Among the great controversies grinding around inside the growing sin carne community — oh, you troublesome veggies, vegans, and yoga-butt hungerers — is whether true vegetarians should be trying to replicate the experience of devouring a close kin. You know, the whole meat-shaped non-meat thing. These reviews aren’t for those with dilemmas of that sort. This small compendium of local veg burgers is for those of you, who — whether you’ve just nuked your first soy patty in the dorm or are enjoying your diamond anniversary on the turnip wagon — still want to participate in the company cookout, picnic with your family, or just plain like the burger experience. You know in your low-LDL hearts you haven’t sworn off the burger taste — just the cow it rode in on.
Here are four of our favorites.
The first and only solo vegetariano for the Alamo City is required dining on the veggie burger trail. You’ll find a hand-made patty, good, if a little grainy, with chopped onion and peppers. A less-than-generous dark-grain bun can’t help but expose the wide, falafel-tasting patty. Baby spinach and avocado to the rescue, but ease off the lemon juice on that green boy. Slice fresher or serve brown.
Fries or onion rings come at an additional cost. Bad move. Should be factored into the original $6.99 outlay. It’s like they wanted you to order the kale side salad instead.
This is the last-night dinner crowd serving the authentic(ish) shared-grease experience of the traditional drive-in joint, before anyone considered grinding a better part of the cow for this American staple. We question the choice of surrendering the patty to the workings of the black, pinto, and navy beans: It left our palate a little gritty. However, the patty was graciously buried under a blanket of poblano-garlic dressing, and a standard-issue white bun with the tinted roof. While — again — we encountered a separate fry charge, the sticks of sweet potato weren’t too salty, allowing their natural sweetness to shine through. Most authentic.
Between the big, white, buttery torta buns and the canopy of shade provided by the mature pecan trees, we were properly sedated for relaxed digestion — possibly amping this Gardenburger offering unfairly, but that’s life. Atmosphere matters. And as drinkers and eaters in SA know, La Tuna has the corner on atmosphere. Love the shmeer of black beans, crushed tostada chips and fresh (fresh!) avocado. Go with frees (no extra charge, thank you very much) or request the healthier (“You’ll live forever eating those,” our hostess promised.) pickled nopalitos. This is a large burger; give yourself an extra 20 minutes of recovery time.
This homemade patty rich with veggie and legume life blended in some tofu to keep things juicy and moist on the interior. A close-to-perfect veg patty, in fact. That alone is worth a venture to Twin Sisters. The SA standard dollop of avocado and fresh tomato and red onion played off the roasted-red-potato side perfectly. No hidden charges for a full plate of delicious food. The goliath dark bun had only one of us chomping in enthusiasm, however. Still, fun and colorful screen art on the walls and a lively, eclectic downtown clientele elevated the Twins’ offering to the top of the pack. Unlike our experience at La Tuna, no post-soy food coma to keep us from spiriting back to the grind. Wait. Was that in the plus or minus column?