Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bubby's Pie Company [delivery]

Now, I realize there are many foods which do not taste as good after they’ve been packaged in foil and styrofoam and transported across manhattan by bicycle. This is partly why I generally prefer to cook my own meals rather than order delivery. So in Bubby’s defense, I don’t know what this burger tastes like if ordered in the restaurant itself. Maybe it is significantly better. I will probably never find out though...

I picked Bubby’s Pie Company to order lunch from because their menu described a “housemade veggie burger served on a whole wheat bun”, which sounds appealing, right? Guacamole was listed as a possible topping so I ordered that too, just to make it even tastier.

this is how the burger arrived… isn’t that just the most depressing lettuce-tomato-onion-and-maybe-a-pickle topping you’ve ever seen?

unwrapping the foil revealed this burger, which actually looked and smelled quite promising.

I stacked it all together and smothered it in guacamole

The flavor was just “okay”. Not as good as I would expect from a “housemade” patty. The problem was that the outside was so fried and greasy that it felt like biting into hash browns...
I think there was even some potato in the patty itself, as well as lentils and barley, and I caught a few glimpses of tiny shreds of carrot and some peas. It was slightly spicy and the texture was pretty decent, but the whole thing was just so greasy that it was hard to enjoy even those positive aspects.


The bun was on the verge of going stale but at least it was whole wheat, as advertised. If I hadn’t ordered the guacamole to put on top of it the whole thing would have been even more unappetizing. Guacamole makes most things better. Although I wondered if they really meant for it to be a topping (it was listed as one on the menu, I swear!) since they sent a tub full of it as if it were an appetizer meant to be served with chips.

It also came with fries, which were cold and soggy like delivery fries always are. At least the burger itself was still lukewarm when it arrived. There was a strange pink sauce that arrived in a little plastic tub, which I dipped a few fries in and found rather unappealing. I couldn’t eat the whole burger though. I managed about half before the greasiness got the best of me and I gave up. And I felt like I needed to wash my face off afterwards.

Not the worst veggie burger I’ve ever eaten in my whole life, but certainly a disappointment... and NOT worth the price! If I had not ordered the guacamole as a topping, I would probably have demoted this to a 1-star burger. I suppose if you like really greasy fried things you might enjoy it? Especially if you’re the kind of person who just throws away the lettuce instead of putting it on your burger, too.

Cost: $15 (the guacamole was extra, $3 I think)
Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 1    Bun: 2      Toppings: 3

Bubby’s Pie Company
120 Hudson Street
between Franklin & Moore Street
New York, NY 10013

YumVeggieBurger review #12

Monday, July 26, 2010

Trader Joe's Organic Tofu Veggie Burgers

I am a big fan of Trader Joe’s. Have been ever since I discovered them my first semester in college. I will even brave the absurdly long lines at their Union Square location, and carry heavy grocery bags all the way back to my apartment in Astoria, just to stock up on their delicious products.

While waiting in said line (seriously, if you have never shopped at a Trader Joe’s in NYC you really have no idea what I am talking about – just imagine the line for a roller coaster at an amusement park on a crowded day. I’m not exaggerating.) I saw these veggie burgers in the refrigerated section next to the tofu and tempeh. I had never noticed them before, and they looked tasty, so I added them to my shopping basket.


Trader Joe’s has rarely disappointed me in the quality of their food, so I was anticipating that this would be a tasty burger. It looked good on the outside as it sizzled away on the grill, and I had some delicious tomatoes, lettuce, and sprouts (sprouts are so great on veggie burgers!) to top it with.



My first bite was surprising – as my teeth cut through the crispy, grilled outside of the patty, they encountered a soft mushy inside with a texture entirely different than what I had expected. In retrospect, maybe I should have realized that the inclusion of “tofu” in the name “tofu veggie burger” indicated that this was not filled with grains and veggies… but really, I think that is more suggestive of a burger burger with tofu mixed in amongst the veggies, not what turned out to be essentially a breaded slab of tofu. Burgers are not meant to be crispy outsides with soft yellow fillings, in my book.

Doesn’t it look like an egg sandwich? So yellow in the middle!

Don’t get me wrong, I love tofu. I will happily defend it against detractors who label it flavorless and rubbery (clearly they just don’t know how to cook it properly). But tofu is for stir-fries and salads, or marinated and grilled as a steak – it is not meant to be disguised as a burger! Flavor-wise, this patty was actually quite good. Kind of spicy, too. But I was just so thrown off by the texture, and felt deceived by its outside appearance, that I could not enjoy it.

Sorry Trader Joe’s, but this is one product I will not be purchasing again. I assume some people must enjoy it, and I can actually imagine it might make a good vegan breakfast sandwich (can’t help it, it makes me think of eggs) but it’s just not right for a real burger.

Rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Trader Joe’s Organic Tofu Veggie Burgers
purchased at the Union Square location in NYC
Price: $2.99 for a pack of 2 burger patties

Tip: for other NYC shoppers, I hear that a new Trader Joe’s location just opened in Chelsea. I haven’t checked it out yet, but I wonder how the lines will compare to the Union Square one…

YumVeggieBurger review #11

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kate's Joint

UPDATE: Kate's is now closed, RIP delicious veggie burgers! :( Original review archived below:

Kate’s Joint is like a greasy late-night diner for vegans - in the best possible meaning of that description.

I’ve eaten here before, but this was my first time ordering one of their burgers (take a look at the extensive menu and you’ll understand why it had taken me until now to get around to trying a burger!). And there are a lot of them to choose from… this is one of those restaurants I will ideally return to other times to review more of (hope that doesn’t spoil the suspense in this review… yes, their burgers are good enough that I will be coming back for more!)

Slightly-overwhelmed by the rare sight of so many different veggie burgers all on one menu, I asked the bartender which one was his favorite. He said he liked the “McKate” and the “Double Bacon Cheese Burger” best. So I ordered the McKate – “two un-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, dairy or non-dairy cheese (I got the non-dairy), pickles, onions on whole wheat sesame seed bun”. My friend John ordered the "Double Bacon Cheese Burger".

The McKate

Me: This tastes like what I remember McDonald’s cheeseburgers tasting like!*
John: McDonald’s tasted this good?

*note: I think the last time I ate a McDonald’s burger was in the early 90's

Seriously though - whatever McDonald’s might have actually tasted like back when I was a little kid, or whatever it might taste like today in 2010… Kate’s has managed to capture a flavor that hit me like a flashback from 20 years ago. I distinctly remember that same taste in my mouth as a four year old playing with whatever cheap little toy came with my happy meal that day. My parents definitely didn’t take me to McDonald’s as often as most kids’ parents took them, and it wasn’t too many years later that I refused to eat red meat before going all the way off the deep end into vegetarianism. But some part of my impressionable little kid brain remembered what a McDonald’s cheeseburger tasted like. And apparently I can still recognize that taste so many years later… in vegan form.

Yes, the cheese is obviously vegan in texture – but the flavor is pretty dead-on (I mean, the cheese McDonald’s uses is probably just as "fake" in its own way, right?). The pickles and onions are perfect. I think the flavor of those in combination with the cheese are what I probably remembered the most as a kid anyway.

The two “un-beef” patties are thinner and less meaty, of course… actually that was my main complaint. Even with the two patties combined, they were still a little too thin for my taste. And their diameters did not match that of the bun - like a hotdog (vegetarian, of course!) that’s too short for its bun, always slightly unsatisfying. Flavor-wise though, it hit the spot in the way that only greasy fast-food can… only I’m pretty sure it is much healthier than that (and it wasn’t actually greasy at all). Plus, I chose the side salad instead of fries.

I will definitely look forward to coming back to try the other burgers on Kate’s menu (I had a bite of John's Double Bacon Cheese Burger, which was also tasty, but I was too focused on my own McKate to really give its flavor a thorough review).

Cost: $10.95
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Burger patty: 4     Bun: 4     Toppings: 5

Kate’s Joint
58 Avenue B
on the corner of 4th Street
New York, NY 10009

YumVeggieBurger review #10

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chick & Ruth's Delly

For my second Annapolis veggie burger review, Carlea took me to the deli where she worked back in high school.

All of the sandwiches at Chick & Ruth’s are named after political figures – the veggie burger is dubbed “Congessman Roscoe G. Bartlett Jr.”, who wikipedia tells me is a Republican representing the 6th District of Maryland.

I asked our waitress if the burger was vegan… but her reply was “what’s that? It’s just vegetables and whatever else they mix it all together with”, so I’d hesitate to recommend that any vegans eat here, although it’s possible the burger might be dairy-free if you order it without cheese.


The menu says the burger comes on “toasted whole wheat” – one would assume this means “a toasted whole wheat bun”, but, surprise! It was served to me on slices of toast. Which actually tasted good – with the melted provolone cheese it was kind of like a grilled cheese sandwich that happened to have a veggie patty inside, but it definitely didn’t feel as much like a burger. The tomatoes were nice and juicy, but the patty itself was one of my least favorite kinds: one of the generic frozen variety, but with more bits of chopped up mushrooms inside it than other ones I have tried. And I am one of those weird vegetarians who does not like mushrooms.


As Carlea said, Chick & Ruth’s is not really the sort of place you go to for vegetarian food. It’s a deli that offers the prize of a t-shirt if you can eat their “colossal” burger or sandwich stacked high with meat in under one hour. But it's an essential stop on a tour of Annapolis. Also, interesting fact: apparently they recite the pledge of allegiance every morning at breakfast.

Roscoe Bartlett is reportedly seeking reelection this year… I’d suggest he find a better veggie burger to name after himself if he wants to win though!

Cost: $5.50
Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 1     Bun: 2     Toppings: 2

Chick & Ruth’s Delly
165 Main Street
Annapolis, MD 21401

YumVeggieBurger review #9

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Punk's Backyard Grill

I am spending this weekend in Maryland visiting my friend Carlea, who is not only a fantastic hostess but also quite an enabler when it comes to my dorky obsessions like this website… So she was more than happy to accompany me in my search for some local veggie burgers in her hometown.

Punk’s Backyard Grill had come up in a few online searches for “veggie burgers in Annapolis”, with some promising reviews for the quality of said burgers. I had not realized it was in a shopping mall - but there it was right along with Applebee’s, CPK, the Cheesecake Factory, etc. (The entrance is on the outside though, so you can go straight into the restaurant and avoid the mall itself).

The menu describes the burger as “made in-house with fresh vegetables, black beans, savory spices, and brushed with barbecue sauce”. According to the kitchen staff, the patty is dairy-free, but contains eggs.


Topped with onions (they asked me if I wanted fresh or carmelized – I picked carmelized, of course), lettuce, tomato, and delicious pickles. And it tasted great. The patty itself was a nice combination of veggies, rice, barley, and a good amount of black beans – crispy on the outside, soft on the inside – but the barbecue sauce was what really completed the whole thing. Yummy. The bun was about average - it tasted almost like potato bread, but I'm not sure. The pickles and tomatoes kept sliding off as I was eating it, but I kind of enjoy the messiness of a burger when the flavor is as good as this.


Note that the burger does not come with fries - actually they do not even serve fries at Punk’s! Apparently this is to go with the “backyard barbecue” theme. So I ordered a small potato salad as a side (extra cost), which was tasty and a nice change of pace anyway.

Carlea would like me to add that, as an omnivore, she enjoyed her flatiron steak sandwich, and the sodas served at Punk’s are corn syrup-free (definitely noteworthy). But we found the acoustics of the restaurant amplified noise a bit more than you would expect in dining situation, making conversation a little difficult.

Cost: $6.49
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Burger patty: 4     Bun: 3     Toppings: 5

Punk’s Backyard Grill
Westfield Annapolis Mall (Directly across from Bank Annapolis on Bestgate Rd)
2188 Annapolis Rd
Annapolis, MD 21401

YumVeggieBurger review #8

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bridgeview Café

I stopped here with a friend for brunch en route to an afternoon of exploring Roosevelt Island. The café is right across the street from the bridge on 36th Avenue in Queens, and despite the relatively desolate location, it’s a cute little building and it looks like they’ve tried really hard to create a pleasant restaurant in an unexpected location.

Unfortunately, the food makes it not worth coming out of your way to visit. I was planning to just get some typical brunch fare like pancakes, but when I saw a veggie burger on the menu I decided I had to try it for the sake of the blog. I really feel like I “took one for the team”, as they say, with that choice - because it was the worst burger I have tasted since I embarked on this project.


The patty itself was the usual most-generic-of-generic pre-made burgers. The kind that tastes like the bland mixes of frozen vegetables that my mother tried to force me to eat when I was a kid. It was heated all the way through, but that’s about the best I can say for it. The bun was squishy and tasteless like that of a fast-food burger. And the toppings were about as bad as they could be: an under-ripe slice of tomato and one measly leaf of slightly wilted iceburg lettuce. The fries that came with it were pretty miserable too.

It would have been wonderful to discover that Bridgeview Café was a hidden gem of a restaurant tucked away next to power plants and construction sites, but such is not the case. My friend GM ordered the eggs benedict, and told me that they were about as disappointing to him as my veggie burger was to me.

So there you have it, my first one-star review!
This was the type of burger that gives veggie burgers a bad name - you have been warned!

Cost: $4.95
Rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 1    Bun: 1     Toppings: 1

Bridgeview Café
36-01 Vernon Blvd
Long Island City, NY 11101

YumVeggieBurger review #7

Monday, July 12, 2010

Store-Bought: Don Lee Farms All Natural Veggie Patties (from Costco)

It’s hard to resist the siren-call of Costco once you have a friend who has a membership and invites you along on a shopping trip… They have everything. Not just the basic mundane things like gigantic boxes of cheerios and enough toilet paper for a small army, but awesome things like huge jars of sundried tomatoes and ready-to-cook VEGGIE BURGERS at ridiculously good prices.

So I purchased a box of the veggie patties, and they sat in my freezer until one summer weekend when I had some friends over for a barbecue (they are actually sold in the refridgerated section, but I just went ahead and froze them when I got home because I knew I would never be able to eat them quickly enough - they come in boxes of FOURTEEN!).


The first thing I noticed when opening the box was the shape of the patties. You would expect them to be round, like most burgers, right? But instead they are ovals! This wouldn’t matter so much if I had oval-shaped bread to put them on but since most normal hamburger buns are round, the veggie patties stuck out over the sides of the buns rather awkwardly. They were also a little thin – I couldn’t help but wish that the oval had just been squished into a slightly thicker circle.



But, awkwardness of shape and thickness aside – the taste of the burger itself (aided by the fact that it was grilled outdoors as all good burgers should be) was quite good. Even better than some more expensive frozen patties I have tried in the past. The patties consist of chopped up vegetables like carrots and soybeans and also pleasant surprises like sunflower seeds (which I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered before in a store-bought burger). It tastes very healthy, as well as delicious. And also happens to be vegan.

I still have most of the box left in my freezer awaiting future barbecues, and although the oval shape dismays the perfectionist side of my personality, they are tasty enough and such a good deal (compared to how overpriced veggie burgers can be at the regular grocery store) that I will very likely return to Costco to buy more once they are all eaten.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Don Lee Farms All Natural Veggie Patties
purchased at Costco in Queens, New York.
Price: $11.69 for a box of 14

YumVeggieBurger review #6

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Going on a trip


Next weekend I'm going to spend a few days down in Maryland... anyone know any restaurants that serve good veggie burgers in Baltimore or Annapolis?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Quantum Leap

UPDATE: Quantum Leap is is now closed.
Original review archived below:

My sister came to visit for a weekend, and was game to try a new veggie burger with me even though she herself is not a vegetarian. Walking down 1st Ave, we were about to pass right by Quantum Leap (yes, like the tv show!) until I saw the large sign that said “veggie burgers”, and we immediately decided this would be the perfect place to grab a quick dinner.

Quantum Leap’s menu features six different burgers to choose from, and although several of them sounded good, I picked the basic “grilled veggie burger” because it was described as “Our most popular burger” so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with that as a first impression of the restaurant. Molly ordered the baked lentil walnut burger, which would have been my second choice - so she agreed to let me have a bite for comparison.

The food smelled great when our server brought it over to us. The burgers came not only with a side salad but also fries (I had chosen the garlic fries, which were delicious!).

my grilled veggie burger

The first bite was, unfortunately, rather underwhelming. I had high hopes for a place that bragged about its veggie burgers, but this was nothing mind-blowing. The patty was tasty enough, and filling, but I disliked the texture. It felt too much like it was trying to imitate the texture of meat, and sacrificing real quality to do so. It reminded me of the standard frozen imitation hamburger patties that I’ve had in the past. I was honestly unsure whether it was a pre-made patty like those, or if it was custom-made by the restaurant.

The toppings were good though – grilled onions and green bell peppers (and mushrooms, which I dislike, but I just picked them off before I took a bite). The bun looked and tasted like it came out of a plastic bag from the grocery store’s bread aisle. Not terrible, but disappointing since I usually expect a restaurant to serve me something better than what I can just pick up at my local Key Food.

Molly's baked lentil walnut burger

On the other hand, while my sister’s lentil walnut burger was served on the same lackluster bun, the texture was phenomenally better. It really felt and tasted handmade, although I preferred the flavor of mine… if there was a way to merge the two of them, it would have been a much better burger (the lentil walnut burger also did not come with any toppings, and I think it would have greatly benefitted from the same grilled onions and peppers that were atop my burger).

Overall, it was tasty and satisfying – but not special enough that I would return again, given the numerous other superior veggie burger options just a few blocks away.

The lentil-walnut burger is vegan, and the grilled veggie burger contains eggs but no dairy.

Cost: $9.50
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 3    Bun: 2     Toppings: 3

Quantum Leap Natural Food
201 1st Avenue
between 12th and 13th street
New York, NY 10003

YumVeggieBurger review #5

Monday, July 5, 2010

Hillstone a.k.a. Houston's

The first time I came to this restaurant, it was called Houston’s. So I have trouble referring to it by its new re-branded name, Hillstone… to me it will always be Houston’s. But whichever moniker you prefer, it still has the best veggie burger I have ever tasted.

I also have to confess, I have always felt a bit guilty when I admit to someone that my favorite veggie burger is served at a steakhouse. Shouldn’t it ideally be from a locally-owned, organic vegan coffeehouse or some other veggie cliché? The only reason I even discovered this amazing burger in the first place is because I reluctantly allowed myself to be coerced into joining some friends for a birthday lunch. I didn’t want to eat at a steakhouse. And I was even less keen on paying $15 (update: the price is now $20, as of March 2014) for a veggie burger which I expected to be rather poorly-made since it was, afterall, coming from the kitchen of a steakhouse. Of course you can imagine my shock, then, when I took my first bite.

Now Houston’s veggie burger is like the holy grail for me. No other burger has measured up to it yet. So when I started this blog, I was thrilled to have an excuse to spoil myself with a delicious dinner. I lured some friends along too, with the promise of mouth-watering food, and made a whole pilgrimage out of it.


The menu describes it as a “house-made veggie burger”, and I have fantasized for years about sneaking into their kitchen to see exactly how it is made because it is just genius. Topped with Monterey Jack cheese, onions, pickles, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise/mustard sauce… and yes, it comes with fries. Really thin, crispy, delicious fries.


It took so much willpower to restrain myself from biting into it until after I had taken these photographs.




The burger patty stands out among all others I have tried. I remember the first time I ate it I was so surprised by the pink coloring – which comes from the tiny pieces of beets bleeding their bright color into the rice and beans and other ingredients that make up the patty. There is no green in this veggie burger – no bits of spinach or soy beans or peas. It’s not that I don’t enjoy those, but I certainly don’t miss them in this one because it is perfect just exactly how it is. It is simply delicious –and falls apart in your mouth (and your hands a bit too) like a proper burger.

I asked the restaurant if the patty itself is vegan, and they told me that it is - as long as you specify that you want to order it without the cheese and mayo.

And the bun… I have to compare it to a croissant, as odd as that sounds. It is light and soft and sweet, which is surprising, but works perfectly paired with the patty which is also rather sweet. I normally prefer the really hearty, thick, whole-grain buns. But this decadent pastry-like one has a special place in my heart nonetheless.

Two of my omnivore friends ordered the veggie burger as well, after hearing me hype it up so much:
GM (a former vegetarian) actually said it deserved to be in the top three on his veggie burger list, stealing the spot from a burger joint in his hometown of Toronto.
Scott (always an omnivore) said there was too much rice, but it still tasted good.

I think the real test of it was whether it lived up to my expectations and the memory I had of it as the most amazing burger ever… had my mind exaggerated its quality in the year that had passed since I last tasted it? Not at all. And I cannot wait until the next time I can enjoy it.


Cost: $20
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Burger patty: 5    Bun: 5    Toppings: 4

Hillstone a.k.a. Houston’s
378 Park Ave S
at the corner of 27th Street
New York, NY 10010

Tip: Make a reservation if you are coming around dinnertime and don’t want to have to wait for a table. I have only been here for lunch on the weekends, so I cannot say what a weekday lunch is like, but on Saturday or Sunday you do not need a reservation.

YumVeggieBurger review #4