Veggie Grill adds fast-casual option to Chicago vegetarian, vegan scene

CHICAGO (WLS) -- My vegan and vegetarian friends have long complained about the lack of options in Chicago. We might have restaurants like Clever Rabbit, Bad Hunter and Mana Food Bar focused on cooking more with vegetables, but for fast food - forget about it.

But then Veggie Grill opened its doors. Now they offer fast-casual vegetables - and burgers and brats - alongside brands like Honeygrow and Sweetgreens.

For the past 11 years, Veggie Grill has been a fast food alternative in California that got its start on the Cal-Irvine campus.

"Started out as a place where people could really enjoy faster food in a vegan, veggie-centric format," said Veggie Grill Senior Vice President of Operations Scott Nicholson.

Now with two Chicago locations, including one near Clark and Diversey in Lake View, you can find salads of course, but also brats and burgers made with pea protein.

"I think what you'll find is a flavor and a bite that's very similar to bratwurst you could get all over Chicago. We're doing it in a plant-based format," said Nicholson.

They certainly grill up nice. They're served in a toasted pretzel bun and covered in naturally sweet, caramelized onions. The brat is nestled into the onions, along with house-made pickled red cabbage. On the side, Sierra Nevada vegan cheese and horseradish mustard are available to add as you wish.

As for the burger, it comes from the Beyond Meat brand.

"But it grills up beautifully and we present it in a variety of formats," Nicholson said.

Topped with vegan cheese, fresh tomatoes and crisp lettuce, your brain will tell you it's a burger, even if it's not quite as meaty as you might want it to be.

By the way, the fries are excellent for a fast food operation. Just don't be too critical about the vegan approach here. After all, the goal is to add a bit of variety to your diet.

"A lot of people are looking at ways of getting more veggies, fruits, grains, seeds and nuts in their diet, and we're really here to answer that demand and that need," said Nicholson.

Veggie Grill

614 W. Diversey

204 N. Wells St.

In Steve's Extra Course Video, he takes a closer look at the restaurant's vegan carrot cake, which tastes a lot better than it sounds.
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Steve tries Veggie Grill's vegan carrot cake.

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