Chef Tal Ronnen wants to reshape Las Vegas’s perception of vegan food. Basically, he wants diners to bite into a burger or tuck into truffle-swathed fettuccine and not consider the fact that the entire meal is plant-based — just that it tastes good. Later this spring, the chef with Crossroads on a tony stretch of Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles opens two restaurants at Resorts World. “Good food should be good food,” Ronnen says. “That’s why we never use the word ‘vegan’ on the menu.”
Crossroads brings an upscale dining experience with his dishes loved by the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Portia de Rossi. In Los Angeles, where Ronnen opened Crossroads Kitchen in 2013, tables come with white tablecloths, cozy booths and banquettes, and chandeliers overhead, a look he plans to extend to his first Crossroads outside of Southern California. A full bar with cocktails and wines joins the experience. But it’s Ronnen’s elegant approach to vegan dishes that will entice diners.
“Before, you had to find an Indian restaurant or an Asian restaurant to find [good] plant-based meals,” he says of previous decades when vegan diners had to sometimes get creative to find satisfying restaurant food and, as he puts it, carnivores “felt like they were being punished for the night.”
The Israeli chef brings his Mediterranean-inspired menu with dishes such as stuffed zucchini blossoms and beet tartare, and house-made pastas including the tagliatelle Bolognese and pasta carbonara complete with a runny tomato-based “egg” yolk. He teases a specialty menu with dishes exclusive to the Las Vegas location, but won’t hint at what they are. Other Las Vegas favorites include artichoke oysters topped with kelp caviar and oven-roasted truffle potatoes could make the trek. In Los Angeles, Crossroads serves dinner, a weekday lunch, and brunch on the weekends.
The chef also opens CB | Crossroads Burger with a more casual approach at the resort. “I think we’re working to fill in a void,” he says. Sausages made in-house (with a vegan casing Ronnen says has the same snap as a pork sausage), smash burgers, fries, and milkshakes come on that menu, to be eaten at the restaurant or taken to go. Crossroads and CB | Crossroads Burger take over the former Marigold space, across from Dawg House. Marigold closed in December.
Ronnen’s fame skyrocketed in 2008 when a friend who appeared on Winfrey’s show touted the benefits of vegan food. Days later he created a 21-day vegan “cleanse” for the media mogul. Afterward, came gigs for DeGeneres and de Rossi’s wedding and the first all-vegan dinner served to the Senate. He spent 11 years developing plant-based menus for each of the restaurants at Wynn Las Vegas and wrote his New York Times best-selling cookbook The Conscious Cook with meatless creations in 2009.
“Vegan diets are expanding and growing because people come to it from a lot of different angles,” Ronnen says. “It’s not just about, oh, I want to lose weight. Some people come to it because their doctor told them they need to lower their cholesterol or some people come to it because they care about the environment. I guess what I’m trying to say is there’s many different reasons and angles and it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. You can be a vegan from nine to five. There are no rules.”