The proof is in the patty
We find 7 new veggie burger favorites
After seeking out and sampling as many patties as possible, we settled on seven worth their weight in soy protein. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)
Back then, those were our best bets. The newly opened Counter, a build-your-own-burger joint offering multiple proteins (or faux) and fixings, was a novel concept at the time, while Michael's was an old standby we couldn't ignore. Ed Debevic's offered a satisfyingly meaty meatless burger, and Grand Lux, that guilty pleasure destination among Tribuners and so many others, wowed us with its wild mushroom patty and basil aioli spread — and won.
So many burger joints have opened since our last roundup, Vettel and I decided to eat in search of the best new veggie burger in Chicago, presumably one that would give Grand Lux a run for its mushrooms. Fortunately, all those options provided deliciousness to spare and also taught us that there is no one predominant breed of burger — not even among the veggies. This led to a manifesto of sorts (see story at right) to help us sort the warmed-over Bocas from the bona fide burgers.
After seeking out and sampling as many patties as possible, we settled on seven worth their weight in soy protein. Our winner, DMK Burger, was the clear standout, and the runners-up are featured below.
House Veggie & Grain: One bite and we knew this was the winner. As Phil put it, "This tastes like it was made by a chef." Our compliments to Misters Morton and Kornick. Aged cheddar, pesto mayo, fresh tomatoes and surprisingly yummy eggplant complement a patty derived of rice, zucchini, beans, peppers and mixed veggies for a balanced flavor profile that's as different as it is delicious. We'd go out of our way to revisit this one. $8, 2954 N. Sheffield Ave., 773-360-8686; dmkburgerbar.com
DMK Burger's House Veggie & Grain was the clear winner of the veggie burgers we tried, but six others also impressed us:
Loaded Veggie Burger: This one's got the works: avocado, grilled red onions, roasted red pepper aioli and provolone on a football-shaped patty that we were shocked to learn is trucked in by Rosemont-based U.S. Foodservice. Made from brown rice, carrots and green peppers and finessed by chef Ricky Rodriguez, it's almost too good to be true. $9, 2535 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-486-0011; rockinghorsechicago.com
Mity Nice Grill
Veggie Burger: It's technically portobello mushroom-based, but Mity's patty is way more complex, and delicious, thanks to a blend of spinach, pumpkin seeds and more, encrusted with parmesan cheese and panko bread crumbs. There's a reason it doesn't come with a slice of cheese: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. $11, Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan Ave., 312-335-4745; mitynicechicago.com
Tom and Eddie's Yin & Yang: If you can get past its peculiar green color, this handmade patty of ground and whole edamame beans provides a nice, grainy mouthfeel. It's topped with onion, lettuce and tomato on a multigrain bun; a smear of eggplant spread adds peppery notes, and goat-cheese crumbles add salty creaminess. $8.49, multiple suburban locations; tomandeddies.com
Base Camp Burger (black bean): At this North Shore spot, the produce is always organic, the meats are humanely raised and hormone-free, and the baked goods are gluten-free on request. Even the ketchup is made without high-fructose corn syrup. And every burger is available in ground beef, turkey, chicken, salmon and three vegetarian styles (portobello, walnut or black bean). $7, 91 Green Bay Road, Glencoe, 847-242-0909; everestburger.com
Powerhouse Veggie Burger: There's just one veggie option at this eclectic build-your-own veggie burger joint, and it comes standard with some odd choices: arugula, avocado, chipotle mayo and goat cheese. Somehow it all works with the mushroom-based patty, thanks to copious amounts of "urban sauce." Don't ask; just eat. $9, 1578 N. Clybourn Ave., 312-255-0055; burgerbarchicago.com
The Bad Apple
Strange Famous: This "veggie burger created in collaboration with Sage Francis" (we had to look him up too) features a mushroom-and-seitan-based patty with sage marmalade, spinach and, once again, goat cheese. It left our mouths a bit dry, so next time we'll opt to try one of Bad Apple's 16 other burgers using the Strange patty. $8, 4300 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-360-8406; badapplebar.com
Tribune critic Phil Vettel contributed. email@example.com