That was my reaction when I heard a new "fast-casual" restaurant, with a focus on natural, plant-based foods, was coming to town. Visions of healthy, quick, child-pleasing meals danced in my head. No longer would my kids beg for McDonald's after soccer practice, they would chant, "Veggie Grill!"
I must offer a disclaimer: My family is (mostly) vegetarian, so I wasn't a tough sell on this place. But please read on, because I would challenge any meat-lover to try Veggie Grill. Their chillin' chickin' and veggie-steak are dense and tasty enough to make you do a double-take.
We paid a weeknight visit to the new restaurant in South Lake Union, a bright and cheery place with a friendly, helpful staff. The menu consists of several classic American restaurant favorites – starters, soups, salads, burgers and sandwiches, and a few home-style plates. My family had an opportunity to try several items.
First things first, there are three options for the kid's meal: chickin' nuggets, a kid's burger or mac-n-cheese, accompanied by sweet potato fries (a more healthful option than regular fries), mandarin oranges or carrot sticks. Kids also get to choose pudding or a cookie and a drink. The cost is $5.95.
The mac-n-cheese is made with wholesome quinoa pasta and non-dairy cheese; the chickin' products with a blend of (non GMO) soy, wheat and veggie proteins; the desserts made indulgent with applesauce, tofu and evaporated cane juice. It's like eating from the kitchen of the Sneaky Chef (a.k.a. Missy Chase Lapine), who shows parents how to sneak healthy food into their child's favorite meals.
But on to taste, because it's not worth much if your kids (or you) won't eat it. First off, the row of yummy drinks will entice children, and there thankfully isn't a soda to be seen. The Veggie Grill offers lemonade, strawberry lemonade (my kids' favorite), pomegranate green tea (my favorite) and peach black tea. They also sell beer and wine.
The chocolate pudding that came with the meal got quickly devoured, before I even caught on to the fact that my kids were eating their dessert first. They both enjoyed their main course, too, the hearty and creamy mac-n-cheese. I wondered how it would go over, since it wasn't the typical boxed kind.
They also liked the crafty cauliflower-mashed potatoes, even though I swear I've made them at home and they wouldn't eat them. My daughter dug into my "All Hail Kale" salad, although my son is still rather vegetable adverse. The salad, with marinated kale and cabbage, corn salsa, walnuts and ginger-papaya vinaigrette, is a winner. I recommend getting the blackened chickin' on top.
My husband, who has been dreaming of barbecue and chicken wings since we changed our diet, was ecstatic to find these items on the menu. They were spicy-tangy, substantial and delicious. Veggie Grill is really on to something with their chicken substitute – it's as close to the real thing as I've tasted, and I've tasted quite a few.
Veggie Grill's best-selling entrée, the Santa Fe Crispy Chickin' sandwich, was beloved by everyone at the table. If your kids are interested in items on the regular menu and are spice intolerant, be sure to ask the staff about suitable dishes. Some, such as the VG Rollers and "Bean Me Up" Chili, are pretty spicy.
Budget-conscious families, which is pretty much everyone these days, will be happy to know that everything on the menu is less than $10. And they offer take-out. Put your savings to good use and order the carrot cake. It is positively scrumptious.
After we had filled our bellies to the point of bulging, my 8-year-old son exclaimed to our amiable host, General Manager Brian Peterson, "I'm telling all my friends at school, you've got to go to Veggie Grill." Now if that isn't a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is.
IF YOU GO
Where: 446 Terry Ave. N., Seattle. Another Veggie Grill will open at University Village on Oct. 4 (2681 N.E. University Village St.). Veggie Grill also has locations in Southern California and Oregon.
When: Daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Contact: 206-623-0336; www.veggiegrill.com.
Taryn Zier is the community editor at Seattle’s Child magazine and mother of two children, ages 6 and 8. She hopes the powers that be will open a Veggie Grill in her neck of the woods, Lake Forest Park, so she can avoid cooking more often.