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Veggie, Dawg!

So here we are, our very last veggie burger of Meatless March. Since several of the other veggie burgers I tried this month were from places where I’d already had their regular burger, I decided I’d continue that trend and stopped by Good Dog Bar – a bold move considering that on both of my visits there, I was extremely disappointed in their basic beef burger. Could their veggie burger wow me? Or would I leave once again with my tail tucked between my legs?

The veggie burger here is a patty of roasted eggplant, mushrooms, lentils & brown rice topped with lettuce, tomato, crispy shallots & spicy ketchup on onion brioche roll. The patty itself looked great; I love when I’m able to see all the elements together. That way I know they’re not just using some frozen fake meat. All the flavors came together really nicely and the spicy ketchup wasn’t overly spicy. I tried to put some of the accompanying fry sauce on the patty, but it made it kind of bland, cancelling out the veggie flavors. I also liked that they used an onion roll and not a boring brioche. It tasted really fresh and healthy – even if I was also chowing down on their signature kennebec & sweet potato hand-cut fries! I’m a little disappointed that their veggie burger was better than their regular burger, but that just means I’ll have to give the regular burger one last shot after all.

So, which of the four veggie burgers that I ate this month stole my heart? Unlike last year, there was a clear winner – CITY TAP HOUSE! Everything about their veggie burger just clicked for me. The beets, the cheese, the multi-grain roll – it was the kind of veggie burger that makes you forget that you’re not eating meat because it’s so damn delicious. Am I about to give up on meat burgers for good for it? Definitely not! I’m already counting the minutes until April 1st so I can dive right back into some medium-cooked meat!

Keeping it Pin-teresting.

Don’t get confused by this post’s title: it doesn’t have anything to do with Pinterest; it’s meant to be a nod to Varga Bar‘s playful pin-up girl decor. This week we stopped by during a very, very, very, very busy Sunday brunch (the three extra very’s are for the three other restaurants that I tried to stop at before I was able to finally snag one of the last bar seats here) to check out their veggie burger. The menu touts the burger as being topped with heirloom tomato, English cucumber, cheddar and truffle aioli on a country white roll.

The burger came out and it was positively massive! I mean, just look at that thing! I was also excited to find another veggie burger topped with cheese, especially given how delicious the one I had last week was. The patty had lots of fresh veggies in it – I tasted red peppers and there were even some visible corn kernels & chickpeas! I love to see that a restaurant is making their own veggie burgers instead of just throwing some frozen fake meat patty on a grill and then putting toppings on it. The tomato and cucumber topping was crisp and fresh, helping balance out some of the softness of the veggie patty and giving it a better mouth feel. The truffle aioli was present, but used sparingly so as to not overpower the taste of the veggies. I really enjoyed the side salad that it came with, dressed in olive oil & white balsamic vinegar. But then the couple next to me order fries and I had so many regrets! It was a very large salad portion though, so it filled me up quickly especially after how big the burger was. I wound up not even finishing it and still felt really healthy. I can’t wait to come back and try their regular burger (but make no mistake, I’ll definitely be getting it with fries)!

Beet That!

I’ll admit, even though last year’s Meatless March challenge proved that there’s a definitely great veggie burgers to be had, I’ve been setting my expectations pretty low. Even more so if I’m going to a place whose beef burgers weren’t that great. I’d been to the City Tap House in University City before, but they just opened a new location in Logan Square close to my job so I figured I’d check it out. Their veggie burger is a wild rice, oats, black beans and beet patty topped with aged cheddar, dijonnaisse, roasted tomato, and alfalfa sprouts on a multi-grain bun.

Honestly, a bar or a pub is the last place that I would expect myself to order a veggie burger at and I definitely was not expecting it to taste good. But this one tasted AMAZING! (Yes, I actually used those exact words when the bartender asked how everything was). All the different components – the oats, the beets, the beans – just worked together so beautifully and gave everything a great flavor. The cheese was probably what did it for me the most (I thought it was a pretty bold move to put cheese on a veggie burger since you might normally associate the typical veggie burger eater with being a Vegan). I could barely tell that I was eating a veggie burger at that point, and that’s what had been lacking in a lot of other veggie burgers I had. Also: the dijonnaisse – that gave the burger a little kick, clearing my sinuses right up! The multi-grain roll was a nice, healthy touch; soft but lightly toasted, adding some crunch (which, if you’ll remember from last week, was one of my issues with the super soft bun used at Taproom on 19th).

As my burger arrived, some guy was passing by my table and said, “Well at least the burgers look great!” Well sir, they taste pretty great, too!

Meatless March: The Sequel!

Since last year’s Meatless March experiment was such a success (or maybe I’m just trying to torture myself), I’ve decided to embark upon the adventure once again. It was a lot of fun trying different meatless burgers around town. They totally made me rethink the stereotype of a veggie burger being a boring, bland, dry-looking circle of fake meat. There were veggie-infused patties in all sizes, shapes and colors. Kicking things off this month is the “Bonzo Burger” at Taproom on 19th – a veggie patty consisting of Garbanzo beans, black quinoa, feta & cumin topped with cilantro yogurt on a Conshohocken Bakery roll.

The patty came with a char on the outside, reminiscent of your favorite backyard burger minus that burnt meat smell. The overall flavor of the burger was great but I felt that the texture of the patty itself was a little too soft, especially paired with the super soft bun. I added some of my salad to the top of the burger to give it a better mouth feel & add a little bit of crunch. It’s definitely worth checking out – especially on Monday nights when all burgers are 1/2 price!

NB: Just like last year, I won’t be doing individual ratings for the veggie burgers. At the end of the month I’ll do a recap of all the burgers I tried and let you know which one was my favorite! So be sure to tell all your veggie/herbivore or Lent following friends to check this series out!

A Burger Education

Full disclosure: I’ve eaten the burger at The Institute before but I didn’t write about it. Why? Because when I did, it was a sad, overcooked, double-pattied mess that I struggled through and barely finished (which disappointed the hangover I was trying to feed).

Looks great, right? Appearances can be deceiving!

But hey, everyone has their bad days! Which is why I decided to give them a second chance nearly two years later. Checking back in this week, the burger is down to a solo 6 oz patty and comes topped with your choice of cheese. I went with cheddar, as per usual. Lettuce, tomato, onion & pickles on the side and of course, The Institute’s signature side of tots.

The burger was cooked perfectly medium; bright pink in the middle and full of juicy deliciousness. The bun was a soft brioche. Everything was perfect and no-frills, just the way a good bar burger should be. I’m glad I decided to give them a second chance. It was an extreme improvement over my first visit & might just be my new favorite burger! And if you’re checking out the Craft Beer Express this year (Saturday, March 14th), you’ll need fuel for all that drinking, so order up one of these bad boys when the bus makes it’s stop here – you won’t be disappointed.

Burger rating: “B+”

Fresh From The Farm

Being conscious of where your food comes from these days is becoming more and more important to lots of people. It’s not just about some hippie-dippie Portlandia crap, it’s about supporting small, local businesses; farmers who have been operating farms for generations. Here in Pennsylvania, that’s one of our biggest points of pride – just look at Lancaster County! And lots of restaurants these days are making it a point to partner with local farms and markets to get the best and freshest ingredients. Case in point: South Philly Taproom, who partners with Rineer Family Farms (part of the Lancaster Farmland Trust) for several items on their menu, including their burger! I’ve tried their breakfast burger before, but came back this week for the regular burger as part of an event sponsored by Daryl Rineer to showcase the farm’s products and educate patrons.

Everything about the burger was great. Even though I ordered mine medium (they only give you 3 options – rare, medium, or well), it came out on the medium-well side. Understandable as there were many people there for this particular event so cooking up a lot of burgers at once can be a challenge. I loved the thick-cut bacon on top (my dining partner didn’t even eat all of his so I had to steal more, it was so good) and the smoked cheddar. It was just an all together, tasty and well-rounded burger. And it tasted even better since I knew that the meat was coming from some place nearby and not sitting in a warehouse in god-knows-where after being pumped full of hormones and preservatives!

In addition to the burger, the chicken used for the Southern Fried Chicken, Brussels sprouts, and even the jam for the Taproom’s infamous Fried PB&J all come from Rineer Family Farms! I was also excited to learn that Rineer does a CSA, which can be picked up at several locations around the city including 12th Street Gym and the Rittenhouse Square Farmers Market. Now I can enjoy these delicious burgers right at home!

Burger rating: “B+”

Have a Heart

I headed back home recently to celebrate my birthday with my parents. And celebrate I did by eating a burger in the heart of New York City: Times Square. We decided to check out Heartland Brewery’s HB Burger which touts itself as “the only full-service burger-oriented restaurant in the Times Square area”. I opted for their standard HB burger which uses fresh ground Pat LaFreida patties and tops them with aged NY cheddar, bacon, lettuce, tomato, an onion ring (!) and garlic aioli all on a brioche bun.

The burger came out medium as requested (and I should hope so if burgers are your business!). In typical LaFrieda fashion, the meat was juicy and delicious. Bacon was smoky and crisp, pairing nicely with the aged cheddar. My only complaint would be the bun. It’s no secret that brioche buns aren’t my first choice, but when done well they can be excellent. This bun was overly dry which totally threw off the great taste of all the other burger components. Oh sure, it came in handy sopping up all the meat juices, but having to take extra sips of my beer in between bites became tiresome. My mom order the crab cake burger and had the same complaint, eventually giving up on the bun entirely. Some of the other burgers are served on a potato bun, which I would have preferred but obviously wouldn’t have been able to contain all the toppings. In any case, this was still a solid burger that you can enjoy right in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of NYC (without any creepy costumed characters trying to steal your fries).

Burger rating: “B”

 

The Vulgar Chef

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