The Vegan BLT You Need To Try

This smoky eggplant sandwich will make you forget about bacon (for a little while)

This L.A. restaurant isn't new, and it's not exclusively an A-list spot—although it sees its fair share of celebrities. It's actually more like a neighborhood joint, a place where groups gather for birthdays and locals meet for a casual meal. And yet it remains one of the most mysterious and alluring spots in a city that gets culinarily hotter every day.

We're talking about No Name, the supper club for people in the know and, as of last month, the home of your new favorite sandwich: the vegan BLT (see the recipe).

Before you get any further with that eye roll, hold up and recall that we're huge fans of the original BLT. We also love bacon just as much as the next guy. But we love plant-based alternatives to our favorite foods, too, when they're done well. And the bacon substitution in this sandwich is done extremely well.

Chef Jared Simons, who has been heading up No Name's kitchen since its beginning in 2013, uses dehydrated eggplant instead of pork. If you don't have a dehydrator at home, you simply cook eggplant strips in the oven for a little over an hour on low heat. The eggplant, which has been tossed in liquid aminos, brown sugar, liquid smoke, maple syrup and cayenne pepper, turns crispy, salty and addictive in the oven. It's one of the best meat-free bacon substitutes we've tasted yet, and with good tomato, lettuce and mayo, it will take you to BLT—or ELT—heaven.

Chef Jared Simons | Photo: Liz Barclay

When Simons was first trying out the eggplant, he found it passed the ultimate test. "A couple of the busboys thought it was bacon," he says. "Right away, I knew it was going to work."

The chef started experimenting with vegan and vegetarian cooking after switching to a plant-based diet 10 months ago while he was training for a triathlon. Before this shift, he says, "When we were going out on Sunday, we were going to get gout—the typical chef diet."

He continues, "The guys in my kitchen gave me a really hard time about [the diet], but I felt amazing after the race." When he was able to convince his wife to ditch meat, too, he realized he should bring everything he was trying at home into his restaurant kitchen.

Thus began his vegan Sunday Supper series, which launched last month.

For now, the suppers run once a month, but they may increase in frequency over time. Vegan- and vegetarian-leaning menus aren't surprising in a city like L.A., but with dishes as dynamic and luxurious as the eggplant BLT, lobster mushroom tempura with papaya salsa and corn risotto with pickled cherry tomato, we have no doubt the suppers will become as hot a ticket as dinner at No Name on a regular night.

The front doors of No Name | Photo: Liz Barclay

Simons isn't philosophically opposed to eating meat and still cooks it at No Name, but he likes showing diners the potential for plant-based food to taste really, really good—so good that you'll walk away from his suppers feeling like you haven't missed a thing. The vegan BLT is the perfect example.

Just don't expect to find any snaps of the sandwich on Instagram. They may have shared the recipe, but no photos are allowed inside the restaurant.