Travel

Joseph Connelly’s 48 Hours in Los Angeles

After two days in LA, VN’s publisher finds that the City of Angels is quickly becoming the City of Vegans.

When VegNews ran a three-part “City Showdown” series in the magazine last year, the final round pit New York against Los Angeles. The competition was so close that we had several heated debates around our conference room table, with the editorial staff voting several times, as if we were choosing a new pope. While NYC eeked out the title by a margin thinner than an LA starlet’s waistline, it’s been less than six months since, and I for one am not so sure we’d have the same outcome if the vote was held today.

This past weekend, much like the 1982 Eddie Murphy-Nick Nolte classic (sans the guns and fistfights), I spent 48 crazed hours in glam city, jumping from one vegan highlight to another, several times having to choose between which amazing event, restaurant, or colleague won my affections.

Landing at LAX on Friday evening, I whisked directly to Chef Tal Ronnen’s brand-spanking-new, ultra chic Crossroads in West Hollywood, which had opened just a week earlier. I met up with fellow vegans, Goo Goo Doll drummer Mike Malinin (who’s featured in VegNews’ May+June Music issue) and veganbodybuilding.com founder Robert Cheeke. The restaurant was packed with the beautiful people you would expect to see, including celebrity sightings (actress Anna Kendrick, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and TV lawyer Lisa Bloom), along with no shortage of veganistas, including EcoVegan (and birthday) Gal Whitney Lauritsen and the Cooking Channel’s Jason Wrobel. Crossroads features small plates, and we indulged in nearly everything on the menu (check below for link to photos). Look for a full review of the restaurant in VegNews soon.

Despite a long day and late night, I awoke early on Saturday and headed southeast to Irvine Regional Park in Orange County, CA to run a 10k trail race. I donned my PETA Pack running shirt, as I had a strategy: I’d start out in front, then run very slowly to allow folks to pass me, just so that they could read the “I Run for Animals” emblazed across my back. My plan worked like a charm, and I’m absolutely sure there are a few more vegan trail runners now due to my noble and selfless efforts.

Back in Hollywood—post-run and hungry—I apped up Happy Cow and was happy to discover about a dozen promising options within walking distance of my hotel. I chose an eatery with the catchy name The Vegan House. With a nearly all-inclusive menu featuring Thai, Japanese, and American food, I indulged in an absolutely delicious, ample bowl of Tom Kha Vege soup to tide me over until dinner. Next time you are ambling down Hollywood Blvd. looking for your star, stop into The Vegan House for a quick, inexpensive, and tasty meal.

Next up it was on to the 27th annual Genesis Awards at the infamous Beverly Hilton, where I was lucky to sit at a table that included best-selling author Kathy Freston and Veggie Grill co-founder Kevin Boylan. This fundraiser for The Humane Society of the United States, which was started by the late Gretchen Wyler under the umbrella of The Ark Trust, could be considered the Granddaddy of glitzy AR galas—the original, often copied black-tie event out of which all others grew. The Genesis Awards honors mainstream media that promote animal-friendly stories, and this year’s recipients included comedian Stephen Colbert, who picked up his third consecutive Sid Caesar Comedy Award, and pop starlet Ke$ha, who was honored with the Wyler Award and gave a moving, emotional speech, thanking her mother and grandmother for instilling her love for animals.

Sunday wasn’t a day of rest, as there was just too much to do (and eat). Mercy For Animals Founder Nathan Runkle and I trekked to the hip Echo Park/Silverlake section of LA for an indulgent brunch at Sage Organic Vegan Bistro, followed by a KindKreme brownie sundae. Post-brunch we made our way to a vegan pop-up store taking place in a nearby restaurant, where friends of VN Joshua Katcher (Brave GentleMan) and Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart (Vaute Couture) were busy making vegans and veganism more fashionable. Next we wandered over to check out PETA’s Bob Barker Building, before heading back to Hollywood for a quick tour of the MFA HQ. Finally, what visit to LA is complete without a stop at Veggie Grill? I met up with vegan racecar driver Leilani Münter, who was just back from a tour of Farm Sanctuary’s Animal Acres and who is featured in the current VegNews’ “What’s in Your Fridge” piece. Leilani shared with me little bits about a movie she is currently shooting with the same folks behind Oscar winner The Cove, a documentary you will certainly hear more about as it gets closer to completion.

An amazing trip was over just like that, and although I covered a lot in two days, I still felt as if I’d only scratched the surface—I know there is much more of vegan Los Angeles. As I drove to the airport, I spotted another restaurant with a large sign reading “Vegan Ethiopian Food.” I’ll be back for sure.

Check out a pictorial tour of Joseph's 48 hours on Facebook.

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