Get ready. The days of stalking Garden Grill’s Facebook or Instagram are about to come to an end with the opening of a restaurant. The popular pop-up which serves up perhaps the best chicken sandwich in town (along with other amazing eats like tacos, breakfast croissant sandwiches and more) is set to open a vegan restaurant in Summerlin.
The Las Vegas community has a broken down van to thank.
Founded by Leslie Marroquin five years ago, Garden Grill quickly enamored vegans and non-vegans and outgrew its 10×10 space in two years. In its third year, the van used to cart everything broke down. Numerous times.
“After taking it to three different shops, it was just throwing money away,” explains Marroquin. “Instead of fixing it, it seemed to get worse until finally we blew a head gasket and were told to just look for another van or purchase a new engine.”
Instead, Marroquin weighed her options, considered expanding to a food trailer but fate stepped in. She took too long to apply for the loan and the trailer was sold.
“For some reason I hesitated,” she says. “But I felt like things happen for a reason and there was a reason for the hesitation and it wasn’t meant to be. I was bummed, but not heartbroken.”
Enter a vacant space on W. Lake Mead.
The idea of opening a restaurant always floated in Marroquin’s head since she opened Garden Grill, but the spaces she looked at were never right. The rent was too high. There was no grease interceptor. They simply didn’t feel right.
Until she found the W. Lake Mead space while making her daily drive to Sprouts. There, she saw a sight for restaurant space and called to get more information. It happened to be too costly, so she moved on.
“One day I thought ‘well, it doesn’t hurt to just look at it,’ so I called back and scheduled a viewing,” she recalls. “I instantly fell in love with the space.”
It offered nearly everything she needed except for the priciest item — the grease interceptor. So, again, she let it go. But, not for long.
“I was in love … I couldn’t stop thinking of this space,” says Marroquin. “So, I called again and surprisingly, it was still available.”
And the rest is history.
Photo: Alessandra Taryn
To help cover the cost of the equipment, licensing for beer and wine and more, she decided to reach out to the vegan community in Las Vegas and beyond which has been so supportive. For every person who donates $20 to the GoFundMe, they’re entered to win a bevy of goodies from free Garden Grill food for one year, a round-trip visit to Vegas complete with a four-course meal from Garden Grill, free soft serve for a year and more.
Garden Grill has long been a festival and event staple, garnering longer lines than non-vegan options. But, the restaurant almost didn’t happen. After Marroquin returned from travel last year, she arrived to a very different vegan dining scene with 20 vegan restaurants in Las Vegas. She thought that perhaps there was no longer a need for Garden Grill.
She was wrong.
“The community has been the motivation and the driving force [of opening the restaurant],” she says. “Then 2018 Veg Fest happened and I was in awe of the community support! It was super hot and our friends and customers were standing in the sun for at least 30 minutes if not longer. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is! They, to my surprise, continued to ask about a brick and mortar, so felt like maybe there was room for one more. If it wasn’t for them this wouldn’t be happening right now.”
Garden Grills’ new home is expected to open early summer, if not sooner. Expect it to be the food that everyone knows and loves (we’re looking at you, Thrillist), but even more.
“We have a permanent kitchen with unlimited hours to work on new recipes,” says Marroquin. “We’ve had a few menu items we’ve been dying to do, but working out of a 10 x 10 space has its limitations. We are definitely working on veganizing more traditional foods and also adding more healthy, true-to-form plant-based options. And dinner! Working outdoors can be limiting to handheld food. We’re excited to work on a dinner menu.”
Garden Grill also plans to foster an environment that nourishes the soul, creating a peaceful place that “feels like a second home” complete with a garden wall or space. While the hours aren’t set yet, the goal is to host cooking classes and test tastings on the days the restaurant is closed.
“We are just super excited for this new chapter for Garden Grill,” she says.
So are we.
7550 W. Lake Mead Blvd, 89128
Photos: Garden Grill
Diana Edelman is the founder of Vegans, Baby. She previously lived and worked in Thailand where she spent years working for an elephant sanctuary and has traveled around the world speaking about the realities of elephant tourism. She is a public speaker who has appeared at SEED Food + Wine, VegFest Puerto Rico, VegFest Toronto and more, a journalist and entrepreneur. Diana is also behind the Vegas Vegan Dinners at James Beard Foundation’s James Beard House.