I arrived at Seabirds Kitchen stressed, tired and hassled after a long drive to Los Feliz. To top it off, I couldn’t find the entrance (It’s to the right of Starbucks). But when I was seated, the hospitality magic began. The attractive staff, including waiter Will, read my mood and was immediately attentive, answering questions and making informed suggestions about the vegan menu. They even arranged a seat on the porch, though I’d originally reserved it inside.
The roomy restaurant with soft green accents and lots of jolly wall murals and plants is a sweet spot for a leisurely lunch or a meal before a concert at the nearby Greek. Unlike so many pre-concert meals, Seabirds Kitchen’s choices are light but filling, so you won’t be nodding off in the middle of a set. And there’s parking in the back, a Los Angeles miracle.
The clientele is mixed with attractive young couples, families and singles at individual tables spread through the two rooms and porch. A very vegan mom, in a flowing frock and a backpack, warned her daughter who was climbing on stools, that if she “chose to be in danger, she would not get a smoothie.” The four-year-old ignored her. So much for choice.
It’s not that I don’t like vegan, it’s just that I’ve had a lot of bad versions, so I was hesitant about ordering, as were my guests. But Seabirds Kitchen produced standout versions. The generous order of fries ($7.50) was perfectly crisp and the house salad ($11) with the addition of fried lentils and olives was dressed in a spot-on vinaigrette. The Mushroom Taco ($5.50) was flavorful, with chimichurri and lime pepitos added to the mix. The beet taco, however, was a disappointment.
Brunch is served through the early afternoon so we tried the Classic Waffle ($11 plus $4 for fruit). My guests were impressed. The fruit, including late peaches and strawberries, was perfectly ripe and the waffle was rich with a crispy edge. We hesitated to try the Beats Me Burger ($19) because none of us have ever had a good veggie burger. Will told us we’d like it, even though we thought the melted almond butter on top sounded weird, but it was good. “This was a pleasant surprise,” said the assistant eater. It’s not trying to be beef or turkey, it just tastes good.” She liked the iced tea, as well. “It’s so aromatic.”
The secret of the tasty food is Chef Liz, a Brazilian who is married to a Sicilian who helped the owner, Stephanie Morgan, develop the recipes. Liz first learned her skills from her beloved mother-in-law, Maria, who died two years ago. Liz honored her memory by putting Mama Maria’s Caponata ($14) on the menu, but only after asking Maria’s family for permission to use the generations-old recipe. I’m glad they said yes. The Caponata, a Sicilian relish, is a mix of eggplant pine nuts and tomato relish. She even devised a vegan burrata cheese to top the dish. Most vegan cheese fails but Seabirds’ creamy globe of burrata is close enough.
Maybe it was my bad attitude when I arrived but after lunch, my mood was lifted by the surprisingly good food and the sweet ambiance.
2138 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Feliz
Monday – Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Brunch Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.