Variable Cafe disrupts the culinary status quo

(Photo by Brett Callwood)

“There is no normal,” say the good people at vegan restaurant the Variable Cafe. “Variable Cafe is based around change. The name alone derives from it. Be the variable. Be the change. We want to disrupt the consciousness that is associated with vegan cuisine.”

The owners go on to explain that they were forced to switch to a vegan diet a few years ago, and that the change in lifestyle pushed them to reconsider many other things.

“We found the new ingredients to be exciting to experiment with,” they say. “Recreating staple dishes of our previous eating habits with a vegan approach. We found it not only to be really fun trying to recreate dishes, but often found it was actually even better. A lightbulb went off for both of us. Let’s try to make a restaurant that perplexes even the strongest opposition to a vegan diet.”

So that’s what they did! The Variable Cafe is a wonderful little restaurant that has a large menu, packed with items that you wouldn’t necessarily consider as suitable for a vegan option. There’s definitely a comfort food element, but it’s combined with a sense of adventure and, as they said above, a desire to disrupt the culinary status quo.

With that in mind, we decided to go for the You and Banh Me sandwich. A bánh mì is a Vietnamese baguette sandwich, split and filled with savory fillings. So basically, a Vietnamese sub. Usually, meat would be involved so we were curious about what a vegan version would look, and taste, like. We were not disappointed.

The fresh and bouncy French bread is filled with a house marinated soy chicken and, when packed into a bánh mì, you wouldn’t necessarily know that it’s not really chicken.

The sandwich is rounded off with pickled vegetables, radish, carrot, cilantro, jalapeno, and sweet chili sauce. It all works together beautifully and, again, you’d have to really focus before discovering that it’s a vegan sandwich. It really is delicious.

We also had an appetizer called Drunk Cauliflower which doesn’t, as it turns out, contain any alcohol. Rather, our server told us, this is the sort of tasty snack that you might eat after a few drinks.

The fresh cauliflower is breaded and fried to crispy, then coated in their “drunk sauce” which is both spicy and sweet. It’s served with carrot, celery, scallions and a side of house spicy mayo sauce for dipping. The dish is better than your regular tempura.

The Variable Cafe is located at 13350 W. Washington Blvd, Culver City 90066. Call 424-228-5768 or visit