Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cafe Septieme: Seattle, WA

Now that's a good veggie burger. Cafe Septieme's offering is a house-made mixture of tofu, carrots, oats, and spices, fried up and put on a bun. It is slightly crunchy on the outside, and soft in the middle. I thought it needed a bit more salt, but that's easy enough to fix. There is a lot of dedication that goes into this burger: in addition to the patty, the ketchup, aioli and relish are all made in-house. The lightly-toasted bun is commercial, which at first I viewed as a minus point, but the patty itself is so soft and flavorful that the dull commercial bun would allows the patty to shine. My one complaint is the awkward pickle slice, which at about an inch thick is too much to put on the sandwich.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Amy's Bistro Burger

I'm not familiar enough with French cuisine to understand why Amy's decided to dub these delicious little patties the "bistro burger," as their prominent ingredients are mushrooms and rice, giving them a more Eastern European flavor. However, since the word "bistro" is derived from the Russian word meaning "quickly," thanks to Russia pushing Napoleon's troops back to Paris in the War of 1812, it may be an appropriate name after all. Regardless, these veggie burgers are pretty good; not Amy's finest, but good. Mushroom is the predominant flavor, with the only distinguishable spices being salt and coarsely-ground pepper; a little celery rounds it out nicely. They are not particularly high protein (only 5 g) and their squishy, ricey texture is already too starchy to be good on a bun. In comparison to Amy's Texas and Classic Burgers, which are firm, chewy and satisfying, the bistro burger tastes wimpy and anemic.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Morningstar Farms Asian Veggie

Mmm... These are delicious. I rarely buy patties with eggs and dairy, which is why these don't make it in my freezer very often, but a gift of a box from a friend reminded me just how tasty these are. If Dr. Praeger's are like bad Chinese Food, then these are good Chinese food: a combination of egg, carrots, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, celery, soy sauce, and some spices for a slight kick. Even in the microwave, they cook up crisp (they're kind of greasy). As far as making them an actual burger, some hoisin sauce on a light bun would probably be amazing. They'd also be good sliced up in salads. Or, eaten plain!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dr. Praeger's Tex Mex Burger

My complaints with this burger are similar to the California Burger: too squishy, too much frozen vegetable flavor, not enough protein (only 5 grams). It has a better color, thanks to the black beans in the mix, but it just isn't great. I tried grilling it on my Foreman, and it just spread out on the grill. Maybe it's because I microwaved it for just long enough to de-thaw it. Basically, I was expecting Amy's Texas Burger, and this doesn't even hold a candle.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dr. Praeger's California Burger

Very colorful patty, with corn, carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, and soy beans all clearly distinguishable. You can tell exactly what you are eating, though the overall green tinge doesn't beg to be consumed. I wasn't thrilled with my first bite, but by my last I wanted more. It's delicious along the same lines as bad Chinese food: it tastes like the good doctor took a bag of frozen vegetables, mashed them together with a little garlic, and fried this up in a bunch of oil. You know it's not fine cuisine, but that doesn't mean you don't enjoy the experience. Despite the greasy texture, it is still lower calorie than many of its competitors; it is, however, also lower in protein: only 6 grams. The box recommends that you heat the pre-cooked patties in an oven or on the grill; I didn't have access to either, so I microwaved mine. The result was a mushy, starchy patty that would probably be too squishy to be goof on a bun but is still pretty tasty. One thing: as a native Californian, I am perplexed as to what makes this burger particularly "California." Maybe the garlic?

I just looked at the ingredients and figured out what bugs me about it: green beans. Huge chunks of frozen green beans. Huge chunks of frozen green beans have no place in a veggie burger.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

FitSugar Veggie Burger Breakdown

Here is a side-by-side nutritional comparison of all sorts of veggie burgers.

Bean Burrito Burger

2 cans of black beans
1 cup of cooked rice
1/2 cup dry TVP (about 1 cup reconstituted)
1 cup broth
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup corn
1 small chile
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
flour or soy powder, if necessary
cheddar cheese (optional)

1) Saute the onion, bell pepper, chile pepper, and corn until soft.
2) Reconstitute the TVP in the broth; drain
3) Mash the Black Beans in a large bowl and add TVP, rice, sauteed vegetables, salt, and spices. Mix thoroughly. If mixture is too moist, add flour/soy powder to mix 1 tbs at a time.
4) Fry/grill and serve with chipotle aioli (chopped canned chipotle pepper and mayo to taste: 1 pepper is enough for probably 1/3 cup mayo)

These have been my most successful veggie patties to date, though I would cut back the rice by about half to make them less of a burrito on a bun. Vegetarians often measure the success of their recipes on whether or not meat-eaters enjoy them, and my favorite carnivore asked for a second. (I stuffed his with cheese and melted more on top, so this might have been cheating- I thought they were tasty without the dairy).

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Subway: everywhere

Subway's offering is hidden in the "Regional Favorites" section of the menu under the name "Veggie-Max" (in the Seattle area at least- I think it was different in Boston). Ok, so it's less of a burger and more of a sub, but it's still deserving of a review. The Veggie-Max is a beige, six-inch by three-inch rectangular patty: not too appetizing a description, but don't let appearances fool you. It's a tasty mix of Textured Vegetable Protein, vegetables, and the occasional grain of rice. Water chestnuts add a little bit of crunch. I really can't think of a more descriptive word than "tasty": it gives a meaty texture and savory flavor to the weak Veggie Delight (vegetables and bread, cheese if you like it), and is more of a satisfying addition of the whole rather than a taste-sensation in it's own right. The Veggie-Max's strength is that it lets the best part of the Subway experience speak for itself: the multitude of veggies, breads, and sauces Subway offers, meaning almost infinite sandwich possibilities.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Charlies: Seattle, WA

Charlie's offers not one but two veggie burgers: regular and black bean. The black bean burger was the first meal I ate as an official Seattle resident, and I have ordered it multiple times since then. I got it again tonight. My boyfriend really likes their hamburgers, which include a wide variety of topping choices, and you can substitute a garden burger for a meat burger for a dollar more. However, I don't think you should have to pay more for a veggie patty, so I usually stick with the black bean burger. It is a zesty and tasty (though somewhat dry) combination of black beans, soy protein, a little rice, and corn served with pepperjack cheese and pico de gallo, as well as the usual burger fixin's (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle). As usual, I asked them to hold the cheese, but it would probably add a little moisture/grease to the burger. My server tonight forgot my pico de gallo, which would also serve this purpose. Points off for the massive, un-toasted sesame bun, which overwhelms the burger in a sea of bread. Don't get me wrong, a good bread can make a burger work, but this is just a commercial bun that is way too big for its purpose. The patty deserves a bun that will enhance, not mute, it's flavor.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Oregon Burgers

1 15 oz. can of black beans, rinsed and mashed
½ cup cooked quinoa
½ cup yellow onions, chopped
½ cup mushrooms, chopped
1 cup kale, chopped
¼ cup hazelnuts, chopped
¼ tsp ground thyme
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp oregano
½ tsp salt
1 tbs soy powder

1) Saute the onion and mushroom in cooking spray or olive oil until onions are clear; add the kale and sauté until the onions are brown.
2) Combine quinoa, mashed beans, mushrooms, onion, kale, hazelnuts, salt, and spices in a mixing bowl; mix with your hands or a spoon until ingredients are well-combined and the mixture sticks together. If mixture is too wet, add soy flour by the teaspoon until it is the right consistency.
3) Form into 4-6 patties.

134 calories/patty

My recent trip to Oregon inspired this recipe. It seemed that every menu I looked at had a quinoa offering. I had some nice steamed kale with quinoa at Blossoming Lotus and quinoa topped with black bean salad at the Rogue Brewery, so I in. Hazelnuts are also fairly Oregon, and I threw mushrooms in because I like them.

This burger is pretty good. It could maybe use a little more salt and the thyme is a little too prominent, but it is fairly flavorful. The hazelnuts make it crunchy, much like Oregon. I can see this going really well with beer bread.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Stanford's; Portland, OR

In such a veg-friendly city as Portland, Stanford's offering disappoints. I suppose that any restaurant attached to a mall can't be held by too high of standards, but Stanford's veggie burger can best be described as grease on top of oil on marinated in fat. The patty is a jumbo, oblong, commercial gardenburger (automatic minus points) that is soggy yet crispy at the same time because it is saturated with oil. It is topped by sauteed mushrooms, peppers and onion, which are delicious yet provide a hefty dose of their own greasiness. I asked for no aoili, but the garlicky buttered bun on its own further contributes to the mess: imagine if it had come with mayo too! If that isn't enough to harden your arteries, the meal comes with a surprise deep-fried pickle on the side and the choice of chips, fries, or salad. Go with the salad, because adding one more unhealthy element to the meal will guarantee tingling in your left arm. This isn't to say that the food didn't taste good. I love the combination of sauteed mushrooms, onions and peppers, and I will grudgingly admit that the deep-fried pickle was freakin' awesome. The bread of the bun was soft and chewy (I took it off and ate around the butter), and the whole thing may have been good if I had been in the mood for greasy food.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mushroom Burgers

Here's a little recipe I devised with a little help from Isa Chandra Moskowitz:

1 cup textured vegetable protein
8.5 g dried mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 tsp ground thyme
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 tbs soy sauce
3 tbs soy protein powder
3 tbs tomato paste

Chop the dried mushrooms finely and reconstitute with 1 cup of hot water; set mixture aside. Brown the onion in a small saucepan with olive oil or cooking spray. Add the spices, 1/4 cup of water or broth, mushroom mixture and soy sauce; stir in the TVP. Let simmer until TVP has absorbed all the liquid. Remove from heat and let cool. Mix in tomato paste and soy protein powder and form into 6 patties.

96 calories, 12.75 g Protein, 3.3 g fiber


This was my second attempt at homemade veggie burgers, and it's alright but has much room for improvement. I love mushrooms, so I wanted them to stand alone in the patty, but I did not use nearly enough to really make this recipe work: I should have included fresh in addition to the dry. The bites with mushrooms are good, but there are too many that are just TVP. The TVP is overwhelming- reducing it and adding a grain (brown rice, oat) and nut (pine nuts or walnuts) will lessen the fake meat quality. Basil, garlic, and more onion would improve the spicing.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Doghouse Tavern: Langley, WA

Another retroactive review of a burger that is in the running for the title of World's Best. Located on scenic Whidbey Island, a half-hour's drive and a 15-minute ferry ride north of Seattle, in this bar is found what has so far been my best veggie burger on the West Coast. It is a savory patty made with hazelnuts. Hazelnuts make everything taste better, yet they are almost completely overlooked in veggie patty form. The burger comes with blue cheese dressing, and when I asked for them to hold it, the waitress asked if I would like baked beans instead. While I admire her effort at customer satisfaction, the beans had little chunks of meat in them. This was not enough to detract from the overall experience though.

Burger King: everywhere

Burger King is, to my knowledge, the only fast-food chain that serves up a veggie burger, and it's actually not all that bad, considering. The bun is standard BK, the lettuce is wilted, the tomato is pink, and they will probably give you mayo even if you ask to hold it, but the combination is exactly what you expect when you're on the road: fast, cheap, mediocre. Not exactly good, but not all that bad either, and secretly you really enjoy it; no one goes to Burger King for quality eats, and if you've got the munchies and need to pull off the road for a quick meal, it's a lot better than the side-salad at McDonald's or the Wendy's baked potato.

The Publick House: Brookline, MA

I used to live in Brookline, MA. It's a "suburb" of Boston that pretty much is Boston only it's technically a different city and county. If you hop on the Green line of the T you will leave Boston and go through Brookline, then suddenly you're back in Boston, and then you're back in Brookline again without ever really noticing. There are three things redeeming about Brookline, Boston, and the greater Boston area: when the Red Sox/Patriots/Celtics lose, the "now leaving Boston" sign, and the veggie burger at the Publick House.

I am a fan of the Publick House in general; they offer a wide variety of artisan beers, with nary a PBR in sight. Even ordering a brew as mainstream as a Sierra Nevada is a huge faux pas. To accompany their extensive beer collection, they offer an equally delicious menu. It is therefore no surprise that their veggie burger is cream of the crop, so good that I am writing this almost a year after its consumption. It is a savory, homemade patty of vegetables and grains, with the bold inclusion of peas. I had never before seen a veggie patty made with peas, and it blew my mind. This was the burger that started it all, the one that made me think, "have I found the world's best veggie burger?"

Garden Burger: Flame Grilled Burgers

Ok, Garden Burger has redeemed itself. These burgers are nothing special, but they are good enough. They have a meaty texture and flavor similar to Boca Burger, though are firmer and juicier. Like Boca Burger, they have little grill marks so that you can pretend your microwave is really a barbeque while you are pretending you are eating a real burger instead of a disk of processed soy. I imagine these would be good starter burgers for a new vegetarian who is still craving meat, though someone with a more developed vegetable palatte will find them lacking.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Southlake Grill: Seattle, WA

The Southlake Grill's offering almost succeeds, but fails when it comes to the most essential element: the actual burger. They top garlicky grilled foccocia with avocado, tomato, lettuce, aioli... and a garden burger. With so much care put into the rest of the sandwich, the use of commercial patty is a disappointment, and a garden burger at that: the blandest of the bland. With a limited selection of vegetarian options on the menu, this is the best offering. It is tolerable, but not something I would go out of my way to eat again.


Amy's veggie patties are the best frozen veggie patties I have tried. Amy's food in general celebrates vegetarianism, and these are no exception. They are made from textured soy protein, grains, vegetables, and nuts, with each flavor blending together for a superb taste sensation without being overly processed: each ingredient is still distinguishable. They have a chewy texture complimented by a slightly nutty taste. The Texas Burger is my favorite, with hints of barbecue sauce, though the All-American burger is equally good. The Quarter Pound burger is a heftier version of the All-American, for the larger appetite. They are good enough to stand on their own for a quick snack. The one drawback is the price; they are generally more expensive that other frozen offerings, but shell out that extra dollar.

Boca Burger

Boca Burgers have a meaty texture, and a meaty taste. They are also low cal (but small) and most varieties are vegan. The company offers a few different flavors, such as onion and garlic that all taste pretty much alike. Boca Burgers are best on a bun, smothered in condiments, but serve well chopped up in dishes as ground beef substitutes.

Morning Star Farms

Morning Star Farms offers an eclectic array of patties, ranging from Asian vegetable to Tomato and Basil Pizza to the classic veggie burger. They cook up crispy and delicious, and unlike some competitors, the flavors taste distinctively different. They are a tad oily, but nothing that blotting with a paper towel can't solve. Most contain egg and dairy, but if that isn't an issue give them a shot! Pick a variety that sounds good and go from there.

Garden Burger: Garden Vegan

The GardenVegan was on sale, so I picked up a couple of boxes. Warning: if you are not a vegetarian, do not eat these, especially if this is your first exposure to a veggie patty. You will believe the hype that all veggie patties are pale, flavorless, mushy circles of tastelessness. If you are a vegetarian, do not eat these. You will be offended by their blandness. The taste is underpoweringly dominated by grain, with hints of mushroom but little else; they are lacking even the most basic seasoning, like salt. The texture is that of loosely held-together rice. Garden Burger offers other varieties of veggie burger, and I have had great experiences with some of their other products, so I am willing to give them a shot, but I stand firm on my opinion of the GardenVegan.