A veggie burger doesn't have to be a bland, mealy disc of meat-free mystery.
In the hands of talented chefs, the veggie burger has become flavorful and delicious—and not just for vegetarians anymore. Some even look medium rare (thanks, beets).
In fact, these five veggie burgers are so good, they've got carnivores clamoring for them, too. Here are the best meatless burgers on our radar (and a new one we're excited to try):
The Plant in San Francisco
Yes, there is such a thing as a cult veggie burger. The Plant's namesake burger has been a hit ever since it made its menu debut in 2005. "I think folks found humor in the color," chef Sascha Weiss says of the patty, which contains a healthy dose of beets. "But it doesn't try to be a beef burger. It stands on its own." Weiss caramelizes said beets and mushrooms in a large rondo before mixing in lentils, bulgur and cashews (to "add richness"), then tops the burger with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato and vegan aioli. Weiss wants to expand the loyal following of The Plant burger by developing a gluten-free version.
Thistle Hill Tavern in Brooklyn
Falafel, meet burger. "We love a good falafel, so we figured, why not do it burger style? It has just the right mix of crunchy on the outside and tenderness on the inside," says chef Dale Talde. A favorite among TT editors in NYC, this burger nearly quadruples the size of a falafel you'd get at a Greek joint. It's made with a mix of chickpeas, onions and parsley, as well as toasted cumin, coriander and cardamom. The burger is slathered in homemade tzatziki sauce and squirted with a little Frank's RedHot, then served on a potato bun. Bonus: The thick, crisp fries speckled with salt and pepper that come on the side are delicious.
Hopdoddy in Austin
Austin does not do tofu patties. "Ours is a homage to our Southwestern-Texas roots," says burger man Dan Mesche. His very Texan veggie burger is a hand-mixed black bean and corn patty studded with brown rice. The burger is crowned with avocado, goat cheese and arugula, then slathered with cilantro pesto and chipotle mayo and served on a whole-wheat bun. And there will be even more opportunities to try the burger soon: The longtime local favorite is opening its third Dallas outpost later this summer and plans to expand to Denver by the end of this year.
The Mill Northeast in Minneapolis
You can't keep a good veggie burger down. When Mandy Zechmeister closed her first restaurant, Mill City Cafe, in 2012, "people asked me for the veggie burger all the time, so I kept making them at my friend's restaurant," she explains. At her new digs at The Mill Northeast, Mandy's veggie burger is on the menu for good. So what's made her patties so popular? To make them, Zechmeister blends black beans with wild rice, mirepoix, nuts, mushrooms, shredded jack cheese and panko breadcrumbs. The burger is then topped with melted provolone, house-made aioli and a crackly slate of Parmesan frico. And burger lovers, stay tuned: Zechmeister has three more veggie burgers in the works.
Coming soon: V Street in Philadelphia
Richard Landau and Kate Jacoby of Philadelphia's stellar, elegant, meat-free restaurant Vedge will be making veggie burgers at their new spot, V Street, slated to open this fall. Although nothing on the menu is set just yet, Landau tells us he's got some "pretty kick-ass inventions" in the works. Given what they do with smoky, meaty eggplant "braciole" at Vedge, we can't wait to see their take on the patty. When's the last time a veggie burger had you on the edge of your seat?