LIGHT ON THE PALATE AND THE CONSCIENCE: All of the dishes at Veggie Grill are cholesterol free and animal friendly.

Vegan food has a bad reputation as being tasteless and unsatisfying. The Veggie Grill in Santana Row is out to undermine that stereotype, one vegan meal at a time. “We’re about changing the world by changing the way people eat,” explains restaurant manager Ariana Antonio. The idea is to serve food that is delicious and wholesome, not one or the other. Despite the fact that everything served at the Veggie Grill is 100-percent plant-based, the restaurant serves a wider audience than just “veggie heads”—in fact, most of the people who eat there are carnivores.

It’s easy to understand why. Although the food is vegan, you would never know it from the many tasty options. The Santa Fe Crispy Chickin’ sandwich is a bestseller. The fried “chickin” (a chicken substitute made of soy, beans and wheat) has a slightly different texture than regular chicken, but it tasted so good that it did not detract from the sandwich at all. The chickin’ is fried in canola oil, which is free of trans fats and rich in polyunsaturated good fats. The combination of avocado and spicy vegan mayo on a wheat bun creates an excellent and flavorful sandwich.

Nutritionally charged superfoods like kale and quinoa dot the menu, which covers a wide range, from starters like buffalo wings and nachos to desserts such as a pudding parfait and carrot cake. Veggie Grill’s main dishes use veggie proteins like veggie-steak and tempeh, which are both non-GMO. Veggie-steak is made with organic soy and wheat, and tempeh is a gluten-free patty made from soybeans and rice-culture. Fresh lemonades and teas round out the menu. Most items range between $5 and $10.

The restaurant has been open since Nov. 8. Although this is the first Northern California location, it is one of 15 Veggie Grills on the West Coast. The place has a relaxed, easygoing ambience and is decorated in orange and green. Antonio, who has been with the chain since it started in Santa Monica in 2006, says that Veggie Grill wants to serve delicious food in a relaxing restaurant atmosphere.

The best part? Leaving without the guilt. All the food is nutrient-rich and free of cholesterol, animal fat and trans fat. Eating vegan helps the environment, too.

The Veggie Grill
Santana Row, San Jose