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The Deets: Seattle vegans have long and anxiously awaited the opening of Seattle's first Veggie Grill, a southern California based vegan fast food chain that will today (8/22) open its doors to the public. This is yet more exciting news--or at least, another dining option--for the herbivore-minded set in a town recently dubbed the nation's top vegetarian-friendly city.
Any vegetarian that has ever ordered an entree of grilled veggies at the Met will tell you the more dining options, the better. But fast food is fast food, frozen, imported ingredients and all, and I observed a similar formula at work at Veggie Grill on Monday when I stopped in to the restaurant's new South Lake Union location--a bright and modern space on the burgeoning Terry Ave. strip, nary a golden arch in sight--for a media-only preview tasting.
The Beets: At the other end of the fast food spectrum, pink slime is pink slime, and you won't have to worry about that with Veggie Grill's focus on plant-based proteins (soy, wheat, and pea proteins, specifically, make up their "meat" products). Mock meats like their Chickin' and veggie-steak, when combined with ingredients sourced from as far away as France and Sweden don't equal much of a local experience, but that's the chain mind set for you--to keep costs down and flavors consistent. But if we're talking sustainable ethics in the fast-food world, VG's use of some organic ingredients (not all) and non-GMO proteins tips the scales firmly in their favor.
To that end, tastes stood up on the flavor front. The salads were the most fast-food styled entrees, and the All Hail Kale salad was too chewy, with the rubbery toughness of a kale garnish (and with all the abundant kale that grows around here, it's too bad it's not local). But the meat substitutes were very good. Veggie Grill's proprietary mock meats are a long way from the "complimentary protein" meals (aka rice and beans) and Boca burgers I ate growing up, and they're packed with protein and fiber. The Buffalo Wings, Crispy Chickin' sandwich, and VG Rollers (a blackened chickin' wrap served with salsa and a spicy aioli) were supremely tasty. Veggie Grill also makes a mean vegan ranch and pleasingly crisp (as opposed to floppy) sweet potato fries.
The Tweet: Veggie Grill might not please every Seattle palate, but its quickly served, plant-based comfort fare is going to rock the socks off many a South Lake Union vegetarian.