Dr. J’s Vibrant Cafe: All the Health, All the Flavor

Rice Noodle Delight Bowl

It’s not enough, these days, to simply give a pass to vegetarian and vegan food. Going past crunchy, granola stereotypes often attached to a plant-based diet, I imagine, has to be a welcome option for those having adopted conscientious lifestyles.

Good thing there’s Dr. J’s Vibrant Cafe, a place you’ll want to visit for their teas and shakes but also their food – no matter what your diet. Because even if you’re an omnivore in Los Angeles, you’ll still eat out with some friends you might oblige with a more than the couple options than, say, what you might find on a menu at a BBQ place. (I know. The sacrifices you make.)

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Veggie Grill Virgins Get Free Entree Tomorrow

All Hale Kale

Are you a Veggie Grill believer and have a friend you wish also was? Or have you heard about Veggie Grill from a friend and are simply curious? Tomorrow (Tuesday, January 12, 2009), Veggie Grill will be hosting a special dinner where veterans can bring virgins who will receive a compliementary entrée!

The exact details about how to participate can be found on Veggie Grill’s Facebook page and Twitter feed today.

Veggie Grill’s food is absolutely fantastic, impressive and even indulgent given the parameters (100% plant-based) within which they prepare their food. Entrées range from the Santa Fe Crispy Chickin’ (Crispy Fried Chillin’ Chickin’, Lettuce, Tomato, Red Onion, Avocado, Southwestern Spiced Mayo), to the All-American Stack (Grilled Veggie-Steak, Thousand Island Dressing, Pickles, Lettuce, Tomato, Crispy Onion Rings), and the All Hail Kale (Marinated Kale and Red Cabbage, Quinoa, Roasted Corn Salsa, Agave-Roasted Walnuts, Ginger-Papaya Vinaigrette) – shown above.

So if you’re a believer or a simply curious, stop on by your nearest Veggie Grill for dinner with a friend tomorrow to see what all the hype’s about – and to take advantage of the free entrée. Be sure to stay tuned to their Twitter account or Facebook page for details today!

Further reading:

Veggie Grill: Delicious and Healthful On the Cheap – e*starLA

Veggie Grill Flickr Set

Veggie Grill Full Menu

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Free entrée for guest with purchase of one at dinner only

Veggie Grill West Hollywood
8000 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
323.822.7575

Veggie Grill El Segundo
720 Allied Way
El Segundo, CA 90245
310.535.0025

Veggie Grill Univ. Center Irvine
4213 Campus Dr
Irvine, CA 92612
949.509.0003

Veggie Grill Irvine Spectrum
81 Fortune Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 727-9900

@VeggieGrill

M Café: Accessible Macrobiotics & Plain Deliciousness

Kale with spicy peanut sauce, Scarlet quinoa, Lentil salad

All good things – that require discipline – come to an end. That is, in my case, anyway; I had dabbled in Macrobiotics all but a week a few years ago before deciding that my palate wasn’t committed and my budget wasn’t copious. It’s not as if I didn’t agree with the basic theories behind the philosophy – as opposed to the new-ish fad diets such as Atkins or South Beach. Yin and yang, salt and sweet. Good and nightshade grains. Macrobiotics, no doubt, introduced me to my affinity to quinoa – even if it took some acclimation in the beginning.

Enter that one-off shopping trip I had made to Erewhon way back when. I had spent $100 yet when I got home, it seemed as though I had barely bought anything at all. My yoga teacher and friend Hillary had confessed to me that her financial planner had stressed that she and her husband “must spend less on food” – and they were the most hardcore advocates of M Café I had ever known.

Organic cut-fries with nori, shiso & sea salt

The good news is that M Café – starting with the Beverly Hills location – has made a recent effort to meet the affordable price points of today’s healthful vegan and macro-foodie. What’s undoubtedly a response to the market of today, menu items on average came down by $2-3; Javier of Teenage Glutster and I were invited to sample the goods of their new, accessible “Little m” menu.

First of all, I cannot sing enough praises about their organic fries. I am actually thinking they are the best “salted” fries in the city – with a mixture of nori (seaweed), shiso and sea salt and simultaneously not tasting nearly as salty as any other fries I’ve ever had before. Perfectly crispy and perfectly sized, it was truly a revelation. The sweet potato fries are also perfectly seasoned with chili, sea salt and lime. If you’re into the sauce thing, the beet-red organic ketchup is impressive as is the spicy yuzu mayo. The great thing about the fry selection is that M Café stays true to the original while making an effort to put an imaginative spin on things given the Macrobiotic requirements.

The focus of our lunch was the deli salads (title picture) that are available at M, which also happens to be how most diners enjoy the restaurant during the day. Depending on availability, you can get a 2 serving selection for $7.45 or a 3 serving selection for $9.75. There wasn’t a salad I wasn’t impressed with. Fresh kale was perfectly seasoned and dressed, the scarlet quinoa had such a unique flavor that was appetizing yet didn’t hide the taste of the grain. The lentil salad was deliciously hearty and the salmon salad tasted fresh and had good bite (thanks to the perfect amount of celery) with a good, “creamy” consistency.

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Veggie Grill: Delicious and Healthful on the Cheap

Baja Fiesta Salad

I have to admit. The world of “veggie people” food is a pretty unfamiliar study to me. Though the omni– in my omnivorous eating habit hasn’t had incentive to explore that direction, it hasn’t affected my respect for the dedication to sustainability and conservation.

First of all, it’s the dairy thing. Contrary to my inclination-toward-lactard heritage yet consistent with my having spent halves of my life in each of the two Cheese States, I am a cheese person. I love la crème. Second of all, I can barely groom myself on a regular basis – how could I possibly have the discipline to eat with such restrictions? Irresponsible, though my only criteria be “delicious.” (I did have the hardest time turning down shark fin soup the last time I attended a traditional Chinese banquet-style wedding but thought it the conscionable move to do so.)

Enter Veggie Grill – which I was invited to check out and since it’s accessible from my workplace, decided to experience a workday lunch there. I had only heard good things about its expansion into Los Angeles (the first stores are located in Irvine, the third in El Segundo) and when I saw the menu, I could see why. Right off the bat, I noticed nothing on their 100% plant-based menu is priced over $10. For a vegetarian focus, I’m usually hard-pressed to find one menu item that’s under $10. At this price point, it’s worth it to keep an open mind.

All Hail Kale Salad, Bean Me Up Chili

And well, the food is delicious! My Baja Fiesta salad had mangos, roasted corn salsa, carrots and a delicious ginger-papaya dressing that ended up having just the right amount of kick in it. It was also tossed with quinoa for all the quinoa fans out there! So good, and so good for you. I tasted the chili, which tasted so close to the real thing (the look, not so much) and I loved that it was spicy. The corn chowder was so delicious I ended up getting the half-sandwich, full soup combination with the Baja Fiesta.

The Papa’s Portobello sandwich was divine. An entire slice of mushroom covered the bottom of the burger and it was then when I discovered that at Veggie Grill, the secret’s in the sauces. They do a great job of keeping things interesting through their all-natural sauces – the garlic pomodoro sauce being the one in this particular sandwich. You’ll also be surprised to find that a lot of the sauces have kick, including atop their kale sides and salads. I haven’t eaten a lot of kale at all, but I really appreciated how fresh these portions were and having been heralded its health benefits before, I’m definitely paying more attention.

Grilled Veggie Burger
Grilled Veggie Burger

Their sweet potato fries are a must-have. They’re baked, then flash-fried to finish. A great texture to go along with the fresh taste. And do not discount their desserts. Their carrot cake is not only moist and freshly-made, the frosting is also perfect – you’ll wonder where that cream cheese went. Same with the chocolate pudding, which isn’t exactly rich but you can certainly taste the chocolate in there.

While I’ve yet to try, I’m curious as to their “chickin'” and “veggie steak” for my next visit. If you’ve tried Veggie Grill – don’t be shy! Leave some thoughts below as to your favorites (and non-) in the comments. I can get used to stopping on even this strip of Sunset Blvd for “healthful grub” such as this. I’m destined for a tasty mean, 100% plant-based or not!

You can also peep the entire Veggie Grill Menu.

Veggie Grill at Sunset Laemmle Plaza (newest location)
8000 W. Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046
323.822.7575
Open 11 AM – 11 PM

720 Allied Way
El Segundo, CA 90245
310.535.0025

Irvine Campus Center
4213 Campus Dr
Irvine, CA 92612
949.509.0003

Irvine Spectrum
81 Fortune Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
949.727.9900