You know what sucks? When you get to a restaurant, all hungry and excited to eat, and upon scanning the menu, you realize your only option is a motherloving Boca burger. Ye gads, the only thing worse is the dreaded GVP (Grilled Vegetable Plate), which is enough to send even the most committed vegan into the arms of a sirloin. I joke, because PUKE, but for reals, us vegetarians want more ― and lately, we're getting it. From the Mission to the Marina and from Marin to Berkeley, the Bay Area is bringing it with the veggie burgers. Also: Want to make your own? Check out our recipe for the deeply mourned Mission Burger vegan burger.
My criteria for a winning veggie burger:
A. Superior mouth feel. Actually, I'm just talking about texture, but I wanted to sound fancy. SUE ME!
B. Heartiness. Does this bitch fill me up?
C. Craveability. Would I kill my own mother for another taste? No, I would never do that, I'm not some sociopath. But, you know, do I want to eat it again and again and again, until I'm inevitably buried in a piano box?
So, please, go forth, you brave veg and veg-curious soldiers, and conquer my entire list of the top seven San Francisco Bay Area veggie burgers. They're in no particular order (that you can decipher) because these burgers are like my children: I (pretend to) love them all equally.
1. The Plant Burger at the Plant Cafe Organic: Pier 3 (at the Embarcadero), 984-1973.
It's huge, it's bright red (from beets, not blood!), and it'll fill you up for days. In addition to the beets, the patty consists of lentils, mushrooms, cashews, and bulgur wheat. LOLZ WHAT? I don't know, but it tastes of delicious. It's a destination dish, with people going out of their way to get to any number of the Plant's inconvenient locations to chow down. The only thing arguably annoying about this burger is that it falls apart easily. It's not a huge deal, because it's fun to find chunks later in your bra. Snack time!
2. The Devil Burger at St. Francis Fountain: 2801 24th St. (at York), 826-4200.
Okay, this isn't so much an actual BURGER as it is a pile of thinly sliced fried seitan with melted vegan cheese on a burger bun with pickles, onions, tomato, lettuce, and vegan mayo. Remember when Roseanne opened those loose-meat restaurants (joke too easy must ignore)? Well, this is the vegan version of that! Get it with fries and a Diet Coke (the fat girl's Coke! Holla!) because this meal is best if it's comprised of completely empty calories and chemical death. When you're done, stroll down 24th Street to La Victoria and pick up a Wholesome Bakery cupcake. It's the most nutrition you'll be getting all day!
3. The Guacamole Burger at Saturn Cafe: 2175 Allston (at Oxford), Berkeley, 510-845-8505.
House-made Saturn patty with buffalo sauce, salsa, and heaps of terrific guacamole. I order mine with a side of pancakes because why the fuck not? Saturn has many burgers to choose from, and lots of great toppings and condiments (vegan ranch! vegan wasabi mayo!), so just eat your way through the menu until you've found a favorite. Most fun challenge ever!
4. Chipotle Almond Sunflower Burger at Nature's Express: 1823 Solano (at Colusa), Berkeley, 510-527-5331.
They've got about a million veggie burger combos to choose from, but this is my favorite. The rich and hearty nut patty (hehe) is offset by the sweetly spicy chipotle sauce, and it all just makes your taste buds dance. This place is totally nouveau-hippie so I can say, "makes your taste buds dance" and not sound like a complete jerk. Disagree all you want, I can't hear you yelling through your computer, and I never read the comments*. Plus, Nature's Express has vegan soft serve! Nothing goes better with a burger than soft serve. Someone somewhere believes that.
*I kid; my entire sense of self-worth is determined by my negative-to-positive comment ratio.
5. The Vegan Aggie from Ike's @ Lime: 2247 Market (at Sanchez), 553-6888.
Ike's Place gets in by default because of that g-d vegan dirty sauce. What is IN that stuff? Forget it, I don't want to know, I just want to eat it always! The Vegan Aggie is filled with the glorious dirty sauce, fresh veggies, vegan cheese, and a vegan Gardenburger. Heresy? Maybe, but condiments often make a burger, and I stand by this addition to the list.
6. The Roam Veggie Burger at Roam Artisan Burgers: 1785 Union (at Octavia), 440-7626.
First off, Roam's house-made veggie burgers are organic, gluten free, and vegan. Oh, and not only are they edible, they're off-the-chain delicious! I like eating here with omnis, because they order a meat burger and without exception end up making eyes at/trying to thieve my veggie one. Not cool, omnis! Roam's got sweet potato fries, zucchini-onion haystacks, and toppings like caramelized onions, avocado, and jalapeno relish. If you hate yourself and/or like vegetables, you can get the three minipatties served on a salad.
7. Avocado Onion Bacon Bits Mozzarella Burger at Source: 11 Division (at King), 864-9000 .
The patty is very reminiscent of the Plant Burger, but it holds its shape much better. This is probably because it's thinner, fried a bit longer, and has some sort of food addition that aids in patty-fication. Whatever is going on, it works. The best part might be the house-made pita bread it's served in. Holy Mother, it's good! I want to go full Oprah on the person who baked this bread and give them a house or a car**. It's just RIDICULOUS. The burger comes with a good portion of tasty fries, just make sure to ask for the dipping sauces, especially the sweet and tangy Caribbean banana ketchup and Gilroy sauce (for garlic lovers ONLY!).
**Unfortunately, I have two dollars to my name, so the best I can do is draw them a house and/or car in Photoshop. Which I'll have to learn to use first.
Honorary mentions: Curried Lentil Burger at Bistro SF Grill, house-made Veggie Burger at Herbivore, house-made Black Bean Burger (with waffle fries!) at Bender's. Better luck next year, little burgers.
Now, what are your favorite veggie burgers? I won't stop until I've had them ALL!