Vegan on a budget? Not impossible

Madre Tierra’s potato enchiladas are part of their Meatless Mondays menu, which has a wide variety of vegan options. Madre Tierra is a vegan Mexican restaurant located at 220 N. Central Ave in Upland, a short drive from the University. / photo by Ethan Bermudez
Madre Tierra’s potato enchiladas are part of their Meatless Mondays menu, which has a wide variety of vegan options. Madre Tierra is a vegan Mexican restaurant located at 220 N. Central Ave in Upland, a short drive from the University. / photo by Ethan Bermudez

Vincent M. Franco
Staff Writer

Anabel Martinez

With La Verne students coming from all directions across the Inland Empire and the San Gabriel Valley, it turns out there are plenty of tasty vegan options nearby at reasonable prices. We put four such local vegan spots to the test. Here they are in order starting from our top choice based on best all around – with distance from campus, affordability and flavor.

Borreguitas – Closest to campus, the best tacos and warm hug of flavor

Borreguitas is a fitting option for anyone in the area looking for tasty Mexican food at a low price and is only 4 miles from campus at 987 S. Garey Ave in Pomona.

A family-owned restaurant, it is Pomona’s first vegan authentic Mexican restaurant offering traditional dishes since 2018, all fully vegan with the exception of a few vegetarian options.

A few dishes are topped with dairy cheese – the vegetarian tortas, tostaditas, breakfast quesadillas, loaded fries and nachos, and wet burritos – so be aware when ordering.

Though their indoor dining is currently closed due to renovations, it is anticipated to open at the beginning of June.

Their 99-cent street-style Taco Tuesdays deal is tempting, and rightfully so. The tacos come with “meat,” onion, cilantro and green salsa wrapped in a single soft tortilla. “Meat” options include your choice of asada, al pastor or papa con chorizo made of soy, papa con nopal, cabbage or a gluten-free option.

“A lot of vegan spots tend to use jackfruit or gluten, we try our best to stay away from that,” Jackie Torres of Borreguitas said. “We just don’t like using canned or anything that has preservatives. All of our ingredients are organic for the most part.”

The college student-friendly price makes these tacos all the more better. Regardless of how small they may look, they get the job well done and the low price does not reflect the high quality and amazing flavor.

Their tortas were undoubtedly our favorite thing on the menu. The incredibly soft bread coated with the perfect portion of beans, soy asada, avocado and salsa was a comforting bite that reminded us of a home-style Mexican meal.

The pozole, while extremely tasty, was slightly too salty for our liking. However, the mushrooms and spinach added a nice touch that we have never had before in traditional pozole. Despite the saltiness, the soup was warming – not just temperature-wise.

We chased it all down with a flawlessly sweet horchata that tied the whole experience in, followed by a strawberry shake with almond milk and strawberry banana shake with oat milk.

Borreguitas succeeded at breaking down the stigma in many Hispanic communities that veganism should be looked down upon. They executed several vegan traditional Mexican dishes perfectly without a glimpse of familiar flavor lost.

Bright Star Thai Vegan Cuisine – Delicious thai tea, perfect lunch special options

Bright Star Thai Vegan Cuisine has a large menu full of different kinds of soups, noodles, spring rolls, and even burgers and wrap options, and is only about a 14 mile drive from campus. They also offer a lunch special that is served daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Another family-owned restaurant has been serving Rancho Cucamonga and the surrounding Inland Empire authentic vegan thai food for over 13 years on 9819 Foothill Blvd S. in Rancho Cucamonga.

Chanoknut Kamnaree, a waiter at the restaurant, loves chatting with the customers and recommending her favorite dishes to them. 

The kitchen is integrated with the dining room so guests can watch the chefs work their magic. 

We would recommend starting off with the miso soup appetizer with some soy chicken spring rolls. Be careful because these spring rolls could fall apart almost immediately after the first bite.

The drink selection here is basic as far as sodas and water are concerned, but we can not recommend enough Thai tea with almond milk. It is sweet enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, but not too sweet to enjoy your meal.

With a menu so big it was almost overwhelming descending what to pick to eat. But after much deliberation we ended up going with the pad see ew with tofu and the pad thai with soy beef. Both plates were moderately sized with a good portion of food, and of course at a reasonable price.

Bright Star even offers a selection of vegan ice cream and banana spring rolls for dessert.

This long time vegan restaurant is a good option for some quick and friendly service, along with some quick and delicious food. With plates ranging from $8 to $12, it is also the perfect place to eat when on a budget.

Garden Fresh Vegan Restaurant – Worth the drive and vegan beginner-friendly

The extensive menu at Garden Fresh Vegan Restaurant located on 16034 Gale Ave. in Hacienda Heights is the perfect spot for anyone familiar or new to veganism. Although it is the furthest drive on this list, roughly 16 miles from campus, this should not discourage students coming out from the I.E. to give it a visit.

Established in 1993, Garden Fresh knows what they are doing with their flavorful authentic Chinese, Taiwanese and Korean dishes.

This family-owned restaurant offers a surprisingly large all-vegan selection at fair prices for how shareable their servings are.

With options like curry chicken fried rice, mixed veggie hot pot, spicy ma-po tofu, organic juices and smoothies on the menu, there is something for everyone.

The tangy mushroom chicken was definitely our favorite thing on the menu. The teriyaki sauce coating was a balanced mix of sweet and savory to compliment each bite of juicy white mushrooms perfectly. For $12.99, the portion can easily be split between two.

Add a bowl of white rice for $1.50 and you have a simple, filling meal that can not go wrong.

The veggie chow mein’s thin noodles cooked with fresh vegetables and soy protein are a safe but nonetheless delicious option. The best part of the chow mein is its seasoning that does not overpower it and the lack of excessive grease found in many other chow mein dishes. For $9.95, it is an excellent go-to choice.

The steamed dumplings are soft with just the right amount of filling served with eight pieces and a side sauce for $8.95.

Amy Wong of Garden Fresh said her parents’ restaurant gets fresh vegetables and produce to cook with every morning, and it shines through in their satisfying but healthy dishes.

“My dad’s dream to open up this vegan restaurant was to provide vegan food and have it be accessible and demystify the whole vegan trend of it being expensive,” Wong said. “The thing is that good vegan food does not have to be expensive, especially when the ingredients are all locally sourced.”

With the kimchi pancake made authentically by Wong’s grandmother and overall dishes cooked by her parents using multicultural ingredients, Garden Fresh fuses bright flavor with homestyle meals.

Madre Tierra Restaurant Bar – Tempting vegan sushi and Mexican cuisine in one stop

Since 2018 Madre Tierra, located only about 5 miles from campus on 220 N. Central Ave. in Upland, has had the ultimate goal of serving up the most authentic vegan Mexican food in the Inland Empire. All the while keeping the same interior design aesthetics seen in most Mexican restaurants.

Starting off as a Mexican restaurant, with limited vegan options, owner Leo Gomez quickly realized how much more the vegan options would sell than the meat options and with this realization, Gomez relocated the restaurant to Upland and modified its menu to be exclusively vegan.

This is surprising considering how being vegan can easily make one sort of a black sheep, especially in a Mexican household.

“At the end of the day… our goal as a family is not precisely to make anybody vegan, but at least to open their eyes to different types of cuisines, you know, different types of foods,” Gomez said.

For patrons who are 21 and over, Madre Tierra also offers a full bar with a long list of drinks, including margaritas and Mexican candy flights, as well as micheladas, palomas, and aztec mules.

Along with offering all the essential Mexican meals you would see on any traditional Mexican menu, they also have over 13 different types of vegan sushi options. They have their classic spicy tuna roll but also have options like the Hummingbird roll with a main ingredient of tempura jalapeno poppers.

We would recommend the green enchiladas with the jackfruit chicken. The green sauce they were smothered in had the perfect amount of lemon and although the jackfruit chicken had a different texture it got the job done.

Of the two Mexican restaurants in this list, Madre Tierra falls shortly behind Borreguitas in taste and price. Madre Tierra’s “Street Taco Trio” goes for $11.99, but on Taco Tuesdays you get an extra two for free. The “meat” proteins available at Madre Tierra for all items are asada, jackfruit chicken, soyrizo and al pastor.

Another good selection would be the loaded asada fries. What is good about these is how the word loaded is not taken lightly, this dish is packed to the brim with avocado, vegan cheese, fries, and beans.

Although this may not be the most reasonably priced restaurant for college-aged students, the bigger portions make up for it so it is definitely worth checking out once the financial aid hits.

Vincent M. Franco can be reached at

Anabel Martinez can be reached at

Vincent Matthew Franco is a senior journalism major with a concentration in print and online journalism. He has been involved in journalism and print media in high school, community college and is now at the social media editor of the Campus Times and a staff photographer for the Campus Times and La Verne Magazine. He previously served as arts editor.

Anabel Martinez is a senior digital media major with a concentration in film and television, and a journalism minor. She serves as the managing editor overseeing all of the Campus Times sections and was previously editor-in-chief in Spring 2022.

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