I was a vegetarian for ten years, until recently. I eased my way into it. I didn’t want to do without my fast food fries though most of them are technically not vegetarian. So I dropped in at McDonald’s before work one day. I had no idea whether they had a veggie burger or not, locally. I had just read that some locations did. So I rolled up to the counter and I asked for a veggie burger. The woman who took my order told me they could do that, and told me to go ahead and find a table and she’d bring it to me. I get that sometimes, being in a wheelchair.
I should have known something was weird when about two minutes later she brought out a tray with a wrapped sandwich, with the fries and drink I’d ordered. I thought it was odd but I unwrapped it, ready to experience my first veggie burger. I found a bun with a slice of tomato, and some lettuce and onion.
Maybe some condiments. I don’t remember.
I looked at the sandwich, then up toward the woman who’d brought it to me. Then back at the sandwich. Then back at her. I never caught her attention. I suppose I could have taken it back and explained that this was not what I had in mind. For whatever reason, I just wanted to eat and get to work. So I did.
And that, my friends, is the story of the worst veggie burger I ever had.
After that, I learned which fast food places had actual veggie burgers and which didn’t. Eventually my tastes became more sophisticated and I tried the veggie burgers at sit-down restaurants, diners, bars what have you.
Over the years I have been disappointed many times. I have been to places I will not name that openly advertised that their veggie burger was a brand name, and I knew I could get a whole box of them at the grocery store for the same price. I have had veggie burgers that resembled wet cat food on a bun.
Veggie burgers are not really meant to recreate the taste and texture of ground beef. That’s a myth. Expecting a veggie burger tasted like a “real burger” is like expecting a chicken patty to taste like a fish filet.
There ARE, however, certain standards one naturally expects in terms of texture, flavor….and a special quality which I can only describe as not-available-at-the-grocery-store-ness, when you order a veggie burger at a restaurant.
The title of this post says “veggie burgers” because I can’t pick one best. Because I’ve sampled veggie burgers of various types of restaurants.
I have always thought as far as fast food veggie burgers, the one at Burger King is usually pretty good.
- It’s got a subtle seasoning. I don’t know if it’s Lawry’s or what.
- It’s got a full roster of toppings: ketchup, mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles.
- the texture is solid. In that department, it almost fools you into believing you’ve got yourself a “real burger” whatever that is.
If you’re looking for a little bit higher end, but still looking for fast food, I recommend Culver’s.
- It is quality flavor and even kind of “juicy”.
- Toppings are similar to the Burger King offering except it’s mustard, not mayo.
- It is a bit softer than the Burger King veg but it is not so soft that it reminds me of that empty bun I had at McDonald’s a decade ago.
You may have noticed that those are both places you can go almost anywhere in this great nation.
The best veggie burger I’ve had that is exclusive to Rochester MN is at the more high-end Chester’s Kitchen & Bar near the Peace Plaza. Really it is not a veggie burger, per se. The “patty” is just portobello mushroom. But I guess it is really no LESS of a “veggie burger” than your run of the mill soy patty though. Not really. Either way this sandwich is in another league from the other two.
- It is very juicy and flavorful.
- Toppings are caramelized onions, avocado shredded lettuce, baby kale, and lime vinagrette.
- As for the texture, well, it’s like mushroom. Simple as that.
So whatever your budget, whether you want to grab and go or sit down and relax with your meal, hopefully you’ll find a veggie burger in Rochester that you can depend on when you need your burger fix.