This site is all about respect for burgers and the restaurants that serve them. But respecting customers is an important part of the mix, too. There are those among us who choose not to eat meat, and they merit well-conceived burgers, too.
So we’re saluting joints like New York City’s Stand, whose basic burger is beef topped with onion marmalade, lettuce, tomato and house-made sauce, and which gives equal thought to the needs of our non-meat-eating friends. Instead of brushing off vegetarians with a premade supermarket nonmeat patty, Stand’s house-made Veggie Burger is a mix of quinoa, mushrooms, zucchini, lettuce, tomato, Parmesan, onion marmalade and house-made ketchup. It’s $8 and equally worth trying by meat lovers.
However, the “non-beef” category encompasses more than just vegan/vegetarian patties. It also includes meat celebrations that just happen to use something other than the usual ground round. We’re talking pork, lamb, turkey and more. We’re thinking of places like Govnr’s Park Tavern in Denver and its Ricky’s Italians Sliders (Italian sausage patties topped with sauteed peppers, onions, Jack cheese and marinara for dipping). With that combo, who’d bother asking where the beef is?
A perfect starting point for this roundup of righteous beyond-beef burgers is Blanc Burgers + Bottles in Kansas City, Mo. Here’s a place with classic burgers, Kobe burgers and even meatloaf burgers, but its non-beef burger menu also is among the best around. For vegetarians there’s a Sliced Lentil Burger (curried lentils and vegetables, spiced yogurt, cucumber and red-onion salad, avocado and radish sprouts on a whole-wheat bun). The rest of us are trying the Pork Burger (crispy slow-cooked pork, house-made pickles, whole-grain mustard and chipotle coleslaw on a 4-seed brioche bun). Both burgers have the complex flavors and added touches that this site was created to recognize and applaud.
A close second is another Midwest treasure: MoKaBe’s Coffeehouse in St. Louis. This is no tread-lightly vegan spot. It has a great Reuben and a classic cheeseburger. But its non-meat burger choices get the same first-class treatment. Try the Blue Mac, a house-made veggie patty with grilled onion, pickle, lettuce, Swiss and Cheddar cheeses, ketchup, mustard and special sauce on a kaiser roll. The Triple B is a house-made vegan black-bean burger with guacamole, pepper-Jack cheese, red onion and salsa on a kaiser roll. Big flavors.
That’s six non-beef burgers. To meet 19 more, click this jump:
Another St. Louis winner is Subzero Vodka Bar, which just added a New American Burgers menu. Among the choices is the $11.95 Breakfast Burger, a high-cholesterol combo of a ground bacon and pork patty topped with American cheese, a fried egg and Canadian bacon. Maybe not more than once a month, but I’m ordering it.
Fish and seafood aren’t off-limits here as long as the dish proudly claims to be a burger, and I’ll start with Southern California’s Lazy Dog Cafe. The Asian Ahi Tuna Burger starts with ahi tuna seared and topped with Asian slaw and a wasabi dressing. A deal at $9.95. One of Southern California’s most highly regarded burger chains, The Counter, also does salmon burgers proud. Its Moroccan Style Salmon Burger is fresh Atlantic salmon seasoned with green onion, lemon and parsley and topped with grilled Japanese eggplant and tapenade carrot salad on baby greens. Harissa sauce graces the bun.
Chicago’s South Water Kitchen (a Kimpton restaurant) has a nifty Salmon Burger, too. On top are fennel and red-onion salad, whole-grain mustard and mixed greens, heaped on a dill-potato bun, with sweet-potato fries accompanying. Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, with seven Mid-Atlantic locations, has a Salmon BLT Burger with lots of flavor: Honey-barbecue-glazed salmon, bacon, lettuce, tomato and shallot-black-pepper aioli with field-greens salad, coloeslaw and pickle on a soft bun. Phew.
Turkey can be the base for a terrific burger. Westville in New York City serves its Cast Iron Turkey Burger on a Portuguese muffin (no doubt much cooler than what the English created), which also is used for its Veggie Burger topped with mushrooms and spicy tartar sauce. Co-owners and co-chefs Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris make their own PGC Turkey Burger at Prairie Grass Cafe in Northbrook, Ill., and serve it with apple slaw and honey-mustard sauce.
At Stephen Starr’s El Vez in Philadelphia, the Turkey Burger is accompanied by a mole aioli, lettuce, tomato and house-made fries. Add bacon or Chihuahua cheese if you like.
In Chicago, HB Home Bistro chef-owner Joncarl Lachman’s $14 HB Lamb Burger is memorable for its add-ons: melted Brie, greens, roasted tomato and garlic mayo on a toasted pretzel roll. Truffle fries come on the side. Tom Douglas’ Lola in Seattle locally sources lamb for the $13 Anderson Valley Lamb Burger that is topped with house-made ketchup and chickpea fries.
The Gourmet Burger Grill in San Antonio features a Lamb Burger with spinach and roasted peppers, grilled onion, goat cheese and basil-pesto aioli for $10.50. Zig Zag Cafe in Seattle calls on fennel relish, house-made pizzaiola sauce and melted provolone to top its Lamb Burger.
Proving that meatless burgers can be haute cuisine. Richard Blais’ Flip Burger Boutique in Atlanta starts with a wild-mushroom patty and then adds goat cheese, arugula and white-truffle butter. After all that, the Surf ‘n Earth burger is just $7. Not to be outdone, the Grand Lux Cafe chain (owned by The Cheesecake Factory) offers a Wild Mushroom Burger made with portabello, shiitake, crimini and button mushrooms blended with garlic, cheese and fresh thyme.
The Farm Cafe in Portland, Ore., menus a $10 Farmhouse Veggie Burger made with eggplant, breadcrumbs, cheese and spices. It’s served with caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, Dijon mustard and lettuce on a rustic bun. At the other edge of the country, in Cambridge, Mass., Mr. Bartley’s Gourmet Burgers honors Harvard University’s president with The Drew Faust burger. Red peppers, feta, tomato, red onion and garlic mayo sit atop a veggie patty.
Two others merit mentions: Ted’s Montana Grill was the first national chain to specialize in non-beef burgers. Its Kitchen Sink burger is $14.69 for bison, $13.29 for beef (prices vary by location). What that gets you on top is grilled ham, mushrooms, onions, fried egg, bacon and your choice of cheese.
Finally, lets tip the cap to Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Co., where the$10 Vegan Burger is not only made fresh on-premise but also is accompanied on the menu by a beer recommendation (Dortmunder Gold Lager). That’s respect.
And that’s 25. Let us know about great non-beef burgers we missed here. There are plenty of them out there.