza. We stared up, gazing at the selection and salivating at the smell that invited us to stay.

Our picks: the Barbecue Chik’un Pizza and the Mediterranean Pizza.

The Barbecue Chik’un Pizza beat out Pizza Press in flavor. The fake cheese was ooey and savory, sprinkled sparsely across thick dough drenched in barbecue sauce. It was similar to burrata cheese. Chicken-esque shreds scattered the top, though they seemed to be more for visuals and texture than anything else. There was nothing offensive about the flavor; it tasted like the barbecue sauce. After a few slices, it ran a little salty.

Smothered in pesto sauce, basil leaves, mushroom, cherry tomatoes, garlic, kalamata olives and onions, the Mediterranean Pizza was a winner and worth the drive on its own. The combination of the garlic and oils, the lack of fake meat and the juicy tomatoes that exploded with flavor, were more than enough to satisfy our taste buds.

Loving Hut

Our next stop was the Loving Hut. Suggested to us by news editor Brandon Pho, we swung by the restaurant while we were in Garden Grove. It was coincidentally in the same plaza as Vegan Pizza.

If Vegan Pizza smelled good, the Loving Hut smelled like heaven. It was intoxicating as we excitedly flipped through the menu. We settled on the Spicy Cha Cha and the zesty fries, reminiscent of good ol’ cajun fries.

The main star, however, was the Spicy Cha Cha.

The Spicy Cha Cha features fried soy shrimp in a delectable sweet and spicy sauce. The soy shrimp was a surprising find to us because the texture and appearance of it looked very much like actual shrimp. The menu says it’s made up of konjaku, which is a gluten-free Japanese alternative to pasta, made with yam flour. The “shrimp” was paired with white rice (or brown), lettuce and cucumbers. This was probably one of the best vegan foods we ever had, and left us wanting more from Loving Hut.

Healthy Junk

Our last stop was Healthy Junk in Anaheim. Bringing along Harrison Faigen, web editor, we drove out to the city of Disney, mouths watering as we scrolled through endless pictures of heart-stopping treats.

Tucked inside a food court, Healthy Junk was difficult to spot at first. If Harrison’s hawk eye hadn’t spotted the tiny sign with the name scribbled on in chalk, we would have kept circling.

We walked in and were blasted with a wall of freezing air and a line of people leading only to Healthy Junk. The other nearby vendors sat abandoned by customers.

Another overwhelming menu glared at us, with 100 percent plant-based burgers, kale salads and chicken.

We brought home (to the newsroom) the Crispy Chicken Burger, Chili Chez Fries and a Stake and Avocado Wrap.

The Crispy Chicken Burger looked beautiful and its crunchy breading and shiny bread made us believe we were holding an actual fried chicken sandwich in our hands.

Biting into it, however, caused the illusion to dissolve. While the tomatoes and lettuce were fresh, and the vegan mayo savory, the thick chicken breast wannabe was flavorless. It was like biting into a breading sandwich, with the breading unnoteworthy.

As a recommendation from the girl at the register, we got a special menu item, which was the Stake and Avocado wrap. It is called the Stake and Avocado wrap, but the wrap was packed with bell peppers, so much so that we ended up picking them out. The steak, or whatever substance they labeled as such, was simultaneously chewy and mushy.

The Chili Chez Fries? Mind blowing. Revolutionary. Truly a work of art. Perfectly cooked french fries, rich tomato-based chili sauce, some black beans and chez fooled us into thinking we were eating an artery-clogging meal, straight from a food truck in downtown Los Angeles.

Only minor mistakes were made on our brief vegan adventure, especially for those who chose to indulge in salty barbecue pizza over the realistic and satisfying crunch of Loving Hut’s shrimp. Or the one who tried to finish the chicken sandwich that absorbed every drop of moisture from our mouths. But if there are any bites we’d go back for, and we will go back for them, the Spicy Cha Cha and Chili Chez Fries would be our pick.

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