(Vida) Vegan Eats Vegas

Pink box, check

A funny thing happened last week. There I was, ready to hit ‘publish’ on a week and a half’s worth of deep thoughts, silly thoughts, and edited photos from my time in Las Vegas, and cue the Debbie Downer music. My saved revisions vanished and my feedback from WordPress consisted of their twitter account favorite-ing my distressed tweet. I uttered one of my rare curses, took a deep breath, recalling the lack of a miracle the one other time this had happened ages ago (and one I had desperately taken to the support forums for), and went about my day. And here we are, one week later, another soy latte in front of me and Vida Vegan location scouting trip behind me, reflecting on Vegas’ vegan scene and event options. That, and with a new contract gig now in my hands (not VVC-related, for the record) highly anticipating affording an actual meal at one of those fancypants restaurants, many of which we did take private tours of, at the Wynn, Encore, Mandalay Bay and elsewhere on our next visit. Trust me, we ate a lot of peanut butter on multigrain bread in between all our meetings.

Truly, it was the lavish, Wynn-led, vegan dining buzz that caught my attention when my cohorts expressed their interest in location scouting Las Vegas for future Vida Vegan events. I’d been years ago for an old job and the highlight was a dinner at P.F. Chang’s. Ronald’s was the must at the time, one of the few stops for actual vegan, yeasted doughnuts in the US, but an impossibility on that short trip without a rental car (you know, or a license or actual interest in driving). Of course, Ronald’s remains a vegan sweet spot, so to speak, and one I finally made it to. Its Instagram geo-tags show stoked vegan road trippers from all over, holding yet another big pink box, and I can totally see how it blew vegans minds throughout the past decade (especially in an era of P.F. Chang’s and salad bar buffet dinners).

So, here’s to a little more photo essay and a little less talking.

We’re on our way.

We hit up:

At the Las Vegas Hilton
Tempeh Muffuletta, Whole Foods
Outside Las Vegas City Hall
Behind the scenes of a legit photoshoot: Red Velvet’s chocolate chip cookie dough minicake

To be honest, the cupcake was a little heavy on the shortening and an odd vanilla taste bordering on the artificial, but the bathroom photoshoot remains a highlight.

Team Vida Vegan HQ, at our finest

Off to our first of two trips doing “research” at Ronald’s:

Cue gasping.
# of donut holes that made it back to Portland: 14
Definitely not a Dunkin.
Behold, the cinnamon chocolate twist.

For once, I think I made the right ordering decision.

Breakfast with Team VVHQ

Setup, smartphone, bite, smartphone, bite, continued.

Signs and guns and signs for guns, across the street.

The following was part of a series of cutesy motivational cards inside one of the UNLV bathrooms:

That’s right.
Rad to see

And then there was a lot more location scouting, palm trees and damn clear, desert skies.


…because you can’t keep Team Vida Vegan HQ out of visiting Whole Foods wherever they go:

Whole Foods Las Vegas Blvd.
I’ll take one of each.
Pho Bar, Whole Foods
Pho Chay with Beyond Meat & tofu, Whole Foods

This small cup of soup was a very budget business trip-friendly $2.99!

Tempeh Bacon, Vegan Sour Cream & other healthy in-house goodies, Whole Foods

Someone else probably thinks that looks appetizing, right? I was tempted by the Vegan Jalapeno Mac & Cheese, which is a combo I’ve been seeing more and more of lately. We also tried a lovely quinoa vodka.

Next up, we have a Vegan Drinks-style Meetup at Bar + Bistro (since the actual Vegas Vegan Drinks has been on hold). The vegan-friendly restaurant and lounge is located inside a rad building that’s part art studio, gallery, yoga space and community center.

Bar + Bistro in the Arts District
Smokey and the Bandit cocktail, Bar + Bistro’s outdoor patio (plus @vegankitten)
Double-fried plantains with spicy roasted ketchup, Bar + Bistro

The crispy plantains were seriously my favorite part of the meal.

Tortilla pizza with holy basil, Bar + Bistro

Things I do not comprehend: surprise tortilla crusts. Okay, we were in the Southwest, but the appearance took away so much of my much-needed mental preparation for sharing this d-cheese pizza. Fortunately, I followed my sole slice with a glass of wine. On the plus side, it was crispy and better yet, my heart beats for Thai basil.

We also shared a trio of Vega mini sliders:


I’m thinking the ‘Vega meat’, which was listed elsewhere on the vegan items, including a taco and stuffed pepper, was starring one ancient grain or another. It didn’t seem to go over largely that well at my table, but I enjoyed the taste over texture, and would be curious to try it in a taco.

Inside The Arts Factory, really great vibe

Real talk, the Shot Show (in addition to an antiques weapons show with guest Tom Selleck at the Riviera) was in town during our scouting trip, and many site visits including some rather mesmerizing scenes.

Crazy town at the Venetian
View from the Palazzo
Juice Farm, brand new to the Venetian/Palazzo

A welcome sight and a sign of change…

Inside The Boiler Room, Rick Mooney’s new restaurant at Mandalay Bay

My favorite of the trip:

Beer Battered Avocado & BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Tacos, Garden Grill

These tacos, an affordable and fresh pair for $7, were easily the most flavorful and memorable meal of our trip.

The totally vegan Garden Grill stand moves from this Fresh52 farmers market to parks and events around the Las Vegas area, and is definitely one to track down.  See their current menu here.

Tacos, aside:

A rare pink box returning to Portland.

Of course, I always bring my dear J. Legume back a little something something when I’m out of town:

Donut holes, chocolate cinnamon twist, chocolate soy cream and cinnamon sugar donuts 

Sunrise Coffee was our last stop for one more meeting before heading to the airport. It’s been quite some time since I’ve purposely traveled to a strip mall for coffee, with the Long Island suburbs so far behind me, and this place was a great gem. Vegan food, appreciation for Joey Fatone and Michael Cera on their tip jar, and coffee poured in charming mason jars.

The only thing I would have liked even more was a tray of fresh Ronald’s for dipping. Note to self (on the internet) for the next visit.

Americanos with varying degrees of soymilk, Sunrise Coffee
January patios
Sunrise Coffee, Las Vegas
We’re talking d-e-s-e-r-t.

And check-mark, I didn’t play once, as much as even the airport tries to lure you in one more time.

Nope. McCarran International Airport.

Xan Confections, from Irvine via Las Vegas to Portland:

Xan chocolates, Whole Foods
Ancho Chile, Peppermint Piano and Butterscotch Jewel

And that’s that, until dates are announced for the next two to three years of Vida Vegan events. WE’RE SO CLOSE. For that matter, I’ve nailed the missing draft problem and blame it on non-saving Wordpress windows left open when my Chromebook closes. I had every intention of polishing up and sharing this photo essay during our Austin trip, but there was simply no spare time during what became Operation: Meetings & Tacos, galore.


  1. I’ve regretted not attending the first two VVCs and so I am determined to come to the next. While I not-so-secretly hope it’ll be in Portland again because I haven’t been there since I was 8, Vegas would certainly make my travel time shorter. I’ll simply be happy to be there, wherever it may be. Thank you for all this work you do to make it happen!

  2. This sounded like a yummy trip. Thank you for sharing.

    I’ve had really frustrating experiences as well with lost drafts. The last one made me lose some 3 to 5 hours of work… now, I copy-paste my drafts in Word documents once in a while, because I just really don’t want this to happen again. As for me, I just hit the Back key and couldn’t retrieve my draft.

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