America's 10 Best Restaurant Veggie Burgers

It wasn't too long ago when veggie burgers were decidedly in the "nothing special" category, and if you ordered one at a restaurant you'd most likely receive a defrosted puck of mashed-up beans and dehydrated vegetables on a bun with some lettuce and tomato. But what started as a meek concession to vegetarians has grown to become a culinary phenomenon, and these 10 restaurants are serving America's best.

America's 10 Best Restaurant Veggie Burgers (Slideshow)

When you think about it, the term "veggie burger" is something of a misnomer. While some meat-free patties, like those being created by Beyond Meat, are engineered to look and taste as close to meat as technology will allow (usually with the help of textured vegetable protein), the house-made veggie burgers being served at restaurants can only get away with calling themselves "burgers" because they're patties on a bun. In reality, they're chef-driven creations, combinations of flavors and textures in a handheld form, many of which took days (if not weeks) to perfect. There's no point in comparing a great veggie burger to an actual hamburger, because they're really apples and oranges.

A well-made veggie burger can be a true work of culinary genius. Because the ingredient possibilities are literally infinite, chefs have free reign to play around, and can incorporate any vegetarian ingredient their hearts desire, from beans to quinoa to butternut squash to beets. Spices and flavorings can take the patty in additional directions, from Moroccan to Southwestern, and then there's the question of what toppings go on the patty, and what type of bun it's served on. For a chef, creating a world-class veggie burger can be a daunting and exciting challenge.

In order to assemble our ranking, we started by surveying additional rankings and reviews both in print and online to compile a list of America's most popular, buzzed about, and truly delicious veggie burgers. In order to be included, the burgers must be made in-house from primarily grains and diced or ground vegetables ("fake meat" and whole portobello burgers weren't considered). We then narrowed them down according to level of renown, creativity of ingredients and toppings, and presentation. Some are the creations of small chains, others are destination burgers in and of themselves, and they're all worthy of serious praise.