When German Rivera first went vegan 15 years ago, there were surprisingly few restaurants in L.A. where someone could eat a hearty plant-based meal. The animal lover and graphic designer, who came from a food-obsessed family in Mexico, got excited over simple discoveries: the new Native Foods in Westwood, a secretly all-vegan Thai restaurant in West Hollywood.
In Long Beach, where Rivera moved eight years ago, the animal-free landscape required a similar hunt. Portfolio always had a reliable vegan pastry option, Cocorenos understood the importance of cleaning the griddle before cooking a tofu plate, and, of course, there was Zephyr, which is now Ahimsa.
“I’m vegan first and foremost because of animals. I have love for life and every creature had a role and we should respect that,” Rivera says. “In my head that just doesn’t make sense to take a living being and use it to feed ourselves when we have so many other options.”
Today, Long Beach is home to nearly a dozen all-vegan restaurants and even more vegan options, from raw-vegan emporium Under the Sun to the new Impossible Burger at The Social List. Rivera shares these places and the rest of the city’s vegan moment through his Instagram account @lbvegan.
“I started noticing all the new vegan-friendly restaurants in Long Beach and thought someone should be documenting this,” he says.
But Rivera is no stranger to being a vegan social media influencer. Three years ago, he co-founded the popular cruelty-free marketplace Green Saturday with partner Mary Medellin. Launched as a one-off vegan alternative to the consumerist holiday Black Friday, the quarterly event moved from its original Alpine Village venue to the Long Beach Petroleum Club and now features more than 50 vendors and draws hundreds of attendees each time.
Using these connections with major players in the greater regional vegan movement (along with he and Medellin’s DJ skills), Rivera is bringing even more plant-based food and lifestyle to Long Beach through a series of events and curated food pop-ups at some of the city’s coolest bars.
4th Street Vine is becoming a crucial hub for Rivera and already he’s hosted vegan Sunday brunches and a vegan chili cook off there. After a successful Easter Sunday pop-up with the Inland Empire’s Mex Vegana and Bixby Knolls-based Getting Caked, The Hawk is also asking Rivera to find more vegan food vendors who can pop-up in its parking lot on busy weekends.
“The crowd was very mixed between vegans and non-vegans,” Rivera says. “That’s the best part about bringing vegan food vendors to a bar — people may not even know that the tacos they’re eating are vegan. You have a chance to spread the word.”
The Vegan Social at 4th Street Vine, which returns this Saturday, is Rivera’s largest monthly event and always features three food vendors and a merch company selling animal-free goods. This weekend’s installment features OG vegan tacos from Taqueria La Venganza, veganized soul food from Compton Vegan and pastries by Getting Caked. Anima Apparel will sell shirts, pins and more.
“I always have a merch vendor because everything vegan right now is food focused, but I want people to know that it’s a lifestyle,” Rivera says. “It’s not enough to just eat the vegan food. I’m wearing a vegan belt. My wallet is from Cow Hugger. Every product I use I make sure it’s plant based and not tested on animals.”
Vegan Social takes place Saturday, April 14 from noon to 4 p.m. at 4th Street Vine, 2142 E. 4th St., Long Beach, (562) 343-5463
The Vegan Social is back at @4thstreetvine this Saturday! Featuring @thevegantaqueria @comptonvegan @getting_caked and @anima_apparel pop-ups. Music by everyone’s favorite vegan DJs, @lissysuede and @dj_nelsonrome spinning all vinyl sets. 21+ / NOON / NO COVER ・・・ #whatveganseat #veganfoodshare #veganfood #veganlife #vegansofig #lbc #realfood #organicfood #govegan #vegansoflongbeach #plantbaseddiet #plantbased #nom #veganlife #veganlifestyle #plantbased #plantbasedfood #crueltyfreeliving #veganevents #veganpopup
Sarah Bennett is a freelance journalist who has spent nearly a decade covering food, music, craft beer, arts, culture and all sorts of bizarro things that interest her for local, regional and national publications.