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A Carnivore's Dilemma: Eating at a Vegan Restaurant

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I love meat... beef, fish, and poultry.... nothing too exotic... like I'm not waiting for someone to make a Terrine of Jellied Oink or snout confit. It IS really hard for me to feel satisfied with a vegan meal (with the exception of a falafel sandwich). So, much to my surprise, I found a place where us meat-centric people may find something palatable while we dine with our veggie-inclined friends.

I was driving home from LAX with my wife when we stopped to check out some sporting goods equipment. I spotted The Counter in a shopping center across the street and was jonesing for a burger. I saw a restaurant in the same shopping center called the Veggie Grill... and figured, since my wife was more into "green"-age than"carn"-age, we'd check it out. I fully expected to look at the menu, turn around and head down a half-block back to the Counter. However, my wife looked at the menu and found some food that interested her and I figured, what the heck, if I'm still hungry, I can stop by the other place on the way back to the car, and we decided to eat there. This place is trying to make vegan food more like their nonvegan counterparts. Anyhow, as best as I can tell, this place is vegan.

So, onto the food... my wife ordered the basic V-burger and I ordered their grilled "chicken" sandwich. She ordered a side salad and I ordered a side of sweet potato fries.

We each split the sandwiches 50-50 so we each could try half.

The "chicken"sandwich tasted surprisingly good. While it looked a grilled piece of chicken (the pressed chicken forms you'd say, find at a subway), and it did have a meaty texture, when you looked at the inside of the patty after you bit down, it looked more like what you'd see after opening a can of tuna fish. The taste was interesting. It tasted more like a falafel, without the crunch. My wife didn't pick up on that flavor.

The V-burger looked like a Boca burger... This was not as good as the "chicken" sandwich. It was brownish and roundish and had grill marks. The color wasn't right and it did not have a beefy taste (which, didn't surprise me since it's not beef).

The sweet potato fries they were promoting as award winning, were okay but not fantastic, and the portion seemed small.

One highlight was this spicy salsa like concoction they had in a glass bottle as a condiment. It was spicy and was tasty. I'd recommend adding this to your sandwiches.

Overall, I was surprised that I didn't hate the place (I know, what a glowing endorsement, right?).... I'd go back, but probably only with someone else who really craves vegetarian/vegan food.

I think this place is a small, local chain. If you're in the area, it's worth a try.

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Veggie Grill
720 S Allied Way, El Segundo, CA 90245

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  1. It's sort of related to Native Foods (I think the owner of Veggie Grill was involved with Native Foods at some point). The menus and food are very similar, though the atmosphere is a little different, and Veggie Grill is even more heavy on the fake meat stuff. Overall, they are both pretty good. My favorite is the tempeh burger (different name at each place), blackened, with caramelized onions.

    And yes, both Native Foods and Veggie Grill are vegan places.

    1. with a name like VEGGIE GRILL very little amount of vegetables being offered.
      Name of the fake-meat / veg-protein they serve is Gardein, from Canada.
      Lots of frying goin' on and their buns & bread leave nothing 2b desired. IMO.

      1. i would guess that you both probably would have been better served by going to the counter, which, irrc, is right next door to the veggie grill.
        imho, the counter serves one of the better veggie burgers in town--it is not a 'fake meat' burger, but a veggie/grain/legume burger. if requested they will serve it on a whole wheat honey bun, or a regular bun, or in a bowl of lettuce. also, i've always enjoyed the sweet potato fries at the counter (be aware, though, the fries are served before the burgers.).

        for you, the counter would serve a beef burger, a turkey burger, or a chicken breast on a bun.

        9 Replies
        1. re: westsidegal

          Hi westsidegal,

          What's your favorite Veggie Burger in town that you'd recommend? :) Thanks.

          1. re: exilekiss

            there are two that i like:
            houstons (yes, the chain)
            and
            the counter (in el segundo the cooking technique is better than in marina del rey)

            both burgers are are simply patties of veggies, legumes, and grain.
            they NOT phoney meat nor are phoney meat tasting.

            my guess is that i'd probably like the one served at native foods if i could ever get past the ROCKIN MOROCCAN bowl that i go for every time. . . .

            1. re: westsidegal

              "houstons (yes, the chain) "

              There may well be more Counter's now than Houston's!

              1. re: Servorg

                you're right!

              2. re: westsidegal

                Hi westsidegal,

                Wow, Houston's? I'd have never tried it if not for your rec. :) Now I'm very curious; can't wait to try it the next time I'm eating at one.

                I love the Rockin' Moroccan Bowl as well. :)

              3. re: exilekiss

                Counter one is pretty good. Vegans should note that while at least one of the buns is largely vegan as far as I can tell (at least at the Santa Monica location), they do grill the bun with butter by default. The burger itself *should* be vegan.

                I like the tempeh and seitan based ones at Native Foods. I try to avoid processed soy stuff (not traditional stuff like tofu or tempeh, but the stuff made out of byproducts of soybean oil extraction) where possible.

                I've heard that about Houston's, but haven't tried them yet. I think PETA rated them the top veggie burger. Anyone know for sure if they can be prepared vegan (including bun / accoutrements, etc.?)

                I had a pretty good one at the Interim Cafe recently. They have them specially made, and they are also not fake-meat-y.

                1. re: will47

                  ooooooh,
                  i'm going to have to head there soon, in that case!

                  1. re: westsidegal

                    The size (a little on the small size for the price) and bun were the weak points. But I think their special sauce is excellent, and I liked the burger itself. It had more texture than many of the non-fake-meat style veggie burgers, but it was still clearly made out of grains / beans / etc. It's supposedly vegan (the patty itself, anyway).

                  2. re: will47

                    I have heard the good news about Houston's and the Counter's veggie burger. My only issue is whether they cook on the same grill as the meat, as I am a vegan eater, not for animal rights issues but because I have a reaction to meat, esp beef. Even if I get a tiny bit of grease on my food, I'm in trouble. Otherwise I would have tried them by now.

              4. My brother, sister-in-law and I are all carnivores. My favorite part of the meal is almost always the animal protein.

                Nevertheless, all three of us LOVE the vegan Vegetarian Combination at Meals By Genet, located in Little Ethiopia.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Dogbite Williams

                  I second this! My vegan friends brought me here after hearing them rave about it... though I still went for the lamb entree :)

                  1. re: Dogbite Williams

                    Rahel is completely vegetarian (although not sure about vegan as well) and it is one of my favorite places in town.

                    1. re: mollyomormon

                      I'm pretty sure Rahel is vegan. As I recall, she substitutes vegetable oil for butter in all her dishes.

                      1. re: a_and_w

                        That's what I thought, but when I was there last month, I noticed they've changed the sign to say "vegan/vegetarian," although that may just be to attract people who are freaked out by the term vegan or something.

                        1. re: mollyomormon

                          Well vegan is vegetarian, so it's always accurate to say that vegan food is vegetarian.

                          1. re: will47

                            right, it was more that the sign used to say they were a vegan restaurant and now the sign says vegetarian as well so i wasn't sure if they had actually changed any preparations to include products that were vegetarian but not vegan or if it was simply an attempt to attract more customers but that the food is the same.

                            1. re: mollyomormon

                              Hi mollyomormon,

                              I just dined there recently and she told me that they're "100% Vegan" still. :) Good to know.

                  2. I hate salad, but I actually like the kale salad here. My favorite is probably the portobello burger, but then that's pretty much always the case. After that, I like the fried chicken sandwich. I like the chocolate chip cookie, which is really soft, puffy, yet chewy, though I wish there were more chips in it.

                    I thought the sweet potato fries are baked, not fried. Is that not true?

                    All in all, this is my favorite vegan fast food so far. Loving Hut is my favorite, except you have to watch videos of animals being killed and I'm not into that. However, I will say I've had some spectacular food there.

                    1. We have one quite near us and I would like to like more things but I don't. Fake meat just doesn't do it for me-- maybe because I like terrines of oink or whatever they be? Don't know.

                      When I am not eating ethically raised meat and guilt goose by association I don't want the fake stuff. The menu is really, really fake meat heavy and often tastes really greasy in a processed soy way.

                      I do like whatever the kale salad is...has some quinoa in it and a weirdly sweet dressing that works. Wish more was like that.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: JudiAU

                        Good vegetarian and vegan restaurants realize that processed soymeat cannot be the basis for a legitimate cuisine. Real Food Daily doesn't use it at all.

                        1. re: sillygoosedown

                          Nor does Rahel which is why I really enjoy it as well as Real Food Daily.

                          1. re: sillygoosedown

                            Totally disagree. Back when I was a vegetarian, I developed a taste for fake meats and restaurants that use them well. (I still sometimes opt for a Boca burger at Fatburger.) Many of these fake meats have a long tradition, especially in Asian cuisine. My vegetarian friend swears by Happy Family, though I haven't yet been myself.

                            1. re: a_and_w

                              There's a difference (to me) between things that have been made and consumed safely for thousands of years (seitan, konnyaku, tofu, tofu skin, etc.), and which certainly do have a long tradition, and the more modern industrial fake meats (which a lot of the Buddhist vegetarian places now use). Too much technology, and too few ingredients that are recognizable as "food". I'm not saying I never eat it, but it is something I try to avoid (personally).

                              But also, at the higher end (with a few exceptions), I think it tends to be kind of a cop-out - if I get a vegetarian or vegan meal at a fancy place, I want to see the chef do something creative (and filling) using vegetables.

                              1. re: a_and_w

                                When I was a vegetarian, I also enjoyed fake meats but now that I enjoy snout confit, I have definitely lost my taste for fake meats ;). I can totally get why vegans and vegetarians would like the option of places that offer them, though.