This is not the usual tale of woe for the veggie/garden/"other" burger that the non-meat version of one of the world's favorite food creations is often relegated to. With the enormous demand for vegetarian burgers and with so many amazing vegetarian sandwiches out there, why does it seem vegetarian burgers are always a bland, dry afterthought?
Fortunately, we have Anthony Myint here in San Francisco. Not only at his Mission Bowling Club can you order one of the city's finest vegetarian burgers, but it also happens to be vegan and you can go bowling at the same time.
Frank Mitchell, a sous chef since opening and elevated to executive chef in early November, is carrying on the vegan burger tradition with no changes since Myint created it for his Mission Street Food pop-ups. The patty is a fried combination of chickpea panisse (mashed chickpeas mixed with flour and warm water), sautéed kale, edamame, green onion, and that key umami boost of roasted shitake mushrooms.
But it's the addition of housemade guacamole mixed with cilantro salsa verde and kicky, fermented red pepper sambal that makes this a destination burger. Why do diners go crazy for Thousand Island dressing on burgers when guacamole and sambal are a thousand times better?
Our only slight quibble is the slightly dry and overly thick Acme green onion slab used for the bun. Each half of the bread was as thick as the patty, creating an unfortunately high bread to patty ratio.
Luckily, guacamole is the remedy for any problem. Slather it everywhere. A final flourish of fennel and compressed lemon slaw helps moisten the patty and add another citric and crunch dimension to the sandwich. There's just the right amount going on with this burger. It never verges on being a complicated, overloaded creation. Everything is balanced.
Beyond the vegan burger, MBC is a one of the best vegetarian and vegan destinations for dinner in the Mission. Nearly half the menu is meat-free, with symbols letting you know what is vegan and vegetarian. Lightly fried shishito peppers are the perfect bar snack topped by a clever popcorn powder that is exactly as it sounds: an El Bulli-style interpretation of buttered popcorn. A wintery chicory based salad greatly benefits from a beautiful sweet-sour-smoky white soy vinaigrette.
At the end of the meal and the bowling game, go with the excellent Mezcal-Jalapeno TBD cocktail, and admire how much MBC has certainly bowled a strike.
3176 17th St., San Francisco; (415) 863-2965.