Read the rest of Steggy's Veggies.)
(Mmm... Vegan chocolate pudding...)
Meet Ton-Ton's friend Steggy the Stegosaurus. Cat rescued him from a $2 store during our last trip to Canada. Since then, he's been clamoring for his own article series. At the same time, my vegan and vegetarian friends have started introducing me to some of the great meat-free restaurants in California. Put the two together and you have Steggy's Veggies, my new showcase for vegan and vegetarian fare.
Vegans and vegetarians have long been plagued by the lack of options at casual dining establishments. Let's face it. If you're an herbivore out for a quick lunch with carnivorous friends, you're pretty much screwed. You get a couple of items to choose from, they get the whole damn menu. Instead of being a pleasurable break from work, the meal becomes something to be endured just so you can hang out with your buddies.
Even health-conscious omnivores can have problems finding restaurants that allow them to make smart decisions without sacrificing their taste buds. Given the choice between the easy affordability and convenience of the closest McCrap Shack equivalent, and the expense of a time-consuming sit-down restaurant, cube warriors around the country are risking expanding bottoms for the sake of their bottom lines. Good health just isn't on the menu.
It was deprived herbivores and beleaguered omnivores that Ray White, former co-founder of Native Foods in Costa Mesa, had in mind when he created the Veggie Grill. With a flagship store in Irvine and recently-opened sister store in El Segundo, the Veggie Grill offers a casual dining experience with vegan soups, salads, and sandwiches at reasonable prices. Their specialty is custom-formulated imitation meat created by drawing on over 3,000 years of vegan culinary traditions from Asia. However, you can be sure that no animal products of any type will be found in their restaurants. Everything you order is 100% vegetable-based, hence the name.
(Panda tested, dino approved.)
By combining wheat gluten, tempeh, and soy protein, all common meat replacements in Asia, with Western cooking techniques and seasonings, the creative minds behind the Veggie Grill have created delicious mock meat capable of satisfying even the most rabid carnivore. Take their Chill Out Wings. Made from tightly wound sheets of seasoned soy protein, deep fried, and coated in a tangy BBQ sauce, they have a taste and texture that would make you swear you were eating chicken. They're served with two vegan dips; a creamy chipotle ranch and a fiery hot sauce. Sampled alone, the dips are both quite nice. However, mix them together and you've got a party in your mouth.
Although soups and salads are offered, the real stars on the Veggie Grill's menu are its signature sandwiches. Served on a whole wheat bun with a side of coleslaw, each sandwich features a different vegan "meat". The Chipotle BBQ, made with grilled slices of wheat gluten and caramelized onions, is one of my favorites. The bits of char on the outer edges add a summery flare to the savory gluten's natural chewiness, while the spicy chipotle sauce makes your tongue dance.
Another great sandwich is the Santa Fe Crispy Chickin'. A patty of imitation chicken is country-fried and topped with avocado, salsa relish, and a vegan Southwestern mayo. The crunchy outer shell provides a pleasant contrast to the soft bun. Similarly, the Grillin' Chickin' (pictured below) offers an equally tasty alternative without deep-frying.
By default, each sandwich comes with a small side of the Veggie Grill's refreshingly coleslaw. However, for a few dollars more, you can get the Sweetheart Fries instead. These delicious sweet potato fries come scattered along your plate like heap of golden brown Lincoln Logs. You can also get them as a stand-alone appetizer, but you'll probably need to share them with a friend. It's a big plate.
If, for some inexplicable reason, you're tempted by the Steamin' Kale, resist. The cloying ginger-miso dressing does little to mask the earthy bitterness of the kale. There's probably a reason it's the only cooked vegetable on the menu.
(No, Steggy, that's my cheesecake.)
You'll definitely want to save a little room for dessert. The Veggie Grill's Chocolate Pudding (first picture) provides a surprisingly dense, intensely chocolaty encounter. Cat and Steggy always start their meal off with a cup of this stuff. Despite its appearance, the Pumpkin Cheesecake is excellent. I can't even tell that it's vegan. I've never had a cheesecake made without cream cheese that tasted so good.
(Chill Out Wings without sauce, the best way to have them.)
The Veggie Grill - A healthy and delicious alternative for lunch. I highly recommend it to everyone, regardless of dietary preference. It's a liberating experience for vegans and vegetarians, and an enlightening one for carnivores.
Chill Out Wings - 6.50
Chipotle BBQ - 8.95
Santa Fe Crispy Chickin' - 9.25
Grillin' Chickin' - 9.50
Sweetheart Fries (upgrade) - 2.25
Sweetheart Fries (appetizer) - 4.25
Steamin' Kale (upgrade) - 1.50
Steamin' Kale (appetizer) - 3.95
Chocolate Pudding - 2.50
Pumpkin Cheesecake - 4.25
The Veggie Grill
4213 Campus Dr.
Irvine, CA 92612
The veggie Grill
720 Allied Way
El Segundo, CA 90245