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.)
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 withÂ 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.
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 andÂ had good bite (thanks to the perfect amount of celery)Â with a good, “creamy” consistency.
I have to admit. The world ofÂ “veggie people” food is a pretty unfamiliar study to me.Â ThoughÂ the omni– in my omnivorous eating habit hasn’t had incentiveÂ toÂ 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 theÂ two Cheese States, I am a cheese person. I love la crÃ¨me. 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 aÂ traditionalÂ Chinese banquet-style wedding but thought it the conscionable move to do so.)
Enter Veggie Grill – which I was invited to check outÂ and since it’sÂ accessible from myÂ workplace, decided toÂ 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.
And well,Â 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.
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!