We were recently invited to a vegan tasting at Elbows Mac N' Cheese in Cerritos, CA, USA. They have only one clearly marked vegan item on the menu, the "I Can't Believe It's Not Cheese" mac n' cheese dish, but we can say that this dish a success.
The "cheese" in the main part of dish is made in-house primarily from cashews, giving this mac n' cheese a luscious creaminess without excessive amounts of grease or oil. In addition to the macaroni, the dish includes sauteed sliced onions and green peppers, which serves to break up the richness of the dish as well as add flavor. It is topped with crispy seasoned breadcrumbs, some Daiya vegan cheddar (just enough to give it that familiar cheesey-ness and stretch), fresh salsa (a bit spicy, so just ask them to leave it off if you don't want the extra heat), and several tortilla chips. Elbows is a relatively casual establishment (you order at the counter, then they bring the food to your table), but this chef-crafted vegan dish is something you could expect to get at a much fancier place. The dish was very thoughtfully seasoned with both fresh herbs and spices, and the presentation was gorgeous. We were able to talk to the their Executive Chef Sayda briefly, and she said she went through several iterations before they settled on this final version. We truly appreciate that Chef Sayda put real effort into creating a vegan dish, going as far as to make her own cashew cheese.
There was a big sign in the window promoting their vegan option (they also offer gluten-free pasta, but since neither of us have Celiac's Disease or a gluten allergy, we stuck to the original pasta). One of the owner managers that we spoke to, AJ, seemed open to possibly putting more vegan items on the menu if there is demand. As of now, the bread they use is not vegan, so unfortunately vegan sandwiches are not available at this time (AJ did confirm that the breadcrumbs on the I Can't Believe It's Not Cheese are vegan).
There was one pretty cool-looking side dish that looked vegan, and we were happy when AJ confirmed that it was indeed. It's called Chipstix, and consists of a deep-fried spiral-cut potato on a wooden skewer. The consistency of the Chipstix is more crunchy than crispy. I enjoyed this more than Ryan did. But we both agree that this is a fun presentation.
Elbows Mac N' Cheese is location in a large strip mall at 11405 South Street, Cerritos, CA, 90703 (USA), phone 562-865-9999. They are open 11am to 9pm Sunday through Thursday, and from 11am to 10pm Friday and Saturday. They also have a second location in Brea located at 215 W. Birch Street, Brea, CA 92821 (USA), phone 714-784-6613. Online ordering is available at both locations until 30 minutes before closing.
Every day, more and more people are becoming aware of the health risks, animal cruelty, and environmental destruction associated with dairy. It is wonderful that restaurants like Elbows are responding to the increased demand for vegan options. Vegan customers enjoy and love food just as much as non-vegans, and expect thoughtfully crafted and delicious dishes. In our opinion, Elbows Mac N' Cheese has stepped up to meet that expectation, and we will definitely be back.
Thanks for reading. Peace and love to all who live.