Ojai, California has been described as magnetically charged, a spiritual vortex, and a tuning fork for the soul. Mostly, it’s a welcome escape from city life and a popular destination for vegans seeking to catch a breath of fresh air and grab a unique bite to eat. Just 90 miles north of Los Angeles, vegans are well-served in Ojai and may find it hard to leave.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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1. Coffee, hikes, and cafe culture
Start your morning early with a visit to Beacon Coffee for a cup of joe from owners John and Jennifer Wheir. The couple sources their beans by way of visiting independent growers in South America, Africa, and beyond. Try the seasonal mocha made with a vegan chocolate syrup and almond or hemp milk; the springtime varietal infuses local pixie tangerines for a chocolatey orange vibe. From Beacon, it’s a short journey up Signal Street to the entrance of the Los Padres National Forest. The two-hour Pratt/Foothill loop crosses over bubbling brooks, betwixt vineyards, and along inviting grottos. As the Pratt becomes the Foothill trail, Ojai Valley is revealed before your descent back into the city. No doubt, you’ll have worked up an appetite following this scenic excursion—time for lunch! Next door to Rainbow Bridge, a health-conscious community grocer worth a browse is Sage Mindful Meals. Practically everything is made in-house. This includes everything from the gluten-free vegan naan bread served alongside muhammara dip to the vegan pho and kimchi, the latter which is made from hand-massaged cabbage leaves. Order one of Sage’s tonics to replenish those nutrients and consider your cooldown complete.  

 

 
 
 
 
 
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2. Farmers’ markets and local kombucha
The Ojai Certified Farmers Market is where the building blocks of Ojai’s culinary bounty are put on full display each Sunday, from vine-ripened tomatoes to freshly picked herbs. Interspersed between the produce tents are several vegan-friendly artisanal food vendors. Pick up a blueberry orange blossom or caramelized pineapple popsicle from Freezer Monkeys if it’s particularly warm out (or even if it’s not), take home a vegan strawberry rhubarb pie from Marcie’s Pies, and sample a variety of vegan chocolates at Ojai Chocolat. If the samples don’t fill you up, take a three-minute walk to Hip Vegan Cafe. Order the Warung Burger featuring a housemade crunchy fried tempeh patty with peanut sauce and a side of Gunpowder Fries. Wash the meal down with a kombucha from Revel, a local brewery that has made a kombucha specifically for the restaurant using apple juice, lemon juice, and raw cane sugar. Later in the day, take some time to stroll through the Ojai Arcade Plaza on your way to Azu Restaurant, where Ojai Valley Brewery sources local organic ingredients for use in their unpasteurized and unfiltered beer. The White Pixie Ale utilizes Ojai’s famous pixie tangerines—which, if you’re visiting in the spring, you may have seen at the farmers’ market. Pair the ale with one of the eatery’s vegan specialties, such as the Falafel Chili Relleno or Azu Chopped Salad.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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3. Zen spots and organic wineries
Stroll through the open-air Bart’s Books for a unique literary experience and peruse the shop’s unique collection before heading out to explore the heart of the city. John Lennon and Yoko Ohno once visited Ojai for a bit of peace and relaxation, and you too can find peace of mind with a visit to the Krishnamurti Educational Center for a moment of meditation among the oaks. Self-reflection can be exhausting, thus a drink may be in order. Casa Barranca is a certified organic winery and sources its grapes from the central coast. Many of the wines are vegan—just ask for the sulfate-free wines—and no visit is complete without a stop by the tasting room in the Arcade. A few doors down from the winery is Food Harmonics which serves a light yet substantial raw vegan pizza topped with homemade pesto, fermented cashew cheese, and heirloom tomatoes. Pair with a bowl of vegan dahl and one killer house-made sourdough avocado toast. Finish the evening with a twilight stroll through Libbey Park under the leafy canopy where you may catch a concert on certain summer nights at Libbey Bowl.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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4. Pizza and brews
Tony Yanow of LA’s Mohawk Bend and Tony’s Darts Away has put his mark on Ojai, opening Ojai Pub, a UK-inspired eatery with a vegan-friendly menu. Alongside imperial pints of craft beer are clearly-marked vegan items such as the highly recommended Buffalo Cauliflower with a vegan bleu cheese sauce. Ten minutes from downtown, Farmer and the Cook fires up the pizza oven Thursday through Sunday evenings. We strongly recommend the Figgy Pizza made with cashew cheese (upon request) figs, mushrooms, and caramelized onions. Cap off the night with a stopover at The Deer Lodge, an Ojai institution since 1932, for an additional libation and make a toast to the wonderful day you had and to many more to come.

 

Chris O’Neal is a journalist seeking new adventures and flavors from his home in Ventura, CA.



Image Credit: Chris O’Neal

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