It’s hard to pity Californians, with their tan skin and morning boardwalk jogs (that’s how everyone lives in California, right?). But it’s only July and a brutal heat wave has already descended upon the Golden State, especially in its Southern and Central regions. In order to help out our West Coast friends (and ourselves), we’ve assembled an eclectic mix of restaurants and dishes—from stalwart Los Angeles ice creameries to a homegrown Fresno gazpacho—to help beat the summer heat.
1. Palm Greens in Palm Springs
If you’ve somehow been duped into going to the desert in the middle of a blazing summer for a wedding, bachelorette party, or camping trip, head straight to Palm Greens’ smoothie menu. The Avocado Supreme—made with coconut butter, avocado, dates, quinoa milk, vanilla bean, hemp seeds, and maqui and raspberry purée—is a good solution for those days when you’re simply too hot to chew. However, if you’re ready to fully embrace the desert vibe, order the aloe vera- and cactus-laden Desert Sun.
2. Scoops in Los Angeles
There are a plethora of Los Angeles ice cream shops with vegan options, but we’re still obsessed with Scoops. Burnt Brown Sugar, Maple Oreo, Brown Bread (a signature flavor that incorporates Grape Nuts into its ice cream), and many more non-dairy flavors rotate in and out of the parlor’s four Los Angeles locations. The best part: Scoops also whips up vegan milkshakes, a surprising rarity in the city of Angels.
3. Taste of India in Buttonwillow
A large Indian restaurant located within smelling-distance of the notoriously foul Harris Ranch and Coalinga might sound a little frightening, but Taste of India is anything but thanks to a vegan mango lassi. The eatery promotes its vegan options on billboards for miles leading to Buttonwillow, which allows veg-friendly commuters the chance to pull over and feast.
4. Hugo’s Tacos in Woodland Hills
An oil-heavy, spicy vegan taco might not be an obvious choice on those unbearably sunny days, but one look at Hugo’s soft-serve will have you running to this stand. Sold in classic vanilla and chocolate flavors, the creamy vegan ice cream comes in a large waffle cone with icy, sugary swirl upon swirl that rivals any soft-serve options of your childhood nostalgia.
5. Alchemy Wellness Spa Café in Santa Barbara
The menu at this downtown Santa Barbara café includes juices, smoothies, and elixirs that provide guaranteed refreshment from the California heat. Each drink in the “Power of…” series is unique in its own right, but we suggest the Power of Green—a sweet and tart combination of kale, green apple, ginger, lemon, cilantro oil, wild orange, and an essential fatty acid blend. The Raw Matcha and Tumeric Lattes, with their use of coconut cream and sprouted almond milk, are also healthy and delightful.
6. Tree of Life in Fresno
If you’ve ever spent time in Central California, you’ll know how important a sanctuary from the heat can be. At Fresno’s Tree of Life, there are vegan breakfast, lunch, and snack options, but we’re most interested in the Central Coast Gazpacho. This traditionally cold soup highlights the famed produce of the surrounding San Joaquin Valley with fresh ripe tomatoes, cucumber, onions, bell peppers, and garlic, so you’ll get some local flavor in your Central Cali oasis.
7. Good Karma Artisan Ales and Café in San Jose
Whether enjoying build-your-own plates of Jamaican Jerk Tofu and Arugula Beet Salad or satisfying with stacks of sweet-and-sour vegan drumsticks, the food at Good Karma in San Jose pairs well with an ice-cold beer. Luckily, this ale house and café has you covered. Revive yourself with a sour Almanac Tangerine de Bretaville or savor the sweet life with The Bruery’s Share This Coffee Imperial Stout. Either way, you’ve made the right choice for your both your mental health and your internal body temperature.
8. Cream in Berkeley
Late-night ice cream sandwiches aren’t only for the drunk co-ed set (although, they are certainly for that, too). Choose between soy mint chocolate chip and vanilla ice cream, then sandwich your pick between two cookies of banana chocolate chip, chocolate fudge, and oatmeal raisin (or mix and match!). We can’t guarantee you’ll get any sleep after that sugar rush, but you will get a sweet respite from the summer heat.
9. Fru-Ta in Petaluma
Frozen fruit bars in flavors of pineapple chile, tamarind, lime sorbet, guava, and even unique pico de gallo await behind the welcoming doors of Fru-Ta, an ice cream shop located in the city’s North Bay neighborhood. In the mood for something refreshing but not frozen? Try the fruit cocktails—heaping cups of mango, cucumber, and jicama topped with lime salt, valentina, chamoy, and tajin. This red “sour powder” makes for a snack almost too colorful to eat.
Emily Hunt is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor, and author of the chapbook John Travolta Considers His Odds.
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