Southern California is such a weird place. I can only think of a handful of places around the country where a vegan fast-food drive-thru would be a feasible endeavor, but sure enough, Pasadena is one of them. I had heard of Orean’s Health Express (also mysteriously called Orean’s The Health Express) a few months ago and had been curious, but hadn’t managed to make it there until in a recent edition of Erin’s Kitchen, local blogger Sean Bonner declared the Orean’s strawberry milkshake one of his top three foods to try in the LA area.
Declaring that tonight would be a rare fast food night for us, I e-mailed the menu to Dylan, told him to pick out what he’d like, and headed over to Orean’s after the gym. Naturally, I took a quick look around the web to see if others had suggested specific menu items and decided that we’d share the African burrito (no idea what makes it African), the Teriyaki “chicken” burrito (keep in mind, the menu is entirely vegan), air fries, and the famous strawberry shake.
As a girl who spent most of her life ordering nothing but french fries when brought to a fast food restaurant, I wanted to love Orean’s. After all, here was a whole menu full of things I could order and it was downright cheap! But in the end, I’d have to say meh. You know, not bad, not great, just meh. The African burrito, which was heavily bean-y with a few veggies and some soy cheese thrown in was fine, but not as good as a bean burrito at nearly any taqueria. The teriyaki chicken, which I decided to try mainly out of curiosity about what soy chicken might entail, was far too authentic for my taste. I guess I was hoping for some clearly phony tofu version of chicken, but this actually looked like chicken and had a similar texture and was drowned in sauce with barely any fresh veggies. Again, fine, but I’d prefer a burrito at Senor Fish or even Baja Fresh.
The air fries were an improvement from the burritos; from what I can tell, the term “air fries” means that they are baked rather than deep fried, like most french fries. They were less greasy than standard fries, but otherwise shockingly authentic, so if they are, in fact, healthier than ordinary fries, I would definitely recommend them. (Can anyone definitively speak to how air fries are made and their nutritional content?) As for the famed shake, I liked the subtle soy flavor (again, remember we’re talking entirely vegan here), but the neon pink color and fake strawberry flavor were a little off-putting. My husband compared it to drinking strawberry Quik, something I’ve never tried, nor do I ever plan to. But again, if it is healthier than the average milkshake, I’d be more than willing to head back to Orean’s to try the carob or perhaps the intriguing rum granola flavor. And I guess that sums my whole experience at Orean’s, the food was fine and I’d be willing to eat there again, but didn’t like the burritos enough that I’d order them again nor will I be racing back any time soon.