The past two weeks have likely wreaked havoc on the bodies of UCI students. On the heels of the caffeine binge that is finals week, spring break serves as a much-deserved reward for all our hard work during the quarter. Having consumed enough caffeine, crepes and cupcakes for a lifetime, I turned to Yelp for a vegan restaurant that would give my tired body a detox.
Huntington Beach’s VegiLicious came to the rescue. Located behind Trader Joe’s in Huntington Harbor Mall, the vegan café VegiLicious offers a variety of foods from burgers, salads and soup to curry and cheesecake. Every plant and grain consumed here is USDA-approved organic. The calm ambiance created by the earthy-colored interior décor immediately drew me in to the café, which had dark, hardwood tables evenly spaced out and original art on its light gray walls. Greeted by the friendly waiter, I sat down at the table and my shoulders dropped. The eco-friendly homey dining environment of VegiLicious provided me a welcome departure from the business of life.
Onto the food: In terms of the variety, I was impressed. To my surprise, I noticed that, among the standard burgers and salads, VegiLicious offers curry rice, an Asian dish that satisfies rice lovers like myself looking for something a little different. The yellow curry, which contains more than 20 different spices and organic vegetables, tastes mildly salty and has a hint of sweetness. VegiLicious’s signature curry boasts absolutely perfect organic jasmine rice: moist on the inside and chewy on the outside. Dried raisins top the jasmine rice, adding texture and rich flavor to dish. The medium-firm tofu is perfect with the rich curry sauce that is non-spicy and perfectly seasoned. The dish also comes with a side salad that is very light and tasty, flavored with a garlic-sesame dressing.
I also ordered the Teriyaki Hamburger, a popular item that contains soy steak and vegetables marinated with vegan mayonnaise and mellow teriyaki sauce. Although the burger is a bit salty, it’s nothing a side of steamed edamame can’t mellow out. The bun’s crumb has a tight but soft texture and tastes fresh. The burger is served hot and is even better if you add vegan melted cheese for an extra dollar. For non-vegans, the soy steak tastes just like regular meat in terms of its solid texture, though it lacks the juiciness of a real steak.
The sweet corn cream chowder is rich, but not too starchy, and has a natural sweetness from the corn that is very satisfying. Sunflower seeds and croutons top the chowder and add texture to the liquid soup base. It was a delight to taste and see the creativity of putting sunflower seeds in a simple soup. Beneficial to our body as well, sunflower seeds contain vitamin E, magnesium and selenium, which are antioxidant and essential minerals that would protect the skin, blood vessel walls, and bones, relax the nerves, and even help prevent cancer.
If you made room for desserts, VegiLicious has a small dessert menu that includes ice cream and chocolate cheesecake that are free from dairy products or eggs. There are also interesting and refreshing drinks to choose from, such as the organic lemonade with coconut water. Free Wi-Fi is available in the café, so it is a plus for those who want to stay longer to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee. You can even bring your laptop to do your work or read a book there.
The café had its grand opening not long ago in February. When I was eating, the owner greeted and asked me if I liked what I ordered. The service was decent because the waiter was very responsive and quick. I also appreciated how neat and clean-looking the café was — from the floor and the table to the restroom, every corner of the café was spotless.
One downside to VegiLicious is its distance from Irvine (25 minutes) and the fact that it is nowhere near the beach, despite its Huntington Beach address. The other downside may be the price because organic foods tend to be pricier. You pay $11 for a burger, a salad or a sandwich. But with the ambiance and healthiness of the food, it is definitely worth the drive. While we can still relax and enjoy life as the new quarter just began, why not grab a healthy vegan lunch with friends at VegiLicious before heading down to the beach?