Kid Hit Menu Items: We sampled and shared platters of Veggie Grill’s signature Chillin’ Chickin’ & kids’ V-Burger sandwiches on whole wheat buns, crispy “Chickin'” nuggets, and sweet potato fries. The adults were into the fresh veggie options but mostly because of the chaos, we didn’t push it too aggressively on the kids. Veggie Grill offers a kid’s meal combo with choice of entrée (Chickin’ nuggets, mac n’ cheese or pasta with marinara sauce), fries or carrot sticks, lemonade and chocolate pudding for $6.25. Granted we ate with a group of kids who are familiar with protein substitutes, but we never heard “this doesn’t taste enough like meat.” The barbecue and ranch-style dipping sauces saw a lot of use. I can’t blame the kids for not being into the gluten free, barely salted mac n’ cheese, but the leftovers got eaten eventually. Rich dairy and refined sugar-free chocolate pudding and cookies were happily scarfed down.
Adult Perks: Being a kale fanatic and based on reports, I had to try the All Hale Kale salad topped with tempeh. It’s a monster of a plate with purple cabbage, agave toasted walnuts, corn salsa and carrots, bursting with color and presentational flourish. Who knew kale and tempeh could look so pretty. I must say, however, that I’m a very tough customer when it comes to kale salad, because I NEVER like any kale salad better than what I make at home. Sorry to say that All Hale Kale upheld my theory, also because the sweetish ginger-papaya dressing with a mild sesame oil touch seems better suited to Chinese chicken salads. I prefer my kale deeply savory, nutty and earthy. But it’s such a hearty platter that my sister and I didn’t seem to make a dent in one portion ($7.95 + $2.50 for additional protein). Next time I’ll try one of the three other entrée salads on the menu, or the portobello sandwich.
Pros: Easy counter service and clean efficient design, with lots of seating indoors and a large covered outdoor dining area. An ample supply of Wiki Sticks packs. The easy access self-serve lemonade and strawberry lemonade proved very popular, but maybe a little TOO much so.
Cons: If you have die-hard carnivores who will accept NO substitutes, then you’re outta luck. It’s also challenging for kids who bizarrely reject sweet potato fries exclusively in favor of those made with Russets and Kennebecs and beg to go to Johnny Rockets afterward. (Not like I have any experience with that. Not at all.)
Changing Station: No but you’ll find others at the market.
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: Farmers Market is what it is in terms of validated parking at the lot. At least the north portion of the development is less busy than other areas. Yet each Veggie Grill has its own different situation. (The lot at Sunset & Crescent Heights, for example, has never been among my favorites.)
Other Tidbits: For those of us who grew up steeped in the health food culture of 1970s California, eating vegetarian cuisine out meant going to restaurants where tall skinny waiters rocking shaggy ‘dos and bell bottoms brought you baskets of dense, crust-less multigrain bread and dishes with names like Magic Mushrooms. (Unbeknownst to me at the time, they were members of a fringe spiritual community.) Back then the Good Earth Café represented mainstream aspirations, and you’d still leave that place with your hair reeking of its signature spicy herb tea. And going to the Golden Temple across the street from the Farmers Market felt like punishment, especially when my mom got a honey cake for our birthday there one year that went uneaten. (The BR cake we got as backup vanished in a matter of minutes.) Well, kids, if Whole Foods hasn’t made it yet abundantly clear, these CRAZY California things have taken very different forms. Now enter the Veggie Grill, with its multiple locations and bright rooms with fire engine red Eames chairs and Kartell light fixtures. While hard to reconcile with our nation’s obesity rates (obviously the Veggie Grill philosophy hasn’t exactly taken the country by storm), for those of us who remember Indian tapestry window treatments and shag rugs, this package is a far cry from the 1970s cult-cum-vegetarian restaurant world, or even the clusters of raw and vegan food restaurants in Venice and Silver Lake.
Note: I used a gift certificate purchased at a charity auction to pay for the meal, but Veggie Grill’s PR representatives arranged the reservation.
At the Original Farmers Market, 110 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036
(Other locations include 8000 Sunset West Hollywood, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Irvine, Torrance )
Cuisine: Vegetarian, Fast Casual
Hours: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.