A vegan and omnivore visit a local restaurant together.
PHOTO | MARK OWEN
STORY | JO TROMBADORE
For a vegan, eating out with friends isn’t just a fun, stress-free, spur-of-the-moment decision. When friends ask me to grab food with them, I immediately start strategizing a way to get a vegan meal.
Fortunately, some places downtown are inclusive enough to cater to those who’d prefer not to eat animals.
The Little Grill Collective is just such a place. Upon entering the small, brightly painted building tucked downtown, one is surrounded by a savory aroma and an eclectic array of wall decorations, including hanging Hula-Hoops, potted plants, a bicycle and a framed picture of Martin Luther King Jr. looking rather astute.
While I had to wait for about 15-20 minutes for a table (they’re usually packed on weekends, but well worth the wait), I was seated within the time frame I was told to expect and was served in a reasonable amount of time.
On the menu, I counted a whopping 10 vegan entrees and 19 vegan sides that are clearly labeled with a (V), not to mention, most of the non-vegan entrees can be made vegan with a simple ingredient swap, like tofu scrambler instead eggs, or vegan cheese instead of your standard dairy cheese.
Having the freedom to actually choose from so many different items (I went during brunch, so I had both the lunch and breakfast menu to work with) almost baffled me, as I’ve grown so accustomed to having to choose that one salad on nearly every menu that doesn’t contain meat (and usually even then I have to ask for it without cheese).
I selected Lambert’s Platter from the breakfast menu, which is composed of tofu scrambler, fried potatoes with mushroom gravy, vegan soysage and a choice of one side (in my case, the vegan chili). I also requested a side of vegan cheese (because I love that stuff more than life itself).
Unfortunately, they were apparently “out” of soysage, so instead I got a side of toast. Normally, a small thing like this wouldn’t bother me, but I’ve ordered this entree once or twice before, and each time they happened to be “out” of soysage. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s even possible to get my hands on this elusive delicacy. C’mon, Little Grill. Don’t taunt the soysage if you can’t deliver.
Despite this grievous disappointment, I forgot all about the soysage when my dish arrived, beautifully presented, piping hot and oh, so fragrant. The yellow scrambled tofu was perfectly seasoned and complemented by the warm fried potatoes smothered in mouth-watering groovy gravy — a thick, mushroom-based sauce that even non-mushroom-lovers will love.
The vegan chili, fine on its own, paired amazingly with the tofu and potatoes. I used the toast to scoop up mouthfuls of both the tofu and gravied potatoes, spooned on the chili and topped it with that delicious, warm, vegan cheese.
With a base of nutritional yeast (rich in B vitamins), this “cheese” sauce truly does have a cheesy flavor, salty and nutty and truly unique. Aside from the vegan mozzarella you can get on the Farmer’s Market Pizza at Student Success Center’s Bistro 1908 (seriously, try it out), Little Grill’s vegan cheese is the best cheese alternative I’ve tried.
All in all, the meal was absolutely delicious. I’m personally a huge fan of the Thanksgiving-style method of meal arrangement, in which every element on the plate complements one another and can be mixed and matched to form a variety of flavors. Little Grill Collective has truly mastered this technique, with every mouthful a new medley of warm, savory spices.
PHOTO | MARK OWEN
STORY | BRIANA ELLISON
The Little Grill Collective is a cozy little spot nestled on a street downtown further than most other well known Harrisonburg restaurants. It’s always busy; the sparse benches placed outside its storefront are usually occupied by a variety of eager and hungry customers.
I visited Little Grill on a Saturday afternoon, during the brunch rush. As expected, it was busy, but with a 15-minute wait. One of my first thoughts upon entering the restaurant was how much I enjoyed the eclectic decor: The color scheme is teal, with other shades of blue and pink complementing it. Other accents included various chalkboards with handwritten notes and information, an amalgam of bright Hula-Hoops and wooden wall decorations.
To create harmony, each table is also made of wood, with stripes of teal running down the tops that match the overall decor. Omnivore COLLECTIVE Little Grill is tiny, so there’s a lot of background noise, but not overwhelmingly so; you can comfortably have a conversation with everyone at your table without straining to be heard over other patrons.
Little Grill is known for serving mainly vegetarian meals, with a variety of vegan options. But this doesn’t mean they skimp out on meals that contain a hearty amount of meat. I ordered the Chicken Burrito, an item that caught my attention immediately due to the fact that I love chicken — especially in burrito form — and the other ingredients that accompany the popular dish. My heart skipped a beat upon reading the list of ingredients, which included local chicken, black beans, guacamole, a potato roll up and sour cream.
The presentation was amazing and beautifully true to the menu’s description. The red picante sauce was perfectly drizzled atop the medium-sized burrito, which was larger than my hand, but small enough to fit perfectly in the divet of the plate. There was a dollop of sour cream on the plate, and I applaud Little Grill Collective for being so consistent in their description and presentation. The best thing, however, about the plate and presentation was the smell: a perfect blend of all the different foods and spices that were fusing in this meal that was oh-so fresh.
Many people say the first bite of a new meal is the best, but in this case every bite was the best. The burrito didn’t overflow and break like burritos are wont to do, a testament to the fact that the chef filled the tortilla with about a tablespoon of each ingredient. The cilantro lime rice and sour cream were fantastic sweet accents to the burrito, equalizing the explosion of tastes that came with the meal.
The other addition to the meal was the potato roll up, essentially perfectly seasoned home fries rolled up in a fried tortilla. This was the darkhorse of my entire meal. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this mysterious item, but was pleasantly surprised. Not only was the seasoning excellent, the flavors of the potatoes and fried tortilla didn’t clash but merged into a soft and starchy bite that was filling and satisfying.
I fell in love with Little Grill Collective from the first bite of my Chicken Burrito, as I tasted the fresh chicken that made up a majority of the filling. The service was excellent, the atmosphere welcoming and the menu inclusive. As of right now the Chicken Burrito is my favorite menu item, but I can’t wait to return and explore more of the menu.