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Dining Review: Vegetarian's paradise in Burbank

Full O' Life is a vegetarian's paradise, with plenty to choose from for the omnivorous eater.

January 13, 2012|By Richard Foss
  • The Raw Vegetable Salad on the lunch counter at Full o' Life Natural Food Restaurant in Burbank on Thursday, January 5, 2012. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)
The Raw Vegetable Salad on the lunch counter at Full o'…

There are designers who specialize in making new buildings look old — fabricating that used and loved look before any actual customers arrive. Their tools include distressed wood, scratched steel and pre-aged Naugahyde, for an instant patina of decades.

You can admire such artistry at many establishments around L.A., or visit the café at Full O’ Life Natural Foods in Burbank for the real thing. The lunch counter facing the steel and glass cabinet of pies and baked goods is not a simulation. Nor are the pies, or everything else served at Full O’ Life. The store has specialized in organic and healthy foods since 1959.

I had been told the café was vegetarian, and brought a vegan as one of my dining companions. He found plenty to choose from, but so did the omnivores at the table. Greek-style lamb over brown rice tempted me, as did a grilled BBQ tofu sandwich (not because I like tofu much, but because an establishment that has served it for 50 years might know how to make it interesting). At our server’s suggestion I ordered a turkey reuben instead, while my companions had a soup and salad combo and the vegetarian pad Thai.


The soup arrived first, vegetable barley so full of zucchini, carrot, celery and onion that veggies overtopped the bowl. It was beautiful but bland — a thin stock with no detectable seasoning. The stock needed something else, and not just meat — vegetarian soup stocks based on seaweed deliver the same richness. As for the seasoning, salt and salt substitute were both provided, and perhaps they were catering to people on special diets who prefer to add their own.

The sandwich part of that meal arrived with the rest of our orders. My companion had selected tuna salad on very good wheat bread, and while I would have preferred a bit more pepper and celery, it was still satisfying. My turkey reuben hit the spot too — the tangy Russian dressing, melted cheese and sauerkraut gave this a variety of textures and flavors. Sandwiches come with chips or carrot slices and are garnished with olives and cucumbers, so both plates were colorful and varied.

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