Toss out those frozen veggie patties. Forget those flavorless globs of tofu. These days, choosing a vegetarian sandwich doesn’t mean sacrificing excitement. L.A. is in the midst of a great sandwich renaissance, and the final product might not include any meat tucked between those slices of bread. Here are some brand new, creative takes on the veggie sandwich that have caught our eye.
Beet “Reubenesque” at Zinc Café ($9)
The reuben döppelganger at this gorgeous new Arts District café might be missing the pastrami, but it’s got other trademark characteristics: toasted dark rye, gooey melted Swiss, ample Russian dressing and a thick layer of sauerkraut. The twist is the inclusion of sliced golden beets, which add just enough resistance to provide a satisfying heft.
Sambal Broccolini Banh Mi at Hero Shop ($7)
The team behind Black Hogg’s daytime sandwich shop Sopressata has turned their attention to the banh mi inside a small space a few doors down from Cole’s in Downtown. There are meat-heavy, maximalist subs stuffed with house-cured headcheese and fatty braised brisket, of course, but we fell for the explosive combo of sambal-doused roasted broccolini tossed with raisins, almonds, and fish sauce vinaigrette—along with chili mayo, pickled daikon, onions, and cilantro—on a soft, crackling baguette.
Grilled Eggplant with Buffalo Mozzarella at Paninoteca ($10)
Scarpetta’s luxurious Italian fare isn’t available only for dinner anymore. The Beverly Hills restaurant now offers a menu of classic Italian-American sandwiches during weekday lunches, including a superb chicken parm and Italian deli meat sub. The brightness of lightly charred eggplant and buffalo mozzarella on a house-baked ciabatta roll, topped with concentrated tomato sauce and basil pesto, is like a grandmother’s love wrapped up to-go.
Romanesco Sandwich at Go Get ‘Em Tiger ($8)
Did you know this G&B Coffee-operated Larchmont shop now serves lunch? There is artisanal toast aplenty plus seasonal fare like kale Caesars and farro salads. The pinnacle of the menu, though, is probably a rustic Bread Lounge baguette filled with roasted cauliflower and romanesco (the most fractal of all vegetables), Catalonian romesco sauce, roasted spring onions, pickled grapes, and pea tendrils.
Tofu Ball Banh Mi at Starry Kitchen’s Banh-Mi Pop-Up ($7)
Every Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., in a former jewelry stand hidden inside Chinatown’s Far East Plaza, you’ll find Nguyen and Thi Tran serving their take on Vietnamese banh mi. The most popular variation combines Starry Kitchen’s famous fried green tofu balls—crusted with glutinous rice and drenched in Sriracha aioli—with pickled veggies and fresh herbs, stuffed inside a wonderfully crisp baguette.
Cauliflower Parmesan Sub at Superba Food & Bread ($12)
As you’d expect, Paul Hibler’s all-day hangout in Venice has plenty of vegetarian options (kale and chickpea sandwich anyone?) but the most indulgent involves pickled cross-sections of cauliflower breaded, deep-fried, and smothered with tomato sauce and melted Raclette cheese. Between this and Superba Snack Bar’s popular cauliflower T-bone, consulting chef Jason Neroni might be to the cruciferous plant what George Washington Carver was to peanuts.
Abodo BBQ Mushroom Sandwich at Picnik ($8)
As much as we love the burly, hand-stuffed sausages at Eduardo Ruiz’s Pasadena pub, one of our favorite items forgoes the meat altogether. A dry spice-rubbed whole portobello is grilled and smothered with an Adobo BBQ sauce, then topped with creamy coleslaw on a flour-dusted bun. If you’re a vegetarian craving the bold flavors of Texas-style BBQ, this may best scratch that itch.
Jalapeno Falafel Sandwich at Fala Bar ($8)
Falafel bars. They’re a thing now. One of the most recent was this health-focused take-out spot on Melrose, which spikes its traditional falafel recipe with the subtle vegetal heat of jalapeños. Wrapped in a warm pita with chopped Israeli salad, tahini, and the Yemeni hot sauce condiment known as s’khrug, the sum total shows why falafel is one of the world’s most popular street foods.
Jamaica Tinga Torta at El Condor ($12)
The owners of L&E Oyster Bar flipped old Silverlake haunt El Conquistador in El Condor, a kitschy, tongue-in-check riff on the old-school Mexican-American restaurant. Tortas here are served on soft telera rolls: We suggest the one filled with braised hibiscus flowers swimming in a spicy tinga sauce, toasted pepitas, guacamole, and sour cream. It’s a saucy mouthful.
“The Magic” at Trencher ($10)
Echo Park’s new sandwich specialist is conveniently located steps from bars like Little Joy and The Short Stop. Why not start your evening with their balsamic-brushed port0bello mushroom sandwich? Dubbed “The Magic,” it features roasted peppers, caramelized shallots, alfalfa sprouts, and pistachio pesto stacked on a Kaiser roll.
Veggie Tall Bun at Bird ‘n’ Hand ($9.50)
This new fried chicken restaurant on Fairfax is gaining attention for it’s towering fried chicken sandwiches, stacked with hash brown patties, cheddar cheese, and creamy coleslaw. The veggie version swaps out the bird for tender florets of fried cauliflower and a dollop of harissa mayo and almond pesto. We think we may actually prefer it to the original.
Sweet Potato Grilled Sandwich at Stamp Proper Foods ($12)
Part natural foods store, part deli, this Los Feliz café specializes in healthy options for those with dietary restrictions. A real crowd pleaser during lunchtime combines slices of roasted sweet potato with arugula and sun-dried tomato-goat cheese spread on grilled squaw bread. Simple yet satisfying.