10 Best Veggie Burgers in Los Angeles
May is burger month, so it seems almost obligatory that Squid Ink get around to one of those "Best of" lists. But after eating 30 burgers in 30 days, declaring our favorite upscale burger and chowing down on five of our favorite burger stands, there didn't seem to be much ground left to cover. Thankfully, an office full of waistline-minded food writers suddenly worried about their summer figures provided the answer: veggie burgers. After all of this talk about butchers and beef and salt and fat and cheese and -- uh oh, we're getting hungry again -- it seemed only fair to give veggie burgers their due.
With a wide array of base ingredients that included everything from brown rice to yams to mushrooms to that wheat gluten putty known as seitan, it wasn't easy to compare and contrast the veggie burgers on offer around town. Some opted for real cheese, some for no cheese, others for vegan cheese. More than one location tried to make their veggie burgers as actual-burger-like as possible, while many proudly vegan restaurants shaved and pressed their way into a finished product that didn't look (or taste) anything like a juicy moo-burger. Still, there was a patty, a bun, some toppings and a slathering of condiments. Sounds like a burger to us. So after weeks of veg-heavy noshing, from upscale vegan eateries to the vegetarian options that almost seem like afterthoughts on some menus, these are the best veggie burgers we found.
10. Astro Burger
Noam Bleiweiss Astroburger
There's something oddly satisfying about Astro Burger's Gardenburger veggie option. Even with a blend of mushrooms, onions and whole grains, there's not much going on inside, and the soy-based vegan burger doesn't fare much better either. Rather, the Gardenburger acts as sort of a toppings raft, floating along on your taste bud stream, carrying crunchy leaf lettuce and a few thin slips of tomato, with splashes of ketchup and mayonnaise. Still, that's not far off from what you'd get with a beef burger from any normal fast food joint, and the wheat bun is a nice upgrade from the powdery store-bought commercial white kind. Bonus points for a nice grill sear on the patty and plenty of upgrades, including pineapple, chiles and teriyaki sauce. 5601 Melrose Ave., Hollywood; 323-469-1924.
9. The Counter
Farley Elliott The Counter
It's easy to be overwhelmed by options at The Counter, and even easier for those options to overwhelm your beef there. But with The Counter's Vegan Veggie patty, there's no chance of that. With full corn kernels, brown rice, black beans, nuts, mushrooms and cranberries, this patty is the star of the show. Instead of overwhelming the slightly sweet, funky, nutty patty, keep it simple with a few tomato slices, some onion, lettuce and a drape of cheddar cheese. The only thing overwhelming your thick, slightly pasty patty will be the hefty multigrain bun, but some avocado creaminess ought to be enough to keep the cottonmouth at bay. Various locations nationwide.
8. 26 Beach
Farley Elliott 26 Beach
There's a lot to love about 26 Beach's gigantic burger menu, but their veggie burger is a surprise back-page hit. Made with a brown rice base, plus black beans, corn, nuts, carrots, lentils and soy, the patty is a bit crumbly but otherwise carries plenty of flavor and a nice sear from the grill. The pressed vegetable components come thick and warm, offering up a nice bite for regular beef burger eaters. A hefty slice of tomato brings freshness and acidity to the cooked patty, and a gooey layer of melted cheese rounds out the burger with a nice layer of fat. 3100 W. Washington Blvd., Marina del Rey; 310-823-7526.
5601 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA