The Grain Bowls at This New Vegan Chain Should Not Be This Delicious
New Jersey fast-casual spot Greens and Grains just opened its first Philly location — and its food is amazing.
True confessions, or rather, just a fact: I am not a vegan. I very much respect folks who are and completely understand the health, environmental, religious, and social justice reasons for making that kind of lifestyle choice. After all, I generally don’t eat meat. (I convert to the local diet when I’m traveling internationally.) But I’m not sure I could ever give up fish, eggs, honey, or cheese. Especially cheese. A source said recently that her perfect day would involve drinking tea and eating cheese, and GIRL. I. FEEL. YOU.
Because cheese is an irreplaceable part of my life, I don’t typically go for restaurants that advertise themselves as vegan, or, as the cool kids are saying these days, 100 percent plant-based. I find it especially problematic when companies or eateries try to create substitutes for meat and dairy. Do not give me “crumbles” (doesn’t that just sound so awful?) and tell me they taste like ground beef. Vegan cream cheese is not the same thing as the whipped goodness that goes on my Sunday morning everything bagel. Etc.
So when I heard the plant-based New Jersey chain Greens and Grains was opening its first location in Philly, inside the Comcast Center’s market area, I was intrigued but skeptical. Especially because of the fast-casual spot’s sort of Mediterranean bent — the ingredient list for salads and grain bowls includes tabbouli, falafel, and entire stuffed grape leaves — I wasn’t sure it could compete with, say, Cava, where I can get my veggie bowl with creamy tzatziki and real feta. But I always try everything twice (what if someone was having an off day, you know?), so I headed over to 1701 JFK Boulevard to check the place out.
First off, the Greens and Grains menu is enormous. I say it sort of has a Mediterranean bent because you can also get cold-pressed juice, breakfast items, panini, and smoothie bowls (with an optional add-on of CBD and MCT oils) in addition to the salads, grain bowls, and pitas. It’s as if the company Googled “trendy foods” and decided it had to offer all of them. I decide to stick with the safest bet, a bowl.
You pick your base first: greens, grains (wild rice), greens and grains, or a pita. (The first three options all come with pita, so don’t order just the pita.) I decided on the combo of greens and grains and then proceeded to stare at the extensive list of spreads, toppings, proteins, and dressings I could choose from. The cashier was incredibly helpful; she’d clearly tried most of the things on the menu, which seems like a basic requirement for people who work at a restaurant but does not happen as much as I’d like, especially at chains. I went with beet hummus, tzatziki, stuffed grape leaves, pickled daikon and carrots, feta cheez, cabbage, falafel, and lemon cashew ginger dressing, which came to $10 total. A strange mix, and it was very pink. (Both the dressing and the beet hummus were a rose color.)
But you guys, it was so good. Most of the time I had no idea what I was tasting, but the flavors melded together so well that I didn’t even care. It was tangy and crunchy and a ton of food; I saved half of it for later. Even the grape leaves, which I did have to chop with a fork and knife myself because they’re WHOLE GRAPE LEAVES, worked. My main thought while eating this delectable bowl was that I could probably become a vegan if Greens and Grains were only closer to my office.
Now, I haven’t tried the many, many other things on the menu yet. The juices could be garbage. But, if everything is as good as the grain bowls, Comcast Center may just have a hit on its hands — if only folks can get past their idea of what vegan food tastes like. I certainly did.