Updated: Feb 1
One of the things I want to get better at is eating alone. I know it's not weird to eat alone, but I never know where to point my face and I'm always worried the waiter will think I've been stood up so I make an effort to look cheerful but probably just look unhinged.
But Veggie Grill, the wondrous vegetarian fast food chain from the sunny West Coast, opened a location in Harvard Square and I needed to go. None of my usual dining partners were available, so I grabbed a book and treated myself to a solo lunch.
Veggie Grill occupies the space where Wagamama's used to be (RIP Veggie Katsu Curry, you will be missed). This is a prime location for good, sunny windows and people watching.
When you walk in, you can pick up a menu from the cheerful orange board in the picture above. If you're feeling personable, you can walk up to the counter and place your order with the nice person at the register. If you're feeling agoraphobic, Veggie Grill helpfully offers a digital solution:
I chose the anti social route and used these. They're touch screen menus that let you scroll through the entire menu like you're online shopping and make your selections. Once you place your order, you grab a table number, go sit, and wait for a Veggie Grill employee to bring out your food.
One of the main issues with dining alone is you only get one meal. Scrolling through this menu, I wanted to pick one of everything. Nashville Hot Chickin' Sandwich, Crispy Cauliflower, Nachos?! You're killing me!
I went with the Tempura Green Bean Stack with grilled onion and garlic ranch dipping sauce and the Beyond Burger Cheesesteak Sandwich. I did not get the crispy cauliflower because I feel like 50% of my posts here are about crispy cauliflower, but you know I wanted it.
Veggie Grill also has a pretty interesting selection of drinks. The only liquids I consume are coffee, water and alcohol and I usually don't like sweet drinks. But fuck it, today is solo-lunch day, we're going all in.
I kicked it off with the Matcha Horchata because it's fun to say and I was genuinely curious about how it tasted.
This was good! Definitely sweet, but not so much that it makes your teeth hurt, and the bitterness of the matcha helped to even it out. I can see myself coming back here all throughout the summer to get one of these over ice. Oh baby.
When the food arrived, I grabbed a refill of the Ginger Hibiscus Refresher. Does Veggie Grill allow for free refills? I have no idea, but I'm punk rock like that.
You know you did a solid job ordering when the waitress brings out two sets of flatware. She looked at me and my book, said, "...Oh!" and quickly put the second set of flatware back in her pocket. Feeling very good about myself.
But look at these beauties! So golden with just enough green showing through to remind you that they're vegetables and not fries.
I've gotta say, these were pretty damn tasty. The tempura batter was light, but still crispy enough to give you that satisfying crunch. The green beans were nicely al dente, and had a kind of sweetness to them that cut through the batter.
I'm usually not a huge fan of ranch (Team Nacho Cheese Doritos) but this was actually pretty good! Maybe it was the garlic? Let's just assume it was the garlic and keep adding garlic to everything going forward.
And now onto this glorious mess:
The Cheesesteak did come with an option for a side of fries or grilled broccoli. Since I was already getting deep fried green beans, I went with the grilled broccoli because you know, health. The grilled broccoli tasted like...grilled broccoli. I don't know what you want me to say. If you've ever eaten grilled broccoli, you've eaten this grilled broccoli. Let's move on.
I have never had a "real" Philly cheesesteak so I won't be able to tell you how this compares to it. What I will say though is that this is a satisfying mess of provolone, peppers, onions and savory Beyond Meat chunks. I know "chunks" is an unappealing word but there's not other way to describe them; savory, tasty chunks.
If I were to give one piece of feedback on this sandwich, it would be to add more peppers, onions and cheese. Towards the end of the sandwich I was mostly biting into Beyond Meat and bread, which is tasty but dry. If there was another slice of provolone and another scoop of grilled onions and peppers, I would not have needed so much of my potentially-illegal Ginger Hibiscus Fresca to wash this sandwich down.
There you have it. I normally try to be a Clean Plate Ranger, but I was truly stuffed. This is good, because Veggie Grill is not what I would call "cheap" and if I left there feeling hungry I would have been annoyed.
With the Cheesesteak clocking in at $13.50, the green beans at $7.95, the drink at $2.75 and a 15% tip (Always tip your servers) this meal cost almost $30. Could it have been split between 2 people? I mean, yes? But $15 per person is still a little steep for a Monday lunch.
So will I be returning to Veggie Grill? For sure. The prices prevent it from becoming a regular habit, but when the craving for crispy cauliflower strikes me I know where I can get my fix. It's a welcome addition the Harvard Square dining scene, and hopefully we will see more options like it popping up soon.