Let’s get this out of the way first: Spiral Diner does not have a vegan burger that mimics the taste of a beef and bacon burger. A good cheeseburger, topped with undulating, crispy bacon, lives in a different place along the spectrum of joy. You’re not going to take a bite of this burger, and, mind spectacularly blown, stand and scream “Forget you forever, cows!” to the rest of the patrons otherwise eating calmly at the diner. You won’t throw away your ground beef in the fridge. But comparatively, it’s more delicious than so many of the burgers you've had lately — and so is that "bacon."
A beef burger and the Spiral Diner vegan burger look alike, but there’s no competition here. Like a host in Westworld, the Spiral Diner Bacon Ranch Cheeseburger appears to be a pork-topped cheeseburger drizzled with ranch, but displays dazzling wizardry, beyond what the eyes can see, just beneath its outer layer.
Before you hurl slabs of 44 Farms rib-eyes at my skull, take a minute to appreciate the sheer amount of work that goes into one of Dallas’ best vegan sandwiches.
The patty (go for the cashew-quinoa blend) is made from scratch. Quinoa simmers with veggie broth and is folded in with carrots, onions and parsley. Another house-made condiment, a cashew paste texturized with tapioca, is used as a binder. Nut paste for the win. All of that is blended together and hand-formed into a patty, then baked and grilled. The result is something real darn close to good meat char.
“It’s my favorite option,” manager Sean Connolly says, describing the burger as a frequent choice for first-time Spiral visitors.
The bacon’s a fascinating thing: It's made of tofu and seitan blended with a little canola oil, agave and liquid smoke. The result is formed, sliced and placed over a fiery grill. The canola oil allows a crunch to happen, even in a thick-cut slice of tofu-seitan-bacon. Plenty of ranch, a vegan mayo-based dressing with soy, lemon juice and dried spices, sauces the bottom and top bun. Somehow, it works. Shredded Daiya Foods cheese, a tapioca-based concoction, melts neatly in there too. Crunchy pops from the seeded Rudy's bun are welcome.
If the best veggie/vegan burgers are the ones made with heart, time and texture, then Spiral Diner’s bacon ranch cheeseburger is one of the smartest, best not-beef sandwiches in the city. Don't be mistaken: You will miss beef. You will always miss beef. Beef is, and will always be, good enough to be sorely, whole-heartedly pined after. You will, however, enjoy this sandwich and feel fireworks of good feelings as you save our dear planet some water. This is the vegan burger I’m headed for when we run out of huggable, delicious cows.
Spiral Diner's, 1101 N Beckley Ave. and 1314 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth