Veggie Grill... Review and Mini Meta-Rant
Long Beach continues to gentrify itself with its very own outpost of Veggie Grill, which serves up "vegan realness", fast-food style. I have no real complaints; I ordered a "Papa's Portobello" sandwich and it tasted quite good; the side of cauli-mashed potatos with porcini gravy was very nice. My husband ordered the "All-American Stack" and sweet-potato fries and liked them a lot (yes, the fries were good, and came with a chipotle dipping sauce that was tangy but wasn't particularly spicy-- the chipotle flavor was faint, as it from a great distance).
I felt uneasy about the "vegan realness", however. Like Stephen Colbert's "truthiness" as related to actual "truth", highly-processed vegetable products stood in for animal-derived proteins as facsimiles therein. My entrée was probably the only menu item that actually embraced the vegetable ingredients as, well, VEGETABLES. The All-American Stack, for example, features "veggie-steak" (soy protein and wheat gluten among the main ingredients). Something called "chickin'" (faux chicken made with-- you guessed it-- soy protein) is the centerpiece of multiple menu items. "Cheese" and "mayonnaise" will be based on vegetable protein equivalents substituting for milk and eggs.
I'm not a raving carnivore upset about the whole "vegan lifestyle" menu. Far from it; I love vegetables (last night's meal was roasted curry veggies served over quinoa-- and yes, we're on a quest to drop a few pounds) passionately. But I like VEGETABLES; I love their texture and their actual flavor. The work involved to take soy protein, wheat gluten, soy milk and whatever the hell else they put into these foodstuffs also works out any "vegetable-ness", and dilutes my own enjoyment.
I presume that makes me an annoying fuddy-duddy. In a similar fashion, molecular gastronomy makes me itchy. I like my food a bit less adulterated. Hey you punk kids! Get off my lawn with your foams, emulsions and gels!
The other thing that gets me: The reliance on isolated soy proteins isn't just troublesome for people with food allergies. I'm on warfarin (a "blood thinner") for a heart condition, and soy proteins COULD interfere with the drug's action (but no one knows); the portobella sandwich seems to have the least soy-based product involved, so it was the safest item on the menu for me.
OK, lengthy rant. I just had to get it off of my chest. Long story short ("TOO LATE!"): Tasty vegan fast food, pleasant service. I just wish they were actually a "Veggie Grill" instead of a "Vegan Processed Faux-Meat Grill". (I guess it's just me....)
While I understand about an irritation of a strong presence of faux-meat - I always appreciate erring in that direction than the thought that vegetarian/vegan eating is literally just about vegetables. When I was at university, the vegetarian option was literally just a heated veggie side dish with no thought given to fat or protein present in the dish.
I currently live in Jerusalem where the standard salad order is massive (Cheese Cake Factory entree salad sized), however the way these salads are composed is often devoid of how to make them a legit meal. The vegan ones are predominantly all vegetables - very rarely are legumes, nuts, tahini or soy products introduced to make it a legitimate meals. There are salads with cheese - but often those end up being with so much cheese it's a bit ridiculous.
I would love to have options that are a great mix of vegetables plus interesting mixes of proteins and fat (be they vegetarian or not) - but since most don't entirely get it, I prefer when they give me more soy options than just more veggies and assume that 'vegetarian' means 'only eats vegetables'.