Restaurant Review: Veggie Grill

Restaurant Review: Veggie Grill

It’s only been six years in the making, but the affordable vegetarian restaurant chain Veggie Grill has already has the established itself on the west coast with a new UCSD-accessible location at the Westfield UTC Mall. For those moving into their first real apartment this year, the Veggie Grill is a great way to take Meatless Mondays beyond the dining halls to places off campus.

The restaurants accommodates all types of eaters, especially catering to those with specific food needs: There are gluten-free labels (marked GF) on certain foods, and the “meats” are made from organic, non-GMO soy, wheat and pea protein. Nevertheless, plenty of Veggie Grill’s customers are omnivores, so don’t fret if the ingredients seem a little foreign.

The scratch kitchen (as in made-from-scratch kitchen) is the heart of the restaurant, and chef Ray White has been a big part of devising the menu, acting as an advocate of healthy eating. With an always-changing palate, Ray White and the rest of the staff have been busy adjusting the menu to regional tastes and trends. Although the entrance may prove crowded and hectic at busy hours of the day, there’s a good chance you’ll see general manager Chris Radle at the front speaking to customers with a smile.

The restaurant’s decor plays with vibrant vegetable hues. The outdoor seating is bright yellow like a bell pepper, the workers have carrot-colored aprons and the indoor setup is red like a tomato. A floor-to-ceiling glass window allows natural light to illuminate the restaurant and gives dining parents a good view of their children on the playground outside. The indoor ambience is relaxing yet social, with a pleasing background soundtrack of kids at play.

All-American Stack

Meat eaters can start off with buffalo wings ($6.95) if they’re still intimidated by the world of plants. The wings are shaped more like sticks, since the restaurant doesn’t use real chicken, but the spicy-tangy taste is still present. To compensate for the adjusted soy chicken flavor, the ranch dressing is packed with flavor, even though it’s an egg-free recipe. Pair the buffalo wings with the Sweetheart Fries ($4.25), which are dusted with parmesan and complement the flavor of the wings. The chipotle ranch that comes with it is creamier than it is thick. The slight spice also brings out the sweetness of the sweet potato fries.

The Cauli-Mashed Potatoes and Gravy ($2.95) is made with rosemary and topped with porcini mushroom gravy. The potatoes, with a slight grey tint, don’t appear appetizing, and their pungent smell won’t make your mouth water, either. Take a pass on them and get something else.

Veggie Grill’s All Hail Kale ($7.25 lunch/$8.95 entree) salad — aptly named — is a definite highlight of the menu. For one, it’s humongous — it’s big enough to split with a small group of friends. The kale is marinated overnight in a sweet-and-sour sauce, which adds a tangy punch to its veggie-heavy flavor. The sauce is not overpowering, but it’s just flavorful enough that it brings out the texture of the actual kale. And it’s pleasing to the eye, too: The kale’s dark green coloring meshes with a red cabbage topping and a sprinkle of salsa corn, agave-roasted walnuts and ginger-papaya vinaigrette. Add in some blackened “chick’n” ($2.75) if you’re tired of too much leaf.

Dessert offerings are almost as enticing: The carrot cake ($3.50) has a hint of cinnamon and is made with pineapple, vegan cream cheese frosting and a “confetti” of actual carrot shavings. The cake is moist, but the walnuts balance this out by giving it a pleasant crunch. The chocolate pudding parfait ($3.50) has a bitter, deep dark chocolate flavor. Crushed cookies provide a nice juxtaposition to the pudding’s smooth texture.

Veggie Grill offers very healthy, decently priced meals for those who are looking to expand their food options and who want a getaway from the meat and grease.

 

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