City Guide: Los Angeles

Leaving the Beloved Animal to Create a Critic’s Darling in Koreatown

Read about Lien ›

Getting the Dirt with Abbott Kinney Up-and-Comer Scott Winegard

Read about Scott ›

Reinventing Chicken Wings in Culver City

Read about Akasha ›

Dining in an 1876 Cathedral with Neal Fraser

Read about Neal ›

Waking Up A Tired Stretch of Melrose with New Wave Riviera Cuisine

Read about Stephen ›

Seating the Stars at an Old-School Hollywood Institution

Read about Christian ›
Vegan Mexican Food Was This Chef’s Lifelong Dream—Now It’s an A-List Hotspot
Gracias Madre Executive Chef and Owner Chandra Gilbert is committed to 100% organic and plant-based food and cocktails at her Mexican-focused WeHo wonderland.

On a glamorous strip of Melrose Avenue flush with high-end salons and boutiques, chef Chandra Gilbert managed to open an elegant vegan restaurant that’s attracting carnivores by the droves. “I have multiple guests tell me that they've brought people in here and they haven't even told them that it was vegan and they didn't know. They just didn't notice.” She laughs. “They think they’re going for Mexican food, and they know what to expect: there's going to be tortillas, there's going to be some guac, there's going to be some beans.” Gilbert encourages her employees (many of whom come from Latino descent) to bring in their family recipes, then challenges them to render them vegan. As an example, she references jackfruit, a variety of the fig that Gracias Madre uses in its Mexican “carnitas” tacos. “It's this giant fruit, and the meaty part is actually a compressed flower. It's a pure plant, and it even looks like carnitas.” Gilbert has cooked for 35 years—four for Alice Waters—and forages for ingredients around her home in Topanga Canyon. Opening a vegan Mexican restaurant was a lifelong dream, and to see it through, she partnered with the owners of Café Gratitude, a popular plant-based chain with three locations in Los Angeles. “It's been a little slice of magic. I can't really take all the success myself. We have this great cocktail program, 100% plant-based and organic, down to the housemade syrups, shrubs, tinctures, and bitters…it’s the way the place looks, the patio, and Jason Eisner is the best beverage director in L.A.” On a summer evening (or most evenings – this is Los Angeles after all), that patio glows with lit-up olive trees, enchanting its patrons as they tend to their mezcal margaritas and meatless enchiladas. Outside, the sidewalk might be freckled with paparazzi and the street flanked with Maseratis. There’s absolutely nothing hippie-dippy to see here.

Gracias Madre
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8905 Melrose Avenue
West Hollywood, CA 90069

“We have this great cocktail program, 100% plant-based and organic, down to the housemade syrups, shrubs, tinctures, and bitters...it’s the way the place looks, the patio, and Jason Eisner is the best beverage director in L.A.”