As vegans, we respect food. We understand that to make really delicious, healthy meals, it requires some effort. There's usually a lot of prep work, followed by a lot of cooking, followed by a lot of overeating and then regretting cooking in the first place after seeing the dishes you've made....just me? I didn't think so. And sometimes its nice to not have to deal with it. Sometimes, I'm okay with paying hard-earned money for a meal, just so someone else has to deal with the clean-up. But a good, new vegan place to try can be hard to find. Several months ago we started to hear the whispers: a new vegan sandwhich shop was coming to town. And the rumor? It was gonna be good. Phoney Baloney's started to sound just like the kind of place I would like to visit.
When we walked in on opening day, we were a little confused. Located inside a gym, Custom Bodies Fitness, Phoney Baloney's is really a large sandwich bar inside of a fitness center. Although that makes it slightly hard to find on your first visit, its worth the look. Kyle, the owner, sandwich magic-maker, 10 year vegan veteran, and website owner of veganvagrant.com immediately greeted us. He was funny, friendly, and super helpful explaining what makes each sandwich delicious. We asked about the shop name (because its so clever!) and we couldn't agree with Kyle more: "what else could be more apt for a place serving faux meats?" We agree. So what's Kyle's favorite sandwich on the menu? "I truly don't have a favorite. When I created the menu it was meant to make Phoney's a place where a vegan (or anyone for that matter) could eat daily and never get bored. I definitely feel like I accomplished what I set out to. If this weren't my project, but was in my area, I would eat here every day. "
Kyle was cool enough to answer a few questions before we sat down to enjoy our sandwiches:
What inspired you to create a sandwich shop for such a niche market of eaters? Sandwiches and Mexican food are my all-time favorite foods. I came up with this concept 8 years ago, when there was nothing close to a vegan sandwich shop around. There are now vegan places that serve sandwiches, but usually at a much higher price point than our average $4.95-$5.95. This is meant to be a place that can compete with the Chipotles and Paneras of the world in price and quality, only completely vegan and using local, organic produce. What do you like to do when you're not making delicious sandwiches? I like to spend as much time outdoors as possible, usually with my two dogs walking around the bay or at the dog park. Other than that, I do freelance marketing consulting for a variety of companies, write my blog at www.VeganVagrant.com, and sit around watching Shark Tank and eating EatPastry cookie dough straight from the tub. What would like for Phoney Baloney's in the future? I can't even count how many people have asked me about franchising already. That could be an option someday, but for now I'm focused on creating delicious, affordable vegan food at our current location, and then securing a second location by the end of the year.
OG Grilled Cheese
Alex ordered the OG Grilled Cheese: avocado, tomato, and a blend of vegan cheeses melted between two pieces of whole wheat sourdough. It was awesome and gooey and cheesy-without that faux cheese flavor that all too often accompanies it. I loved that there were plenty of veggies stuffed into the sandwich, and Alex loved having a grilled 'cheese' again.
The Vegan Elvis Sandwich in all of its gooey, sweet glory!
I had the Vegan Elvis sandwich: peanut butter, banana, and house made coconut bacon on whole wheat sourdough. The first bite changed my life. I had never had such a rich, decadent sandwich that was not only vegan (with a GF option available), but something I could re-create at home! The coconut bacon tasted just like the real thing- I actually stopped after my first bite and had to remind myself that I was in a 100% vegan joint and there wouldn't be any sly animal parts hangin' around my food. The peanut butter was warm and drippy and delicious, slathering the banana in its goodness. The bread was lightly toasted- just enough to keep the whole thing together.
In fact, Kyle's creation inspired me to make my own version of his delicious sandwich for an event I catered: vegan Elvis cupcakes! Peanut butter cupcake, banana creme frosting, topped with coconut bacon--YUM!
My vegan Elvis cupcakes!
Before we left, we squeezed in a few more questions: Who's your go-to for music when you cook? Right now it's gotta be that G.O.O.D. Music "Mercy" joint, Kendrick Lamar's "The Recipe" with Dr. Dre, or anything from Tyga. Those last two are bringin the West back. What is your favorite vegan joint in the greater LA area? In LA specifically... Real Food Daily in West Hollywood or Shojin in Little Tokyo, Downtown. Here in Orange County my favorite place is Sol Cocina. It's not vegan or vegetarian but they have a very well defined list of vegan options, a beautiful view of the bay, and the best Mexican food around.
***UPDATE 11/13: Unfortunately for us, Phoney Baloney's no longer operates a sandwich storefront. They have however moved into exclusively selling their delicious coconut bacon by the bag, which you can purchase at the link below . You can also make your very own Coconut Bacon with our recipe, ispired by Kyle himself, here.***