Ever since I started going veggie, one of the most often asked questions was "have you been to Pure Luck yet?" While I was aware of its long-standing reputation as a vegan diner, famous for its "healthy, but not really" fare & a fun selection of locally-brewed beers, I actually haven't swung by until last month. First, the building itself is pretty non-descript, and casually walking by that stretch of Heliotrope you might not even notice there's a restaurant there (unlike, say, the Mozza complex with its giant, in-yo-face capital M on the corner of Melrose & Highland.) Secondly, I have a near-Pavlovian "Go to Scoops" response when I'm around that area, ignoring everything else in fear that it'd RUIN my ice cream appetite.
So it was no surprise my first Pure Luck visit was around 11p, well after Scoops' final scooping. Having already had junk food earlier that day, I opted for something comparatively clean and comforting, their Baja "fish" tacos with a side of their soup of the day, mushroom-potato-leek. Both were surprisingly delicious; as you know, I'm not crazy about faux meats, but the "fish" (seitan? quorn? soy derivative?) had a familiar and pleasant seafoody flavor plus flaky fish texture, and it went well with the pico de gallo, creamy sauce & chopped cabbage. As for the soup, I was knocked off by how boldly flavored it was, unlike most pureed veggie soups which lean towards mild & mellow. I can't pintpoint the exact spices & herbs, but I can tell you it was a great contrast against the familiar, earthy "comfort soup" flavors of the three veggies and just that it's AWESOME!
And noticing that they had Nibble Bit Tabby beers on tap, I took the opportunity to try their ESB. A nice, light-to-medium bodied brew, with the bitterness balancing the sweet maple & malty aromas. Not exactly something I'd pair with fish tacos & soup next time, but great to drink on its own. And overall, the meal was pleasant, light, and moderately priced (my bill came out to be around $20.)
On a subsequent visit this past weekend, I finally tried their fried goodies, namely - the pickle fries platter($7), half cornmeal-coated fried pickle chips, half French fries, with a side of their BBQ sauce and, upon request, garlic aioli. Despite my initial skepticism, the pickle chips totally work, with the distinct briny-tang cutting into the friedness and therefore making me feel a lot less guilty that I'm eating a whole platter's worth (I can still see the green; it must be a HEALTHY VEGETABLE, right?) The fries were great too but I wasn't sure if they were flavored with rosemary as the menu indicated (though perhaps they only do that if I order the fries by themselves.)
The BBQ sauce leans on the sweet side, which works for sugar-addicted me, while the aioli is really garlicky but considerably thinner than usual (no surprise, since vegan = no eggs and thus, no mayo.) It actually reminds me of the garlicky liquid margarine dip that comes alongside Papa John's pizzas, minus all the artificial flavorings/preservatives/what-have-yous. Again, the pungent flavor isn't a problem for me.
Alongside the pickle fries, I got the Craftsman's Fireworks Saison ($6), a light, quaffable brew with a bit of cherry-citrus tartness with the slightest tinge funky-cheese smell (which is actually more pleasant than offensive when paired with my BBQ sauced pickles and ultra-garlicky fries.)
Now that I finally discovered Pure Luck, I can't wait to return on my own or with a bunch of friends (seriously, the food will please omnivores too!) for some savory veg eats and interesting brews to wash it down before my obligatory ice cream & sorbets across the street.
Which is exactly what I did after that pickle fries & beer; green tea-honey ice cream & Chimay-peach sorbet definitely hit the spot for that sunny afternoon (and so tasty I forgot to take a photo!)
What Do Others Say?
- Eating L.A. gave it a "super cute, with some good dishes" verdict
- Blogging.LA headlined its post calling it a "Vegan Utopia," enough said.
- Vegetarians in Paradise summed it up with "friendly service, tasty food, and a little brew . . . keeps savvy locals returning again and again"
- The Actor's Diet deemed it "a little foodie and beer haven for vegans, though you would never be able to tell just by looking" (Amen!)
- Of course, no shortage of love from Quarrygirl, despite a few road bumps (including a lab test that suggests its fish tacos may be just vegetarian & not vegan)
A few more photos from flickr set here
Pure Luck Restaurant
707 N. Heliotrope Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90029