Withhold your judgment, carnivores: There are 10 vegetarian burgers in Dallas that are downright delicious. I know — it’s a challenge to believe that's possible. One of these veggie burgers is, somehow, even better than its beef compatriot. There are vegetarian burgers in Dallas that come with aromas of cumin and garlic, some studded with soft black beans, and there’s one with vegan ranch. My point: Veggie burgers are unfairly maligned. A startling amount of prep goes into these bad boys.
It may help to think of it in ecological terms: Eating a veggie burger occasionally (even though veggie burgers are rarely an “occasion”) can help the Earth not look like the desert tornado scene in Mad Max: Fury Road. The USGS Water Science school says it takes about 460 gallons of water for every quarter-pound of beef (or “about 1,750 liters per 113 grams”). To offset that, you could take a shorter shower today and enjoy a double cheeseburger at Offsite Kitchen.
Or you could dive in to one of Dallas’ best veggie burgers, which aren’t just boring, frozen prefab patties. They’re carefully crafted and spiced sandwiches. These burgers aren't just for vegetarians.
Veggie Burger at Jonathon’s, $10
Quinoa-based with shredded carrots, sweet potato, potato, spinach, red and green cabbage, garlic, smoked paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper and oregano.
Jonathon’s thoughtful rendition of a griddled veggie burger gets mixed with a reduction of honey, soy sauce, coffee and brown sugar. “I tried to go vegan and use ground flax as a binder, but it still crumbled and was as lethal a laxative as I have ever encountered,” chef-owner Jonathon Erdeljac says. Toasted wheat ciabatta bookends the sandwich, with lettuce, pickled onions, roasted tomatoes and a head-clearing Dijon mustard. It’s damn good.
Veggie Burger at Garden Cafe, $9.50
Lentil burger with lettuce, tomato, onion and garden remoulade.
Junius Heights’ Garden Cafe has an actual garden in the back, which means it’s really-nearly-farm-to-table. Their veggie burger has a believable meat-like sear — it’s baked and then finished on the grill — and it’s dusted with lots of cumin. They’re fresh-made — when I called in, they were proud to tell me they’d made them that morning. You won’t find freezer burn on these patties. Drizzles of tangy remoulade on the cuminy patty makes this a winner.
Veggie Bean Quinoa Burger at Start, $7
Black and white beans, almond and quinoa, avocado, romaine, tomato, red onion and “scratch-made buttermilk dressing”
This burger isn’t magic: It’s a wild Frankensteinian creation, baked (ugh, healthier) with 28 ingredients that complement each other. One bite in, you’ll get a head full of cumin and salt and garlic. There’s a touch of jalapeño in there, too. Garbanzo beans, black beans and cannellini beans provided a delicate touch, and buttermilk ranch ups the indulgence factor enough to satisfy the sandwich urge. Pro tip: Add white cheddar to really kick this into the stratosphere.
The Buddha Burger at Sundown at the Granada, $13
House-made quinoa-veggie patty, avocado, pickled vegetable relish, chipotle cream.
One of the most important features of a great veggie burger is texture. Extra soft patties, topped with a deck-of-cards-thick layer of avocado can be off-putting. The best veggie burgers have zip and fire and crunch. Sundown’s nails the symphony: Bright, crunchy vegetables (green and red cabbage and jalapenos and red onions), both tart and salty, get a smoky creamy sidekick in the chipotle cream. Sundown blends quinoa with vegetable stock, olive oil, carrots, celery, garlic, sunflower seeds, a toasted rice flour, soy and balsamic for a hearty burger that won't pummel your heart.
The Woodstock at Liberty Burger, $7.50
Chopped vegetables, grains, hummus and “four kinds of seeds” patty, with Swiss cheese, avocado, tomato and basil garlic aioli.
This must be one of the best chain veggie burgers in the country. It’s also a sturdy meal: My recent veggie burger was bowling-ball heavy, probably because there’s essentially a blended tree inside the patty. In other words, this is a vegetable sandwich with real power. Frodo could have nourished himself, Gollum and Sam for days on the way to Mordor with Liberty’s veggie burger. The basil garlic aioli will make you forget you’ve skipped meat.
Vegabond at Twisted Root, $8.49
Chickpea, black bean, brown rice and quinoa burger with sliced avocado and Sriracha.
Aside from blended beaver patties, Twisted Root is damn good at making vegetable burgers. Add baby mushrooms, Swiss, garlic and a few spicy pickles from their condiments table (next to the root beer) and make sure you get a good, crunchy white onion disk. The textures, alongside melted cheese, made for a killer sandwich. The patty eats with a decadence level that usually disappears around vegetables.
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Bacon Ranch Cheeseburger at Spiral Diner, $9.95
Patty is a blend of quinoa, carrots and cashews.
There is no bacon, ranch, cheese or burger in this bacon ranch cheeseburger. Spiral Diner has mastered the art of vegan food that stimulates the meat senses, at least visually. The bun is seeded and toasted, soft and puffy inside. Faux-ranch, which really should be lovingly referred to as Franch tops the seasoned quinoa patty. Fake bacon, which is typically the food version of a frown, is a seitan-like, tofu-infused slice with a good sear. Grilled onions are buttery and delicious, paired with slices of tomato, pickles and lettuce to give off the feel of a griddled diner burger.
Vegetarian Burger at Old Monk, $6
Lentils, bulghur wheat, leeks, mushrooms, corn, cashews and spices with iceberg lettuce, tomato, red onion and mayo.
There are few things harder than looking through the Old Monk bar food menu — filled with things like pistachio fried chicken and chicken liver pate — and landing on the veggie burger. It hurt a little, but Old Monk’s version has a lightning bolt of energy, and also a perfectly tiny Tabasco bottle. Do not, I repeat, do not forget to spend an extra buck adding Monterey Jack, avocado and spicy Chipotle salsita.
Portobello Burger at K.T. Burger, $7.95
Portabello “patty,” lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mayo, poblano sauce and pepper jack cheese.
Don’t worry, you made the right choice here: Sautéed onions and peppers, chopped onion, dill pickle, and a juicy portobello mushroom make this one of Dallas’ best sandwiches that’ll make you cool with skipping beef. A saucy, gravy-like juice turned this sandwich into a umami punch (also 10-napkiner), with slices of dill pickle to round it out. K.T.’s thin bread keeps the focus on the meat of the sandwich — so to speak.
Veggie Burger at Goodfriend Beer Garden & Burger House, $9
House blend of roasted sweet potato and yellow squash.
The veggie burger at Goodfriend is not a perfunctory sandwich. Sweet potatoes are roasted and squash is sliced, grilled and puréed. Bread gets pulverized into a powder, which acts a flour. Salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning, as well as fresh thyme and flat leaf parsley, are folded in. The patty is formed and then gets a hot bath in the deep fryer. It's finished in the oven and placed on an Empire Baking Co. bun, chef Zach Brown says. It's one of Dallas' most interesting veggie burgers — and it's best eaten on a breezy sunny patio day.