Real Food Daily

Quite often, usually for lunch

899 E. Del Mar Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91106

Mengsha: Real Food Daily specializes in food for people with dietary restrictions. Everything is vegan, and everything on the menu is clearly labeled: gluten free, nut-free, soy-free. It’s located very close to where we live, and since we have quite a few vegan friends, we come here on a regular basis. They specialize in comfort food, and the portion sizes are generous. Expect to pay between $15-$20 per person.

My opinion of vegan food is that it should taste just as good as, if different from, regular food. Sorry, but you don’t get special treatment for giving up meat (and dairy). Stereotypically bad vegan food tries and fails to taste like it has meat in it. Good vegan food needs to fall into one of two camps – either it tastes so close to its non-vegan counterpart that you can’t tell them apart, or it embraces the flavors of its vegetable and grain ingredients. I’ve had great food under both of these categories.

RFD (Real Food Daily) really shines in the second category. The ingredients are fresh and their aiolis, vegan cheese, and sauces are all on point. The yucca fries, lasagna, not-chos, burrito, jackfruit street tacos (pictured below), cornbread, sea cake, and anything off the real food basics menu are all reliable and worth trying. When they try to imitate meat dishes however, such as in the Argentine BBQ (grilled seitan with chimichurri sauce), they don’t do so well. You expect the savoriness of steak to counterbalance the acidic and bright green sauce. Instead, you have the slightly sweet flavor of gluten (wheat protein), which is what seitan is. I’m also not a fan of the Kung Pao, but that’s a different issue. I’m generally against “asian food” that’s drizzled evenly with a sweet and sour sauce.

Jackfruit Street Tacos: vegan, gluten free, nut free 😛

RFD has another aspect too. If you read their menu, you’ll notice that they really cater to the health food freaks that come to mind when you think of LA. Nowhere on the menu is this more obvious than in their juices and smoothies. Each one is chock full of so-called “superfoods” regardless of whether these flavors complement each other. I did order one once, but it tasted too much like a fad for me to try it again. If juice cleanses and spirulina are your thing, by all means go ahead.

For dessert, the chocolate pudding is amazing. I cannot for the life of me figure out how they make their vegan Chantilly cream. Time to look it up in their cookbook – did I mention that they have two vegan cookbooks?

Bring your vegan friends. They’ll love you. Bring your non-vegan friends too, and they might be surprised at just how tasty plants can be.

3 out of 5 stars

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