Jul 7, 2015
The 10 Best Veggie Burgers in Brooklyn
Finally, the time has come: The humble veggie burger is getting some respect. Credit the existence of the instantly popular Superiority Burger (more on that here) or the fact that many of us are now shying away from a meat-centered diet (at least most of the time), but, whatever the reason, it’s hard to deny that veggie burgers are having a moment. Even restaurants renowned for their hamburgers are getting in on the veggie burger action, and I have to say I think it’s about damned time. It’s an undeniably great thing when vegetarian options—even at a burger joint!—aren’t limited to a reheated Boca Burger or even the vegetarian’s familiar default—a plate of fries. Rather, vegetarians can now enjoy an excellent burger of their own, one that has a comparable complexity and flavor to anything a meat-eater might be enjoying. And so even if you’re not a vegetarian (which, by the way, I’m not), consider going that route at one of these ten Brooklyn spots; you’ll more than satisfy your hunger, and you’ll even feel pretty good about yourself while doing it.
Wilma Jean: Though I adore the fried chicken (and the regular burger!) at this Southern-inspired spot, the veggie burger is not to be missed. The thing that’s so great about it is that it satisfies that burger-specific craving; you know, the one where you just want something that tastes really good but feels really bad for you? Yeah, that one. Served on a sesame seed-studded roll, this veggie burger is a fried patty with a crispy crunch of an exterior—a texture that plays well against the squishy bun and crisp lettuce. I recommend getting it with a swipe of pimento cheese for a real flavor explosion.
345 Smith Street, Carroll Gardens
Dram Shop: Here’s the thing about meat-substitutes: People are always trying to make them seem more appealing by saying that they taste like some kind of actual meat. (See: Tofurkey. Or maybe don’t. It’s not super attractive as far as food goes.) And this has always seemed ridiculous to me. It’s like, let tofu be tofu! It doesn’t need to be turkey! And let a quinoa patty taste like quinoa! It doesn’t need to imitate beef! Because don’t try and sell me on a veggie burger by saying that it tastes like a hamburger. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. And yet, here’s the thing: Dram Shop’s veggie burger tastes exactly like a Big Mac. Only much better. Served on a sesame seed roll with American cheese, shredded lettuce, pickles, a round of juicy tomato, and a blend of mustard, mayo, and ketchup that mimics McDonald’s special sauce, this burger evokes a trip to the Golden Arches in a very real way. Only this is better, because you don’t finish it and feel kind of sick at the thought of all the hormone- and antibiotic-addled beef you just ingested. You just feel satiated and happy and like you need a chocolate shake. Or one of Dram Shop’s excellent selections of beer. Either way; you choose.
339 9th Street, Park Slope
Rabbithole Restaurant: Served on a house-made, pillowy light bun, the star of this burger is definitely the black bean patty, which manages to be delightfully moist, super-flavorful, and very hearty to boot. This burger also features a slick of dill garlic aioli, plus pickles and a ripe, red slice of tomato, making it a reliably fresh-tasting alternative to any frozen patty you might have languishing at the back of your freezer at home.
352 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg
Two8Two Burger: This beloved Boerum Hill burger joint has a whole array of options for meat eaters, but one shining example of a veggie burger for anyone feeling less than fully carnivorous. It’s a simple enough patty, coming on a squishy bun, just like most of them, and it comes with the standard lettuce, tomato, and a special sauce. But in order to make this veggie burger not so standard, get it topped with the delicious grilled onions and roasted poblano chiles, which make it truly exemplary. And get a double patty. You’re worth it.
282 Atlantic Avenue, Boerum Hill
Sweet Science: Some people think black bean burgers aren’t really “veggie” burgers, seeing as how, well, they don’t always contain so many veggies, and, also, they don’t really imitate the taste of a burger, rather they are—assertively—their own damned thing. To this I say, ok, sure. Whatever. Veggie burger or not, black bean burgers can be fucking delicious. Case in point is this little number from Sweet Science; a perfectly composed black bean burger is festooned with a slice of beautifully melted Swiss cheese, a couple of lengths of tart pickle, and spicy chipotle mayo for a totally satisfying meal.
135 Graham Avenue, East Williamsburg
Dutch Boy Burger: Served on a brioche bun, this house-made veggie patty really shines when its complimentary chipotle aioli is, uh, complemented by the addition of sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, and fiery hot cherry peppers which are sure to get your lips burning. But that’s ok, because Dutch Boy also has spiked milkshakes on offer, and I can’t recommend enough that you get drunk off your ass while eating your veggie burger. Why? Because otherwise it’s too easy to feel virtuous about abstaining from all that meat. And if there’s one thing that’s deadly (or, at least, deadly boring), it’s feeling virtuous.
766 Franklin Avenue, Crown Heights
Cubana Social: Much like hamburgers, after a while, a lot of veggie burgers all start to look the same. How much variation can there be, after all, when the recipe comprises the pretty basic ingredients of burger, bun, condiments? Well, throw all your banal expectations out the window when it comes to the veggie burger from Cubana Social; it’s one of a kind. The patty is made of black beans (as you might expect at a place called Cubana Social), but is also full of shiitake mushrooms and beets, for a rich earthy flavor that I love. Then, the burger is loaded with pleasantly bitter escarole, spicy pico de gallo, and a delicious, flavor-bomb of a condiment—avocado mustard. So good. Plus, if you’re gluten-free, you can have your burger come on tostones instead of a bun. Amazing.
70 N. 6th Street, Williamsburg
61 Local: The veggie burger here has long been one of our favorites, featuring, as it does, a delectable beet patty from Lukas Volger’s Made by Lukas line, and so, frankly, even if this burger was just a beet patty, we’d be pretty happy. But it’s actually so much more: The beet patty is perched on airy ciabatta bread, which has been slathered in a miso “mayo” (it’s vegan!), and loaded with beautifully sour pickled red onions and crunchy cabbage. All told, it makes for such a delicious and healthful sandwich that you won’t even feel slightly guilty about gobbling down the North Fork potato chips served on the side. (Not that you’d feel guilty to begin with; who has the time for guilt anyway? Not me.)
61 Bergen Street, Cobble Hill
Oxcart Tavern: Let’s face it: Lots of veggie burgers have literally zero veggies in them—not that there’s anything wrong with that. But that is definitely not the case with this ultra-charming neighborhood spot, where the veggie burger is full of eggplant and zucchini, as well as your more usual suspects, like quinoa and black beans, all of which make for a truly savory and delectable patty, made even more healthy with the addition of hemp, flax, and chia seeds. Yum. Also yum? The beautifully melted cheese adorning the patty and the insanely good, ultra-smoky, subtly spicy chipotle ketchup that comes with the burger and into which you can—you must—dip your fries. So, so good.
1301 Newkirk Avenue, Ditmas Park
The Pickle Shack: So, sure, it makes sense that at a vegetarian restaurant the veggie burger would be out of this world, but it would be impossible to predict just how good this veggie burger really is without trying it. The patty is a perfect balance of grilled vegetables and mushrooms, and its well-complemented by the crunch of sweet-savory bread-and-butter pickles and the garlicky puddle of aioli that decorates the potato roll. If you’re really feeling indulgent (and why not? you deserve to be indulgent as much as anyone deserves anything, which, nobody deserves anything, so just enjoy what you’ve got, you know), top it off with some buttery avocado and funky blue cheese. And feel pretty sure of the fact that no matter what anybody says, veggie burgers aren’t just a good alternative to hamburgers, they’re amazing in and of themselves.
256 Fourth Avenue, Park Slope
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen
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