Out with the old and in with the new has more than one meaning when it comes to Veggie Grill at Wilshire Boulevard and 21st Street. This 100 percent vegan quick-service restaurant is the new trend in healthful “fast food.” The Veggie Grill sits proudly next to Poquito Mas in a small strip where Sizzler stood for many years.
No longer are customers looking for the all-you-can-eat salad bar or slab of baby back ribs when they don’t have a lot of time or a lot of money for their lunch break; they are looking for finger-licking, mouth-watering healthy meal options. Many people are trying to include more vegetarian and meatless meals into their regular diet. The Veggie Grill seems to fit that bill and they may even change the negative connotation associated with “fast food.”
They use only plant-based ingredients and claim that all menu items are free of animal fat, cholesterol and trans fat. They make most of their marinades, sauces, and dressings in-house and prepare all ingredients fresh daily. They even offer a daily soup.
To ensure that vegans are meeting their daily protein needs, they must include plant-based proteins at most meals and snacks. This includes nuts, seeds, beans, soy and other plant-based proteins such as tempeh and seitan, which comes from wheat gluten. The Veggie Grill uses Gardein brand soy patties that are made from organic and non-GMO soy, wheat, and pea proteins. They season and marinade the patties for each dish. For a wheat-free, gluten-free option, Too-Good brand tempeh patties are also offered.
If you suffer from wheat, nuts or even soy allergies, menu items are clearly marked so customers can select mindfully. Upon request at the restaurant or on their website — www.veggiegrill.com — lists of menu items and their ingredients can be reviewed for careful selections of allergen-free foods.
I visited this popular vegan spot on a Tuesday during lunch hour and they were busy. I noted that the most popular dishes being ordered were the signature Buffalo Chicken’ Wings and a side of Steamin’ Kale. The Baja Fiesta Salad with chopped romaine, papaya, avocado, roasted corn salsa and homemade ginger papaya vinaigrette was a kaleidoscope of colors on the plate and ordered just as frequently. If a sandwich is what you’re in the mood for, then you may want to try the Santa Fe Crispy Chicken’ — also recommended by the friendly staff. It’s a breaded and fried soy patty served on a wheat bun with the usual fixings, avocado and a spicy vegan mayonnaise.
This is no one-hit wonder and it’s not just popular with the health-minded folks on the Westside. The Veggie Grill is here to stay with more than 11 locations in California spanning from Hollywood to Orange County, and a few in Oregon and Washington. So the next time you head to Poquito Mas on Wilshire Boulevard, step in and check out what vegan is all about.
The Better Option favorite: Baja Fiesta Salad (no tortilla strips)
Chopped romaine, papaya, avocado, roasted corn salsa, cucumber, cilantro, dressing and grilled chicken (from website analysis).
Calories: 610; Fat: 30 g; Sat Fat: 4.5 g; Chol: 0; Total Carbs: 66 g; Sodium: 1000 mg; Fiber: 15 g; Protein: 30 g.
How it rates:
Food Taste: 3 apples
Food Health: 4 apples
Décor: 3 apples
Service: 3 apples
Cost: 3 apples
1 apple = poor to fair
2 apples = fair to good
3 apples = good to very good
4 apples = very good to excellent
5 apples = extraordinary to perfection
If you go
2025 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, Calif.
Lori Salerno, M.S., R.D.N., C.P.T. is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer who provides medical nutrition therapy to groups and individuals in Santa Monica and recipe and menu analysis for restaurants nationwide. Learn more at www.eatwelldailynutrition.com