veggie grill / utc – la jolla, ca
Let me admit this off the bat – I wasn’t sure if I would really like this place. I got an invitation to come in and I already knew I probably couldn’t get Jake and S to go here over the weekend, so I opted to go for lunch on my own. Veggie Grill kind of sounds like a place that would serve strange looking tofu burgers and unflavorful wannabe fake food. Let’s take a little journey on my adventure to the Veggie Grill to see if they convinced me that vegetarian/vegan/dairy free food can be yummy after all…
I went around 1PM on a Tuesday afternoon and the place was quite busy still from the lunch crowd – seats inside and out were all taken and I had to wait a bit for it to clear out so I could take an inside photo without someone looking at me funny and thinking I was taking their photo from some strange reason.
I tried two of their beverages. The manager was serving me and bringing me a various amount of things. I picked the ice tea on the right, which was a hibiscus ginger tea. It was a little bit on the sweet side, but had a nice flavor from. I ended up liking the strawberry lemonade the best of the two – they make it fresh every day, using real strawberries. It had a nice slightly tart but still slightly sweet flavor – it was the perfect balance!
One of the appetizer I tried were these “Buffalo Wings”.
I know, I know… they look more like “buffalo sticks”. All of their “chickin” items use totally plant-based with no meat, no dairy, no eggs, and no cholesterol. The chickin uses a mix of soy, grains, glutens, fibers, and other stuff. I’m not quite sure how it all goes together and how anyone came up with this, but the manager explained that they use different flavorings but the same basic “stuff” for the “chickin”, the “steak”, etc.
I reluctantly took a bite… and was surprised to find that it did kind of taste like chicken. Not exactly, mind you, but the mouth feel, the look, the texture and the general flavor was all there to remind me of chicken without actually being chicken. The spicy buffalo sauce really kicked in to give it that potent “buffalo sauce” flavor that is associated with wings. The side of ranch helped cool things down to make it more manageable for me to eat. It ended up too spicy for me to eat too much of it, but the flavor was actually pretty good.
[quinoa power salad with quinoa, kale, romaine, red onion, bell pepper, avocado, fennel, cannellini beans, carrots, almonds, currants, mint, citrus dressing, and hemp seeds]
This Quinoa Power salad is packed to the brim with stuff – quinoa on top with a bed of kale/romaine on the bottom, lots of little bits of veggies, large chunks of avocado, and so much more!
Here’s another peek at it a little more tossed together. The currants brought a touch of sweetness, the almonds and veggies a bit of crunch, the mint and the citrus dressing infused it all with a fresh, bright flavor and the avocado gave it a nice creaminess. There’s a lot of different textures going on here, which keeps everything interesting. I surprised at how refreshing and flavorful the whole salad was and this was actually my favorite item from my visit.
Don’t be fooled into thinking I actually ate all of these full portions of food – no way! It might be plant based but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any calories from the sauces, and well, I just can’t eat that much…
This Bombay Bowl is filled with herb roasted veggies, grains, kale, cannellini beans and topped with a green cilantro curry sauce made with coconut milk. Almonds and hemp seeds are also thrown into the mix for various crunch and texture. The curry sauce with it’s mild coconut flavor really helped bridge this dish together. The flavorful roasted veggies included mushrooms, squash, butternut squash, carrots, and probably a few other things I missed. This bowl was really packed full of flavors and spices from the herbs and the curry used making it a really yummy dish.
[santa fe crispy chickin’ sandwich]
This is one of Veggie’s Grill most popular items – the “crispy chickin” sandwich. For some who isn’t in vegetarian/vegan food, to appeal to the usual gaggle of meat eaters, this approachable chickin sandwich looks and feels like a real fried chicken.
It comes on a nice roll with spicy vegan mayo that gives the sandwich a little kick in the pants with flavor. The mound of fresh avocado gives it a nice creaminess and the fresh veggies help make this look quite presentable.
I scooped all that pickle-y looking relish stuff off my of avocado before I spread it over my chickin, assembled it together and took a bite. It was a similar mouth feel and flavor akin to the buffalo wings I had earlier – biting into it, it looked like chicken with similar flavors and textures. I was honestly surprised that I liked it. I’ve had “vegan” food before that tasted pretty fake and gross and so I was really surprised how flavorful and tasty this was. It was tender and moist with a crispy outside. I ate about a 1/3 of it before I had to stop because I was full. I’d come back and order this again, really!
This is normally served with Yukon gold fries, chili or coleslaw but I opted to try one of their sides instead. I choose the cauliflower/mashed potatoes with porcini mushroom gravy. It tasted just like regular mashed potatoes – creamy and good with the mushroom gravy (mmm, mushroom gravy).
I got a little dessert to go that I ate later that evening. I didn’t have enough time on my break to try the Grilled Cookie (a grilled chocolate chip cookie with chocolate pudding and chocolate sauce) so I got this carrot cake. The carrot cake was moist and had a nice bit of spices in the cake mixture. The vegan cream cheese frosting on top was also yummy with the mess of nuts and carrot bits on top. Knowing it was vegan didn’t change anything – it was still a yummy slice.
The chocolate chip cookie is made with organic flour, cane juice, walnuts and dark chocolate chips. I ate this one right when I got back to work and it was pretty tasty as well.
Overall I’m surprised to say that actually… Veggie Grill was really very good. I would go back, on my own, for lunch again. It made me re-think “vegetarian” and “vegan” food – because good food is tasty no matter what.
Disclaimer: My meal for Veggie Grill was complimentary. I was not paid or further compensated for this post and all opinions listed here are my own.