You don’t have to travel far from campus to get plant-based delights

Seabirds Kitchen in The Lab offers a variety of vegan options near Orange Coast College.

I have been a vegetarian my entire life and I don’t have to just eat salads and french fries anymore.

With the increased awareness about where our food comes from, vegetarianism and veganism is becoming a way of life on a global level — but we can’t eat this way if we don’t know where to eat.

So, I have compiled a list of five restaurants that are within a few miles from campus. I purposefully chose places I love, with prices I love even more. A lot of these places have options for the non-veg too.

Baguette Me:  401 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa

This restaurant is known for banh mi sandwiches, house-made baguettes and french pastries.

The vegan banh mi sandwich has tempura eggplant, shredded mushroom “jerky,” pickled carrots, daikon, cilantro, and jalapeños stuffed inside a french baguette the size of your arm from wrist to elbow.

Everything is made in-house and the baguettes are something you would find in Paris. The mushroom “jerky” is dehydrated and marinated for hours and gives the sandwich an umami richness. The eggplant is creamy inside the tempura coating, and the daikon and carrots give it crunch. The jalapeños add a subtle kick. Ask for no mayo to make it vegan. The only thing missing from this sandwich is some type of dipping sauce. William, the owner, is friendly and accommodating. Nothing is over $8.

MaDee Thai Kitchen: 401 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa (Yes, it’s in the same building as Baguette Me)

There are only a few tables, so get your food to go. Get the green curry. It has coconut milk, eggplant, bamboo shoots, bell peppers and basil. Add some tofu if you are vegan/vegetarian, or pick your protein.

Flavorful, herbaceous, creamy, and rich, the green curry will make you want to lick your bowl (and chopsticks) clean. Pour it over rice, eat it with a spoon or right out of the take out container. Eat it hot or cold — just eat it. MaDee makes you fall in love all over again. The green curry is unctuous and rich and the perfect bowl of goodness for a cold rainy day. This is the Thai food all other Thai food wants to be. Lots of choices for the non-veg, too. Nothing is over $13.

Mother's Market and Kitchen: 1890 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa

Mother’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and has a full deli for items to go. The soy chorizo and the biscuits and gravy at Mother’s are what I get when no other breakfast places sound good. If breakfast food isn’t your thing, not to worry — they have soups, (vegan pozole with veggie chicken) wraps, bowls, salads, burritos, sandwiches, veggie burgers and a juice bar.

If you have any type of food allergy or restrictions, Mother’s will have what you need. How can you go wrong with a place that has been serving healthy food since 1978? Nothing is over $15 from the deli or restaurant.

Tacos Cancun: 1901 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa

Mexican food can be tricky if you’re a vegetarian or vegan. Tacos Cancun solves this dilemma with its lard-free beans and rice made without chicken stock. At last!

Tacos Cancun is an authentic Mexican restaurant with tons of vegan and vegetarian options. Try the vegan ground beef, carne asada, chorizo or chicken tacos. The rice and beans are substantial and the salsas are made fresh daily.

Tacos Cancun may be small, but it doesn’t skimp on flavor.  Nothing is over $8.

Seabirds Kitchen: 2930 Bristol St., Costa Mesa

This is an all vegan restaurant located in The Lab. and the place to go when you want vegan food, but more refined. It elevates vegan cuisine.

Try the rich and flavorful French onion soup, the crisp and cheesy grilled “cheese,” and the burnt brussel sprouts with just enough salt and caramelization.

If you want something a little more traditional, it has french fries, mac and cheese, salads and tacos.

Brunch bumps it up a notch with fried grits, flax pancakes and biscuits. Nothing is over $16.

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