Best Thing We Ate

Hold the Beef: Our 4 Favorite Vegetarian Burgers

By Virginia Miller  |  August 26, 2014
Credit: Virginia Miller

As we cover the glories of burgers in our first annual burger survey's top 10 (and honorable mentions that just missed the top 10 here), it must be noted that some of the best "burgers" in San Francisco have no meat whatsoever. Though a veggie patty is certainly no replacement for a perfectly cooked beef patty, veggie burgers are a category in their own right. It's the mark of a great chef if they can make a textural and flavor-rich combination that stands its ground among great sandwiches/burgers. Here are four of our favorites:

1. Mission Bowling Club's Vegan Burger

MBC's vegan burger ($12) is certainly superior bowling food. But it's so good it's worth going to the restaurant for sans bowling. A crispy chickpea panisse (mashed chickpea patty) melts on an Acme bun smothered with guacamole, fermented red pepper sambal and fennel. It's got heat, texture and robust flavor.

2. Source's Veggie Burger

Source is a quirky-delicious vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Potrero Hill, but it's the interesting veggie "burgers" stuffed into house pita bread that draw fans. You can get the veggie burger with any combo of toppings ($9.95 lunch, $11.95 dinner), from "mushroom onion Swiss" to "avocado oink bits mozzarella." We like the spicy pepper onion burger smeared with jalapeño jam, roasted peppers and caramelized onions. The patty itself oozes blood — but not animal blood, rather the blood of beets formed into a firm patty with celery, carrots, lentils, mushrooms, brown rice, fresh herbs, soy protein, bread crumbs, garlic and onion.

3. 4505 Burgers & BBQ's Grits & Egg Burger

Alongside the Best Damn Grass-Fed Cheeseburger, rightly a fan favorite for years at the 4505's Ferry Building Farmers Market stand and at newer 4505 Burgers & BBQ, there's also a vegetarian rendition, which also suits carnivores. Grits are formed into a soft patty accented by roasted green chile peppers and crumbly Oaxacan cheese, packed in with an egg on a buttery, griddled bun ($9.75).

4. Plant Cafe Organic's Plant Burger

With six Bay Area locations (including one at SFO), the Plant Cafe Organic's veggie burger ($12) is a favorite across the board. The hefty patty is made of lentils, mushrooms, beets, cashews and bulgur wheat topped with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato and vegan aïoli. Bread choice is yours: focaccia, whole wheat sourdough or an Acme sourdough bun. Step it up and get the the Wasabi Plant Burger ($14) where the patty is laden with wasabi, raspberry "aïoli" and sauerkraut for funky complexity.