How a Pro Makes a Veggie Burger
Veggie burgers may not be quite as prevalent on menus as a classic hamburger, yet more and more venues are offering a worthwhile meat-free alternative. So given the growing interest in healthy eating, we thought this sprouting segment of the burger world deserved a visit this week.
The Clyde’s restaurants have been slinging burgers for fifty years, and have probably sold more beef patties in a bun than any other local enterprise. Indeed, it estimates that 26% of its total sales are from beef burgers and a feisty 5% are from veggie burgers. So we asked its corporate chef, Brian Stickel, for some tips and tricks about crafting tasty patties from produce that can satisfy that demand.
Zagat: What are the basic ingredients for veggie burgers?
Chef Stickel: Currently, people are more into whole grains - lentils, barley, chickpeas, quinoa - so I like to use those as a base, along with vegetables like spinach and onions and carrots. That's the version served at Clyde's in Georgetown. Beans are often used, but when they are cooked they become mushy. That makes it is difficult to get a good texture. One trick is to quick-fry the bean-based patty to give it a crust. Mushrooms, when they are in season (and affordable), is another way to go.
Zagat: What's the biggest challenge in making a veggie burger?
Chef Stickel: The biggest challenge is how to bind the ingredients. One can use bread crumbs, but that’s not gluten-free - and more and more customers tell us they are eating gluten-free. One can use a lot of whole grains - the starch helps hold its shape. My trick is to use some egg whites. The proteins coagulate to bind the other ingredients.
Zagat: Do all 14 restaurants in the Clyde’s group serve the same veggie burger?
Chef Stickel: No, the various chefs can concoct their own version. For example, Tower Oaks Lodge has used curried lentils, chickpeas and Indian flavors. The Clyde’s at Willow Creek Farm switches up frequently, sometimes using mushrooms or beans as a base with vegetable garnishes. It recently did a Southwestern version. The basic veggie patty can be given many flavor profiles. Other locations source patties from NoBull Burger in Charlotte, VA, that use lentils and grains as a base, and offer vegan and gluten-free alternatives.
Armed with the skinny on veggie patties, here are some other burger stops with popular versions to check out: BGR:The Burger Joint, Bourbon Steak, Burger Tap & Shake, Busboys and Poets, Commissary, the Counter, Elevation Burger, Good Stuff Eatery, Smoke & Barrel and Tryst.