Long Beach may be moving toward a future as a plant-based city. Following in the footsteps of Los Angeles restaurants like P.Y.T., Cafe Gratitude and Un Solo Sol, more Long Beach businesses are getting in on the trend and offering meatless options.
“I can think of like 10 places in Long Beach with vegan food or vegan options,” said Hannah Suarez, employee at Steamed and Seabirds, two vegetarian-vegan restaurants that have opened in Downtown Long Beach in the last 10 years. According to Suarez, this influx is only increasing.
“In Downey, where I grew up—not even in the more affluent area—there’s a place with vegan donuts,” they said. “So restaurants are definitely more accommodating now, but people are coming to Long Beach for that experience.”
Long Beach is becoming a greener city in many ways, one of which is its growing population of plant-based dieters and restaurants to feed them. This trend towards vegetarian and vegan-friendly cuisine comes on top of the city’s recent environmental proposal to reduce port pollution and require trucks passing through to be zero-emission, via the Clean Air Action Plan.
Studies have shown that vegetarianism and veganism are the most environmentally friendly diets. An Elementa journal study found that eating a diet with less meat has more carrying capacity, meaning a higher number of people can be nutritiously fed without land and resource degradation. It also found, though, that diets with a healthy range of meat and dairy have more carrying capacity than ones completely free of animal products.
A study in the scholarly journal Climatic Change claims that people who eat over 100 grams a day of meat have almost twice the carbon dioxide emissions (7.19 kilograms of CO2 per day) as those who eat primarily fish (3.91 kg/d). Next is vegetarians (3.81 kg/d) while vegans have the lowest carbon emissions of all (2.89 kg/d).
Another way to decrease carbon emissions is by buying local. Community-sourced produce requires the least amount of travel and emits the least amount of carbon. Additionally, buying in season ensures that food is not being flown around the globe to land on one’s plate.
When one buys locally, more money per transaction stays within the community than if they were to buy from a grocery store. Businesses like the Growing Experience Urban Farm in North Long Beach are completely sustainable—they use rainwater for their plants, solar panels for power and a drip irrigation system to ensure no water is wasted. Plus, because they give their food back to the community that grows it; there is almost no emission from transportation.
A vegetarian way of life can seem expensive, but the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations finds that vegetables often cost less than meat and various studies show many in the U.S. have exaggerated perceptions of the real cost of fruits and veggies. However, one may need to eat a larger serving size of plant foods to get the same amount of nutrients like protein or iron that meat provides.
Vegan and vegetarian food can be purchased anywhere. Some convenient and surprisingly low-cost stores include Food4Less, Trader Joe’s and Smart and Final. Long Beach also has several weekly farmers markets with fresh seasonal produce that can be located on the Local Harvest and LBFresh websites.
Although store-bought and farmers market vegetables are often cheaper than meat, vegan dishes tend to be just as or more expensive than dishes with meat. There is often a premium on plant-based fare, especially in Long Beach.
“With vegan food, there’s a level of craft that goes into it,” said Suarez, the employee from Steamed and Seabirds. “When you make tacos with pork of beef — things with a lot of fat in them — that kind of substitutes for flavor.”
To be taken seriously in the industry, some vegan restaurants rely on their novelty by providing a certain ambience and charge more. Plus, meatless options are typically associated with healthier and organic food, two pricier alternatives.
“Maybe sometimes it’s kind of expensive but it’s more fresh,” said Jeronimo Diaz, a vendor and farmer of Divine Harvest Family Farm in Ontario. “It’s directly from the farm to the farmers market and at [grocery] stores you don’t know how many days it’s been there.”
Diaz says his farm does not sell anything over a day old. Anything older he donates to homeless shelters, churches or feeds to his pigs. This way, all the produce is used within the neighborhood where it was grown.
“[I] definitely try to support local agriculture for many reasons,” said Bryce Hatch, a 19-year-old frequenter of Long Beach farmers markets. “From having a low-carbon footprint to just giving the local people your money instead of large corporate farms. Keep your money in the community.”
Yelp’s Top 10 Meatless Restaurants in Long Beach:
- Seabird’s – American fusion, breakfast and brunch.
- Ahimsa Vegan Cafe – Asian fusion salads, bowls and sandwiches.
- The Grain Cafe – Mexican breakfast and desserts.
- The Wild Chive – pop-up vegan sandwiches, soul food and juice.
- The HipPea – Falafels with gluten free options.
- Steamed Organic Vegetable Cuisine – certified organic Tex-Mex bowls and salads.
- I Love Vegan – Thai food with soy meat.
- Under the Sun – Raw food, juice and sushi.
- Veggie Grill – Gluten free bowls, salads and sandwiches.
- Appu’s Cafe – Indian wraps and curries.