Your guide to Vegan pop ups on York

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Vegan “meat” tacos from CENA Vegan in the Eagle Rock community of Los Angeles on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017.

Vegetarians and vegans of Occidental are no longer forced to concoct a plant-based snack at Charlie’s after a night at Block Party or Hermosillo. Nearly every night of the week, there are at least two vegan food options on York Boulevard, ranging from imitation buffalo wings to Cuban food.

“York Blvd is where it’s at in L.A. for amazing vegan food,” Evanice Holz, vegan chef and founder of Señoreata, a vegan Cuban pop-up, said. “Within two small blocks, you have up to three vegan food pop-ups going on, in addition to Donut Friend and amazing vegan options at Burgerlords, Ramen of York and more.”

As an omnivore, I rated the pop-ups based on value (because no one should pay $10 for two tacos), how convincing the imitation meat was and general flavor.

Plant Food for Plant People

When: Fridays from 6 p.m.–1 a.m.

Where: Outside of Johnny’s Bar on York

What: Tacos, loaded beans, nachos, tortas

Rate: 8.5/10

Nachos from Plant Food for Plant People truck on York Blvd in the Eagle Rock community of Los Angeles on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017.

This bright blue truck is ready to satisfy you whether you simply refuse to spend your Friday evening at the Marketplace or just really need some smoked jackfruit after a night of revelry on York.

The menu consists of loaded pinto beans with vegan chipotle mayo, salsa, coleslaw and pico de gallo, four varieties of jackfruit tacos, tortas and nachos.

Although Plant Food for Plant People (PFFP) is certainly pricier than a $1.50 taco at Charlie’s (a single taco is $3), PFFP is worth the extra cash (they do accept cards, though). I had the torta, which consisted of a steamed bun loaded with smoked and spiced jackfruit, pinto beans, coleslaw and, of course, chipotle mayo.

I was not entirely sure what type of meat the jackfruit was intended to imitate; nonetheless, it was delicious and tasted most like chorizo. The coleslaw and beans were a nice contrast to the smokiness of the jackfruit and chipotle mayo. The sandwich was very messy, so I had to eat it with a fork.

My friend, an actual vegetarian, got the nachos. The nachos were smothered in vegan nacho cheese and topped with pinto beans, pico de gallo, jackfruit and chipotle mayo. The hefty portion certainly looked worth $7.

“The jackfruit meat doesn’t really taste like jackfruit,” Pooja Singh (junior) said. “And the spices blend really well with the potatoes. I really like how they’re able to add melted vegan cheese, as opposed to other substitute cheese, which doesn’t work that well with Mexican food.”

I had to deduct 1.5 points for having only one (albeit delicious) meat substitute, and their priciness — a sandwich that I finished in 3 minutes should not cost $7.

Cena Vegan

When: Tuesdays from 6–11 p.m., Fridays from 6 p.m.–midnight

Where: On the corner of York and Avenue 51

What: Multiple types of tacos, burritos, nachos

Rate: 9.5/10

Vegan tacos with toppings from CENA Vegan in the Eagle Rock community of Los Angeles on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017. Photo by Gabby Gonzalez

Cena Vegan is hot right now. A few weeks ago, a friend and I decided to drive over to York Boulevard to give it a try, but were deterred by the long wait. A line of people wrapped around the corner of York and Avenue 51 to try the delicious, meat-tasting, health-conscious tacos at this stand with 66 percent Latin-American ownership.

I ordered two tacos: the carne asada and the pollo asada with guacamole on top. Although $4 for a single taco sounds hard to swallow when there are $1 tacos a block over at Charlie’s, you can get three tacos for a deal of $10, and it is a unique privilege to be able to have tacos as health-conscious and similar to meat as Cena’s.

“It tastes like real meat,” Sarah Moore (junior) said, “And normally I don’t like vegan food, because it tastes too healthy — it just tastes weird to me. But, [Cena Vegan] tastes like real street food to me.”

The tacos are relatively large and I was full after just two. The tortilla itself is soft and spongy and has a nice savoriness that compliments the heartiness of the imitation meat well. For $2, they are very generous with the guacamole; adding the complimentary self-serve onions, cashew-based chipotle crema and three different varieties of salsa makes a great makeshift burrito.

Customers line up for CENA Vegan Pop Up in the Eagle Rock community of Los Angeles on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017. Photo by Gabby Gonzalez

Even with everything I added on top of my tacos, the savory “meats” still dominated the taste. I went twice, so I was able to try all four of their imitation meats: carne asada, pollo asado, al pastor and barbacoa. All were chewy, very smoky, and honestly tasted like the meat they were imitating, despite being made from wheat, soy and garbanzo bean flours. Their big vegan burrito lives up to its name, as another friend of mine, also a vegetarian, was plenty full after just half.

Nachos from CENA Vegan pop up in the Eagle Rock community of Los Angeles on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017. Photo by Gabby Gonzalez

If Cena Vegan ends up being a truly spiritual experience for you, you’re in luck because they sell one-pound packages of their vegan meat for $15.

Not only is their food delicious, Cena is health and socially conscious: the night I went, they were donating $1 from each nacho boat to disaster relief efforts in Mexico. They ended up donating $1,630 to Global Giving to help recovery efforts in Mexico.

Señoreata

When: 5:30 p.m.–10 p.m. on Tuesdays

Where: Directly outside of Block Party on York Boulevard

What: Cuban food

Rate: 7/10

Nachos from señoreata on York Blvd in the Eagle Rock community of Los Angeles on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017. Photo by Gabby Gonzalez

Strategically stationed directly outside the entrance of Block Party, Señoreata is a woman-owned business offering creative, vegan Cuban dishes.

Their menu consists of meatless pie, pulled “pork” tamales, nachos and a vegan guava cheese strudel.

Señoreata was founded by certified plant-based chef Evanice Holz, whose inspiration came from growing up vegan in a Cuban and Brazilian household. According to her website, Holz stayed true to the recipes her grandmother and father taught her — just substituting the animal products for vegan ones.

Señoreata started out as a recipe and lifestyle blog but became a mobile food stand at the beginning of 2017.

Similar to Cena, Señoreata is using their thriving business to give back. Ten percent of each purchase went to a charity of the customer’s choice: the choice of charities on Oct. 10 included Mercy for AnimalsEverytown for Gun Safety and Global Giving (the same organization Cena Vegan donated to for disaster relief efforts in Mexico).

“After continuous weeks of catastrophic natural disasters, then the Las Vegas shooting massacre, I felt compelled to give back and spread compassion directly through my customers,” Holz said.

I had the pulled “pork” tamale. As much as I wanted to love it, it was honestly a bit bland — the inside tasted much more like mashed corn with spices than pork. The majority of the tamale’s taste came from the lime-chili sauce it was smothered in. However, the meatless pie I split with my friend was a remarkable snack. The sweet and soft pastry shell was a nice complement to the equal parts sweet and spicy inside made of raisins, olives and peppers.

I had to take three points off for the lackluster tamale, but I would certainly recommend Señoreata to people wanting to switch up their weeknight taco stand routine with something health-conscious, femme-owned and operated and different (where else can you find a dinner with cashew cheese and guava?)

Clean South

When: Thursday from 5 p.m.–midnight

Where: Outside of Block Party

What: Vegan southern food

Rate: 9.5/10

Clean South is the brainchild of two Philadelphia vegetarian transplants longingly looking at the chicken and barbecue places around their new city of Los Angeles. Jessica Parker and Daniel Weisberg decided to create vegan versions of their favorite Southern foods like buffalo wings, coleslaw and cornbread. After making vegan southern dishes for themselves and their friends, their friend told them about a vegan food festival, Vegan Street Fair, and encouraged the couple to sell their food there. The success of the stand motivated Weisberg to make Clean South his full-time job last year.

“I couldn’t find this kind of food anywhere else,” Weisberg said. “I was really craving it, and there are options similar to this out there, but whenever [my wife and I] tried stuff, we were really disappointed.”

For meat, their menu consists of barbecue pulled soy and three different types of seitan-based vegan chicken: fried chicken, buffalo wings and popcorn wings. For sides, they offer vegan mac and cheese, gluten-free cornbread, veggie slaw, potato salad and barbecue-flavored collared greens.

I had the combo of buffalo wings, mac and cheese and coleslaw. The buffalo wings did not necessarily remind me of Wing Stop, necessarily, but they were nonetheless delectable. Like most vegan meat, the wings were chewy but extremely flavorful thanks to the sauce. The mac and cheese was my least favorite, mainly because it was not terribly cheesy, although I did not have any qualms about the authenticity of the vegan cheese — it tasted plenty real to me. The coleslaw was very creamy, an impressive feat for vegan food.

Cookie with vegan Nutella from vegan comfort food pop up on York Blvd in the Eagle Rock community of Los Angeles on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. Photo by Gabby Gonzalez

I finished the meal with shockingly vegan Nutella chocolate chip cookies from Your Vegan Friend (YVF). YVF is a separate business, but Clean South sells their desserts at their pop-ups. The two cookies were rich and soft, although the vegan Nutella on the inside honestly just tasted like melted chocolate chips. Nonetheless, it was a vegan dessert that I still have trouble believing was butter, milk and egg-free. The YVF desserts offered at Clean South’s pop-up also include vegan s’mores bars and Gansitos.

I am giving Clean South a 9.5/10 as their food, although extremely hearty and flavorful, was a bit pricey — my combo was $15. I would probably give Clean South an 8/10, but the fact that they offered vegan s’mores bars and Nutella chocolate-chip cookie sandwiches in addition to their impressive array of vegan comfort food gives them extra points.

Aguas Veganas

When: Tuesdays from 6 p.m.–closing time varies, Fridays from 6 p.m.–closing time varies

Where: Corner of Avenue 51 and York

What: Vegan horchata and juices

Rate: 9.5/10

Aguas Veganas vendor pouring a serving of Guava juice in the Eagle Rock community of Los Angeles on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017.

Aguas Veganas is conveniently stationed next to Cena Vegan and offers juices in addition to vegan horchata.

Their juices, while incredibly refreshing, are inherently vegan, so we’ll skip the review on those.

The vegan strawberry horchata was incredible. Horchata comes in a variety of forms, but typically consists of rice, condensed milk and cinnamon. Aguas Veganas uses almond milk to veganize their horchata and adds strawberries for extra fruity flavor. The strawberry flavor made this beverage (typically enjoyed for taste) refreshing. The rice, almond and cinnamon flavors combined with the fruitiness made the drink taste like strawberry pie in liquid form.