The Veggie Grill Dishes Up Feel-Good Comfort Food at IFBC
The Veggie Grill is coming to the International Food Blogger Conference this August in Portland! The Veggie Grill is ideal for diners who crave a quick bite to eat but dread the guilt that can follow indulgences at a fast-food drive-thru, The Veggie Grill may render the impossible possible: comfort food that is wholesome, delicious, convenient, and affordable. Co-Founders T.K. Pillan and Kevin Boylan, along with Operating Partner Ray White, began transforming the way Southern Californians enjoy classic American favorites in 2006 when they opened the first location of The Veggie Grill at University Center in Irvine. Five years later, The Veggie Grill is successfully operating ten outposts including two in Portland, OR, two in Irvine, one in El Segundo, one in Santa Monica, one in Hollywood, one in Long Beach and another at the Original Farmer’s Market on Fairfax. The popular independent, premium fast-casual restaurant is known for making amazingly flavorful and wholesome food with 100% plant based ingredients, including complete, high-protein, hearty “veggie-meats” that break the stereotype of bland, mushy vegetarian food.
The Veggie Grill concept was borne from Pillan and Boylan’s desire for a restaurant that offers great-tasting, convenient, feel-good food. With that common ground, Pillan, a former technology executive, and Boylan, an investment banker, teamed up in 2005 and began traveling the country, eating at a wide variety of restaurants serving wholesome fare—which eventually led them to Ray White, longtime restaurateur and former co-owner of Southern California’s Native Foods restaurants. Impressed with his food, the duo met with White to discuss their philosophies and an idea for a business partnership. Together, the three entrepreneurs decided to take a leap of faith with the idea for The Veggie Grill concept. “Our overarching purpose was to show people how delicious and enjoyable plant-based food could be when prepared the right way,” Pillan says. To that end, White developed an array of all-natural dishes that met the partners’ progressive definition of “wholesome.” “We define wholesome foods as those that are cholesterol-free, have no trans fats, animal fat, or high-fructose corn syrup,” Pillan says. “The only way to meet these criteria is to go with a 100% plant-based food menu and it’s also environmentally sustainable, which is a bonus that we love.”
Plant-based proteins are different from meat in that they contain fiber and complex carbohydrates (commonly referred to as “the good carbs”). The result is tasty, nutritionally beneficial food that provides a satisfying dining experience.
Pillan, Boylan, and White know maintaining high nutritional standards is meaningless if the food is not delicious. To that end, they are changing the common perception of vegetable proteins as being flavorless and bland with their inventive recipes including a variety of savory, homemade marinades and sauces. “New patrons are always shocked at how flavorful our food is,” Pillan notes. “We regularly receive e-mails from our guests about how delighted they are,” adds Boylan.
With his 15 years of experience in developing plant-based cuisine, coupled with a personal interest in wholesome eating, White ensures that The Veggie Grill’s menu is filled with a variety of innovative, delectable recipes and works to keep options fresh and exciting for regulars and newcomers alike. The menu boasts something to suit every craving with a vast selection of Starters and Sides ($3.25-6.25), Salads ($7.95-9.50), Soups ($2.95-4.50), Sandwiches and Burgers ($6.75-8.95), and Desserts ($1.95-3.50).
Among the distinctive sandwiches is the signature “Santa Fe Crispy Chickin’” (Crispy Fried Chillin’ Chickin’, Lettuce, Tomato, Red Onion, Avocado, Savory Southwestern-Spiced Vegan Mayo); the new “Bayou Chickin’” (Chillin’ Chickin’ lightly blackened with Cajun Spices, Lettuce, Tomato, Red Onion, Avocado, Spicy Vegan Mayo); and the “All American Stack” (Grilled Veggie-Steak stacked with Onion Rings, Lettuce, Tomato, Pickles, and Thousand Island Dressing). All sandwiches and burgers are served on Wheat Buns with a side of Red Cabbage Slaw that may be substituted for Chili or Steamed Kale ($1.50), Spring Mix Salad ($1.95), or The Veggie Grill signature Sweet Potato Fries, called “Sweetheart Fries” ($2.25). The latter option, which are also served on their own with Chipotle Ranch Dressing ($4.25), are often enjoyed by guests as a starter, a side, or as a wholesome, scrumptious snack. “Sweet potatoes have a much higher nutritional profile than traditional potatoes,” White notes. “They’re high in antioxidant-rich beta carotene and have more calcium and vitamin C than white potatoes. You actually get a whole day’s worth of Vitamin A with a serving of sweet potato fries.”
Additional options include the “Chickin’ Caesar Wrap” (Grillin’ Chickin’, Tomatoes, Lettuce, Croutons, Caesar Dressing), as well as Entrée Salads infused with Quinoa, an amino-acid-rich, high-protein seedwith a nutty flavor and fluffy texture. Selections include the signature “Baja Fiesta” (Chopped Romaine, Papaya, Avocado, Roasted Corn Salsa, Quinoa, Cucumber, Cilantro, Ginger-Papaya Vinaigrette) and “All Hail Kale” (Marinated Organic Baby Kale and Red Cabbage, Roasted Corn Salsa, Agave-Roasted Walnuts, Ginger-Papaya Vinaigrette).
In 2010, The Veggie Grill added a flavorful and crave-worthy new layer to the menu with the addition of dairy-free VG-cheese and new menu items including “Mac-n-Cheese” (Brown rice macaroni, VG-cheese) and the “V-Cheeseburger” (add VG-cheese to The Veggie Grill’s V-Burger for $1.50). “The addition of VG-cheese to our menu really completes The Veggie Grill experience,” says Boylan. “We tested the new additions at our El Segundo location and the feedback was outstanding. We are excited to continue redefining comfort food and offer delicious options that our guests can feel good about eating.” Guests are also invited to customize any sandwich or burger with VG-cheese for $1.50.
Soups are available daily with options such as Tomato Basil, Wheat Barley, Chickin’ Gumbo, or Corn Chowder. Other economical and hearty meal options include the Soup & Salad Combo—Large Soup or the “Bean Me Up Chili” (Red and White Beans, Soy Cream, Chopped Red and Green Onion) with a side serving of an Entrée Salad.
For a sweet, guilt-free finish, The Veggie Grill’s Desserts—Carrot Cake, Chocolate Pudding, and Chocolate Chip Cookies—are all free of dairy, cholesterol, and refined sugar. Each location also offers a selection of beverages from Iced Teas and Fresh Lemonade to Natural Sodas ($1.95-2.25). A thoughtful selection of craft beers and wines are also available by the glass.
The Veggie Grill also makes it fun for kids to eat wholesome cuisine with the “Kids’ Meal,” (Chickin’ Nuggets or Semolina Pasta with Marinara, a side of Sweet Potato Fries or Carrot Sticks, a serving of Chocolate Pudding, and a Lemonade $6.25). In addition, the team has put together a selection of gluten-free items from the main menu to create an easy-access list of dishes for those with gluten sensitivity.
Pairing one innovative brand with another, The Veggie Grill tapped MÁS Wine Company as the exclusive purveyor of the red and white wines and is currently the only multi-unit restaurant in Southern California pouring wines from MÁS Wine Company. A favorite at many restaurants in Northern California, MÁS Wine Company eschews bottles and instead uses environmentally friendly, air-tight, stainless steel mini tanks that mimic the way wineries store wine. The zero waste packaging eliminates oxidation with a nitrogen gas chamber inside the tank ensuring every glass is fresh. Guests have the option to enjoy the rich and aromatic 2006 MÁS Vino blend (50% Syrah, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petite Sirah) and the lightly oaked, medium bodied 2007 Chardonnay. Each of these 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition award winning wines are available by the glass ($6.50) or carafe ($15). Guests at The Veggie Grill can also enjoy forward-thinking, environmentally conscious brews from New Belgium Brewing Company including the toasty, biscuit-like malt-flavored Fat Tire and the New Belgium Brewing Company’s first organically-produced beer called Mothership Wit, which is described as having a zesty, citrus rind and coriander nose with a spicy, sweet finish ($3.50 per bottle).
For added convenience, curbside pick-up is available at the Irvine Spectrum Center and 8000 Sunset locations, where guests can call in an order and receive it at their car within 15 minutes. A catering menu is also available for those who would like a selection of The Veggie Grill’s menu favorites at their next event or meeting.
The interior of each location of The Veggie Grill is comfortable, elegant, and modern with an open, airy feel—stemming from a loft-inspired contemporary design, exposed air ducts, and large windows. The décor is clean and crisp, accented by Eames-style orange chairs and colorful bright green wall art that pops visually against the natural wood fixtures, dining tables, and spacious booths. All locations use recycled and recyclable materials, including Tectum walls and ceilings. In addition, The Veggie Grill locations use reconstituted bamboo for flooring and Kiri for the counters; both materials are highly sustainable timbers. Seating is also available at all locations on a casual outdoor patio bordered by lush greenery.
The Veggie Grill currently has seven locations in Southern California, including University Center in Irvine, Plaza El Segundo, Irvine Spectrum Center, Santa Monica, 8000 Sunset and the Original Farmers Market at West 3rd and Fairfax in Los Angeles. The Veggie Grill is open daily from 11 a.m.-10 p.m, and the 8000 Sunset restaurant is open until 11 p.m. Self-parking is available at all locations. 90 minute parking validation is provided for all guests of 8000 Sunset. Valet parking is available at the Irvine Spectrum Center. Two hours of free parking is available in any of the Farmers Market surface parking lots with a validation with purchase from The Veggie Grill or any Farmers Market merchant.
Who Should Attend
Bloggers, Food Writers & Cookbook Authors
Publishers, Agents & Editors
Food Brand / Restaurant Marketers
Public Relations Professionals
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