Veggie Grill: Fast Casual Vegan Fare

interior Veggie Grill PortlandVeggie 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.

Thai salad Veggie GrillThat 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?”

nachos - Veggie GrillBecause 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.

santa fe chickin' salad veggie grillDavid 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.


    • says

      David definitely has a weakness where sweet potato fries are concerned. If they’re on the menu, chances are, that’s what he’s ordering. I was still able to snag one, though, and they were awfully tasty!

  1. says

    I love the colors of the decor – it’s like being inside a scoop of vegan peach sorbet. :-) And the food looks wonderful, though once again it’s David’s order I’m coveting! Don’t know if it’s the sweet tater fries, the pickles (the more the merrier when it comes to dill pickles, says I) or just the whole ensemble, but YUM!!

    …”how awesome is it that there’s a fast casual vegan chain realm at all?” How very true! And very awesome. May the trend only spread and grow! (In Wyoming’s direction, please!) :-)

    • says

      Good observation on the peach sorbet! It is like that! Actually, there’s a frozen yogurt place a few miles from us that has the same color palette for its signage as Veggie Grill. Whenever I pass by I get excited for just a second. It’s as if it’s a Veggie Grill mirage. Then I realize it’s still the same dumb frozen yogurt place again. Alas.

      I hope the trend continues too! It certainly seems to be going in that direction. Huge progress has been made in terms of the availability and recognizability of vegan fare in the past few years. It’s great to see! As for the direction of Wyoming… Good luck! :)

  2. says

    I love the idea that there’s a veggie food chain that does solid fast food out there. I’m with you on the hot gardein, but those nachos look pretty darn good. Ditto the burger! Not sure I’d want to swap the bun for kale, being a bit of a carb fiend. Can I have some on the side too?!

    • says

      Yes, Mark Bittman wrote an article a while back about the growth of vegan fast food, and he noted that most of the diners at Veggie Grill aren’t vegan or vegetarian. For that reason, I could see it spreading to other parts of the country or world even, because it’s food that wouldn’t take as much arm twisting to get people to try. (“No, seriously. Try the lentils. You’ll like them. I promise.”)

      Kale on the side is an option too! Have your bun & a spoonful of kale! :)

  3. Alanna says

    I took my family in to try Veggie Grill while at VVC. It was really wonderful. One of my boys is allergic to wheat, soy and peanut. We were hard pressed to find a vegan meal that is gluten AND soy free (and palatable to a 4 year old). The manager at Veggie Grill pulled out a binder and began scouring their ingredients. After a bit I told him we would just order sides (carrot sticks, mandarin oranges) for our little guy. He smiled warmly and said he would come up with something. It was the sweetest thing. He brought my son a tray of his own with a gf noodle dish they created just for him and several sides. Our boy went from feeling left out to feeling very special. I’m grateful to the manager for going above and beyond. We are huge fans of Veggie Grill now–especially my husband who may be addicted to their buffalo wings.

    • says

      That is such a sweet story! A person is often hard pressed to get that kind of service at a sit-down restaurant, let alone one of the order-at-the-counter variety. It’s great to hear about that kind of customer service, and I’m glad that they treated your son so beautifully.

    • says

      Sadly, I don’t live in California anymore, but you’re totally right about how lucky they are with their bounty of vegan options!

    • says

      LA doesn’t make it easy with so many fantastic vegan restaurants. I was there for two weeks in April, and I still didn’t hit everything I wanted to try!

  4. says

    We have two Veggie Grills here, and while we don’t go often, it’s nice to know we have the option of a quick, well-prepared vegan meal when we want it. I like that the food always seems fresh, and that it seems to appeal to omnivores as well as vegans. I usually get the tempeh/mushroom plate (can’t remember the name) or one of the salads with tempeh instead of the gardein. I’ve had the nachos, too, and thought they were really good. Thanks for reminding me about the coupon!

  5. says

    I’m with you- Native Foods is usually my choice for fast casual dining, but I’m so grateful that we have not one, but two vegan choices in this department. So wonderful!

    After you guys mentioned that you used your voucher, Chris and I went back to the hotel to find that our menus were empty! Neither of us got vouchers. :-( Oh well- we’ll still go for the All Hail Kale and the Carne Asada Sandwich. Oh, I and I hear they just started serving tacos!

    • says

      Oh, that’s such a bummer that your folders were empty! I noticed on their online menus that they’re now carrying tacos. I’m intrigued! Since it will be a while until I’m in an area with a Veggie Grill location again, I hope someone will give a full report! (hint, hint!)

  6. says

    I am hoping that a KC location is part of the Veggie Grill expansion plan (I wouldn’t mind if Native Foods opened up shop here either!). I’ve never been to [either] one, but everything looks so delicious — I definitely wouldn’t say no to a plate full of those nachos! And how nice that presentation is part of the deal. Touches like that make all the difference.

    • says

      I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Native Foods included Kansas City in part of its 200 cities expansion. It seems like a natural fit for either restaurant, since the vegan options that are already in the area continue to thrive. There’s clearly a market for it! And every time I’ve visited FUD, Cafe Gratitude, or Mud Pie, they have always seemed busy and popular!

    • says

      I hear you! I hope they keep expanding. I’d love to have one in our area too. Plus, it’s the kind of chain that I think would be popular almost anywhere!

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