Los Angeles’s street food scene is massive, dynamic, and ever-growing. Tens of thousands of vendors line sidewalks, drop into patio spaces behind wine bars, and collect in groups large and small every single night across the county and its 88 diverse cities, with each playing to its immediate community and — if done well — attracting a following well beyond its neighborhood borders.
In recent years, a number of vendors have clustered together into niche pockets, from Nashville style hot chicken (playing off the success of former parking lot kings Dave’s Hot Chicken) to smash burgers to Tijuana-style tacos. For a time all-vegan vendors were lining the sidewalks in front of the many bars and restaurants along York in Highland Park, creating an ad hoc scene filled with a variety of dining options from Mexican and El Salvadoran food to vegan mac and cheese. In recent months a crackdown has muted the scene there, though, and so now a new rallying point has been found, hiding in plain sight in North Hollywood.
The Other Door, a longstanding mellow neighborhood hangout, has for the past several months been hosting a weekly Wednesday night all-vegan outdoor street fair called the Vegan Lot, and the scene has blown up with hundreds of diners coming through to eat. Many of the York vendors, including Vegatinos, Donut Friend, and Avocadamama, have moved to the weekly evening party in North Hollywood, and the crowds are growing every month.
The usual weekly collection includes the above names doing, respectively, vegan Mexican food, vegan doughnuts, and vegan mac and cheese. There’s also Madame Sugah for dessert, Mama’s Tamales, and one or two rotating entrants including, recently, Mala Noodles from Smorgasburg. Vegatinos tends to draw some of the biggest lines, though Lettuce Feast has been pulling in big numbers with its plant-based take on fried chicken. The Instagram-savvy food truck does sandwiches, fries, tenders, and those now-ubiquitous tender sandwiches drizzled in sauce and coleslaw that have become so visible online.
Of course, the Other Door’s weekly vegan lot isn’t the only option for street food diners looking to go meatless. There’s another weekly collection of restaurants operating Sundays in North Hollywood at the Vegan Exchange, and Nathaniel Perales of Avocadamama (who helps to curate and run the Vegan Lot) has been pushing for even more events further afield in cities like Downey.
It all adds up to a new kind of street food ubiquity, where diners keyed in to food trends and Instagram cycles no longer need to drive halfway across the city or county just to try something for themselves. The future of vegan street food is in some ways the longstanding past of all street food in Los Angeles: groups that play to a particular audience, that grow organically in neighborhoods beyond the currently hip areas like Highland Park or Downtown. The vegan street food takeover is now hitting the suburbs, hard, and hundreds of people are showing up nightly for more.
Vegan Lot. Wednesdays at the Other Door. 10437 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood.