The latest keystone in this burgeoning scene is Kitchen Mouse, a cozy vegan-friendly café located on a block of Figueroa that contains a vintage clothing store, a vinyl record shop, and an art gallery that features Shepard Fairey works.
But to write off Kitchen Mouse as another signifier of Highland Park’s gentrification would be a huge mistake—owner and chef Eric Daking is serving some of the most exciting (non-boring) vegan/vegetarian food in Los Angeles, inside a sun-washed space that’s both welcoming and quaint. In short, it’s the kind of café everyone wishes they had around the corner.
Serving breakfast and lunch six days a week (they’re closed on Mondays), you’ll find buoyant and vibrant dishes like a dill pesto quinoa salad with toasted almonds, avocado, and beet-cabbage slaw, or a brown rice bowl topped with collard greens, yams, black beans and spicy buffalo sauce (you can add an optional poached egg on top too, as with most dishes here). There’s an avocado “TLT”—made with strips of brined, smoked, and maple glazed tempeh and served on millet toast—or gluten-free pancakes with berries and coconut, if you’re feeling classic.
Daking, a musician turned private chef, originally started Kitchen Mouse as a catering company, serving mostly film production and photography shoots. “When you cater sets, you kind of have to find a way to please everyone,” says Daking “so we created dishes that were really versatile for people who had dietary restrictions.”
After locating a kitchen space in Highland Park, Daking and her husband decided it was time to pull the trigger on opening her café—a feat she managed while being almost nine months pregnant. (Another interesting side note: Daking was a lead singer and guitarist for the Hunting Beach hardcore punk F-Minus in the late 90’s).
The Kitchen Mouse menu is mostly a collection of the greatest hits from catering gigs, though Daking plans to rotate in new dishes every so often.
During my visit, I started with a refreshing cup of watermelon gazpacho, laced with olive oil and chopped basil, and the weekly special, a combination plate of crispy, pan-fried Gomasio rice cakes, seared oyster mushrooms, red mizuna and shishito salad and a creamy cilantro chutney. Both were well-seasoned, comforting, and filling—vegetable-centric food that didn’t feel like going without.
“Vegan or vegetarian food shouldn’t sacrifice taste,” says Daking, who hopes to provide her community with a reliable and healthful option. Judging by the youthful Highland Park crowds congregating around iced chai teas and hibiscus-ginger teas during our last visit, it appears Kitchen Mouse is off to a superb start.
Kitchen Mouse, 5904 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park, 323-259-9555