Veggie Grill is a fast casual chain restaurant that opened in the Los Angeles area in 2006. Since then it has expanded to include 20 locations stretching from Southern California to Seattle, Washington. I’ve eaten at a couple of their LA locations in the past, and my husband is a bag fan, eating there multiple times during our last LA trip.
So when David noticed the coupon for a free entrée mixed in with our bag of swag from Vida Vegan Con and heard that Veggie Grill was only a few blocks away from the museum where the conference was being held, he made his pitch to me, Erin, and Jeff that we should forgo the afternoon conference lunch and instead stroll over to their downtown Portland location.
All of the Veggie Grill locations are bright, airy, and modern with a order-at-the-counter set-up. They have a wide variety of appetizers like buffalo wings and nachos, a selection of burgers, kids meals that include chickin’ nuggets, and everything there is totally and entirely vegan. Their chickin’ and veggie steak are made from Gardein and their tempeh is made from non-GMO soybeans. They are also known for their All Hail Kale Salad, which is my usual order.
That day I decided to stray from my standard and order the Thai Chickin’ Salad made with the aforementioned grilled Gardein, cabbage, mandarin oranges, sesame seeds, cilantro, wonton strips, corn salsa, green onions, and a spicy Thai dressing. The Gardein was served cold, which was a little bit of a bummer since I prefer a hot element like that in a cold salad, but the flavors were bright with a mixture of sweet and spicy and the vegetables were fresh and crisp.
Something I like about all of the food at Veggie Grill is that they pay attention to the presentation. With a place that is in the fast food world, it stands out that they bring the food to your table looking like care was taken. It’s not at all one of those places where you look at the picture in the menu and then look at the dish in front of you and think, “Is that the same thing?”
Because I was feeling generous, I ordered these Uptown Nachos for the table “to share.” (They can send the thank you notes to my home mailbox. I’ll accept them at any time.) The tortilla chips were drizzled with soy cream and topped with chili, Veggie Grill cheese, corn salsa, jalapeños, and scoops of avocado.
David went with his go-to selection of the Santa Fe Crispy Chickin’ sandwich with a side of sweet potato fries. All of the sandwiches at Veggie Grill can be ordered kale style – served on a bed of steamed kale instead of your usual bun. David, as you can see, stayed with the standard. This fried Gardein patty is served on a bun with lettuce, tomato, onions, and avocado, and then David added a generous layer of pickles.
In the fast casual vegan chain realm, Native Foods still has my heart, but regardless, how awesome is it that there’s a fast casual vegan chain realm at all? And to be sure, if Veggie Grill opened a location in my town, I would be doing a happy dance. (But David’s happy dance would be even more enthusiastic and would likely involve his interpretation of the moonwalk.) It’s always exciting to see businesses that are bringing more plant-based and animal-friendly food to the masses.