From falafels to kabobs and only a half block from the University of La Verne, Argo Mediterranean Grille is one of the few D Street Old Town La Verne restaurants that offers vegan friendly cuisine. / photo by Vincent Matthew Franco

From falafels to kabobs and only a half block from the University of La Verne, Argo Mediterranean Grille is one of the few D Street Old Town La Verne restaurants that offers vegan friendly cuisine. / photo by Vincent Matthew Franco

story and photography
by Vincent Matthew Franco

Being vegan makes me popular with my fast food friends. They always invite me along because they know I keep my diet honest, no matter where they go. For the past three years, I have learned how to maneuver through a web of fast food menus showing little to no actual vegan options. Even with multiple fast food chains adding Beyond Meat to their menu, it can be a challenge to gauge whether you are able to stay faithful in a vegan or even vegetarian way.

At first it was hard to be vegan, but my ethics and morals nagged at me, forcing me to keep trying. There are also the health benefits commonly thought of when taking on this diet, but when you are a student, and you only have $80 for the week, choosing healthy might not be the easiest option. Without having to turn a blind eye to some preparation processes—something I have unfortunately been guilty of before—I have managed to figure out how to survive not only on a budget but simply how and what to order.

The following is a survivor’s guide to eating vegan at fast food chains and locally on the University of La Verne campus.

Old Town La Verne, at first glance, does not beckon to college students on a vegan diet. In fact, unless you are over 21, there is not much catering to a college student demographic. But on second look, I discovered D Street restaurants that offer vegan menu options.

The No. 1 prime destination to hit is Bowl House. Located right on Third Street, across from Wilson Library, this mom and pop Asian fusion restaurant only offers one vegan option: a fried tofu bowl with white rice and glass noodles sprinkled with sesame seeds, making it a plentiful meal at only $9. The plate itself is decently sized and comes nicely packed. And if you add a can of soda, it will only cost a couple of dollars more, bringing your total to $10.91.

A short walk away on D Street is the new Nambah Coffee, taking the location of the former Cactus Coffee. It offers, of course, plenty of coffee and drinking options, but there is also a variety of pastries, and among those, is a vegan brownie. Vegan pastries can be hard to come by because they are prepared without milk, eggs and butter. For those with a sweet tooth, this is a big win. Make sure to ask for it warmed up so this delightful brick of fudge can melt right in your mouth.

Further north on D Street is Argo Mediterranean Grille, which offers a falafel stuffed with fried garbanzo beans and plenty of herbs and spices, priced at $13. This may be the restaurant’s only main dish that is vegan, but as for sides, choose from grape leaves packed with rice, pita chips, grilled eggplants with tomatoes, and a grilled pepper and tomato on a stick. These sides are bigger than usual, and their prices range from $5 to $10. 

Before venturing into areas outside of the general school area, do not overlook the University of La Verne’s Barbara’s Place, which has gone through a complete menu change this fall semester. Before, they would offer a burrito bowl, similar to Chipotle’s bowl options, but only with tofu and a less spicy green salsa. Now, they offer a black bean veggie burger, reasonably sized and reasonably priced at $8. And if worse comes to worse, Circle K is always open and Takis chips, along with Lemon Lays potato chips, are miraculously vegan.

Heading into fast food territory, start with a personal favorite of mine (surprise!) Del Taco. With its menu loaded with Beyond Meat options plus its 24 hours of operation, this establishment is a tried and true vegan choice, especially for late nights. To start off, Del Taco has its epic Beyond fresh guacamole burrito that costs near $9. Do not let this price scare you away though because it is almost overflowing with its contents and is heaped with the best fast food guacamole available.

Other burritos on the menu include the Beyond 8 Layer Burrito, a classic bean and cheese burrito, and an 8 Layer Veggie Burrito. All range from $5 to $8. If you do not feel like stuffing your face into a baby-sized burrito, you can settle for a lighter meal, like the Beyond guacamole tacos. These sell for about $3 each.

Next is Taco Bell. Whichever side you land on, it is hard to argue that this faux-Mexican restaurant has been here for us veggies since day one. While still cooking products produced by animals like dairy, egg and honey, Taco Bell helped ease the transition into becoming a vegetarian for me thanks to its absolute vegetarian menu options. With 21 overall vegetarian options, Taco Bell might have the most options of all major fast food chains. Just look for that little green “v” while scanning through the menu, or ask to replace some of the meat options with beans. Although items like the spicy potato soft taco, or the cheesy bean and rice burrito can be made vegan when you take away the cheese and chipotle sauces, those are two vital ingredients that make them worthwhile. Even when looking for a quick snack, nothing can beat the Baja Blast and cinnamon twist combo. The water activated beans are not always the best, but they make due. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a vegan meal here, one filling option would be to get the bean burrito, with no onions—unless you like onions in your beans—and no cheese, and then add potatoes to it. Ordering two makes for a decent meal when you are on a budget or on the run, at only $1.69 a burrito.

No matter what diet preference a person may have, Carl’s Jr. and Burger King may not be the first on any list, but they both still offer Beyond burgers. These two put more effort into tapping into the vegan market than most other fast food eateries. Sure, your fries might be soggy, or the burger will be cold by the time you take that first bite, but they are both open relatively late and work well as a last resort. Burger King’s Impossible Whopper meal prices out to $11.99 while Carl’s Jr. Beyond Famous Star with cheese meal is $12.53.

Vincent Matthew Franco is a senior journalism major at the University of La Verne.