FORTY-FIVE minutes after a curtain call for her most recent Broadway play, Alicia Silverstone was searching a restaurant menu for comfort food. She settled on nachos and onion rings to start, and mulled beer selections with two girlfriends who had seen her show that night.
This was no dive bar that the trio had chosen for a post-performance meal; it was Candle 79, a cozy Upper East Side restaurant that specializes in organic and vegan cuisine. The nachos came slathered in refried pinto beans, tofu sour cream and chili-grilled seitan, a wheat-based meat substitute.
"I like my vegan food to be sexy, dirty fun," Ms. Silverstone chirped, her voice rising with the girlish lilt so memorable from her best-known role, the matchmaking high school princess Cher Horowitz in the 1995 movie "Clueless."
For the last three years, she said, she has been turning down movie and TV roles to do plays -- most recently, "Time Stands Still" by Donald Margulies -- and to work on her new vegan cookbook, "The Kind Diet," which was recently No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list for hardcover advice, how-to and miscellaneous books. In a way it is a repudiation of the early, famous period of her career, when she played blond babes in movies like "The Crush," "Batman and Robin" and "Scooby-Doo 2."
"Who knows what I was doing in 'Scooby-Doo 2,' " she said after stealing a sip of sangria from the glass of a friend, Alexandra Keeling, a fashion stylist whom she met on "Miss Match," her NBC comedy that lasted a half-season. "I just didn't know my potential at the time. That's all part of my past."
"Before the change," Ms. Keeling said, referring to her friend's conversion to veganism 12 years ago.
"Exactly," Ms. Silverstone agreed.
As entrees of Moroccan spiced chickpea cake and seitan piccata arrived, Ms. Silverstone, 33, recalled her pre-vegan life, like the months when she subsisted on a boyfriend's diet of steak and doughnuts. That helped add a layer of pudge that was routinely ridiculed in celebrity magazines. "I remember on the set of 'Clueless' I was always so sick and always had ulcers, and would ask my driver to go get frozen yogurt because that's all I felt I could eat," she said. "I would get allergy shots. I was totally out of touch with my body."
An animal lover who grew up in California, Ms. Silverstone changed after seeing the treatment of animals in documentaries about the food industry.