From the 1990s even until now, the main perception of vegan food was akin to a diet of bark and leaves, with little to no crave worthy traits and void of flavor. Later in that decade the concept of plant-based food began to trickle into the mainstream, yet was still relegated to a misconception of having to eat dirt and tofu. If you wanted a burger, it was soy mayonnaise with soy cheese on a soy patty and all you really did was eat a block of tofu on a piece of bread.
Fast forward to now and there’s nut-based products, pea protein, isolate-based products, and mung bean that contribute to a flourishing movement of vegan cuisine. There are now developed flavors, textures, and consistencies that to vegans, are just as good as the “real thing,” yet better because it’s plant derived. But it doesn’t mean vegans can't have some fun and dive into some junk food. Cue Bestie's Vegan Paradise in East Hollywood, California — the vegan answer to 7-Eleven.
Taking a unique approach of vegan convenience store, Bestie's was co-owner Alison Shead's foray into providing a plant-based alternative to mainstream junk food and the convenience of corner stores like 7-Eleven. Along with other co-owners Asia Phoenix and Matt Fontana, Bestie's Vegan Paradise was a concept that was their niche to fill.
"I've always loved grocery shopping. And so for me, to have a place where you can go in and you don’t have to pick up the label to see if it's something you could eat or to be able to go into a place and not have to walk by meat that’s packaged on the shelf is really awesome. I figured it’d be a perfect fit. It’s a dream come true," shared Shead.
Yet beyond those initial reasons grew a need to address the whole convenience factor of shopping for vegan products as well.
"We just thought that was something that hadn’t been covered yet. You know there’s other vegan grocery stores around the country or around the world. We just thought something convenient would be beneficial. We’re also only carrying vegan brands so it’s a little bit different. But it’s evolving," said Shead. And such vegan brands like Karma Baker and Vegan Hooligans, along with local vegan businesses are stocked at Bestie's, rounding out an impressive selection of vegan snacks, desserts, and pastries. So think plant-based alternatives to corner store favorites like jerky, Pop-Tarts, chips, and milk, and even unlikely vegan offerings like protein shake powder and smoked salmon.
But what 7-Eleven comparison would be complete without hot dogs and mozzarella sticks? And wow does Bestie's come through in the clutch with plant-based offerings of such beloved convenient bites. Their vegan chili was fantastic and an unabashed topping on their vegan hot dog courtesy of Beyond Meat. As for the mozz sticks? A brilliant cashew-based cheese filling along with a flavorful breading made for one of the best ones I've ever had — vegan or dairy-based. So picture the infamous hot dog bar we all are used to, just with plant-based perks.
Though the ubiquitous frigid altars at every 7-Eleven that are the Slushie machines weren't around, Shead assured me that a vegan soft serve machine was on the way.
Alright, so everything checked out on the 7-Eleven correlation, at least from the vegan offerings side of things. Yet the overall appeal with 7-Eleven is their near-universal presence in neighborhoods, something that Shead hopes Bestie's will be able to address soon when asked about possible expansion plans in the future.
"We'd love to have Bestie's all over the country. Part of our mission is to provide healthy options to the community. So why stop at the community right here [in Los Angeles], when there’s people everywhere that need healthy options?"