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.
Umami Burger’s following has gotten so huge that it can’t even really be called “cult” any more, and people are finally starting to pick up on the fact that the house-made black bean burger is a thing of beauty. It starts with a chipotle black bean patty (with plenty of additional top-secret ingredients in there), and the standard version comes topped with cotija cheese, guacamole, pickled vegetables, and cilantro. If you prefer, you can also get it topped with the trademark “umami” combo: a Parmesan crisp, roasted tomato, shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, and house-made ketchup.
Austin-based Hopdoddy has locations throughout Texas and in Arizona, Colorado, and California, and serves some truly spectacular burgers. The chain hasn’t forgotten about vegetarians, though: Its La Bandita patty is made with corn and black beans, and it’s topped with avocado, goat cheese, arugula, cilantro pesto, chipotle mayo, onion, and tomato and served on a whole wheat bun. It’s the best of the Southwest in one bite.
The veggie burger at this upscale chain has a cult following (the Park Avenue location in New York goes through 500 a week, according to the New York Times), and the vegan patty is made with a variety of ingredients including rice, beans, and beets (the secret ingredient? Prunes), and it’s given a basting of sweet soy before being topped with melted jack cheese, onions, pickles, lettuce, and tomato.
This California-based chain also has locations in eight additional states as well as Ireland, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, and serves some mighty tasty burgers. Its Sprouted veggie burger isn’t to be missed, however. It starts with a house-made vegan veggie patty made with 11 ingredients including corn, mushrooms, carrots, black beans, and cranberries. While you can choose your own toppings, we suggest you go with the suggested ones: red onion, mixed greens, roasted red peppers, alfalfa sprouts, and Dijon balsamic dressing, on a multigrain bun.
This Greenwich Village newcomer is one of New York’s hottest new restaurants, and it also happens to be a counter-style vegan spot. The best way to see what the hype is all about is by ordering The Classic Burger. The patty is made with tempeh, lentils, chia, and walnuts, and it’s topped with pickles, onions, and beet ketchup and served on a potato bun. It’s simple and delicious.
Plant Cafe Organic/Yelp
This popular Bay Area mini-chain serves one heck of a veggie burger, and as the name might imply it’s all-organic. The patty is made with lentils, beets, cashews, mushrooms, and bulgur wheat, comes topped with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, and vegan aïoli, and comes on your choice of focaccia, whole wheat sourdough, or an Acme sourdough bun.
Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s healthy Union Square spot is a popular lunchtime destination, and its $20 lunch-only veggie burger is about as gourmet as a veggie burger can be. It’s chickpea-based and similar to a falafel, but a lot more complex. It gets a quick dip in batter and a deep-fry (it’s certainly not low in calories!), and then is topped with a dollop of minted yogurt and a handful of greens before being stuffed into a whole wheat pita. It’s delicious and filling, and unlike any other veggie burger you’ll try.
One of Portland’s best bars also happens to serve the city’s best veggie burger. This award-winning burger is made with beets, wakame (seaweed), and hazelnuts, and it’s topped with pea shoots, carrot ribbons, and miso mayonnaise. It can be served on a gluten-free bun.
In business since 1983, Chicago Diner is a must-visit for any vegetarian in Chicago. There are three veggie burgers on the menu, and they’re all worthy of praise: The Cauliflower Kale Burger is a patty made with cauliflower, kale, and curry topped with kale, arugula, red onions, and apple chutney; the Buddha’s Karma Burger is a curried sweet potato-tofu patty with grilled pineapple, lettuce, onion, and chimichurri; and the Cajun Black Bean Burger is a spicy black bean veggie patty topped with sautéed onion, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, fried jalapeños, Cheddar sauce, and Creole mustard. These burgers aren’t messing around!
Quite possibly the most-hyped veggie burger of all time, the veggie burger served by Del Posto alum Brooks Headley at his Superiority Burger has people lining up on a daily basis and is really as good as you’ve been led to believe. Headley won’t divulge exactly what’s in the vegan patty (he admits that he’s constantly tweaking the recipe), but there’s definitely some quinoa, beans, and nuts in there, and potato starch is used as a binder. It has a slightly nutty flavor, a crispy exterior, and a soft center. To bring it all together, it’s topped with a slice of Muenster, lettuce, a roasted tomato, and a squirt of mustard, and is tucked into a Martin’s potato bun. What started as a pop-up cult favorite is now the centerpiece of an East Village hotspot that’s been awarded two stars by the New York Times and has been named the best burger of the year by GQ, and it’s also our pick for America’s best veggie burger.