Fast Food For Vegetarian Runners On The Go

The Veggie Grill features wholesome food that tastes good and is inexpensive.

Ask T.K. Pillan what is one of the hardest things about being a busy, vegetarian runner and he’ll tell you it’s the limited amount of places to eat out.

When he co-founded The Veggie Grill in 2005, he aimed to address this challenge of having to find a quick and healthy meal solution among the chain of fast food restaurants.

“It seemed like most restaurants made almost every dish around meat. And if it didn’t have meat on it, it had some kind of dairy or other animal by-product,” said the 43-year-old. “I’m a busy guy and like everyone else, I want something that’s convenient and healthy.”

Before starting his fast-casual vegetarian eatery, the MIT graduate was working for a web development firm that he founded. An active runner but non-vegetarian at the time, Pillan was tired of turning to fast food when he pressed for time, and was also frustrated at trying to find wholesome food that tasted good and was inexpensive.

“It wasn’t happy with the choices. It bothered me so much that I had started doing research and convincing myself that there had to be something better out there,” said Pillan.

He then partnered with Kevin Boylan, who shared the same perspective, and started The Veggie Grill, which serves a menu of 100 percent plant-based food created by their third partner, Chef Ray White. Its offerings include: gluten-free stews and desserts, soy buffalo wings, a crunchy mac-n-cheese made from quinoa pasta and vegetarian cheese, vegetarian wraps, sandwiches and burgers, and an assortment of fresh salads.

“I was nervous about how it would be received because a lot of vegan foods and combinations were new to me at the time. But now there are a lot of people who walk into the place and don’t know it’s vegan because we serve so many dishes that most people won’t commonly associate with a super healthy diet, and I think that’s what’s contributed to our success,” said Pillan about their flagship location in Irvine, Calif.

The Veggie Grill currently has locations throughout California, but is soon expanding to the Mountain West and East coast regions.

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