Right before the VB project started, Sergio and I checked out an interesting little joint in the Crossroads district called Grinders West. The week before we had finally tried Grinders (right next door to Grinders West, to the east, as you might imagine) where they have a Veggie Philly sandwich. Grinders is the least likely place to find such a powerful vegetarian sandwich. It is a restaurant with a predominantly meat-based menu. But the Veggie Philly was packed full of veggies and was tasty, if a little messy. Based on that sandwich, I would guess they do a pretty good job with their two or three vegetarian pizzas, as well.
But I haven't been back to try them yet because the next time we went, we opted for Grinders West instead. Though they're owned by the same people, the decor, the menu, and the vibe are completely different than Grinders. Grinders West is more of a deli than a dive (and I use that term affectionately, as does the Food Network show that featured Grinders). West is lighter and brighter than Grinders, uses real plates and glasses instead of paper and plastic, features funky lights and art on the walls instead of beat up street signs and the like. (Although I should mention that Grinders isn't completely devoid of art and has a sculpture park out back.)
My favorite thing about West, though, is the tables - each one a unique three dimensional art installation under glass - they are all interesting pieces, some evocative, some whimsical. I have already picked out which table I want to sit at the next time I go - the one with sparkling vinyl white clouds in the shape of whipped cream dollops laying on a puffy bed of sparkling blue vinyl.
The first time I went to Grinders West, I had the Thai Ahi Tuna Salad and was very impressed indeed. The tuna was nicely seared and, along with the peanuts and bean sprouts, made the salad a substantial meal. For that dinner I sat at the table with origami cranes made of maps. Last night I had another great salad (all 4 of their vegetarian salads look delicious, or you can build your own) - this one with fried goat cheese - and a cup of vegetarian vegetable soup and sat at the table with the completely white pressed paper piece of art that made an attractive but unfamiliar shape.
I am interested in going back again and trying the few other vegetarian items that are on the menu at both places, like the "fired grilled wedge of romaine" in the Caeser Salad at Grinders West or the Hippie pizza - "No Patchouli" - at Grinders. And I'm definitely interested in having that hardy Veggie Philly again. I think they'd let me order it in the not so gritty setting of Grinders West. That would be the best of both worlds.