In my opinion, there are two titans of the vegan “fast/casual” restaurant market: Veggie Grill and Native Foods.
Fortunately for us vegans, they both take a different approach on their food so we truly get to enjoy the strengths of each.
Veggie Grill uses purchased meat analogs where Native Foods makes all their own stuff. Both options are great, but with Native Foods you can enjoy food that you just can’t make at home. Another plus? Native Foods has ventured further inland than VG, with locations in places like Boulder, Washington D.C., and Chicago.
The staff at Native Foods is always upbeat and pleasant and offer assistance when I just can’t make up my mind (#veganproblems). See, I have something of an addiction to the Oklahoma Bacon Cheesburger – which, unlike Oklahoma and bacon, is actually amazing and something I encourage everyone to try at least once in their life.
The OKBC (like my hip abbreviation?) is a sandwich loaded with shaved, seasoned seitan that is smothered in home made melted cheddar and topped with bacon slices. The toppings are the standard lettuce and tomatoes, but the BBQ sauce is magical. it comes with fried pickles, but I am not a pickle fan so those stay behind. The “burger” has the best balance of heft, sweetness, and chewy, melty goodness.
In an effort to try something new, I forced myself to order the meatball sub. I found it really lacking, but this was partially due to my disdain for peppers and onions, so I ordered it without. This is not fair to Native Foods, so be sure to give this sub a go on your own.
Last time, I also tried something new in my quest for the perfect vegan Reuben. I ordered this sandwich and was instantly intrigued – they color the seitan with natural beet juice to give it a pink, fleshy color. At first it was so real I was actually concerned. But knowing this was truly a vegan joint, my fears subsided and I really enjoyed the sandwich. The coloring is most likely a playful attempt at being “realistic” as it didn’t offer much in the flavor.
On a trip to Boulder last Summer, I also gave the Jackfruit BBQ sammy a try and it was amazing. This sandwich makes its presence typically in the Summer, so we have a bit longer to go until it is available again. Think of shredded “chickin” in a sweet/tangy BBQ sauce with slaw and toasted buns. It is a phenomenal meal.
The interior of Native Foods is always clean and inviting. The Bridgeport Village location has a wonderful fireplace for those chilly winter nights (not sure about the other locations).
The beverages are a refreshing selection of frescas, lemonades and juices at the fountain as well as sodas. Their beer selection features some local brews and is impressive. The dessert menu always seems like an afterthought at Native Foods. I would love to see some really unique and rotating offerings other than some brownies and oatmeal cookies. This is really my only gripe with NFC. If they put as much innovation into their desserts as their mains, I would probably be about 50 pounds heavier. Maybe its a good thing.
For a bit of vegan “sin” food (sin is in air quotes as it is still vegan and therefore good for you), be sure to make Native Foods a regular stop. Their staff is great, the restaurant is clean and inviting and they have a great beer selection. Oh….and their food is awesome.