Friday, June 11, 2010

Vegan Again?

The epiphany began with my visit to Real Food Daily a couple of weeks ago, but I've come to the realization that not only is vegan food not terrible, it actually can be quite tasty, and filling too.  After Manhattan Beach, I stopped by Plaza El Segundo to pick up my car and decided to pick up a quick dinner at Veggie Grill.  I'd heard a lot of good things Veggie Grill on Chowhound, but with locations in Irvine, Hollywood, and El Segundo, I hadn't had the opportunity to pay it a visit until yesterday.  It's a quick casual concept where you order at a counter and then food is delivered to your table.  The space is bright, airy and simple, with green and orange accents.
I ordered the famous sweet potato sweetheart fries, which I pretty much devoured during the drive home.  I really like the chipotle ranch dressing that they serve with the fries; a little spicy and a little decadent.  I also ordered the macaroni and cheese, because as most people know, mac n cheese is one of my favorite foods in the world, if not the favorite.  The mac n cheese was made with brown rice pasta, vegan cheese and toasted garlic bread crumbs.  I devoured most of the dish before I remembered taking a picture, but you can see that it looks just like regular mac n cheese:
The texture and consistency of the dish was pretty darn close to regular mac n cheese: the cheese was smooth, rich and creamy, the dish felt indulgent and I would order it again.  While I love all sorts of cheese, I am no cheese snob; I prefer Cheez Whiz on my cheesesteaks and nachos.  This cheese had the same consistency to cheez whiz, which I like on mac n cheese as well.  It could have been just a little more tangy, like sharp cheddar, but was a good substitute.  For the most part, the macaroni pasta tasted right as well.  There was just the small touch of gumminess that you get from pasta not made solely from durum wheat, but it was pretty smooth as a whole.  Better than the brown rice pasta that I've gotten from Trader Joes, which is just a gummy and grainy mess.

I also ordered the Bayou Chickin' sandwich, which was chillin' chickin' (a veggie protein blend), lightly blackened with cajun spices, lettuce, tomato, red onion, avocado, and spicy vegan mayo.  We didn't try this sandwich until the next day; I was actually quite full from the sweet potato fries, mac n cheese and a little bit of arugula, so I refrigerated the sandwich and heated it up in the microwave for lunch today.  Even though it was a day old and reheated, I thought it was really good.  More importantly, K., who loves his meat and is even more skeptical of vegan food than I am, really liked the sandwich as well.  The chicken definitely had the consistency and taste of real chicken, and the cajun spices probably helped as well.  It was an interesting, nicely balanced sandwich with the avocado and red onion.  It tasted fresh, yet quite hearty and was quite filling.  I guess the good thing about fake chicken is that it doesn't get overcooked and dry, so it was actually better than a lot of real chicken sandwiches that I normally have.
I'm really looking forward to trying more of the menu items, and I'm excited that they are opening a location in Santa Monica in a few months!  Price point is decent, at about $8-9 for a sandwich; it is significantly cheaper than Real Food Daily (although to be fair, RFD is organic).
Veggie Grill
Plaza El Segundo
720 Allied Way
El Segundo, CA  90245
(310) 535-0025

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