I love a good veggie burger. Appreciating it for what it is, I do not expect it to taste like meat. I do not need it to have the texture of beef. A good veggie burger should have some tooth to it and not crumble on your plate. It should be able to stand up to the bun and not squish out of the sides. To be really good, it should not be one-dimensional (salt and lentils, anyone?).
I have made a few different recipes of veggie burgers at home, a thankless job. Some have been good, some have been bland, most are not worth the intense effort of chop-chop-chopping many different ingredients. It is something I’d rather have in a restaurant.
And thus, last summer, I started my quest to sample as many veggie burgers as possible. The following are my notes with little capsule reviews on the restaurants they come from:
1. Starting with the winner, by a landslide, is the mother of all veggie burgers at uber-chic NYC temple of organic , sustainable and holier-than-thou- eating: ABC Kitchen. It had BETTER be fantastic for $20.00. But learn from me, you can split this baby. It is big, and filling and delicious. I have eaten the whole thing, but I now know better. At my last visit, my veggie burger-enjoying husband of mine split it with me. Do yourself a great favor and also order the roasted carrot and avocado salad. This too, is one of those “eat and weep” dishes….weep because I know that nothing I make at home will ever resemble the deliciousness of this salad. I have eaten here three times….as chi-chi as the place is, the wait staff seem friendly and capable. Although I wish they were a little more attentive. Still, I love the place. Note: veggie burger is only on their lunch menu.
2. It is a little hard to choose a runner-up, because there are quite a few that are really good, but since I do want to tell you about them in order of deliciousness, I will have to pick the veggie burger at 5 Napkin Burger. This had beets, carrots, lentils enoki ‘shrooms and a special sauce. Bun was really good too although I only usually take a bite of the bread. When testing veggie burgers, I want to hone in on the flavor and texture of the burger. Bread can be a distraction.Everyone else that I was with enjoyed their beef burgers….just ‘sayin.
3. The Shake Shack has a veggie burger. It is very delicious, it is inexpensive (under $7.00). You will wait on a long line to get it and there will probably not be a table for you to sit at. It is also a classic exhibit on the truism that not all vegetarian food is healthy. It is a deep-fried portobello ‘shroom with cheese and Shake Shack sauce and a white flour bun.
4. I am not really going in order here anymore, but I just wanted to say that The Cheesecake Factory actually has a pretty good veggie burger. I spoke with the manager at the Bridgewater, NJ location and he said that it is made fresh every day. Nice. Not from a box. It comes with a side salad and is a meal deal at under $10.00. I have had it several times. It has beets and farro in it. Wow-the Cheesecake Factory uses farro…I am duly impressed.
5. “Cafeteria” Restaurant in NYC. The veggie burger was salty and not very good. But what was worse was the disinterested service, the ultra loud music, and the feeling that it wants to only be a haven for the hung over hipster. Kind of snobby here and they do not have the bragging rights to be that way. Although I will give points for the fresh, ripe tomato and the multi-grain bun, it’s not enough to warrant a return trip.
6. Towne Restaurant, Clinton NJ. I had a veggie burger here with feta cheese, yogurt and lettuce on a pretty good bun. I had just finished hiking and was hungry. That fact probably added to the veggie burger’s appeal. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. I am almost certain it was a pre made (read: frozen, boxed burger).
7.Little Shanty, Warren, NJ. I have only been here once. I had their veggie burger and I am pretty sure that they told me it was not made in-house. I did not like it, and for $9.00, it should have been better. I want to like this place, I really do. I am going to go again, but I think I will go for the regular beef burger next time I go.
8. Corner Table, @ Whole Foods, Millburn, NJ. It is house-made, but just ok, nothing special. The roll was spongy. C’mon Corner Table, you have access to some of the best bakers, you are housed in a gigantic, beautiful Whole Foods store and you serve a terrible roll with your veggie burger. I even had the counter person agree with me. I may try it again, but I am not rushing to do so.
Have you had any great veggie burgers? Id love to know!