Veggie burgers don't get their due credit. Sure, most carnivores and burger fiends tend to glaze right over these meatless gems when they're studying restaurant menus, but believe me, veggie burgers have matured through the years.
Forget the days of bland, freeze-dried, hockey puck Gardenburgers. The latest veggie burger creations are some of the most innovative and unique foods in vegetarian cuisine, and numerous restaurants are taking the opportunity to experiment with varieties of flavors, textures and ingredients to craft this meat-free, flavorful dish.
With more and more Austinites becoming vegetarian, vegan — or simply less carnivorous — many restaurants have added a veggie burger or two to their menus.
I've sampled my share of veggie burgers and had some delicious (and not so delicious) experiences along the way. Here are our picks for the top five Austin veggie burgers.
P. Terry's Veggie Burger
When I was a college student, I ate this inexpensive burger at least two times a week, and it is still by far my favorite veggie burger in the city. Made with brown rice, crimini mushrooms, black beans, oats, onions, cheese and parsley, P. Terry's veggie burger is topped with tangy housemade sauce and American cheese. For all those vegans out there, keep in mind that forgoing the cheese does not make this burger vegan-friendly. Since the mushrooms are cooked in cream (my pants just went up a size), this black bean burger is classified as vegetarian, not vegan.
24 Diner's Goat Cheese Veggie Burger
If your burger style borders on the creative, then the goat cheese burger at 24 Diner is right up your alley. Sandwiched between crispy toast, the veggie patty — made with beets, mushrooms, lentils, rice, pumpkin seeds and golden flaxseeds — is topped off with creamy goat cheese, gooey roasted tomatoes, pungent arugula and a tangy lemon vinaigrette. Believe me, you'd never think beets could taste this good.
24 Diner also offers another vegetarian sandwich called Betsy's Veggie, made with the same veggie patty, but housed in a pain au lait bun and topped with melted fontina cheese, fresh poblano, red bell peppers, red onion, spicy jalapeño, silky avocado and aromatic herb-lime vinaigrette.
Hopdoddy's Janis Joplin
My heart broke when Hopdoddy removed the Janis Joplin from the menu. I'll admit, the first time I ordered this burger was simply because of the name (sad, I know), but this burger really did steal a piece of my heart. The hemp seed patty has a pleasing texture and flavor that is only further enhanced by the soft avocado, crunchy sprouts, Tillamook cheddar and spicy horseradish mustard. For those of you who are wondering why I included this burger on my list if it no longer exists, well, Hopdoddy took to social media recently and announced Janis Joplin's return to the menu. My heart is beaming…
Mother's Cafe & Garden's Bueno Burger
I'm not a Mother's fan, yet the one menu item I'll attest to at this Austin haunt is the vegan burger. Grain-based burgers aren't all that appealing to me, but this one is an exception. Sandwiched between a sesame whole wheat bun, this non-GMO, tofu-grain burger comes with garden-friendly toppings, including tomatoes, lettuce, sunflower sprouts and purple onion. For those of you looking for the complete burger experience, I'm sorry. Mother's doesn't serve fries….
The Jackalope's Black Bean Burger
The Jackalope is a quintessential all-American burger bar, but not many people know that this Sixth Street spot also serves a decent veggie burger. Unlike the P. Terry's black bean burger, The Jackalope veggie burger is spicy, sizable and succulent. The Jackalope also serves a veggie sandwich that's made with flame-grilled portabella mushrooms, melted brie, caramelized red onion, roasted red bell pepper and pesto. Though it's not as good as the black bean burger, it's worth ordering at least once.
Before you take to the comment section to remark on my ignorance regarding all things vegetarian and vegan, please note: I've covered and devoured my way through my share of burger stories. So yes, I know my way around a patty and two buns. In spite of this, I still get anxious every time I have to write about burgers, barbecue, Tex-Mex, and basically any story that centers around Texas cuisine.
Indeed, burgers, barbecue and beer are three topics that conjure up quite a bit of debate and discussion in this state, so I invite you, the readers, to take to the comment section and answer the following question: Where are Austin's best veggie burgers? Don't worry, you won't hurt my feelings.