PHOTOGRAPHS BY NATE ABBOTT
Chef Tanya’s Kitchen, an unassuming spot in a non-descript industrial area near the airport, wears a lot of hats. It’s a take-out deli, a grab-and-go market, and a manufacturing facility that attracts an equally varied customer base, from lifelong vegans to those beginning to dabble in plant-based eating as well as die-hard carnivores looking to swap meat for something that tastes as good in the name of health. They line up almost every day of the week to pick up a bevy of plant-based dishes created by chef Tanya Petrovna.
The Palm Springs resident opened her first vegetarian restaurant in town in 1990. At the time, she called it a “gourmet bistro,” concerned she might attract fewer customers if she used the word vegetarian. Later, she launched Native Foods, a vegan restaurant that expanded to locations around the country. (Though the original Native Foods is still operating in Palm Springs, Petrovna is no longer involved.)
After opening Chef Tanya’s as a manufacturing kitchen in 2017 to produce the deli-style seitan she sells commercially, Petrovna decided to start selling a few vegan sandwiches to test the market. They were a hit, and she quickly turned the front portion of her venue into a full-scale deli, becoming a cult favorite for Coachella Valley residents as well as vacationers and those who drive miles out of their way to load up on veggie-friendly fare while passing by on Interstate 10. She eventually moved on from serving only lunch, increasing hours to 8 p.m. so that locals can grab dinner on their way home from work.
Hearty sandwiches like the Chupacabra Chick’n, stacked with crispy seitan filets, pickled jalapeños, avocado, and cilantro along with her Tempeh power burgers have become best-sellers, as have her multi-colored salads like the Mexican-inspired Oh-My-Gato-Taco layered with lettuces, pickled cabbage, black beans, crumbled seitan-based taco meat, avocado salsa and Tanya’s famous chipotle ranch dressing.
In addition to her signature menu, she mixes things up with a daily special (the Moby Dick, a plant-based play on a Filet-O-Fish sandwich, is always a sell-out), along with a rotating soup and agua fresca of the day.
Like so many other restaurant owners, Petrovna implemented changes to her business last year during the industry-crippling pandemic. She expanded her marketplace and grab-and-go offerings — deli salads, single-serve reheatable meals (think: seitan ribs and lentil meatloaf), organic fresh juices, and desserts — and began selling a curated mix of plant-based foods and lifestyle items from outside vendors.
The Chef Tanya's Palm Springs location has been so successful that in late spring she expanded to a second venue in Palm Desert. While both locations offer outdoor seating, she plans to turn adjacent spaces for both into indoor dining areas this summer. It turns out the plant-based movement is here to stay and vegetarian isn’t a bad word. cheftanyaskitchen.com
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This inventive pizzeria quickly became a locals’ favorite when it opened in 2019 with plenty of interesting pies and upscale gastropub fare. Vegan cheese is offered as an option to top any pizza along with a rainbow of veggie toppings. The plant-based set can also partake in fun bar food like meatless buffalo nuggets, soy chorizo tacos, and an avocado burger, plus infinite build-your-own-salad options. barreldistrictpizza.com
At this sibling restaurant of her flagship small plates eatery Cork + Fork, chef Andie Hubka focuses on comfort food with a menu that’s more than 50 percent vegetarian. Dishes include blistered shishitos, lemony avocado toast, and a variety of farmers’ market-inspired salads. Her signature tomato soup is standout and pairs perfectly with the eatery’s ooey-gooey grilled cheese. heirloomcraftkitchen.com
Much of the fare at this 20-year-old counter-service institution owned by chef and functional nutrition counselor Lorraine Ornelas skews vegetarian. There’s a serious menu of customizable smoothies with an array of superfood add-ons as well as nutritional powerhouse plates like an Asian tofu salad, a bright veggie bowl, and a pinto-and-brown rice burrito on a multi-grain tortilla. lusciouslorraines.com
PHOTOGRAPH BY GEORGE DUCHANNES