It’s safe to say that in recent years Vietnamese food has replaced Thai food as my favorite Asian cuisine. It’s really exciting to see more and more restaurants starting to cater to vegans and vegetarians as Vietnamese cooking grows in popularity. While Vinh Loi Tofu will always remain the reigning champ among all Vietnamese restaurants (no one else even comes close as far as vegan food is concerned), it’s nice to see other places offering animal-free options as well.
We recently visited the newly re-opened Vietnamese Soy Cafe in Silver Lake and enjoyed their limited but satisfying vegan offerings. Today let’s visit another vegan friendly Vietnamese eatery, this time across town in Highland Park- Good Girl Dinette.
Located right around the corner from the vegetarian Mexican restaurant Cinnamon, Good Girl Dinette serves up simple, clean and mostly organic ingredients sourced from local farmers markets, and transforms them into what they refer to as “American diner meets Vietnamese comfort food”. And it’s as good as it sounds! There is enough on the menu to keep both the carnivores and the herbivores happy.
We’ll start at the heart of any decent Vietnamese meal, with a hot bowl of Pho. Pho is a traditional soup usually made with all manner of horror inducing cuts of meat, beefy broth and exotic spices. Luckily for those of us who want the delicious taste of a well-seasoned Pho soup without all the beef juice, Good Girl Dinette makes an all-vegetarian version just for us.
The Vegetarian Pho comes with rice noodles in a vegan broth, served with herbs and lemongrass chili oil. Mine also came with tasty slabs of fried tofu. The flavor was mild though very soothing, I could detect the lemongrass, star anise, basil, lime and other spices that infused the broth. This isn’t a wild & spicy Pho like you’ll get at some places, though you can turn up the heat to your liking with the supplied hot chili sauce.
The soup pretty much defines comfort food, I felt both cared for and fortified after eating it. My server was genuinely interested in making sure I was enjoying the food too and had taken the time to go over the entire menu with me, explaining what was vegan and what wasn’t. For a non-vegan establishment they seem to really know their stuff.
These are the Mushroom Imperial Rolls: crispy rolls stuffed with mushroom and served with a soy dip. They make the rolls from fresh ingredients when you order them, and that freshness really comes through.
Nice and hot out of the fryer, these were the perfect amount of crunchy meets greasy, able to satiate even the most raging craving for fried food.
This next item was my favorite, the Rice Cakes with Crispy Scallion Tofu: rice cakes topped with tofu and scallion dressing. When I read that description I imagined those crispy puffed rice cakes which taste like cardboard and that dieters like to torture themselves with, so I was relieved that those were not at all what I was served. These rice cakes where soft, delicate little things, a bit sticky and chewy on the outside, soft and pleasantly mushy on the inside. The tofu on top was lightly fried and topped with the delicious scallion dressing.
My regular readers know how much I detest most members of the onion family, so I won’t bore you with a long diatribe about that. Suffice it to say that I’ve been trying to be more tolerant of onions and their evil ilk, and I’m so glad that I did try them in this instance because these were fantastic. The flavor isn’t really very oniony, it’s more about the soy & oil flavor with a tangy kick from the scallions, which lent a pleasing crispiness to each bite. The texture of the rice cake is totally where it’s at. These scrumptious morsels were as delightful to eat as they were to look at.
And guess what? They have a vegan dessert too… score! This wonderful treat is the Maple Coconut Bread Pudding, and in case you care, it’s made with no refined sugar. This would normally be served with a non-vegan whipped cream, so you’ll need to ask for that to be left off for maximum veganocity to occur, but don’t sweat it because it’s awesome just on it’s own. I mean, when’s the last time you had a vegan bread pudding? One made with maple and coconut no less? Like everything else I tried, this bread pudding was in every way delectable. I don’t know how they managed to bake it to just the exact moment where the outside started to crisp up into a perfect crust while the inside remained soft and gooey, but they turned it into a science, that’s for sure. The staff was so nice and friendly too, I bet they wouldn’t mind if you showed up with your own vegan whipped cream (but don’t quote me on that) (plus that would just make you weird).
The drink you see up at the very top is also one of their specialties, the House-Made Pop: fresh squeezed limes, oranges, or grapefruit mixed with sparkling water. I got the lime, it was both super tart, just a tad sweet and very refreshing. Yummy, but sip slowly, I don’t think they give free refills.
Good Girl Dinette gets two thumbs up! It’s on the complete other end of the spectrum from the heavier, spicier, more boisterous type of food you’d get at Vinh Loi Tofu (which still holds the Vietnamese key to my heart). Good Girl Dinettes’ portions are smaller, their flavors are more subdued and their approach is more refined. I like their take on veganized Vietnamese and I think you will too. I also really dig the groovy old brick building they’re located in as well as all the truly spectacular graffiti and murals in the colorful surrounding neighborhood. They are very easy to get to being right off of Figuroa near the 110 Pasadena freeway and are located just two blocks away from the Gold Line Metro (Highland Park station).
There’s also a tofu stew and a curry cauliflower pot pie listed on the menu, both which I am eager to try, as well as a few other items that seem like they already are or could be made vegan… can’t wait for my next visit!
Good Girl Dinette
110 North Avenue 56
Los Angeles, CA 90042
- Vinh Loi Tofu vegan Vietnamese restaurant
- Re-Opened: Vietnamese Soy Cafe in Silver Lake
- Vegan Vietnamese Porridge Soup
- Vegan Vietnamese salad with veggie-meats
- Vegetarian Bánh mì (Vietnamese Hoagie)