LA JOLLA/UTC and CARLSBAD. Could a vegan enterprise be the darling of corporate America? Yes, according to Forbes.com, which recently added Veggie Grill to its list of “15 Explosively Growing Companies to Watch This Year.” In fact, during the past year, Veggie Grill successfully raised $20 million to further fuel its expansion. As a result, its 20+ locations in the western states might be only the beginning! . . .
So what’s all the fuss about? Well, each Veggie Grill is 100% vegan and offers a wide variety of convenient, healthy dishes. With vegan versions of comfort foods like buffalo wings, cheeseburgers, and steak tacos, Veggie Grill proves that it’s not boring to be vegan.
I am thankful that Veggie Grill decided to open up its newest location in San Diego, at the University Towne Center (UTC) Mall. Although I am not a big fan of malls, I can be lured in with the promise of good vegan food. (See previous posts on True Foods Kitchen and Seasons 52!)
Veggie Grill offers a well-rounded menu. The diverse menu spans from salads and sandwiches to plates, wraps, and tacos. On a recent visit, I tried the Gluten Free Power Plate, featuring a stack of blackened tempeh, portobello mushrooms, and caramelized onions with a side of kale and sliced tomato salad and chipotle Ranch dressing. There is a lot going on in this dish! And I love that Veggie Grill showcases kale as a staple side dish, complete with a creamy dressing and sesame seeds to reward the adventurous.
Next up was the Cheeseburger, ordered “El Dorado Style” – topped with jalapenos and caramelized onions. The burger is served with vegan cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and chipotle ranch on a wheat bun. I enjoyed the vegan patty – it was thick and juicy – but the best part was the layer of warm, perfectly melted “cheese.” A great example of the recent evolution of non-dairy cheese.
The first trip to Veggie Grill was so good, I went back less than a week later. Plus, the menu presents a lot of real estate to cover!
We ordered the Baja “Fish” Taco Plate. Three flour tortillas arrived cradling crispy “fish,” green cabbage, original Baja sauce, cilantro, and lime. The plate also included a side of roasted corn salsa, and “Bean Me Up” Chili. The Baja sauce and salsa provided fresh flavor, but this is a light entrée that pairs well with the hearty and well-spiced side of chili.
The All Hail Kale salad exceeded all expectations. It is a mix of marinated kale and red cabbage, corn salsa, and agave-roasted walnuts with a side of ginger papaya vinaigrette. A beautiful medley of bright colors. We also added Blackened Chickin’ strips, which added even more substance to the salad with their firm texture and grilled flavor.
And because I can’t go anywhere without ordering dessert, I succumbed to the Grilled Cookie. Veggie Grill takes dessert to the next level by warming the chocolate chip cookie (and what cookie doesn’t taste better warm!) and topping it with chocolate pudding and vegan crema.
Veggie Grill has a relaxed and casual atmosphere. You place your order at the front counter, then sit at a table with a number until some friendly youngster delivers your food.
The interior is bright and cheery – red red walls and green chairs with huge windows to let in the natural light. The outdoor patio allows customers (especially those withe dogs!) to enjoy warm San Diego days under bright, yellow umbrellas. Need one last reason to eat at Veggie Grill? It is clean! I don’t know how they do it, but the counters and tables gleam, and the floor is free from crumbs.
4353 La Jolla Village Drive
La Jolla, CA 92122
965 Palomar Airport Road
Carlsbad, CA 92011