Dining review: Fatty’s keeps it really vegan

Fatty's & Co. in Eagle Rock on Thursday, March 15, 2012. The restaurant serves vegan and gluten-free dishes. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)

Situated in what looks to be a deco-style former garage, with concrete pillars framing floor-to-ceiling glass and lights dangling from its exposed-beam ceiling, Fatty’s & Co. beacons passersby on Colorado Boulevard.

The airy cafe’s taupe and tawny walls and draped lights create a warm, forgiving lighting scheme. “Great lighting,” my dining partner pointed out. “You look wonderful. And I bet I do too.”

Fatty’s & Co. offers a sophisticated meatless menu. Dishes are vegan and gluten-free unless they are marked otherwise. From the neon sculpture in a side dining nook to the helpful wait staff, Fatty’s is a treat.

The cafe offers “heart-gladdening wine” by the half glass, glass, glass and a half, or half bottle. You can also order a tasting flight of four reds for $20, or a flight of whites for $16. Fatty’s also offers a selection of royales and craft beers. We tried the Unibroue La Fin Du Monde, a gorgeous, calming triple malt made even tastier by the array of eyebrow/end-of-times jokes in which our table chose to wallow. For the driver in your group, there’s a selection of non-alcoholic treats. We chose the lavender rickey — tasty, sweet and floral to the point of perfumey, but with none of the pesky toxicity of bottled scents.

I could be happy just ordering appetizers, or, as Fatty’s calls them, Monstrous Little Plates. We started with the walnut croquette. This is not your Aunt Sunshine’s nut loaf.

A pate of organic walnuts and butternut squash, pan-fried into a little cake topped with fennel slaw and orange vinaigrette, the croquette comes across as substantial, almost meaty, with cumin peeking through. The fennel slaw adds a nice texture complement to the nutty crunch.

Also on the appetizer menu are Flaps, described as “super thin fries in the shape of dachshund puppy ears.” Into this you can read “potato chips.” They’re crisp, perfectly cooked and wonderful with the accompanying parsley and scallion remoulade. It’s a dish Cruella Deville could love.

The house salad is a dollop of raw beet and apple slaw tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette, served on endive spears and sprinkled with pistachios — sweet, tangy, with a touch of spice. The soup on one visit was a creamy golden split pea soup topped with carrots and caramelized onions — rich, warming and delicious.

At this point, I’m marveling that I’m so taken by dishes whose ingredients include raw beets, walnuts, butternut squash and split peas. What’s next, tofu?

Why, yes. We figured if anyone could do tofu right, Fatty’s could. Good call. The fillet-n-chips is a vegan nod to the English standard of fish and chips — marinated tofu dipped in herbed batter and pan-fried. Slathered with Fatty’s homemade tartar sauce, the fillets didn’t seem like tofu. They didn’t seem like cod, either, mind you. But that didn’t seem to be the point.

Served with Fatty’s potato “flaps,” they were savory, toothsome and just the right consistency — and coming from someone who has never met a tofu that didn’t make her gag just a little, that’s some compliment.

Fatty’s mac and cheese is a grown-up version, with sharp-as-a-blade cheddar, sweet peas and cherry tomatoes. The tomatoes’ acidy tang and the creamy cheese make for a perfect bite.

But our favorite was the paella — Italian black rice and brown rice, packed with shitaki, oyster and trumpet mushrooms, with olives, hearts of palm, cherry tomatoes, corn and sweet peas. Hearty, with hints of saffron, this dish is a winner. I’ll be back for more.

Desserts include apple pie, peanut-butter gelato with chocolate sauce, sorbets and a cotton candy spun from Vermont maple sugar.

I couldn’t bring myself to pay $10 for cotton candy, so we opted for the fudgey chocolate cake, with toasted coconut and toasted pecans. It’s so substantial we wondered if a bit of whole-wheat flour had been sneaked into the batter. A luscious chocolate brandy sauce was the topper of the cake, and the meal.

REBECCA BRYANT is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Caribbean Travel & Life and other publications.

Fatty’s & Co., 1627 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock; open Thursday to Saturday 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; appetizers range from $5 to $12; entrees run from $12 to $18; and pizzas range from $10 to $14. Info: (323) 254-8804,