Seasoned vegans, New Year’s resolution vegans, vegans for Lent or those experimenting with a vegan diet for health reasons will appreciate what owner Stephanie Morgan is doing at Seabirds Kitchen in Costa Mesa at The Lab Anti-Mall. Stephanie’s journey from food truck to brick and mortar began in June of 2010, when she left the fast-paced world of Wall Street to realize her new-found passion for health and veganism. Her determination saw her through the grueling business of launching a food truck during the fledgling days of gourmet food trucks, persisting for three years, and then gaining nationwide exposure in Season 2 of The Great American Food Truck Race, all the while winning accolades and a loyal, local fan base along the way.
Owner/chef Stephanie Morgan brings her passion to Seabirds
For those unfamiliar with Jackfruit, here is what a Jackfruit looks like in the Asian market (you won’t find them in regular grocery stores). They are enormous – about the size of a large (seeded) watermelon – and prickly on the outside. When a jackfruit is cracked open, inside are pods or “bulbs” often referred to as the seeds. These bulbs are actually a kind of fleshy covering for the true seeds or pits, which are round and dark like chestnuts. The fleshy part (the “bulb”) can be eaten as is, or cut up and cooked. Green (unripe) jackfruit is fibrous and remarkably similar in texture to chicken, with a neutral flavor that easily takes on added flavors, making it an excellent vegetarian substitute for meat. Canned jackfruit in brine is sold and often referred to as “vegetable meat”. When it is ripe, jackfruit is very sweet.
Several of the most popular menu items at Seabirds Kitchen are “meaty” dishes that will satisfy any carnivore cravings you might have. The BBQ Jack Sliders ($7.50) had a robust BBQ taste and a texture so much like shredded chicken or pulled pork that could fool you, if the menu didn’t tell you otherwise. With fresh, creamy Seabirds slaw, caramelized red onion and pickles on wheat slider buns – visions of backyard barbecues and game day tailgate parties danced in my head and waltzed on my tastebuds.
BBQ Jack Sliders at Seabirds Kitchen
College Girl and I also ordered the Chopped Bounty Salad ($5.95 half, $10.95 full), The Billy bowl ($10.95) and a cup of the Soup of the Day (16 oz. bowl $4.95).
The salad was filled with fresh California pears, romaine hearts, raisins and walnuts. We both love crunchy salads without the unnecessary cheese that seems to adorn every plate of greens these days (don’t get me wrong, I love cheese, but it does not have to be on everything!), the light hand given to the creamy balsamic dressing, and the amazing bacon flavor that was rendered from coconut flakes.
The Billy Bowl features a fabulous nut chorizo made from walnuts, cashews, pepitas and mushrooms, barely sautéed greens, steamed zucchini and cauliflower topped with fresh cilantro and avocado. The house made Paleo sauce packed some heat with spiced Dijon mustard component. The portion size may be small for some, but that means its probably the correct portion size for one.
I couldn’t get over how convincing the Jackfruit “meat” was and ordered a BBQ Jack (Quesa) Dilla ($8.95) for later – plus, some other non-vegan friends had liked it. I’m not a fan of seitan (wheat gluten), tempeh (soy based) or fake meats, mostly due to the texture and high sodium content, but using fruit to achieve a meaty taste is much more palatable – plus it’s gluten free, if that is a concern.
Seabirds offers an array of natural sodas and organic beverages as well as a few well edited craft beers – Lost Coast Great White Belgian white ale, Mission Blonde, Hangar 24 Orange Wheat and Gourdgeous, Uinta Wyld Extra Pale organic pale ale, and Napa Smith Organic IPA – and four organic biodynamic wines by the glass. I loved their refreshing house made Prickly Pear limeade ($2.95).
Never ones to pass on a cookie – we polished off our healthy meal by splitting a guilt-less “Almond Joy” cookie 🙂 Desserts vary daily, so check out the deli case to see what goodies are available that day. Daily specials are posted on a blackboard next to the deli case.
Once you are parked, you’ll love the laid back, artsy vibe of The Lab Anti Mall. Walk around and take in the vibrant, unique repurposed sculptures, colorful murals and environmental artwork. It’s calming retreat-like atmosphere is a haven in the midst of the bustling South Coast Plaza area.
2930 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626