Everyday Eats: Fried Chickin' Goodness at Veggie Grill
This new eatery in the Westfield UTC mall proves that faux meat tastes just fine if you fry it.
Posted Tuesday, September 3, 2013, 05:00PM
I learned something important (and a bit surprising) this weekend: vegetable protein (a.k.a. "fake meat") can be almost as good as the real thing, provided you fry it. The setting for this lesson was Veggie Grill, a new vegetarian-friendly eatery in the Westfield UTC mall. It's the first outpost in San Diego for the Santa Monica-based chain, which already has several locations in Northern and Southern California, Oregon, and Washington.
On my visit, I filled a four-person table with options that represented nearly the entire menu, from veggie-steak tacos, to entree-sized salads, and even a cookie topped with dairy-free pudding. The fact that it was delicious was quite an accomplishment, especially considering that in addition to cutting all animal products from the menu (no meat, eggs and dairy), Veggie Grill's commitment to healthy cuisine extends to refined sugars and trans fats.
The plates I kept coming back to were the fried "Chickin'" dishes: Buffalo Wings ($6.95), Chickin' strips coated in a spicy marinade, and the Santa Fe Crispy Chickin’ sandwich ($8.95), a fried Chickin' patty topped with avocado and spicy vegan mayo. It was astouding how much difference breading and frying made to the faux meat (for reference purposes, it's Gardein--a trademarked blend of organic and non-GMO soy, wheat, and pea protein). Had I been eating in a hurry, or distracted in any way, I might not even have noticed.
If you're new to meat subsitutes, these two dishes are a great jumping-off point. For those already fully comfortable with vegetable and soy-based proteins, it's open-season on the entire menu. And whether you're just dipping in a toe to test the waters or ready to dive in head first, do not miss the grilled cookie. Seriously.
Veggie Grill is located in the Westfield UTC mall (map) near Eureka! Burgers