The busy streets of Los Angeles are a welcoming oasis for vegans. Veg-friendly eateries and storefronts beckon, promising to satisfy the plant-based palate with endless dishes. Unfortunately, vegan options are often few and far between in the small cities surrounding the SoCal metropolis. Approximately twenty miles away, Whittier local and business owner Laura Jardon is leading the small town’s burgeoning vegan scene to ensure driving miles for plant-based fare becomes a thing of the past. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Towards compassionate living
An animal activist since 2006, Jardon’s life changed when Pedro—a feisty chihuahua—came under her care. “I experienced how Pedro was able to communicate with me and immediately started rescuing dogs,” said Jardon. Her activism snowballed, extending to all animals and inspiring Jardon to attend vigils where she offered pigs and cows their last sips of water before they’re cruelly whisked away for slaughter. Despite her activist efforts, Jardon continued consuming animal-based foods and products. Why was she hesitant to take the final plunge toward veganism? “I didn’t have any vegan examples in my local community. I thought veganism was for a different culture, a different class. I believed it would change everything about me,” she said. 

 
 
 
 
 
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The rise of Veggie Y Que
Growing up on the cusp of LA’s Eastside, Sunday cookouts—where animal-based meat was always front and center—were a big part of Jardon’s upbringing. Afraid of losing the food she loved and “leaving [her] culture” behind, she adopted a vegan diet nearly a decade after her initial activist work. Armed with her usual spices, potatoes, and new-to-her veggies, Jardon whipped up her first vegan enchilada night—a hit among her family. In true foodie fashion, the Whittier-local started snapping pictures of her veganized Mexican dishes. After posting recipes and impromptu food photos to her personal Instagram, Jardon was flooded with messages from followers salivating for her cooking. And thus Veggie Y Que, Jardon’s Instagram blog-turned-pop-up-turned-diner was born.

 
 
 
 
 
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Whittier meets veganism 
Flooded with DMs begging for pop-ups, Jardon started slinging vegan brunch on the weekends to please the masses. With her ever growing popularity, and Whittier’s insatiable craving for vegan eats, Jardon launched La Vida Verde Fest—a vegan food festival that drew 300 people during its inaugural run. Although Jardon was offered a retail space by a friend seeking to pivot away from the food business, she wasn’t ready to take the plunge. After two months of prodding, she agreed to take over the space and launch her very own vegan diner. “I got the key on November 18 and opened [the Veggie Y Que diner on] December 4. I opened in two weeks because I didn’t have the money for January’s rent. I was at zero and knew I had to make it work,” she said. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Vegans of color: front and center
Always an advocate for the underrepresented, Jardon weaves vegan voices of color into the ambiance of Veggie Y Que. Walls lined with original artwork from up-and-coming vegan artists tower over staff as they prep nachos, tacos, and loaded vegan cheeseburgers. When she’s not busy running the diner, Jardon is working on launching a vegan magazine for communities of color. While the project is momentarily on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no stopping this powerhouse. 

 
 
 
 
 
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An empire in the making
What more is in store for Jardon’s burgeoning vegan empire? The opening of Manifest Tea Station this November. Located right next door, Veggie Y Que patrons can fuel up before perusing shelves stocked with crystals, candles, intention oils, loose-leaf teas, and other items intended for spiritual healing—all vegan and cruelty-free, of course. Also on the horizon is Veggie Y Que’s two-year anniversary this December. As a sign of Jardon’s true communal spirit, the Eastsider is opting to surprise Whittier with a gift meant to uplift and empower. For an announcement you won’t want to miss, follow Veggie Y Que on Instagram for the big reveal. 

Jocelyn Martinez is an editorial assistant at VegNews and is eagerly planning her next takeout order from Veggie Y Que.

Photo credit: @VeganFoodPlug & Veggie Y Que

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