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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Vegetarian Restaurant Review

Veggie Grill R: Welcoming a cool new munch palace, San Fernando Valley foodies celebrate the arrival of Veggie Grill in Encino opened April 3, 2013 along the happening Ventura Boulevard corridor. Ideally located between two Japanese restaurants, the roomy dining spot takes advantage of the spacious breezeway in-between to provide plenty of outdoor seating, complete with giant yellow umbrellas to deflect the Valley's hot summer sun.

Z: Veggie Grill's familiar lively orange and lime green décor was tweaked slightly at this location where the orange morphs into a scarlet red and the lime turns a tad olive. Cheerful and well lit from its two jumbo walls of windows, the spacious dining area offers a variety of comfortable seating choices that feature booths along one wall, banquettes, round and square tables with comfortable chairs, and trendy high tables with stools. Including the comfortable patio, this VG locale seats 115 diners.

R: Our family dining experience provided plenty of opportunity for the five of us to taste several items we happily shared. After browsing the large menu on the wall, we gathered at the order counter and placed our order for a hearty selection that included Crispy Chickin' Wings Buffalo Style tossed in spicy Buffalo Sauce and the Chill Out wings with BBQ Sauce and Chipotle Ranch sauce on the side, All Hail Kale Salad, Chop Chop Chef Salad, Sweetheart Fries, Grillin' Chickin' Sandwich, All-American Stack Sandwich, Baja Wrap, and Santa Fe Crispy Chickin'.

Z: The seductive aromas from the busy kitchen effectively added to our already eager appetites. We meandered toward the beverage nook to choose our libations from large glass vats holding pomegranate green tea, peach black tea, unsweetened black tea, and regular and strawberry lemonade.

R: When the Buffalo Wings arrived at the table, our squeals of delight along with an "Oh, Wow" or two could be heard two tables away. The wings with the sauce were fabulous and zinging with spicy flavor. Anyone watching the excited bunch of us dipping the unsauced Buffalo Wings into multiple sauces would have thought we hadn't eaten in weeks. Picture a frenzied quintet of hands criss-crossing each other to dip the wings into the spicy buffalo sauce, creamy ranch dressing, and BBQ sauce.

Veggie Grill
Z: The wings, made from faux chicken prepared by Gardein, are a winning starter and are served with fresh celery sticks. The gorgeous, golden sweet potato fries, lovingly named Sweetheart Fries, are indeed sweet and delightfully crispy. And to give them special pizzazz they're sprinkled with jerk-seasoned vegan Parmesan and served with Chipotle Ranch Dressing. Of course, they disappeared in a flash!

R: If you love kale salads, you'll appreciate the visual feast of the All Hale Kale Salad with its festive array of bright bits of red cabbage, corn salsa, agave-roasted walnuts, and diced tomato tossed with marinated deep green kale. Bright orange, coarsely shredded carrots add the final touch at the top of the heaping platter. A tasty ginger papaya vinaigrette is served on the side.

Veggie Grill Veggie Grill Z: The Chop Chop Salad, which, sadly, is slated to disappear from the menu, is a terrific medley of romaine lettuce, corn salsa with diced tomatoes, red onion, quinoa, and veggie proteins made from a soy base. Chipotle Ranch Dressing provides the lively topping that makes this attractive salad a hearty and delicious meal.

R: American as it gets, the All American Stack is one awesome sandwich. Served open-face, the sandwich is slathered with thousand-island dressing. One half of the multi-grain bun is topped with carne asada-style soy beef marinated in orange juice, lime juice, and carne asada seasonings. Topping the meat is a dollop of salsa and a stack of golden fried onion rings. The other half is piled with generous quantities of romaine lettuce, tomato, and sliced pickles. You couldn't possibly leave the table hungry after devouring this order.

Z: Another facet of this abundant feast was the delicious Santa Fe Crispy Chickin' Sandwich, also served on a multi-grain bun. This tempting tall sandwich was slathered with spicy vegan mayo and heaped with a thick patty of fried soy chickin' layered with romaine, tomatoes, red onion, and mashed avocado.

R: It was definitely sandwich night for our crowd. The Grillin' Chickin' was also served open face on a multi-grain bun. Spread with Chipotle Ranch Dressing, this man-sized sandwich featured a large, thick, grilled chickin' patty, mashed avocado, salsa, lettuce, tomatoes, and red onion rings.

Z: Last of the big food orders was the Baja Wrap, filled with a banquet of blackened chickin', cabbage, papaya relish, corn salsa, and avocado. Drizzled with creamy ranch dressing, this well-conceived and flavorful medley was wrapped in a wheat tortilla and served with tortilla strips.

Veggie Grill R: We loved the menu's flexibility. Each of the sandwiches could have been served as a dinner salad on a bed of steamed kale rather than in a bun or wrap. And each sandwich came with a choice of sides--a bowl of flavorful chili or light, crisp, and lightly sweetened red cabbage slaw. For an extra charge, diners can order a side of quinoa, steamed kale, soup, salad, sweet potato fries, mac-n-cheese, or cauliflower-mashed potatoes.

Z: Though we shared each of the items and felt we had eaten royally, we couldn't ignore the sweet tooth that teased us into wanting to taste those sweet treats on the dessert menu. We fought hard to resist, but the Carrot Cake and Chocolate Pudding Parfait won the battle.

R: No regrets, though. The irresistible sweetness of dessert offers s a completely different experience from eating a savory meal. We chose two of Veggie Grill's three homemade treats. The generous 3-inch square of Carrot Cake offered a cake with tantalizing tidbits of pineapple, walnuts, and shredded carrots with a topping of thick vegan cream cheese frosting garnished with walnut bits and shreds of carrot. This is carrot cake at its best--perfectly moist and not cloyingly sweet like some we've tasted.

Z: The topper of the whole meal was the Chocolate Pudding Parfait. Served in a small V-shaped clear glass, this devastatingly delicious dessert offered a blast of chocolate heaven. This was another fun moment of communal spoons dipping into the pudding glass followed by a hum of 'mmmmmmssss" and "oooohhs." Perched on top was a dollop of vegan whipped cream. Underneath and sprinkled over the chocolate parfait were coarsely ground walnuts, chocolate sauce, and crushed chocolate cookies. The rich and silky smooth parfait filled most of the glass and delivered the ultimate in Veggie Grill pleasure.

Veggie Grill R: The menu is diverse enough to offer comfortable and tasty choices for everyone. Even picky eaters will find plenty to munch on. Prices are reasonable with Starters ranging from $4.25 to $7.95. Soups and Chili are $2.95 to $8.50. Entrée Salads run from $8.95 to $9.95. Burgers, Sandwiches, and Wraps are $7.95 to $8.95. Desserts $1.95 to $3.50.

Z: Extras include a variety of sides from $2.25 to $3.95 and Kids meals at $5.95. Check out the Homestyle Plates for more ways to enjoy VG-style dining. For convenience, parking is available along Ventura Boulevard as well as 1-hour validated parking on Rubio Avenue. Anthony Blanset, VG's Encino manager, is friendly, personable, and eager to please Valley diners. Don't hesitate to chat with him--he wears a great big smile.

Veggie Grill
16542 Ventura Blvd., Encino, CA 91436
Phone: 818-788-2621
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 11:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Website: http://www.veggiegrill.com

Reviewed June 2013

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