Alien's Day Out

First week back in LA


So I’ve been in LA about a week now. It’s so nice to take a break from work and Korea. I love Korea, but about once a year I need to escape… I’m sure most of you know what I’m talking about! So yea… I’m just happy to be back.

Actually, the main reason why I came to LA was to celebrate my sister graduating with her masters degree in Interior Architecture! The ceremony was a few days ago and I was so glad to be there on this special occasion. I’m just so proud of her and all the hard work she put into it. :) Aside from that, ofcourse there are a few other things I’ve been up to, such as driving around, hanging out at cafes, eating good food, doing a little shopping (for myself and some people in Korea), soaking in all the gorgeous sunshine… you know, vacation stuff.

And what’s dis??? Vegan pho, at last. The day after I arrived, my sister and I hit up Pho Cafe in Silverlake because I’ve been craving good pho for almost 2 years. You can’t see the noodles in the picture because it’s buried under all the tofu and mushrooms. The soup had really clean flavors, and I loved the addition of fried tofu and mushrooms, as opposed to wheat meat. The soup wasn’t quite as deep or flavorful as I remember Hoa Sen‘s pho to be, but that could just be my failing memory, and it still totally hit the spot. My sister ordered the vegetarian vermicelli rice noodles with vegetarian egg rolls, tofu, and mushrooms. Also super good.

Brunch at Rialto Cafe in downtown Fullerton. I ordered a vegan soy chicken salad sandwich and coffee with soy milk. The sandwich was delicious! When I was still an omni in college, chicken salad sandwiches were one of my favorite cafeteria foods, so I was happy to indulge in an old time favorite, but without the cruelty this time around. The coffee was great too and I loved that the server was so generous with refilling the mug– something you don’t often get in Korea.

A friend and her cutie pie baby. She’s actually my sister’s long-time close friend but I know her from when I was living in OC for a bit. She was so kind and actually bought lunch for us– thank you Susan! xoxo

This past weekend, we also checked out the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market on Main St. There was so much awesomeness in one place, I could hardly contain myself. Such abundance of organic, local veggies… my kind of heaven. I bought a loaf of Whole Grain Oat bread from the all-vegan Secret Goldfish Baking Co. They were so nice and all the samples were yummy!

For a light lunch, I ordered a ‘Smash it up’ salad from the Homegirl Cafe & Catering booth. The lady threw in all kinds of fresh veggies including mixed greens, radishes, cucumber, bell peppers, mushrooms, beet roots, jicama, roasted corn, grilled onions, cactus, edamame beans, nuts and seeds, and some other things that I can’t recall. Everything got smashed/shaken up with some spicy dressings to create a really vibrant, healthy salad. It was perfect.

Had a grilled veggie and pesto sandwich at Urth Cafe. Juicy-good. When the server came around with the food, half of the sandwich accidentally fell off the plate and onto the table, so we had to wait a bit before they made a new half-sandwich. hehe. In Korea I don’t eat sandwiches very often, but it seems that I’m getting my fill of them here. :)

My sister and I have also been eating a lot at home because going out for every meal here would just be crazy-expensive. Every day for breakfast, I’ve been having toast with pb and apple butter. Simple but good. For one lunch, I sauteed some sweet potatoes, onion, broccoli, garlic, and kale together and enjoyed it with a slice of sprouted whole grain bread, sweet peas, and carrots. It’s definitely nice to have access to a working kitchen when you’re away from home. And last night I bought a bag of vegan doritos (the Spicy Sweet Chili flavor) just because I miss Doritos and they don’t have this flavor in Korea.

I bought these edamame-shaped crisps and they were addicting. Whenever I return to the US, I go through a little bit of culture shock all over again. Especially when I walk through the aisles of supermarkets and see entire walls of breakfast cereal or nutrition bars. I get overwhelmed just looking at them that I just stand there for a bit, staring and trying to decide what I want. Same goes for the restaurants here with all their vegan options. Being vegan in LA is so ridiculously easy that I’m once again reminded of how far Korea has to go in that department.

Other random things I’ve noshed on: Chipotle salad bowl, Peets Coffee, and Whole Foods boxed lunch!

Manhattan Beach. Perfect weather.

Last but certainly not least, today I had the vegan shawarma at Mendocino Farms for dinner (as per a few lovely readers’ suggestion!). So. freaking. good. It was rich, creamy, filling, flavorful and satisfying. My omni sister totally loved it too. If I ate this every day, I might block an artery though.

We also got to sample a few side dishes: the curried orzo and the potato salad, both yummy. I’m pretty sure I will be back to try out the other vegan sandwiches before I go back to Korea!

So that’s about it for the past week. This week my sister and I are driving up to SF! I’ve been to SF twice before, but not as a vegan, so I’m sure it will be a different experience this time around. And then the following week, guess what, I’m going to PORTLAND!!!! EEEHHH~~~! I’ve been wanting to go to Portland for soooo long and I wasn’t sure if I could afford it this time around, but I just decided to DO IT. Who knows when my next trip to the US will be and I think it’s time I make this dream a reality. If there are any SF or Portland peeps out there, let me know what you think are absolute must-sees and eats (preferably not too expensive). Gosh, I’m going to be so broke after this west-coast trip! Ta ta~~


  1. welcome to CA!! looks like you’re having a blast catching up on all of the fun-filled socal hot spots. :) happy traveling and if you ever find yourself in the OC again, be sure to hit up my favorite cafe — Freesoulcaffe in old town tustin. all vegan, tons of delicious soups, sandwiches, and baked goods!

  2. Blossoming Lotus in Portland is supposed to be out of this world!

  3. WOW!! I am super jealous with you. Just like you, I spent a long time studying in the US before coming back to Vietnam last August. This post seriously makes me miss the US so so so so much. Can’t wait for the next posts about SF and Portland. Cool places that I have always wished to visit but never got a chance to really explore.

    • Hi Annie, yea I’m excited to experience SF as a vegan this time, and also to finally go to Portland. I’ll do my best to take pics and blog about them later! :)

  4. All that food looks AMAZING!

    “but about once a year I need to escape… I’m sure most of you know what I’m talking about!” Yup, I know only too well. I kind grew up like you (moving and living in different countries) and although I can’t deny that I currently live in a fab place, I’ve been getting itchy feet lately. Very much hoping that I’ll be able to escape for a month in the summer.

    “Whenever I return to the US, I go through a little bit of culture shock all over again.” Hehe, I know what you mean. When I lived in Costa Rica and flew to Europe via the US twice a year, I was always struck by how everything suddenly got bigger and multiplied (the size of the muffins at the airport!). Or when I travelled to NY and went to Whole Foods. Mind-blowing. Too big actually.

    Good for you to deciding to just go to Portland. Enjoy it to the fullest (and I hope you blog about it! I haven’t been.)

    • Thanks Alua! Haha, i also noticed how things are bigger here~~ parking spaces, coffee take out cups, bags of chips…. :) Is it that everything is big, or that things in Korea are just miniature? :) Probably both.

  5. Portland is vegan heaven. Here’s a pretty good resource:

    A couple of my favorite places are Sweetpea Bakery (they also do sandwiches and soups) and A N D Cafe. But, there are just so many places (and food carts!) to choose from. I think you’ll be pleased.

    • Hi Casey! Ahhhh! I can’t wait~~ THanks for the recommendations~ And I also want to check out your Pizza place! :) If I can fit everything in…. hehe.

  6. I miss LA a lot! I used to live there for about a year. I grew up in San Diego though. :) Ahhhh. I haven’t been back in 2 years and your pictures are really making me miss it. Are you using blogstomp by chance?

    • Waddup Dustin~~ I feel a little bad for making everyone miss the US! And no… I have no idea what blogstomp is. hehe. You mean for the photos? I just made the collages using my iphone. I’ve been taking all the pics with my phone because my camera lens broke! But now I’m going to check out blogstomp because you got me all curious. :)

  7. Where do you find the money to do all that stuff?
    And to eat all that awesome food? Woah, I’m always blown away..
    But isn’t food expensive in Korea? And eating out, too.. how do you do it, seriously?

    • Yea, dining out is expensive but I try to balance it with eating at home as well. I save up so that I can try new foods while on vacation. :)

  8. You’ll love SF as a vegan even more!
    Must check out the PLANT cafe organic.

    Also, if you haven’t already been, check out Blue Bottle coffee place.

    Have fun!!

  9. in SF, go to Herbivore! My fav restaurant of all time!

  10. Cafe Gratitude in the SF area is hokey, but delicious.

    • Unfortunately, Cafe G closed down. I think the only location open is the one in Berkeley. Try Gracias Madre (same owners) in the Mission for some yummy vegan Mexican!

  11. So great to see you having a blast and eating so much good food!!!

  12. My sister lives in Portland! She’s always telling me about vegan things we have to eat when I come visit. (Usually we don’t get to many of them, so I don’t have much to suggest.) I know there’s a vegan food truck (food trucks are big in Portland), and some selections at Voodoo Doughnuts (sp?), plus about a hundred other things. You could go to one of the eat-in movie theatres with some vegan pizza in tow, check out Food Fight, the all-vegan grocery in the vegan mini-mall, which, frankly, is not quite all it’s hyped to be IMO but includes a vegan bakery. I was surprised that Food Fight is small and mostly all packaged/processed foods, but it’s fun to take a look.

    P.S. you look so cute in these pictures. :) And omg, Manhattan Beach looks beautiful. I love beach towns, especially how the streets and houses just end at the ocean and there’s “nothing” after that.

    • Hey Lu! Yea, I’ve heard that Portland is vegan mecca, so this will be my pilgrimage. There are just too many places to check out, I wish I had more time! Ooo, doughnuts…. that could be dangerous. :)

  13. I hope you have a great time in SF! I lived there for five years, and this is a great time of year to visit. Your blog was such a wonderful resource when I was in Seoul to run the marathon last year, and you were so sweet to write back to me – I’m really excited to return the favor :)

    If you want to eat yummy fruits (like stone fruit!) and veggies, check out Bi-Rite grocery on 18th St. in the Mission, near Dolores Park. They sell local produce from the same providers as farmers markets but they are open every day. Last time I was there, they sold Firebrand breads, hands-down my favorite vegan breads in the Bay Area – if you have access to a kitchen, warm it up in the oven for a bit and it’s heaven. Their housemade hummuses are really good – easy to get a picnic lunch there and take it over to Dolores Park for people watching! If you haven’t been to Rainbow Grocery, it’s such an experience and I’d recommend it. It’s a HUGE all vegetarian co-op. There is the farmers market at the ferry building, which is great but often quite crowded. I like the Castro Street farmers market, on Wednesday afternoons, at Market and Noe I think, hours are something like 4-7. In addition to beautiful salad greens with edible flowers from Happy Boy (I think), there are these Afghani stuffed flatbreads called Bolani that are uh-may-zing, and they’ll make you a vegan sample, just ask!

    As for food in restaurants, there is the delicious vegan tofu mole burrito at Papalote in the Mission, near 24th St. I’d double check about everything being vegan, but I’m pretty sure it is, and it’s very affordable. Gracias Madre is a new-ish all vegan Mexican restaurant in the Mission that can get pricey depending on what you order, but it’s great – I love the pozole – and you don’t need to order a lot because their portions are quite enormous. Millennium is a splurge but well worth it – chef Eric Tucker is a genius, and at a minimum, you should just peek at his menu because it will blow you away! The location is a little weird, but the restaurant is so incredible.

    I second the vote on Blue Bottle and would also recommend Four Barrel. Have a great time!!!!!

    • Wow, Tracy, thanks for all the suggestions!! I’m definitely planning on hitting up a few of those on your list~~ It’s too bad you’re not in SF, you could be my food guide. lol.

  14. Yay I am glad you had the vegan shawerma! I did try the vegan reuben at Flore after seeing your post on it, so thank you for that recommendation. ^___^

  15. WOWWWW! it’s so fabulous to be transported via your blog to the sunny awesomeness of Cali! The food and farmers market scene is all so full of color, it makes me so happy and I feel like I am there! I was in SoCal early last June, so it’s bringing back sunlit memories. ohMYgAwh that bowl of pho looks divine! and I love the name and deets on the ‘Smash it up’ salad. ‘Urth’ is a great name for a cafe too! I’m a sucker for a names I guess..that would be one of the funnest parts of having a business to me–a good name and logo to proclaim the coolness of my goods to the outside world..speaking of which, your bakeshop is a perfect example!

    • hehe, I love your comment, thanks Katy! Glad you like the post! And yep, the weather in LA is sooo perfect right now. Sunny in the day, but cool at night. I don’t miss Korea’s summer humidity one bit. :P

  16. I live in Portland, if you have any questions just email me!

    My favorite bakery is Dovetail, there is great pizza at Sizzle Pie, Portobello is very good Italian, yummy vegan pho at Luc Lac, crazy good Mexican at Taqueria Los Gorditos, delicious breakfast at Sweetpea or Paradox, great food and drinks at Bye & Bye and Sweet Hereafter.

    There are tons of amazing farmers markets but the biggest is on Saturdays at Portland State University with lots of vegan stuff, even kimchee!

    Seriously though, if you have any questions I would be happy to answer them! Have fun in Portland!

    • THanks bunches Amanda~~ I still have a while before I head to Portland, but I’m gonna look up those places when I’m there, for sho! :)

      • the sweet hereafter is great for drinks and unique sandwiches. Love their sandwiches! there is a really good all vegan BBQ cart on sw 4th & college – closed weekends. and voodoo is a must vegan or not. downtown at yamhill and 12th is the best Indian food you will ever have. get the $6 lunch special, its huge and enough to share. vita cafe on Alberta is good if your with carnivores. they have extensive vegan options and deserts. I also recommend Portobello. its small and gets busy so you’ll want to call a day early for reservations if you want to go there. they are a little pricy but sooo good and great atmosphere. have fun!!! :D

  17. Hi! Love your posts! This one makes me miss L.A. It’s so health food friendly!

  18. You can get those Calbee snacks on iHerb! Can’t wait to try it.

  19. Hi Mipa – so good to see you enjoying your visit in CA. I am thinking about moving to CA in a couple of years, if I can afford to. I do want to live in a place that has a good farmers market, but still pretty mellow and not so crowded. Easy access to an airport, etc. And of course, vegan friendly! I think it is really hard to choose, because as you say, CA seems to be very vegan friendly and there are so many nice places. So much to choose from….. Are there any vegan friendly Korean restaurants near LA? Let me know if you run into one that you liked. Enjoy yourself in SF and Portland. When you are in Portland, you have to go to the famous flea market!

    • hehe, I don’t know too much about Korean food in LA…. I’m sure there are options in Korea Town though. :) Thanks for the comment!!

  20. It’s wonderful that you’re having a lovely trip to California!

    I live in SF and here are some more suggestions.
    1. Blue Bottle coffee – it’s the best!
    2. Source It’s an all vegetarian/vegan restaurant – any item on their menu can be ordered vegan! It’s so good! I go there a couple times a week with friends for lunch. The portions are huge too so we frequently share.
    3. There’s a place in Chinatown called Enjoy Vegetarian – most of their items are vegan.
    4. California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park has a lot of cool exhibits including a rainforest sanctuary and a living roof.

    I hope you enjoy the rest of your visit to the US!

  21. Don’t even get me started on Portland! Here are my favorites:

    -Homegrown Smoker – all-vegan barbecue cart, two locations, amazing but definitely not healthy! The Macnocheeto is a burrito with soy curls, barbecue sauce, beans, and mac n cheese. It’s definitely an experience (and people rave about it), but the best thing I’ve had there is the reuben special. You can also get a plate with a couple of proteins and a couple of sides, which is nice if you want to try things.
    -Sip – all-vegan juice, smoothie, and milkshake cart next to a natural co-op grocery
    -Vegan mini mall – in SE Portland at 12th and Stark, has sweetpea vegan bakery (which has a $10 all-you-can-eat brunch on Sundays in addition to fantastic baked goods and sandwiches all the time), Food Fight vegan grocery for all your fake meat and cheese and bulk soycurl needs, a vegan tattoo parlor, and Herbivore clothing/book/etc. store
    -PSU Farmer’s Market – every saturday morning, lots of food samples and just a generally fun place to walk around. Near the Portland art gallery and a bunch of other centrally-located attractions.
    -Prasad – hippie eatery in downtown Portland attached to a yoga studio. Rice bowls and some raw entrees and fancy teas and juices. A little pricey for how much food you get, but everything is really fresh and high-quality
    -Blossoming Lotus – another hippie restaurant. I like their brunches more than their dinners.
    -Portobello Vegan Trattoria – fancier (but still decently priced for what you get, I think) Italian place. Best meal I’ve had in Portland bar none. If you go (and you should go!), be sure to try the gnocchi and the beet tartar.
    -Los Gorditos – Mexican place across from Portobello. Cheap and good. Serves meat, but has a separate vegan menu, with vegan chorizo, soy curls, or tofu for your protein needs. I usually just get a plate of beans and rice and avocado and eat a lot of salsa.
    -Dovetail – bakery on Alberta St! Right near the Vita Cafe (see below), I’ll sometimes go there if there’s a breakfast wait at Vita. The sticky buns are good.
    -Vita Cafe – almost-vegetarian diner with a ton of vegan options. They also own a fancier restaurant down the street (Natural Selection), but I’ve never been there.
    -Back to Eden Bakery – also on Alberta, also really good. A gluten free toffee bar is the best thing I’ve had there.
    -Native Bowl – still on Alberta! $6.50 bowls of rice + tofu or soy curls + sauces and toppings. Cheap and so good.
    -New Seasons Wok Bar – maybe not super unique, but an awesome deal. For about $7 you can fill a huge bowl with at least 2 meals worth of noodles and vegetables, and they’ll stir fry it for you. Good if you have a place to store food and are on a budget. New Seasons is a Portland chain of natural food stores.
    -Coava – they pretty much only sell coffee, but it’s some of the best coffee I’ve had in town. Their cafe’s in a big industrial space and the tables are repurposed machines of some sort.

    Not food:
    -Forest Park – biggest city park in the USA! There’s an arboretum and some memorials, and you can walk from there to the Japanese Gardens.
    -Powell’s City of Books – HUGE bookstore. It takes up an entire city block.
    -Museum of Contemporary Craft – fancy modern craft museum. I really like it.
    -Portland Art Gallery – city art gallery. Big collections of American and Native American art.
    -OMSI – science museum. If you can borrow or rent a bike, OMSI is a nice ride on the river from downtown.
    -Multnomah Falls – outside of the city about 40 miles. Big waterfall next to the Columbia River. You can walk up to it, and there are a bunch of other waterfalls in the area that you can visit, too. Oneonta Gorge is my favorite, but you have to get a little wet on the walk there.
    -There’re a lot of concerts and art exhibits. Pick up a copy of the Mercury (free newsweekly) and see what’s going on where!

  22. For something casual and super healthy, try Chaya in San Francisco (awesome Japanese vegan) and if you can, Millennium! (If you can make it on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of every month (June 13th, 27th), you get 25% off your entire meal if you mention the Convert a Carnivore special. Such a good deal. :) Millennium is one of the best vegan restaurants I’ve ever been to – you will love it :)

    Oh and for some tasty vegan desserts (including baked yummies, knowing you’re an awesome baker and all):
    — Pepples Donuts – they have a kiosk in the ferry building. Their vanilla glazed and salted caramel are my fantastic.
    –Cinnaholic – Berkeley, right near campus. FREAKIN AMAZING vegan cinnamon rolls that you can customize with your own frosting flavor and toppings – EVERYTHING is vegan in the store- including the brownies that you can get on top of your cinnamon roll if you want to overindulge :P (And the employees are all vegan – but you can’t eat them. :P) Wow, look at all those capitalized words. Shows you how much I love this place!
    – Saturn Cafe – right next to Cinnaholic is a vegetarian diner with all the greasy diner food you could want, including vegan milkshakes!
    –Anything from Black China bakery – the bakery is down in Santa Cruz but they have cakes and sometimes slices of cakes at the Noe Valley Whole Foods in SF and Rainbow Grocery (you should check out Rainbow Grocery – huge co-op – everything is vegetarian, Might want to set aside half the day for this – that’s how big the store is).
    –Vegan sorbets at Humphry Slocombe– Jesus Juice (red wine + cola) is my fav :)

    • Thanks so much Julie for your extensive list of recommendations! There’s just too much I want to try, but not enough time or meal times~ :) I just went to Gracias Madre though, and you were right, absolutely yummy!! Thanks again!

  23. And if you want a food buddy, email me and I’ll take you around! I always love meeting new vegan friends!

    Oh, forgot one more – Shangri-la Vegan in Oakland. Organic, vegan, macrobiotic food that is so comforting and delicious and warming. No menu – the chefs cook whatever they find fresh at the market that day and you just choose your portion size – moderate or full. Here’s the website:

    On weekends, they have a buffet! I seriously go here at least 3 x week all the way from San Francisco :)

  24. Yay! I’m glad you’re having fun in LA. I’ve never been (east coast best coast! :p), and I’m also not vegan lol (but I love reading your blog anyway and learning new ways to bake things) so I don’t have places to recommend. But if you’re up for something different, might I suggest vegan, cruelty-free makeup? Haha I know it’s a pretty random suggestion. OCC Makeup ( is kind of like, really artist friendly makeup, like their Lip Tars come in pinks and reds but they also come in yellows and blues and white and black for mixing and making your own customized shades. And they’re all crazy bright! And feel comfortable on the lips. They also do powdered pigments for eyeshadows, liquid foundation (they even have an airbrushing tool), concealers etc. Since you’re an artist-y person you might wanna check it out, they have locations in CA: I promise I don’t work for them haha, just a recently converted fan! :D

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  26. I get off work late and I always read your blog late at night when I’m hungry… I love the blog, but I hate how awesome the food always looks. You’re killing me, M! Enjoy your time stateside and congrats to big sis!

    • Andyyy! I’m trying to lure you to veganism with all the food pictures. :) Is it working?? HOpe you’re well over there. miss ya!

  27. You have to visit Pizza Oasis in Portland. My daughter Casey (whom you have exchanged emails with) and her husband are the owners. Best Vegan Pizza ever ( I am biased , but it is also true). It is on Burnside. Her email is Casey is also a great source to all things Vegan in Portland. Maybe she would take you over the famous Vegan strip mall, where Herbivore clothing and Sweet Pea Bakery is.

  28. All these photos make me want to scream because they’re so pretty!

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