Food

Where to Find New York’s Ten Best Veggie Burgers

by and

Blame it on the migration of New York’s idealistic creatives to the West Coast — and the resulting bicoastal cross-pollination — for the fact that NYC is presently wading in a Cali-style garden, knee-high with ambitious vegan cuisine, dueling juice bars…and veggie burgers. Yes, we’ve taken notice. And admittedly, we seek out well-made meatless patties every now and then when we need a break from feasting on fried chicken.

But we insist that in order for a sandwich to go by the name of “burger,” it must meet a few simple requirements. One: The patty must be satisfying in texture, seasoning, and physical integrity (i.e., it doesn’t crumble into a pile resembling crusty bean dip). Two: The quality and structure of the bun must be stellar, corresponding to the flavor profile of the patty. And three: Toppings and accoutrements need to taste really good, be thoughtfully prepared, and arrive assembled to fit properly on top of and in between the first two things.

Based on those criteria, here’s where to find our favorite veggie burgers in the city right now:

10. By Chloe (185 Bleecker Street, 212-290-8000)

Chef and former Cupcake Wars champion Chloe Coscarelli opened this vegan fast-casual restaurant after years of honing her recipes and writing cookbooks. Her patience has paid off, and so will yours (but expect long lines) when ordering either of her veggie burgers. One goes the classic American route with a special sauce and potato bun, and beet ketchup lends the mix of tempeh, lentil, chia, and walnuts some welcome earthy sweetness. For the “guac burger,” it’s all about the crunchy tortilla strips, which offer a needed textural contrast against guacamole, chipotle aioli, and a soft black-bean, quinoa, and sweet-potato patty. (Zachary Feldman)

9. Bareburger (Multiple locations) 

This rapidly expanding chain originally opened in Astoria in 2009, distinguishing itself from the fray by offering patties made with a wide array of meats besides the usual beef, like duck, bison, wild boar, elk, and ostrich, all either grass-fed, organic, “all natural” — or all of the above. The interiors are designed to be eco-friendly, the chairs and tables made with salvaged wood and recycled materials. Given all that, it’s not surprising that Bareburger’s menu offers a couple of vegetarian/vegan burger options. The one we prefer is the Farmstead, based on wild rice and sweet potato. It comes with a creamy cauliflower hummus (a good replacement for cheese, although non-vegans can choose to add queso fresco, colby, cheddar, or pimento) and baby kale. Gluten-free and bread-phobic diners will be pleased that the patty comes wrapped in a collard green, but we recommend ordering it on a sprouted wheat bun for the full-on burger experience. (Karen Tedesco)

8. The NoMad Bar (10 West 28th Street, 212-796-1500)

NoMad Bar’s burger has a certain glam factor going for it, possibly because it’s only available after 5 p.m. inside the poshly lit, library-paneled lounge adjacent to the NoMad hotel’s eponymous (and more expensive) restaurant. The patty — a tender but sturdy blend of grains, legumes, and vegetables (lentils, quinoa, chickpeas, mushrooms, corn) — sits between two halves of a homemade cheddar-chive bun, the top of which gleams with the kind of deep-caramel sheen that only a pastry brush bathed in butter can provide. The burger is layered with pepperjack cheese, pickled mustard seed, and piquillo pepper mayo, topped with thin radish slices and watercress sprigs, and served on a small wooden carving plank with homemade pickles on the side. Eating this burger feels wholesome and a little decadent at the same time; the last bite comes quicker than you want it to. Even more laudable is the fact that last bite contains a bit of every component the whole thing started with — the mark of an expertly made sandwich. (KT)

7. Superiority Burger (430 East 9th Street, 212-256-1192)

Veteran pastry chef and punk-rock drummer Brooks Headley turned heads and profits with the opening of this hole-in-the-wall vegetarian and vegan fast-food joint, where diners vie for one of six school-desk-style seats. Headley’s namesake sandwich — featuring a petite seared puck of nuts, beans, and quinoa nestled into a potato roll — does a masterful impression of fast food. Topped with iceberg lettuce, roasted tomatoes, melted Muenster, honey mustard, and pickles, it nails the nostalgia factor. While you’re there, don’t miss out on insanely good vegetable sides and desserts (including an occasional special of toasted burger bun gelato). (ZF)

6. Telepan (72 West 69th Street, 212-580-4300)

Greenmarket master Bill Telepan serves a mushroom burger at his Upper West Side townhouse retreat as part of a four-course Meatless Monday prix-fixe that runs $65. His cheffy take mixes cremini mushrooms with farro, onions, and oats soaked in cream for an earthy and decadent brioche-bound sandwich. Telepan covers the brawny and crisp patty in melted gruyère, pickled hen-of-the-woods, mushroom aioli, and fried onions. It’s the anti-steakhouse steakhouse burger. (ZF)

5. Wassail (162 Orchard Street, 646-918-6835)

At $17, this is the Black Label burger of veggie burgers. And like its beefy counterpart, it’s worth every penny. Grains (quinoa, farro) and umami (smoked mushrooms, miso) give chef Joseph Buenconsejo’s patty a rich earthiness. Served on a brioche bun, it comes draped in melted provolone and smoked cheddar. A barrage of condiments — raw tomato and red onion, upland cress, mustard-yuzu aioli, and both smoked-paprika-pickled and smoked-and-caramelized onions — up the ante with bursts of spice and piquancy. As for the value, it does come with nicely crisp jalapeño tater tots. Jennifer Lim and Ben Sandler, who own the vegetable-friendly Lower East Side cider bar, offer the burger during brunch and weeknight happy hour only. (ZF)

4. 5 Napkin Burger (Multiple locations)

Among the many oversized burgers at this local chain, the one without meat is almost tauntingly better than all the rest. Its sturdy multigrain bun holds a thick magenta patty of beets, black beans, carrots, jalapeños, and grains. Lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles all represent generously, and a seeming ladleful of 5N sauce — a distant relative of Russian dressing — almost pulls this sandwich into deli territory. (ZF)

3. No. 7 Veggie (45th Street at Vanderbilt Avenue)

At this stall inside midtown’s Urbanspace Vanderbilt food hall, the No. 7 team delivers broccoli tacos and a trio of fast-food-style burgers made from mushrooms, seitan, and roasted broccoli. They’re hard-seared like Shake Shack’s smashed burgers, and these patties sport a similarly admirable crust. The standard entry ($6) yields ketchup, pickles, and caramelized onions; a “deluxe” ($7) adds lettuce, tomato, mayo, and mustard. But as with most veggie burgers, the magic happens outside of the patty itself. The “Total Vegetarian Chaos & Destruction” (the most expensive sandwich, at $8) layers on smashed avocado, colby jack cheese, pickled beets, griddled onions, and steak sauce. Chef Tyler Kord also throws a bone to carnivores with an optional pungent bacon-scallion relish. (ZF)

 

2. Blue Hill (75 Washington Place, 212-539-1776)

Dan Barber made waves with his wastED pop-up, which sought (and largely succeeded) to make edible magic out of “ignored or un-coveted” ingredients. His burger made from the vegetable and fruit pulp left over from Liquiteria’s juice presses (dyed pink with beets) was one of the most successful dishes of that experiment’s run. Now it’s available as part of a $62 “Cook’s Feast” offered at the bar. Somehow, this fancy sandwich — served on repurposed Balthazar bread — manages to stand out in a meal that includes dishes like golden beets with seckel pears and pickled green walnuts. Barber’s burger has a believably meaty texture and some seriously flavorful accoutrements, like “rejected” beet ketchup, pickle ends, and grassy cheese from a Vermont dairy. (ZF)

1. Pickle Shack (256 Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn; 347-763-2127)

Neal Harden makes one luxuriously messy non-meat burger at this Park Slope vegetarian gastropub from the owners of local picklers Brooklyn Brine and Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewery. The house-made patty — a mixture of beets and grilled vegetables that goes heavy on the mushrooms — packs some serious heft within its squishy griddled potato bun. The kitchen slathers on ketchup and garlicky aioli, tucking punchy bread-and-butter pickles underneath. Harden tops the beastly thing with lettuce and caramelized onions for a dose of freshness. And while the sandwich is impressive on its own, you can (and should) add avocado and cheese, including two types of cheddar and vegan cashew cheese. (ZF)