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Veggie Grill Is the Next Addition to Chicago’s Healthy Fast-Casual Boom

When it opens in late fall, expect meatless burgers and greens aplenty.

VG Beyond Burger at Veggie Grill   Photo: Todd Porter and Diane Cu-Porter

On the heels of Honeygrow’s Midwestern expansion, another health-focused, fast casual chain announces plans to roll into town. Veggie Grill (614 W. Diversey Pkwy., Lake View) should open in late fall, bringing with it a seasonally rotating menu of plant-based meals.

With spots like the aforementioned Honeygrow, plus Left Coast, Native Foods, and LYFE Kitchen, the sector Veggie Grill’s CEO Steve Heeley dubs “the better-for-you category” already feels slightly cramped. But Heeley says there are plenty of greenery-loving mouths to feed in Chicago, and the company’s market research directed them here as their first stop in an expansion outside the West Coast. (The company currently has 28 locations and looks to double in size over the next three years.) That same research also showed that 80 percent of Veggie Grill’s guests are not vegan or vegetarian. 

So what can carnivores, vegans, vegetarians, and those who choose not to identify expect to find at the 50-seater this fall? “Everything is made from veggies, fruits, grains, and nuts,” Heeley says. “It’s not just a bunch of green stuff on a plate.”

For instance, they plan to sell a burger, but instead of meat, they’ll swap in Beyond Meat’s plant-based ground-beef replica. “It looks like ground meat, smells like a burger, and tastes like a burger,” Heeley says. The patty gets topped with non-dairy American cheese and delivered in a sesame seed bun. Also on the menu: grain-based bowls, entrée salads, and sandwiches such as the (meat-less, of course) Santa Fe Crispy Chickin’. For dessert, there’s a big ol’ fudgy chocolate brownie. It’s gluten-free, so it’s still healthy, right?

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