I don’t know what I did to deserve such an opportunity, but lo and behold, me and a fewgalpals recently booked it down to LA for a whirlwind weekend with Veggie Grill. Veggie Grill, a fast casual meat-free restaurant, is planning on four (!) Portland openings in 2012. Veggie Grill serves up fast and affordable (nothing over $10) plant-based food to the lucky people of LA. That’s about to change. The Beaverton location is opening in two weeks, the downtown Portland location (!) is opening in May, and the other two are yet to be announced. And Seattle, you’re next.
I want to preface this by saying that while Veggie Grill covered almost all expenses for the weekend, every single person I met who works for or with them are genuine, friendly, honest and welcoming. The whole weekend felt authentic and educational.
(Webly, Jess and I are bookended by Therese who works for Veggie Grill and Ray, the animated co-founder and chef)
We met the man that was to be our driver for the entirety of the weekend waiting for us at the airport.
His name is Lonny.
(photo courtesy Jess)
I love him.
What was waiting for us in the car?
Oh, just soft chocolate chip cookies with walnuts.
The girls get excited in these next two pictures:
After a quick tour through fascinating LA, we arrive at our modest little hotel.
Flowers in the lobby, a horse with a lampshade and a pig with apples in its head. No big deal. It’s just LA.
The SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills is fancy and has nice pillows (hypoallergenic or organic cotton? you choose!) and a martini minibar and Blue Ivy’s daddy Mr. Beyoncé in the private billiards lobby and a pretty pool and celebrities (Hellllll-ooo, Dolly Parton!) and tiny little touches all over to make you feel extra special.
I felt extra special.
After a brief respite and a quick costume change, we headed back downstairs and met Heather and Daniela, the two gals who work for Blaze PR and who coordinated this trip for Veggie Grill.
After taking pictures in the lobby, we hopped in the car with Lonnie and headed to the Santa Monica location for a menu tasting.
We were starving.
I love food. I also love the intention behind food. If I don’t love the food itself at a restaurant, but I can tell they mean well, I’ll still be a loyal customer (unless there’s also bad service. Then I will be scarred for life and boycott the shiz out of your establishment).
Luckily, I didn’t need to worry at Veggie Grill. The intention behind the food is admirable (healthy, fast, convenient, affordable, no animals harmed in the making of this buffalo chicken sandwich, etc etc) but guys, the food is also good. Everything I sampled tasted fresh. I love the small touches—whole grain buns; sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes for fries; a friggin’ kale salad.
I also love that they serve craveably-good Peach Iced Tea and have a small beer and wine menu.
We sampled a little of almost everything while chatting with the co-founders and owners Pillan and Kevin. (Lunch the next day included meeting Ray, the third founder and chef.)
These nachos were so good I ate more than my share both days. The cheese sauce is supremely good, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t typically like nacho cheese sauce.
The only improvement I could see here is fresh jalapeños instead of pickled. Yurm.
Wings. These are perfect—coated in buffalo sauce and served with celery and a side of creamy ranch. Just how you always wanted your vegan buffalo wings to be. These are what I have been looking for all over Portland.
Did someone say kale salad? With agave roasted walnuts? Urm, YES PLEASE. This salad was one of the most popular dishes at the table. So good.
Bloggers gotta blog.
Jess is too cute. <3
Sandwiches and food galore:
(See Jess’s blog post for more sandwich pics. I was too busy sucking down Peach Iced Tea at this point to try for a good angle.)
(Psssst: the mac and cheese—gluten-free—is even better dipped in the fabulous chipotle ranch. Indulgent, sure, but DELICIOUS.)
Carrot cake is one of my favorite desserts, and this one did not disappoint. So moist (secret is pineapple juice!) and sweet and nutty and perfect.
The gang, with co-founders Pillan (far left) and Kevin (far right):
Guys, I saved the best for last.
Stay tuned for Post #2, where I show you pretty pictures from the Getty, fancy and ‘spensive cocktails from Bazaar and our wicked cheap Chinese food dinner.
(Sneak Peak: Venice Beach on Day Two)