A Del Taco Turns Into a Vegan Drive-Thru
The vegan drive-thru is slated to open in early May. | Matthew Kenney Cuisine

A Del Taco Turns Into a Vegan Drive-Thru

A vegan drive-thru is replacing an old Del Taco location in Costa Mesa, California. Chef Matthew Kenney's VEG'D is set to open in May.

A vegan drive-thru is coming to Costa Mesa, California! The plant-based restaurant, which is slated to open in early May, will be taking over a former Del Taco location in the southern California city on the corner of Bristol and Red Hill.

The eatery, called VEG’D, is renowned vegan chef Matthew Kenney’s latest meat-free endeavor. Per photos of the restaurant, which is still under construction, customers will have the option to eat inside or stop by the vegan drive-thru for some expertly prepared, plant-based grub. 

VEG’D is located right across the street from a health-conscious collection of retail shops called The Camp, which features an entire campus that includes outdoor seating areas. 

VEG’D is expected to have ties to the restaurant space’s fast-food roots. However, instead of dishing out Del Beef Burritos and cheddar cheese quesadillas, VEG’D will focus on vegan fast-food dishes such as plant-based burgers and smoothies.

“It is clean, fast-food that feels comfortable and familiar, yet presented in an entirely new format that is also better for the planet,” Kenney tells LIVEKINDLY in an email.

When VEG’D opens later this year, it will join a portfolio of more than three dozen vegan restaurants helmed by Kenney. It will also be the first Kenney-backed restaurant in Costa Mesa, as well as the first VEG’D outpost. Some of Kenney’s other vegan restaurant concepts, such as Folia and Double Zero, have locations all over the globe.

A press release sent to LIVEKINDLY notes that VEG’D will boast a drive-thru and serve “convenient and health-conscious” plant-based food.

“We are designing VEG’d as a scalable concept and although we are currently focused on perfecting the first location, we hope to open dozens, if not hundreds, of locations in the coming years,” Kenney adds.

A Del Taco Turns Into a Vegan Drive-Thru
VEG’D will feature standard American fare.

What’s on the Menu at Veg’d Vegan Drive-Thru?

When it comes to vegan cuisine, Matthew Kenney restaurants run the gamut from fresh pizza to raw vegan sushi and grain bowls, but VEG’D will focus on standard American fare. 

For example, the VEG’D breakfast menu will feature a vegan breakfast sandwich. It also includes a breakfast burrito with Just Egg, jack cheese, green chiles, avocado, tater tots, and green chile salsa.

A few dishes will “venture into raw food territory,” but the main focus is burgers, fries, and smoothies. The menu will even have some Asian-inspired dishes, such as a kung pao bowl with cauliflower with tofu and zucchini.

What’s more? Kenney and his business partner—local entrepreneur Christine Mulholland, who Kenney says helped visualize the brand for many years—want to ensure that VEG’D is as sustainable as possible. To that end, the restaurant will use 100 percent recycled packaging that’s biodegradable and compostable. The pair also plan to compost or donate all food waste.

“I am very excited to have the opportunity to expand into the drive through market, it’s been a dream of mine,” Kenney said in a statement. “The Costa Mesa and Orange County community is the perfect place for us to begin our journey of spreading plant-based cuisine to the masses, on a grander scale than we have been able to with our sit-down dining options We couldn’t be more excited to enter this market at this exact time.”

Once it opens, the restaurant’s daily hours of operation will be 7:30 AM – 9 PM PST.

Vegan Drive-Thrus Around the World

Though vegan drive-thrus aren’t all that common, they are becoming increasingly popular.

In July 2018 vegan drive-thru chain Plant Power Fast Food announced its third and fourth California locations in Long Beach and Redlands. These locations joined existing Plant Power Fast Food outposts in San Diego and Encinitas.

Aside from burgers, menu items include vegan milkshakes, the ‘Fish’ Filet Sandwich, the Kale ‘Chicken’ Wrap, Avocado Kale & Quinoa Salad, and Raw Tacos. The chain also serves a plant-powered breakfast menu. Offers include the Breakfast Burrito, the ‘Sausage, Egg, and Cheese’ Muffin, and the ‘Bacon, Egg, and Cheese’ Bagel. For lighter options, there’s a Yogurt Parfait and Hash Browns.

Plant Power Fast Food currently has seven locations in California, including one that now occupies a former Carl’s Jr. An eighth Plant Power Fast Food eatery in Sacramento is expected to open soon.

In July 2019, Amy’s Drive Thru, a popular vegetarian fast-food spot, opened a location inside the San Francisco International Airport.

This casual fast-food joint is a concept of the well-known health and vegetarian food brand, Amy’s Kitchen. While the drive-thru menu leans toward fast-food staples, all of the dishes have a vegan option, and many are gluten-free. A third Amy’s Kitchen location opened in California in July 2020.

Further east, authentic Mexican chain Pancho’s Vegan Tacos opened a new location in Las Vegas in March 2019, complete with a drive-thru. There’s also a vegan drive-thru that serves fast food in Florida, which opened in December 2019.

On the international front, the world’s first 24-hour vegan drive-thru opened in London, Ontario, in June 2017. A Toronto location with indoor seating followed about two years later, though it’s not open all day.

About Vegan Chef Matthew Kenney

In addition to his vegan restaurant empire, Kenney is the author of 12 cookbooks. He is also the founder of the companies Matthew Kenney Cuisine and Matthew Kenney Culinary, a plant-based diet education business.

Though he wasn’t always vegan, the well-known chef gradually became more interested in the health of the planet and plant-based foods as he rose through the ranks of the New York City restaurant scene. 

Eventually, my passion for health overtook my passion for business as usual. It evolved through my yoga practice and becoming more connected to the planet. One night, a friend invited me to a random raw food restaurant in the East Village. We dined on sprouts and twigs, surrounded by one of the most unusual groups of people I’d ever seen in a restaurant,” he told Observer in September 2016. 

I came around to realize we don’t need to eat animals or to exploit them. While other parts of the world have fewer choices—and physical lifestyles requiring the consumption of richer foods—it didn’t make sense to me that anyone needed a 46-oz. steak glazed in butter to get through a day trading stocks,” he continued.