Burgers are a quintessential part of our culture, up there with apple pie and baseball, a symbol of who we are. But from a flavor standpoint, what makes a burger a burger is not so much the burger as it is everything else: bun, lettuce, tomato, pickle, whatever else floats your boat. If you've ever eaten a hamburger patty unadorned, you know how flavorless it can be.
That's why veggie burgers are one of the easiest, most popular substitutions for meat. Throw a veggie burger on the grill, and it'll acquire the same sear and charbroiled flavor as your old-school cow patty. Most veggie burgers also have some seasoning to add extra zing.
For the list of our favorite veggie burgers around Dallas, we went for places that put together their own mix. No Garden Burgers, portobello mushroom or marinated tofu. We favored veggie burgers made with grains such as rice or oats. Black bean burgers, the other common recipe, are usually overdosed with cumin and have textural issues, i.e., they squoosh out of the bun as soon as you take a bite.
These six veggie burgers best satisfy that craving for a burger loaded with toppings on a toasted bun.
This nascent North Dallas chain hand-forms its own patties from a magical mix of grains, veggies and seeds including quinoa, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, chia and flax seeds. Held together with hummus, it had a fabulous crusty, brown edge and you could see the little seeds. It came with a stack of nicely dressed greens, tomato and thick slices of avocado on a cracked wheat bun. (It also comes with Swiss cheese, which we skipped and didn't miss.) The patty had zesty, peppery spice that was a good counterpoint to the fresh lettuce-and-tomato and made Liberty our top veggie burger.
Dallas-Fort Worth's original vegan restaurant is so into veggie burgers, they have three options: soy protein, nut patty or portobello mushroom. The soy is the most like a burger, but we like the nutty one made from sunflower seeds, carrots, brown rice and spices. The patty had perfect little edges, and came on a righteous whole-wheat bun with a big spoon of guacamole. The texture of the burger was a bit soft, and the flavor was very "veggie." No way this would be mistaken for a "real" burger, but it had its own cool persona.
Sundown at Granada
The vegetarian-friendly restaurant next to the Granada Theater makes its own veggie patty from a power-packed mix of quinoa, sunflower butter and soy sauce. It came topped with avocado, chile-lime slaw and chipotle cream. The quinoa was a persuasive burger stand-in with its crumbly beef-like quality and dark edges. The slaw was almost droopy, but you wouldn't want crisp slaw on a burger. The avocado was almost too thick, but too much avocado is a good problem to have. It came with tomato, red onion, pickle and some sprigs of arugula — nice touch.
This veggie burger often makes "best" lists, and it looks like the real deal, with a rare-red center they achieve by adding an unusual, smart ingredient: shredded beet. Visible char marks on the patty and the barbecue sauce on top were strokes of brilliance. The texture was a little soft and crumbly, but it mostly held together thanks to the large, soft sesame-sprinkled bun. It came with a huge mound of shredded lettuce, tomato slice and melty cheese. Accompanied by your choice of fries, couscous or coleslaw, it looked and felt like a big meal.
The Henderson Avenue pub makes its own patties from a mixture of cashew butter, bulgar wheat and egg; the egg makes it vegetarian but not vegan. The patty had clean-cut edges and an impressive sear. The spices included a bit of cumin, just enough, not too much, and a hint of spicy heat. The bun was pretty with glossy top. On the side came good red slices of tomato, red onion, lettuce and a pickle, plus your choice of fries, side salad or German potato salad.
This fast-food chain does not fit the criteria listed above but merits mention because its veggie burger is one of the few made of actual vegetables: corn kernels, chopped bell pepper, carrot and bits of broccoli floret. The texture was a bit rubbery, and the flavor of the patty was very "cream of celery," but the edges were nicely browned. Bonus points for the paper wrapper. The presentation of the restaurant, however, not so much, with trash on the floor and stale French fries on the work counter. But it is a novelty to see a true veggie burger.