We’re unquestionably in the throes of burger mania, with burgers showing up on every menu and lots of new burger joints joining the fray. And although our bracket battle may suggest otherwise, in DFW, it’s not only about the beef. Veggie burgers have enjoyed their own little boom, for diners who crave the experience of a burger but don’t want the meat.
Veggie burgers may seem counterintuitive, but of all the vegetarian items, they’re one of the most surprisingly convincing fill-ins. Perhaps that’s because many of the pleasures of a burger derive from everything but the beef.
Depending on your topping preference, it might be the sweet-and-sour interplay between ketchup and mustard, or perhaps the custardy richness of mayonnaise. Most burgers come with a refreshing crunch of lettuce, and juiciness from a slice of red tomato. There is often the sharp tang of a pickle, and there is always the yeasty whiff of a toasted bun.
With all that going on, who needs beef?
There are so many veggie-burger options these days that they actually have their own subcategories, including those made with soy or tofu, beans and grains. Then there are alternative veggie burgers such as the popular “portabello burger,” in which an entire portabello mushroom, often marinated and grilled, stands in for the burger patty.
But our favorite veggie burgers are those that come from recipes specifically crafted to resemble the taste and texture of a burger. Here’s our ranked list.
1. Chop House Burgers
This Arlington spot was the runner-up in the judges’ bracket of our 2011 Burger Battle face-off, but now it can claim the top spot in our DFW veggie-burger list. Chef-owner Kenny Mills takes an unmistakably chef-oriented approach with a recipe that takes two days to make. He marinates cremini mushrooms, roasts them, then chops them roughly; that gives the patty its crumbly, burgerlike texture. He mixes in quinoa, pinto and black beans, and a blackened seasoning for a spicy, assertive flavor. He cooks the patties over mesquite wood, which adds smoke, grill marks and a nice crust. The burger comes on a no-fuss Mrs Baird’s bun, drizzled with chipotle mayo, for a beef-eater’s veggie patty like no other. Chop House Burgers, 1700 W. Park Row Drive, Arlington
2. Liberty Burger
This new chain with two branches in North Dallas from Mariel Street, daughter of Black-eyed Pea founder Gene Street, takes a Hopdoddy-like approach with a long menu of gourmet burgers, plus cocktails, wine and beer. Its veggie burger is one of the best, combining quinoa, shredded carrot, zucchini, squash, and chia and flax seeds. But the secret weapon is hummus, which binds everything together with a creamy richness. Lots of cracked black pepper gives the patty gourmet zest. It comes topped with Swiss cheese, greens, tomato and thickly sliced avocado on a cracked-wheat bun. Liberty Burger , 5211 Forest Lane, Dallas
3. Spiral Diner
This vegan institution with branches in Fort Worth and Dallas has three veggie-burger options, including a portabello mushroom. The soy veggie burger is the place’s best fake, with the subtly red hue and chewy texture of your best fast-food fix. The flavor is satisfying, with a hint of barbecue. There’s also a nutty one made from brown rice, sunflower seeds, carrots and spices, with a soft, yielding texture and a healthy, veggie-forward taste. Both are good; get one of each and do a comparison with a friend. Spiral Diner , 1314 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth
4. Rodeo Goat
Cleverly named the Neil Young, Rodeo Goat’s veggie burger is a unique, clever fusion of grain and bean. Roughly ground oats, barley and brown rice give the patty its nubby nuttiness; black beans add moisture and creaminess, and help hold things together. The texture is moist and just a bit crumbly, but with body; the color is a tawny gold. Thick slices of avocado and tomato and a tangle of sprouts, not to mention a whole-wheat bun, make this a veggie burger that is proud, not shy, about its status as a healthy alternative. Rodeo Goat , 2836 Bledsoe St., Fort Worth
As befits this upscale chain, its veggie burger is the most convincing fake, like a juicy rare burger with its red center and distinctive grill marks. The restaurants’ little secret? Shredded beet, cunningly disguised with a big dose of sweet, hickory-flavored barbecue sauce. The texture is a little soft and ready to fall apart too easily, but the extra-large bun, sprinkled with sesame seeds, keeps you safe. It’s topped with lots of shredded lettuce, a tomato slice and melted cheese. Nobody at your table would ever suspect. Houston’s , 5318 Belt Line Road, Addison