Some restaurants deserve credit for offering vegetarian options, especially if there’s an attempt to elevate veggie burgers beyond the commercial stuff. But I’d prefer a Boca Burger to an over-salted “patty” that oozes out of the bun with every bite. If I wonder “Why isn’t this a burrito?”, then your black bean concoction doesn’t cut it on a bun. The ideal veggie burger is firm. Texture is critical. Having sampled a number of them in the Twin Cities, I’m not sure that any of them have nailed it, but there are some pretty good ones. I’ve listed some below.
Here’s the veggie burger I wish I could find in restaurants. It’s based on “Wonderful Walnut-Mushroom Loaf”, a recipe in Jazzy Vegetarian by Laura Theodore. The loaf was really good and the leftovers that were sliced and pan fried were even better.
- 4 slices of bread, whole grain, rye... whatever or 2½ cups of bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin light olive oil
- 1 large onion
- 5-6 ounces of chopped mushrooms, cremini works well
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 heaping teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon tamari
- 2¼ cups walnuts
- ½ cup unsalted roasted sunflower seeds
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, or vegan cheese
- Zest from ½ lemon
- 1 teaspoon italian seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- A large skillet
- The Rosle Multi Cutter or a food processor and a cutting board and a chef's knife
- Cheese grater
- A big mixing bowl
- Rubber spatula
- Cookie sheet or pizza pan
- Toast 4 slices of bread, whole grain, rye... whatever and set aside.
- Warm 2 tablespoons of oil in large skillet.
- Chop 5-6 ounces of mushrooms. The Rosle Multi Cutter (RMC) is great for this job (see below). Set aside.
- Chop 1 onion. If using the RMC, roughly chop onion into wedges. Set aside a small wedge of onion and chop the rest. Don't overload the unit. Otherwise chop the whole thing on a cutting board as you normally would.
- Chopped onion. Saute for a few minutes until tender. Then add...
- Two cloves minced garlic. If using the RMC to mince, add cloves to the wedge of onion you saved. I find that the chopper needs something to grab onto to work, hence the onion.
- Mushrooms. Continue to saute for 10 minutes then...
- One heaping teaspoon of brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of tamari. Cook until the pan juices have evaporated.
- Pulverize toast to make 2½ cups of bread crumbs. Either use a food processor or the RMC. Just tear the toast into pieces that fit.
- Chop 2¼ cups of walnuts in a processor or the RMC until coarsely ground.
- Same with ½ cup sunflower seeds. Process until coarsely ground and add to mixing bowl with the other stuff.
- Add 1 cup of shredded cheese, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, lemon zest, and ¼ teaspoon of salt to the bowl.
- Toss everything together.
- Add the mushroom-onion mixture to the bowl and blend everything together with your hands or a rubber spatula. The mixture will form a ball that holds together.
- Form medium sized patties and bake them on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Turn them over and bake for an additional 10 minutes or longer to brown them.
- These were really good on soft whole wheat bagels from the Seward Co-op with a slice of a tomato from the garden. They were also good served over a bed of rice with chopped fresh tomatoes on top. To reheat, pan fry them in a little bit of oil.
Veggie Burgers in the Twin Cities
It has been a while since I’ve sampled some of these. Here’s what I remember.
- Northbound Smokehouse Brewpub – Loved the beer. The wild rice veggie burger was a little heavy on the garlic the day I was there.
- The Local – I must have had the Veggie Lucy. It was good enough to make the “I would order that again” list. I believe it’s the same sandwich you’ll find at The Liffey, which you can enjoy on the balcony that overlooks West Seventh Street in downtown St. Paul.
- Speaking of the lucy, the Fried Vegetable “Juicy Lucy” at The Happy Gnome can hit the spot, although it’s on the heavy side. I have good memories of being at the Gnome on a snowy Sunday when they had some live music.
- The Tiny Diner serves a spinach and walnut burger which sounds good in theory but the mushy texture lost me. That said, I love the Tiny Diner and have had other great meals there. Their outdoor dining under the solar panels is especially appealing.
- Peppers and Fries has a black bean based veggie burger. It was okay, but the next time I visit I’ll stick with the burrito.
- Pub 112 in Stillwater has the Gaelic Gairdin, which was perfect the first time I ordered it.
- The Chef Shack – I think the beets made this one interesting and I might steal the idea for another iteration of the above recipe. I just wish it could be have been paired with an equally appealing texture.
- The Pint Public House gets reasonable marks for its veggie burger but docked for the so-so bun that accompanied it.
- The American Burger Bar that was on LaSalle Avenue where I tried their veggie burger closed. But there are other locations. The burger had one of the better textures of the ones I’ve tried but was on the bland side. So order yours with plenty of yummy toppings.
Under the heading of gadgets that work as advertised, I present the Rosle Multi-Cutter. Brian’s sister gave us one as a Christmas gift. I love it and highly recommend it.