LA Convention CenterPicture this: You find yourself at the enormous L.A. Convention Center. You don’t know your way around the city. You’re hungry. And a vegetarian. What do you do? 

It’s true the convention center is not the most veg-friendly area of the town. Walking between the big buildings of the convention center and Staples Center feel sort of like trying to get to the next casino in Vegas: it looks so close, yet you’re still walking. Throw in giant billboards and ads on huge TV screens and you might feel like you’ll never find a place to sit down and eat. But on my recent visit, I found a few good candidates for veg meals and ate at two of them. 

On my first day on a recent two-day trip to L.A., I was super tired, as I’d gotten up at 4:30 a.m. to catch a plane. So I was bumbling around, more confused and navigationally challenged than ever. I heard there was a place right in the convention center complex called L.A. Live with a bunch of restaurants. After walking in circles, I finally found a security guard. “Where’s L.A. Live?” I asked. “And does everybody get so lost trying to find it?” 

“Where did you park?” 

I said I flew. 

“That’s the problem,” he said “If you drive, you just park and take the elevator.” It was so L.A.  

Yard House 

But he did point me in the right direction and soon I was at the Yard House. I’d never heard of it, but turns out it’s a chain with outlets in many states. In fact, their website says we’re supposed to get one here in Portland next year. It’s a little like a Hard Rock with less memorabilia. Cold, dark and loud inside. Cosmetically, not the sort of place towards which I gravitate. However, they had a quieter outdoor seating area and, amazingly, an entire section of their menu featuring a fake meat called Gardein. Plus lots of salad and veg appetizers. 

Yard HouseMost of the veg dishes looked heavy on the dairy, but I found one that looked vegan. Or close enough for me when I’m stuck at the L.A. Convention Center. For $9.95, the Gardein chicken bowl had baby corn, bok choy, celery, peppers, pea pods, broccoli and fake chicken over brown rice. It was similar to what I’d make at home, not the most exciting dish. But I was excited to get some wholesome food. 

Sometimes when I’m traveling and have little control over my environment, I go into this fear mode where I worry I’ll never see a vegetable again. So I got a field green salad, too, topped with mushy tomatoes, grated carrots and garlic bread croutons. I even had leftovers for my hotel fridge. Oh, and they had my two favorite hot sauces, Tabasco and Sriracha. And served the Sriracha in a small white bowl, which was extra classy. I felt contented sitting outside in the shade, away from the full volume of the classic rock.  

Indus Café 

That night, still worried I’d starve during my trip to Los Angeles, I cased out a likely lunch place for day two. Just four blocks from the convention center, I found a food court at 7th and Figueroa. Beneath the City Target sits Indus by Saffron, an Indian. Sure enough, it made for an excellent lunch the next day. 

Indus cafeIndus has quite a few good veg dishes. You can get two curries and rice for $8.45. If you’d rather have salad than rice, they’ll swap it. Or for another dollar, you can get vegetables instead of rice. I pondered this for a while. The server encouraged me to order the rice, since they’d gone to the trouble of finding a good brown rice supplier. He pointed out that Indian restaurants don’t usually have brown rice. Realizing he was right, I ordered rice with my chana masala and peeli dahl. 

A few chopped onions topped my chana masala. The dahl was mild, yellow, wholesome tasting and not at all greasy. Next to the tub of hot sauce was a warning sign that the hot sauce was actually hot. That’s what they all say, I thought. They were right! It really did sear the roof of my mouth. I was happy, as hot sauce is so often not hot enough. The mint sauce mixed with brown rice provided a good counterpoint to the heat. 

So I learned it’s possible to visit the L.A. Convention Center and not starve. And even eat brown rice two days in a row! 

Yard House  http://www.yardhouse.com/default.aspx

Indus by Saffron  http://www.saffronindia.com/