The Best Vegan Restaurant in Orange County

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My husband and I have been to every vegan restaurant in Orange County. We like them all, but our favorite is Au Lac in Fountain Valley. It’s not close to our house, however; so we don’t go often, but we made the drive last Sunday.

I distracted myself on the drive by reading Au Lac’s Yelp reviews. I was intrigued by a reviewer who shared that Chef Ito took one look at her father and warned him about his heart. Six months later, her dad had a heart attack. How did he know? I should add that her dad’s fine and now and following a 90% raw vegan diet.

I guess the Yelp reviews did a good job of distracting me because it seemed like we got to the restaurant in no time. The place was busy, but we were still quickly seated. While looking at our menus I kept scanning the restaurant. “What are you looking for?” my husband asked. “Chef Ito, I want to see if he’ll predict anything about our health.”

Paul just rolled his eyes at me as a waiter came to our table. I ordered the Curry Chicken because a lot of Yelpers raved about it. My husband ordered the Beef Watercress. We also ordered a Deep House Salad and a pot of Orange Blossom Tea to share.

The salad came in a generous white bowl that was brimming with romaine, marinated mushrooms, olives and dill blended with the best tasting vegan ranch dressing I’ve ever had. Both my husband and I loved it. Since much of what this restaurant serves is vegan living foods (aka – raw food), I suppose they know a thing or two about salad.

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Au Lac’s Deep House Salad

When our entrées arrived, we had them placed in the middle of the table so we could share. We started with the Beef Watercress which had thick cuts of “beef” tantalizingly drenched in deep brown gravy over a bed of rich green watercress and tomatoes. I’m not usually a fan of fake meats, but this dish was superb. The sauce was rich and tangy with a hint of garlic and the texture of the meat was perfect.

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Au Lac’s Beef Watercress

My husband and I are wimps when it comes to spicy food, so we don’t normally order curry. I made an exception last weekend because several Yelpers said that the Curry Chicken was fabulous and not at all spicy. I loved my first bite, but then heat slowly permeated my mouth. I’ll admit that it wasn’t hot compared to others I’ve tasted (and I’m sure it would be too mild for true curry lovers), but it was too hot for me and definitely too hot for my hubby.

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Au Lac’s Curry Chicken

Despite the spicy curry, it was a fabulous meal. I’ve never been dissatisfied at Au Lac. Oh, and in case you’re curious, I never did see Chef Ito. I wonder what he would have said about my health if I did see him. More importantly, what do you think he would say about your health if he saw you?

The photo at the top of the page is courtesy of the Au Lac website.

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About celestedimilla

Hey there. I’m Celeste, California girl, writer, psychotherapist and burgeoning plant-based foodie.
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19 Responses to The Best Vegan Restaurant in Orange County

  1. Maryanne says:

    Sounds like our Veggie Heaven in NJ. I tend to favor the “chicken” dishes as the “beef” and “pork” ones taste too much like the “real thing” and being such an animal lover I can’t handle that.

    It’s fabulous they have a lot of raw dishes. I love when restaurants have that option. There’s one in NYC, Caravan of Dreams that has both cooked and raw vegan dishes. I always go for the raw. Pure Food & Wine is 100 percent raw, which is a dream.

    • I totally get why you would not like the “beef” and “pork” dishes because they taste too much like the “real” thing. You’ve got a good heart girl! I prefer it when vegan restaurants do more with beans and grains rather than having a lot of fake meat, but few of them do. It does seem kind of strange, when you think about it, that vegans still want to eat stuff that tastes like meat. Oh well, whatever. I appreciate your thoughts! Celeste:)

      • Maryanne says:

        LOL! I think it’s not a matter of eating things that taste like meat, but for creativity and that these products are a good source of protein. I guess I’m a vegetarian cheater because I didn’t like meat to begin with. Growing up, I hid it under my plate or fed it to the dog :)

      • Yea, I was never all that crazy about meat either. For me this started because I had to cook for my family once a week and often this meant cutting up a whole chicken. I hated doing this! I used to make my little brother do it for me because it made me sick. I never minded eating meat before this, but once my mom started making me cut up chicken it hit me that I was eating an animal. This bugged me. Not enough to make me a vegetarian, however. Still, I didn’t have much of a problem giving up meat when I decided to go vegan. Dairy, however; well that was a different story! Thanks for your comment! Celeste:)

        ________________________________

  2. Can we bring Chef Ito to Oklahoma – please?! This cattle country needs some delicious vegan beef!!

    • My best girlfriend lives in Oklahoma and she wants to go vegan, but she tells me that it’s really hard to make the transition there. There is not a single vegan restaurant in the town she lives in, and her husband, his family and everyone she knows there are “meat & potato” folks. Anyway, I’d be happy to send Chef Ito your way, but I’m afraid he’d get run out of town! But let me know if you ever get to SoCal – I’d love to go with you to Au Lac. Celeste:)

      • Oh your poor friend – I feel her pain. You let her know that if she needs some vegan Okie support, I got her back. We had a wonderful raw restaurant (Matthew Kenney) in Oklahoma City but he closed his doors after several years. I guess he just couldn’t make a solid go of it. It’s a shame. It IS tough here and it’s why I make all three meals each and every day. No other choice. I do hope to get back to SoCal one of these days. I lived in Santa Monica for a few years and still have some good friends there. How fun it would be to meet! xoxo

    • Santa Monica is a vegan’s paradise! There are probably more vegan restaurants in Santa Monica than in all of Orange County. Going to OK after that must have been tough. If you ever do get out here to see your old friends, I’d be happy to meet you in Santa Monica. I love going there and it’s only an hour from where I live. I’m sorry to hear that the raw restaurant in your area closed down – what a bummer! I’ll definitely tell my friend about you, but I don’t think she’s ready to go vegan. She says she wants to, but…. Anyway, hope you’re having a wonderful weekend! Celeste:)

  3. I don’t know about taste, but it sure looks good!

  4. Jeanne Allen says:

    Oooo I would of love the curry chicken dish.

  5. Amber Simons says:

    So is the place a bunch of dishes that use the fake meats/meat subs? I really just can’t get into that. I really think if more of the long time vegans would let restaurants know that there is more of a demand for the dishes withOUT those things, maybe they would start making them. Like Native Foods Cafe, they use some sort of meat sub in almost every dish, I always order without and more veggies, but it saddens me, because I can do that EXACT same thing at a ‘regular’ restaurant and have the same results, I hate that I have to do that at a vegan restaurant. But, that’s just me. Seems like a lot of those faux meats are for people just getting into veganism, and to prove to nonvegans that vegan food can taste just as good. Love that! But, similar to a comment up above, I really have no desire for anything that is trying to seem like meat, (not to mention I have a soy & gluten intolerance/allergy, which those are always made from) I stopped eating meat at 8 years old after a long time battle over it with my parents (hated it from my first bite) that I won & they let me stop eating it. ha.
    Anyway, I love curries and such, and the dishes seem like they could be good, I do live in SoCal and am always down for a vegan restaurant w/great reviews. So, lots better than say, Loving Hut or Veggie Grill?

    • Hey Amber! Thanks so much for your comment – I appreciate it! Yes, they do use a lot of fake meat here, but it’s really well prepared. It sounds like that doesn’t appeal to you, however; so I’m sure you could substitute veggies. I’m totally with you, I wish that more vegan restaurants did more with veggies, beans and grains (the way I cook at home). I think because there are so few vegans around, vegan restaurants have to prepare “meat” dishes that appeal to non-vegans to succeed. I hope someday there will be more vegans and this will change. I don’t know where you live in SoCal, but The Stand in Laguna Beach is an awesome vegan restaurant that I don’t think uses fake meat at all. It’s certainly not a fancy place, they don’t even have indoor seating, but their food is healthy and well prepared. I couldn’t find a website, but here’s their address: 238 Thalia St Laguna Beach · (949) 494-8101

  6. Bo De Tinh Tam Chay Vegetarian restaurant is much more Vietnamese “authentic” and the flavors are much more savory. Check it out: there are two locations — one behind the “Asian Mall” on Bolsa, and one on Mcfadden and Beach Blvd.

    • I stand corrected – I haven’t been to every vegan restaurant in Orange County because I’ve never been to Bo De Tinh Tam Chay. I just checked out on Yelp and it got great reviews. I don’t know how I’ve missed this place. Thank you so much for sharing this with me – I appreciate it! Celeste:)

  7. Try Bo De Tinh Tam Chay Vegetarian Restaurant on Beach Blvd. and McFadden. Much more authentic Vietnamese vegetarian food, with more flavor and variety.

  8. I am so jealous of all the vegan-friendly places in So-Cal. I live in Sacramento and even though we have a pretty active vegan/vegetarian community, only a few “vegan” restaurants. Even the upscale, local restaurants don’t accommodate well to vegans and it drives me absolutely nuts. If you pride yourself on being a “sustainable” resteraunt, how come every dish has meat? Ok, off my soap box now :) I get that the fake meat can get a little weird, but it’s nice every now and then to enjoy old favorites!
    Alex @ delicious-knowledge.com

    • I’m very familiar with Sac-ra-tomato (so familiar that I have a nick name for it – haha!). I lived in Lodi for many years and I have a good friend that lives in Sacramento. And I feel for you – the vegan pickings out there are slim! Of course, I wasn’t vegan when I lived there so it wasn’t a problem for me. I can’t believe that even the upscale restaurants won’t accommodate vegans – what a shame! Thanks so much for stopping by Alex – I appreciate it:)

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