Perched unobtrusively on 30th Street in North Park, just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of University Street, sits a small vegetarian eatery called Veg-N-Out. Veg-N-Out serves purely vegetarian cuisine with a variety of vegan options. It was opened nearly three years ago by a young vegetarian innovator who desired more enticing options when it came to eating out.
Rachael Fogg, the owner and co-founder of Veg-N-Out (the other founder is her father), was tired of her perpetual disappointment in vegetarian options on restaurant menus . She couldn’t stomach another bland garden burger so she set out to prove to the average American meat-eater that eating vegetarian doesn’t have to mean simply raw, organic, or brown rice and veggies. The result is a restaurant that works hard to make even the most die-hard carnivores crave the enticing dishes on their extensive menu.
When we first walk into Veg-N-Out, we pass a small seating area in the front patio, just off the sidewalk. This is one of the two rather limited seating areas that the restaurant offers. When we enter through the front door, we are immediately greeted by the sounds of energizing Rasta music, the enticing aromas of grilling food, and a welcoming cashier eager to take our order from behind the counter.
Observing that we are not yet ready to put in our order, the young man hands my companion and I each a menu. The options seem endless. Not being a vegetarian myself, I am completely overwhelmed by all of the mouth-watering choices of gourmet vegetarian burgers, loaded veggie dogs, specialty sandwiches, salads, and smoothies. My companion and I ask for some recommendations and then decide on a few of the cashier’s suggestions. We then order a freshly brewed Jasmine Iced Tea with mint leaves, and head outside to enjoy the beautiful day at one of the comfortable patio tables.
After the perfect amount of time has passed for us to know that our food has been made fresh to order, our appetizer, Tempura Avocado, arrives. Ten large avocado slices are breaded with perfectly crusted tempura batter, piled high in a delicate bread basket served with a side of homemade tarragon dipping sauce. This is a fresh, new way to enjoy one of the most widely sought after southern California vegetables.
As we sit and chat for a few minutes while we sip our refreshing, minty iced teas and appreciate the relaxing, island-like atmosphere, we see our waitress approach with our main courses. The Shroom Burger and the Chick/n Bac’n Swiss Sandwich both look fantastic on their plates, nestled next to our chosen side dishes of pasta and a garden salad.
The pasta salad is a simple-tasting blend of spiraled noodles coated in a light pesto sauce. The familiar, simple flavor reminds me of something my own mom would make.
The garden salad is equally simple, yet satisfying, as it includes greens, fresh tomato, and raw broccoli iced with a berry balsamic dressing that’s made from scratch. Although the side dishes bring a simple essence to our table, our meal lacks nothing as the main courses burst with flavor.
The Shroom Burger is in actuality a large portabella mushroom grilled in a liquid protein called Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, infused with herbs, placed under a slice of melted Swiss cheese, topped with lettuce, tomato, onions, and a thin layer of mayonnaise all inside a freshly baked whole-wheat bun. Every bite oozes with juices from the tender Portobello. I certainly don’t miss the meat in this meal.
The Chick’n Bac’n Swiss sandwich also encapsulates a well-rounded blend of flavors, however you can’t fool a meat eater into thinking that vegetable-protein-and-wheat-based bacon is actually bacon. Although I find this to be the case, I appreciate the smoky flavor and crunchy texture it adds to sandwich. While the bacon isn’t completely convincing, the chicken tastes very much like traditional chicken. The addition of melted Swiss, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and mayonnaise stacked on a toasted hoagie roll makes it all a pleasing combination.
By the time my companion and I are done with our dishes, we are extremely satisfied. Though the Cinnamon Sweet Potato Medallions sounds incredibly tempting, we decide that we will have to save dessert for another day. We leave feeling a good kind of full, feeling that in the process of eating many delicious things, we also probably have done our bodies a favor by not eating processed and trans-fatty foods. At the end of the meal I know I will have to go back soon and try one of their savory-sounding, owner-created, vege/grain gourmet burgers.
Sure enough, a few days later I go back for take-out. This time I have researched the menu and select the Flam’n Raym’n. This burger includes an all-natural veggie patty, crowned with cheese, sautéed onions, a house-made spicy chipotle sauce, sprouts, pickles, avocado, tomatoes, and mayonnaise all on a whole-wheat bun. Each ingredient adds its own value and contributes to a well-rounded creation that makes me sigh with delight. I try the hand-cut potato wedges for my side dish, which do not disappoint. The potatoes are cut into large spears and lightly fried in soy bean oil.
I then finally get to try the Cinnamon Sweet Potato Medallions. These tender treats are sliced in rounds, flash fried, and sprinkled generously with cinnamon and sugar; the perfect thing to round out my meal.
When planning a trip to Veg-N-Out it is important to keep in mind that seating is limited and their busy days are Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The staff suggests reservations for parties of four or more. Whether you are vegetarian, vegan, or a meat eating connoisseur, you will find many creative and flavorful options at Veg-N-Out. The dishes served here are tasteful and fulfilling, proving that even without meat you can get a great, flavorful burger.