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Highland Park’s Emerging Street Food War Is Good News For Hungry Vegans

Inside the astounding array of meatless offerings available along York

A plate of vegan tacos on a lime green table.
Vegan tacos from Vegatinos on York
Farley Elliott
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

The vegan street food wars have come for Highland Park. Bustling York Boulevard, already a haven for hip coffee shops, boutique stores, and trendy dine-in restaurants, is now practically inundated with street-level options for meatless meals on any given Thursday night.

Perhaps the most famous among the trio of names that now cook weekly on competing corners is Cena Vegan. The plant-based parking lot pop-up draws dozens and dozens of nightly diners, and got a big write up in LA Weekly last year for its efforts in targeting the growing Latino vegan community. Lines wrap around York and down Avenue 51 as the night crawls on, with folks waiting patiently for big platters of meat-free nachos and plates.

Just steps away is Clean South, a Southern-leaning faux fried chicken operation that abuts the sidewalk right in front of Block Party, the popular beer bar with the bumping back patio. Though noticeably less busy than Cena right down the street — and with a vegan agua fresca and horchata table in between — Clean South still does brisk business with bar-goers and the late night crowds. Their hours run Thursdays from 5 p.m. to midnight, and things get busier as the evenings go along. Some street food diners might even recognize the restaurant’s logo and peek in to see what’s up, having caught the company’s premade vegan meals previously at places like Lassen’s or Follow Your Heart in Canoga Park.

Cena Vegan
Long lines waiting for Cena Vegan

The newer addition to the battle has been Vegatinos across the street, parked right in front of Donut Friend. This is a spot for tacos, tortas, and burritos made with jackfruit carnitas, marinated pineapple al pastor, and eggplant-based faux barbacoa. The company already has a strong following on Instagram, and spends their weekends playing to an entirely different crowd up in Panorama City.

Every Thursday night at York and 51, the three converge. Diners tread crosswalks hopping from spot to spot to seek their favorite, and businesses stay open late to draw in the crowds. Cena Vegan, Clean South, and Vegatinos all play to the evening crowds that gather at places like Hi-Hat, Block Party, and The Hermosillo too, making for a lively, late night for vegan-loving Eastsiders.

And to top it all off, there’s even more meatless food coming. Hinterhof, an upscale vegan beer hall, is close to coming online down the street, adding a new element to the area. Over in neighboring Eagle Rock, The Vegan Hooligans have been quietly operating as a pop-up inside longtime diner Abby’s every weekend, while Burgerlords already pushes vegan burgers on York and Donut Friend has the vegan sweets experience locked in. Highland Park’s busy York Boulevard, it seems, is the place to be for meatless eaters in Los Angeles these days.

The setup at Vegatinos on York