Punk and soccer have been big influences on Jose Mejia: "When I'm not working, I'm going to punk shows… I'm hanging out, watching soccer games and enjoying life to the fullest."
So, when Mejia launched his own pop-up, plant-based eatery, he called it The Vegan Hooligans. It's a name that reflected his interests and one that made for good branding, a logo that could work on the merchandise he wanted to eventually make. But, punk is more than just an aesthetic for The Vegan Hooligans, it's in the DIY spirit of Mejia's work.
Mejia never was a huge meat-eater and adopted a vegan diet several years ago. He also had experience working in the plant-based food world and, when he noticed a diner in Eagle Rock that closed early, he saw an opportunity to bring vegan comfort food to the neighborhood. The Vegan Hooligans began as an evening pop inside Abby's Diner serving plant-based versions of diner classics like milkshakes and patty melts. His menu grew with time.
Among the most popular items for The Vegan Hooligans are Mejia's riffs on fast food hits, like the Carl's Jr. Western Burger, Taco Bell's Crunchwrap and McDonald's McRib. "Being able to convert your junk food into vegan food has been very successful," he says, "because you have the vegan people who miss those kinds of foods, who are able to have them at the diner, and then you have those meat-eaters who come to the diner, who are very impressed with the things that we're doing right now, and they become customers themselves."
A little more than a year has passed since Mejia first conceived of The Vegan Hooligans, but the business is quickly growing. It's a small operation — he has two full-time employees and his brothers pitch in to help — that also packs in a lot of food. The Vegan Hooligans is open at Abby's on Friday, Saturday and Monday from 5 to 10 pm. In addition, Mejia does Vegan Sundays weekly in North Hollywood and just landed a residency on Thursdays at BESTIES Vegan Paradise in Hollywood. This year, he hopes to bring The Vegan Hooligans to as many parts of L.A. as possible. Next year, he wants to hold pop-ups across the U.S.