Can America's fast-food culture embrace local, organic vegan food? Yes — if it's served up fast and tastes yummy! That's the lesson from The Veggie Grill, a Southern Californian vegan joint that opened its seventh restaurant last week at the popular Original Farmers Market in Los Angeles.
I stopped by last week — and again this week — to see that the spot is already popular with diners. The casual restaurant gets a lot of foot traffic from both the farmers market and The Grove, because both carnivores and vegans alike can find dishes to love at The Veggie Grill, which offers everything from traditional burgers to comfort food to healthy salads, all with a vegan twist.
I went for the healthy fare, opting for the All Hail Kale salad topped with blackened tempeh. The marinated kale and red cabbage salad was perfectly dressed in a zingy ginger-papaya vinaigrette, and the agave-roasted walnuts were a delicious sweet touch.
Most people, however, opt for a burger or sandwich, which make up the bulk of Veggie Grill's menu. With faux Chickin' from Gardein and faux cheese from Daiya, Veggie Grill makes some decadent burgers, like the VG-Cheeseburger my boyfriend ordered, El Dorado style with jalapenos and caramelized onions (top photo). I had a big gooey bite — and think it's a pretty tasty indulgence for meat lovers (though I'm still not a fan of processed faux meats).
The Sweetheart Fries, sweet potato fries with vegan chipotle-ranch sauce, is a must-try side dish. Crispy on the outside yet moist on the inside, they're a deliciously tastier treat, though obviously a richer side dish higher in calories. The produce at Veggie Grill is either organic or local (the manager says they'll often opt for local over organic, because the company prioritizes reducing food miles), and all the food's free of high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats.
For dessert, the carrot cake is your best option. The vegan icing doesn't quite capture the cream cheesiness of traditional carrot cake, but the cake has been revamped since I last tried it for a moister, denser taste I've come to like. The chocolate chip cookie's decent — a generously large vegan treat made mostly with organic ingredients.
The best part about Veggie Grill — aside from letting lactose-intolerant people like me eat stress-free — is that it makes local, organic and healthy meat-free eating easy and quick for Angelenos on the go who might otherwise be hitting up McDonald's and Jack in the Box. Order at the counter and pick between a table inside — where you can take in the reconstituted bamboo flooring and eco-friendly Kirei counters — or out on the sunny outdoor patio. Either way, your food will be delivered to your table in 10 minutes or less.
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