It sounds impossible, but it’s real: Start, the healthy fast food and drive-thru alternative, has created a veggie burger that bests its own beef cheeseburger. It’s not magic. It’s a wild and beautiful Frankensteinian creation, consisting of roughly 28 ingredients that work together to form a vegetable and bean and quinoa patty that has a baked crunch.
This isn’t my first time to try it, but, on a recent visit, I’m in a questionable mental place: Once again, after eating the quinoa-bean burger at the original Greenville location, I’m sitting at their sun-stroked counter in a state of denial. How can this be? My cynical, meat-addled brain wants to crush a vegetable burger with a stern blow of the fist. It can’t be better than the burger, right? Fundamentally, a grass-fed beef patty will always best any patty formed with quinoa. Right?
It doesn’t help that everything at Start is bursting with positivity. There’s somehow-healthy egg sandwiches with curry butter! Their grass-fed and free-range beef, with applewood bacon, seems so happy to be in between a bun in front of you. It’s like the cow was absolutely fine with being blended and pattied. So, it’s better than the veggie burger, right?
No, this vegetable sandwich is a powerhouse. There’s a house-buttermilk ranch to indulge everything with a creamy fat. There’s richness and softness from garbanzo beans, black beans and cannellini beans. After one bite, you’ll get a mind full of cumin and garlic. There’s a quick touch of jalapeño in there, too. Damn.
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General manager Brad Hruska confirms the recipe includes steamed and grilled vegetables alongside carrots, onion, bell pepper, garlic and — yes — raisins. Quinoa binds everything together, as well as a good egg. Salt, paprika and chili powder round out the orchestra. The finished patty is baked in the oven (ugh — healthier), which gives it an almost crusty sear. Avocado and the buttermilk ranch provide just enough creamy indulgence, and chopped romaine and onion are the needed crunchy notes.
I added white cheddar to mine. The sharp, rich cheese makes it a gold medal-winner.
This is my honest confession: I occasionally love a good veggie burger. There are many that don’t suck: Old Monk’s veggie burger is delicate and rich with mushrooms, corn, cashews and a chipotle salsa. Liberty Burger’s hefty sandwich gets a drizzle of aioli and a slice of Swiss. Neither are better than their in-house burger siblings. Start’s veggie burger, miraculously, bests the beef.
A great veggie burger lives.