Vegging Out

Fuel up for festival season with fresh ingredients and fast food that isn’t junk.

March 30, 2018
Tanya Petrovna stirs up a fresh batch of agua fresca.

We get it. There are plenty of reasons not to eat healthy, but a lack of options is no longer one of them. Across the Coachella Valley, restaurants dedicated to vegan and vegetarian fare, dishes brimming with organic ingredients, and ever-expanding raw options abound. Here are five local restaurants serving up feel-good, good-for-you food.

Chef Tanya’s Kitchen
Palm Springs

When Tanya Petrovna opened her first vegetarian café in Palm Springs in 1990, she dubbed it a “gourmet” bistro.

“We were afraid to use the word ‘vegetarian,’ ” recalls Petrovna, who later founded the vegan chain Native Foods. She worried it might deter patrons.

Times, and Americans’ eating habits, have changed, and now the chef proudly proclaims that the funky little eatery she opened last year is all about elevated, gourmet vegan fare.

In an industrial pocket of town, Petrovna has a manufacturing kitchen where she produces a signature seitan that she sells commercially. She decided to add a small lunch counter, and her menu has ballooned to include an array of vibrant salads, daily soups, and inventive sandwiches — like the popular Modern Veggie Hippie, stuffed with creamy cashew “crack cheese” and layers of rainbow-hued veggies — along with meatless spins on classics, like tofu-and-turmeric “eggy” salad and chickpea-based tuna (“tu-no,” as she lists it on the menu). The kitchen stays open late Wednesdays, serving rotating dinner specials locals can pick up after work.

“The world isn’t afraid of vegan food anymore,” Petrovna is happy to report. “It’s embracing it.”


Wildest Greens’ smoothie bar.


The Buddha Bowl at Wildest Greens.

Wildest Greens
Palm Desert

Denise DuBarry Hay has spent seven years focusing on health through yoga at her Palm Desert studio. Now she’s putting the same focus into food.

“Ninety-nine percent of what we offer is organic, and that’s number one,” DuBarry Hay says. “But we cater to a variety of eating styles: vegan, paleo, raw, and gluten-free.”

The dizzying menu options begin at breakfast, with house-smoked salmon on gluten-free bagels, vegan pancakes, and steel-cut oatmeal spiked with shredded coconut and hemp hearts. At lunch, the lean bison burger with harissa is a best-seller, along with the Buddha Bowl, a superfood combo of quinoa, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, purple cabbage, hummus, and avocado. There’s also a market, plenty of grab-and-go items, and a juice bar.

It’s no coincidence that turmeric, that vibrant yellow, of-the-moment ingredient, is incorporated into many of Wildest Greens’ offerings. DuBarry Hay’s family owns a Kauai farm that exports the organic, non-GMO plant. “It helps with brain function and decreases inflammation in the body,” she explains. “It’s something we should be drinking every day.”

Luscious Lorraine’s Organic Juice & Eatery
Palm Desert

The philosophy behind Lorraine Ornelas’ 18-year-old eatery is “culinary co-existence,” her term for offering everything from tempeh to turkey sandwiches in one place.

“I do raw food, vegan food,” she says. “We serve vegetarians, carnivores, everybody. But it’s all very clean, healthy, whole food.”

After expanding late last year, Ornelas now offers hot dishes, like a zingy Bomb Mi rice bowl loaded with veggies, along with a breakfast menu, juices, smoothies, and Joshua Tree coffee. Ornelas sources as much as she can from farmers markets, and everything is made from scratch.

Early on, Luscious Lorraine’s attracted a young clientele. “We’re starting to see a lot of older people too,” she shares. “They’re finding out that doctors can’t do what you can do for yourself if you eat healthy. It’s all about what you put into your body.”

Nature’s Health Food & Cafe
Palm Springs

You can’t be all things to all people, but this place certainly tries. It’s a health food store, vitamin shop, juice bar, coffee shop, and vegetarian and vegan café rolled into one.

After buying the business a decade ago, owner Bill De La Campa boosted the menu to 100 items, much of it inspired by international fare. Popular picks include garlic-ginger soy-chicken stir-fry, a Peruvian lentil burger, and a play on Italian sausage made from grains and eggplant.

The juice bar offers dozens of combinations, elixirs, and tonics created to help with everything from digestive issues to sluggishness, but it’s best known for freshly pressed pomegranate juice made from locally grown fruit that De La Campa hauls in weekly.

“It’s not just a place to have food,” he says. “It’s a place to network, a place to heal. We promote the right types of food for your maladies.”

Raw Remedy Organic Juice & Raw Food Bar
Palm Springs

Burgers, tacos, and pad thai may not sound healthy, vegan, or raw, but they’re all of the above at this tiny La Plaza storefront that friends Nick Valdez and Josh Peña opened in 2016 after gaining a following at farmers markets. (By definition, raw food simply means food that’s unprocessed and uncooked, though ingredients can be dehydrated and heated up to 117 degrees and still be considered raw.)

The guys rolled out a menu of dishes that feel familiar in raw form. The Western burger, for example, is topped with a molasses barbecue sauce, sprouted mustard, and onion rings.

“For us, being healthy is eating non-processed foods and whole foods that are local and fresh,” says Valdez. “That’s what we’re giving people.”


Nick Valdez makes a guacamole burger.