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mao’s on melrose

On my recent trip to L.A. to check out Veggie Grill, my fellow bloggers and I had Saturday night on our own. Wherever would we dine? I knew we were supposed to go to Real Food Daily, but I felt this pull from Mao’s Kitchen, a super unpretentious Chinese joint I would walk to all the time when I lived in L.A. I didn’t want to force it on the ladies, but they agreed because we simply do not have good vegan Chinese in Portland.

What I remember and love about Mao’s was how vegan-friendly they were. It wasn’t just that they had vegan options, but the vegan options were just as valid as the omni ones. Once we had company and called in an order for delivery. One of the soups was not vegan, and shortly after placing the order we got a call alerting us that we had ordered something nonvegan. You gotta love that. (Of course, all vegan would be better, but I can’t complain unless I’m willing to open my own restaurant.)

We went to the Melrose location, since it was right by our hotel, but if you’re in Venice, there’s one there too! Don’t worry, both have communist-themed décor.

The Specials Board! You probably can’t see it ’cause it’s written so tiny, but every dish can be made vegetarian or vegan. “Just ask!”

They’re just fried wontons, but damn, do they make me happy. When you first walk in, they take your drink orders then get you your chips. I guess there have been enough occasions when I was sooooo hungry that these felt life-saving. Not for nothin’, they’re perfect for scooping up fried rice.

The onion pancake. I always remember getting two layers, and it was simply fluffy, oniony perfection. This was one thick layer and was sadly a bit doughy.

The $1 spring roll! (They’ve also got a $1 salad.) It’s not going to knock your proverbial socks off, but it’s a little spicy and just feels right.

The People’s Potstickers. These are filled with smoked tofu, a couple varieties of mushroom, and bok choy.

My old stand-by, the fried rice. Like all the main dishes, this comes with your choice of soft, smoked, or fried tofu. Why do I stick with the plain ol’ fried rice? Because before this, I have already eaten chips, a spring roll, and at least one other starter. This leaves little room in the belly, and what makes for better leftovers than fried rice? Oh, and it’s seriously one-third tofu.

Long-life beans, anyone? Again, simple, classic, it’s just green beans in a black bean sauce with smoked tofu.

Hong Kong Chow Mein made vegan. Saucy vegetables and fried tofu over pan-fried noodles. Food for the people!

Don’t forget your homemade ginger ale!


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