Monday, August 30, 2010

Whistling Willie's American Grill


My friend Derek and I went hiking up Breakneck Ridge last weekend. I sprained my ankle a bit, but aside from that we had a great time (don’t worry, it's a pretty minor sprain, and I’m elevating and icing it as we speak!).

me at the top of the first overlook



Our favorite route is to get off the train at the Breakneck Ridge hikers-only stop, and then end the day by hiking down into the cute little town of Cold Spring for an ice cream cone before catching the train back to the city.

Cold Spring, NY

This time, I wanted to see if I could find a veggie burger to review while we were there. So after several hours of hiking, we trekked into Whistling Willie’s for some ice water and… their “made in house” veggie burger!


The menu stated that the patty was made from “a variety of fresh vegetables” and the bartender who served us checked with the kitchen and reported back to me that it was vegan.


The toppings that came with said burger were somewhat disappointing – just once slice of tomato, but at least the lettuce wasn’t iceberg. The bun was plain but very soft. It seemed larger than a normal hamburger bun, but it fit the patty (also rather wide) perfectly.


When I bit into it, the first thing I tasted was zucchini… that’s a new one for me, even after all the veggie burgers I have tried! As I took a few more bites, I could also see and taste broccoli, carrots, yellow squash, onions, peppers, and potatos. I think there were some mushrooms too, but luckily they were overshadowed by the other delicious vegetables, which all tasted as if they had been grilled and then mashed together to form the patty.


It was like vegetable stew in burger form. I mean that in a good way – it tasted great! Crispy on the outside from being fried, but soft on the inside (falling apart a bit) and full of flavorful vegetables. A very unique idea for a veggie burger – I had not expected such creativity from this bar/restaurant! The sweet potato fries were delicious as well. The toppings and bun could have been better, but overall it was still a very pleasant surprise – and a great meal for a hungry hiker.

Cost: $10.95
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 4      Bun: 2      Toppings: 1

Whistling Willie’s American Grill
184 Main Street
Cold Spring, NY 10516

YumVeggieBurger review #21

Friday, August 27, 2010

5 Napkin Burger [Astoria]

UPDATE: The Astoria location of 5 Napkin Burger is now closed. Manhattan locations are still open, see website for addresses. Original review of the Astoria location archived below:

I thought it rather serendipidous that just after I had conceived the idea to start this blog, I heard about Five Napkin Burger opening a new location in Astoria. I checked their website to see if they served a veggie burger, and not only did they list one on the menu – they also featured a delicious-looking photo which made me very eager to sample it.

So a couple carnivorous cohorts and I finally went over to check the place out one evening. It was a slightly nostalgic event as well, since the last time I had been in this building was back when it was known as Cup Diner (I ignored its brief reincarnation as “Café Bizarre” or whatever it was), one of my earliest memories of this neighborhood. The place has been given quite a makeover now – the layout is about the same, but the whole inside feels a lot shinier, and although you might not notice them immediately, there are meat hooks decorating the ceiling - as if you had come to dine in an abattoir.

It was dinnertime, and a bit busy, so we opted for a table instead of waiting a little longer for a booth. While my friends debated which of the meat-burgers they would try, I read the description of mine: “5 Napkin Veggie Burger – housemade with 5N sauce, b&b pickles, lettuce & tomato, multi grain roll”. Yum.

Look at those pickles!

I was a bit confused when, after our burgers were served, we were each still left with only the one napkin that had been at our place setting when we arrived at the table. Shouldn’t a place called “5 Napkin Burger” actually give you five napkins to eat your burger with? The food looked too good for me to ponder this for long, however…


I had told my friends that (after seeing the aforementioned website photos) I had a hunch this could be a contender for another 5-star burger… I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high, but I was right!

It is not too different from my first 5-star burger, actually. Both patties rely heavily on grains and beets. I’m starting to think beets are the secret ingredient to the best veggie burgers on the planet. Also beets are just amazing on their own – but no worries if you are not a fan of them, I swear you won’t be turned off by their presence in these burgers! Honestly, I ate Houston’s veggie burger before I even liked beets, but they are so well-mixed in with everything else that they do not stand out although they definitely contribute to the overall quality in the best way possible. 5 Napkin’s burger is not quite as crispy on the outside as Houston’s (I can’t help it, comparing the two is inevitable, as they are the only 5 star burgers I have encountered so far!), nor is it as richly flavored with sauce cooked into the patty.


But the toppings make up for that – the pickles are amazing, and whatever the 5N sauce is (I’m assuming it’s dairy-based... although the patty itself contains eggs, if ordered without the sauce it could at least be a dairy-free burger), it is delicious as well. Thick juicy tomato slices, bright green lettuce… yeah, perfect toppings.

The bun is hearty, almost a little too thick to the point that it could have overwhelmed the rest of the burger, but I forgave it because, well, look at all those grains and seeds on it!

So it’s definitely another 5-star burger. Does it knock Houston’s off its throne? Not quite (honestly that is a feat that will take some miracle-work to accomplish) but it is definitely in the same league. And I would most decidedly happily return to eat it again at the soonest possible excuse. I also feel less guilty for liking 5 Napkin than I do about liking Houston's, since it's not as big a chain restaurant.

Cost: $11.95
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Burger patty: 5 stars       Bun: 4 stars       Toppings: 5 stars

Five Napkin Burger
35-01 36th Street
Astoria, NY 11106
multiple locations in Manhattan - check their website for the addresses

YumVeggieBurger review #20

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rockin' Raw

This was my first raw food restaurant experience! I’d eaten raw foods made by myself or others, or purchased at a store, but never had a sit-down meal at a raw-food-only restaurant before. So I was excited to add a whole new type of veggie burger to this arsenal of reviews.

Since it’s Summertime, and I came to Rockin’ Raw on a pleasantly warm and sunny day, I sat outside in their back garden. Which is absolutely beautiful. It felt like going over to a friend’s house and hanging out in their backyard for lunch. As someone who grew up in the country, I miss that sometimes – and this is probably the closest I’ve come to experiencing it in NYC.

So if you visit this restaurant, I highly recommend sitting outside if the weather permits. I bet it would be really beautiful (and romantic!) at night too, since I saw lots of string-lights and candles scattered around.


Raw food is expensive, I have learned, after peeking at menus online as I scope out future places to visit on my quest for more veggie burgers. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that Rockin’ Raw has a “4 Course Prosperity Lunch” special for $13 that includes a juice, salad, soup, entrée, and dessert. And the “Rockin’ Raw Burger” just happens to be one of the four entrées you can choose from on this menu. Perfect!


The “bun” is what makes a raw burger so dramatically different from any other. It’s so dense and hearty that it could almost be a patty itself if you placed it between slices of bread. Beneath it were stacked tomatoes, pickles, and greens – with a layer of something that tasted like hummus at the very bottom below the patty.


The patty was the best part of this burger (which is vegan AND gluten-free!). The flavoring was amazing – eggplant, walnuts, herbs… and yes, mushrooms. While I normally hate mushrooms, I don’t mind them if they are chopped up and I can’t distinguish them from other ingredients. The mushrooms in this patty passed that test – plus, their flavor was outdone by the strong deliciousness of the eggplant. Why don’t more veggie patties incorporate eggplant? It seems perfectly suited to the task… thick, meaty, and flavorful.

I think I might have liked this patty better on its own though – with the same toppings to complement it, but minus the bun, which just felt too similar to the patty in texture, and kind of took away from my enjoyment of it. It’s interesting to see how something I take for granted like bread can be realized in raw-food form… but it’s kind of trying too hard in this case. I can easily imagine it being delicious with some kind of fruit spread on top. But it doesn’t work as well for a burger.

Did my raw meal absolutely blow my mind? No, but I had a nice lunch anyway.
The lemonade and the soup were quite good. The chocolate ice cream I had for dessert was an itty-bitty serving, but it tasted delicious. And I can’t say enough times how nice the whole garden area was – I wouldn’t mind coming back with friends for dinner sometime, although I would try something else on the menu instead of the burger.

Cost: $13 on the lunch special menu ($15 on the dinner menu)
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 4      Bun: 2      Toppings: 3

Rockin’ Raw
178 North 8th Street
between Bedford and Driggs Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211

YumVeggieBurger review #19

Friday, August 20, 2010


This time, I ventured north of Williamsburg to have dinner in Greenpoint with my friend Derek, author of The Luxury Yacht Review.

I had heard that Enid’s did a good house-made veggie burger, so I was excited to try it out.
And our waitress looked exactly like Kaylee from Firefly.

I must apologize though – I’ve been really good about remembering to throw my camera in my purse every time I leave the apartment, just in case I find a veggie burger when I least expect to. And I had not forgotten my camera on this occasion – I’d just forgotten the memory card which I had taken out earlier that day to upload photos from. Oy!
So the photos in this review are from my cellphone, which is one of the least fancy cellphones you can buy... Looking at them makes me realize how I take macro focus for granted on a real camera.

crappy cellphone photo

The coolest thing about Enid’s menu is that they indicate with asterisks which items are vegetarian, and which are “vegan, or can be made so upon request”. I thought this was awesome, and more restaurants should do it. The burger is one such “upon request” item. Since I’m not a vegan myself though, I ordered it with the non-vegan dijon mayo. You also get to choose from a whole list of sides to go with your burger - so instead of fries, I opted for a roasted red pepper potato salad.

even crappier cellphone photo

I think this is the spiciest veggie patty I have tasted yet – not spicy like burn-your-throat-out/hot-foods-eating-contest spicy, but deliciously spicy. It was very unique. Although I love cooking, I’m not even slightly an expert on spices, so I cannot tell you which ones I actually tasted – but it reminded me of good Indian food. The vegetable base of the patty consisted of a mash of things in which I could identify carrots, peas, and sunflower seeds. It was very soft – not crispy or chewy, more mushy.

The bun was delightful too – soft and sweet like a croissant (I’m realizing that croissant-like buns and hearty whole-grain buns are my top two favorites), but sprinkled with sesame seeds. The toppings were good (crispy lettuce, ripe tomatoes) but nothing special. I suppose they didn’t need to be though, with the patty as flavorful as it was.

Cost: $11
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Burger patty: 4      Bun: 5      Toppings: 3

560 Manhattan Avenue
between Driggs & Nassau Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11222

YumVeggieBurger review #18

EDITED TO ADD: I went back to Enid's and ordered their veggie burger as a trio of sliders. That's right, veggie SLIDERS! Read my update HERE.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bliss Café


Another spot on my list of veggie burgers to try in Williamsburg – Bliss Café is a cute little vegetarian/vegan restaurant on Bedford Avenue that I had probably walked past numerous times without noticing before. Once I finally ventured inside, it was cozy and warmly-lit by the sunlight coming through the big front windows, and the whole place exuded a very friendly vibe.


The veggie burger (which is vegan) is described as a “homemade patty with tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, and vegan mayo. Served on organic sprouted whole-wheat bun.” It comes with a side of cole slaw, and your choice of either corn chips or brown rice.

look how tall that thing is when it’s all stacked together!

It certainly did not disappoint – the patty was thick and soft, and I had to squish it down in order to take a bite. It stayed together well and oozed over the edges but did not fall apart or slide out of the bun. Based on the coloring I assume beets were one of the ingredients, but everything was chopped up very small and so well blended together that it was hard to identify other components of the mash. I tasted beans, and rice or other grains, onions, and probably other vegetables too. The whole thing tasted a bit like a vegetarian chili, actually. It could have been a bit more strongly-flavored, either spicier or sweeter, and I have a preference for burgers that are a bit crisper on the outsides, but those were minor criticisms.


The fresh spinach was a nice alternative to standard iceburg lettuce, and the cucumbers gave it a crisp crunch. I didn’t really taste the vegan mayo, although I did observe it on the bun. Speaking of which, the bun was quite tasty – maybe a little to crusty, but the flavor was perfect.

I also took a peek at the vegan breakfast items on the menu, and they sounded delicious… so I’d definitely come back to try brunch here sometime as well.

Cost: $8.50
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Burger patty: 4      Bun: 4      Toppings: 3

Bliss Café
191 Bedford Ave
between N 7th & N 6th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211

YumVeggieBurger review #17

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Addendum to my Foodswings review

If you go to Foodswings, try one of their vegan milkshakes. I picked one up late last night and it was AMAZING.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I’m cat-sitting in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for the next couple weeks – which is great because not only do I get to play with cuddly kittens, but I also get to try new veggie burgers!

First stop: just a block away from the aforementioned adorable kittens… Foodswings.
They describe themselves as “Vegan Fast Food”. I was curious to see how this compared to the other fast-food-esque vegan restaurant that I have tried: Kate’s Joint.

Foodswings is really more like a fast food takeout place than a sit-down restaurant. There are plenty of tables and two booths, but there was only one other person eating when I came in (around dinnertime on a weeknight), although I saw orders being delivered and people coming in to pick up orders they had called in. I took a look at the menu – ten different burgers to choose from! All vegan! The guy behind the counter recommended the “buffalo burger”, which was the one I had been leaning towards anyway – “Soy Burger w/ Buffalo Sauce, Bleu Cheese, Lettuce, Tomato & Red Sauce”. Mmmm.


Now, that soy patty… it’s essentially the same as all the soy patties I’ve ever bought in the frozen food section. That hockey-puck shape, ambiguous brown fibrous texture that one can only assume is meant to imitate meat, etc. However, to give Foodswings credit where credit is due, they took that boring patty and drenched it in a delicious hot sauce. Which was complemented perfectly by the vegan bleu cheese. I found myself truly enjoying each bite, even though at first I was put off by the disappointing patty.


The lettuce, tomatoes, and onions were all crisp and fresh, too. The bun was pretty standard, nothing special – it fit with the “fast food” theme perfectly though. And it was soft, not even slightly stale! (honestly, I’ve had so many starting-to-go-stale buns that I really do notice when a restaurant goes the “extra mile” and serves me one that’s actually fresh).

The burgers don’t come with any sides, but they offer the option of adding a small order of fries for only a dollar extra, which is reasonable enough that I forgave them for being "one of those" annoying restaurants that insist on not including fries with their burgers.

Not bad for a fast food place. Not as mind-blowing as Kate’s, but very satisfying. The other burger options on the menu all sounded pretty good too, as did the plenty of non-burger items. I picked up a vegan peanut butter whoppee pie from the dessert case on my way out, to eat later (and it was delicious).

Does anyone have any recommendations for other veggie burgers in Williamsburg? I have my own list of places to check out, but could always use more suggestions.

Cost: $7.25
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 2      Bun: 2      Toppings: 5

295 Grand Street
between Roebling and Havemeyer Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211

YumVeggieBurger review #16

Addendum: I later tried one of their vegan milkshakes, and it was AMAZING. I highly recommend that you order one if you are eating there!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hello Deli

Before I quit my office-slave job, I worked across the street from David Letterman's studio. For over two years. But it was not until my last week of work that I finally visited the famous Hello Deli.

I felt like such a frakking tourist taking this photo!

I walked in with the intention of getting some kind of grilled vegetable sandwich... but as I was scanning the section of the menu labeled "Vegetarian", the woman behind the counter enthusiastically offered her suggestion: "My favorite is the garden burger". I had not expected to find a burger here, but how could I say no, especially when it was offered with such a glowing recommendation?

While my order was prepared, we talked about the importance of a good veggie burger, and the best vegetarian restaurants in the city. I promised I would come back to give her my critique of the garden burger after I tried it.

I also witnessed a steady stream of tourists coming into the deli while I waited. One young man stood very quietly just looking around for a few minutes until he finally said to the man behind the counter "Can I just shake your hand? You're famous, you know! You are Rupert, right?". Two more tourists came in and eagerly announced their presence before I left.


I'm going to call burgers served on toast "deli style" burgers from now on. This one was on whole-grain bread, toasted to a perfect crisp, and spread with mayo on one side and pesto on the other. Pesto is one of my favorite things in the world, and I think I've only seen one other burger thus far that incorporated it. Plus avocado, also perfect. And lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and carrot slices. With melted pepperjack cheese. Since it is a deli though, and they are used to doing made-to-order sandwiches, it would be easy order the garden burger without cheese or mayo if you wanted it vegan. Served with a side of potato chips.

The woman had told me "I confess, we don't make it ourselves, but we tried lots of different ones and picked the best" when I asked her if the patty itself was made in-house. It was quite good for a pre-made patty. Lots of bits of chopped up vegetables, with a crispy grilled outside. It actually reminded me of the patties I buy from Costco.


I have to just state once more how delicious the pesto was. It was truly the secret ingredient that made this burger so amazing.

I feel torn between calling it a sandwich or a burger. I have a hangup about buns. I've had this problem since the very first post on this blog. Is it still a burger if it’s not served in a bun? I tend to go by what the menu calls it, so if they say it’s a burger, then it must be a burger… But either way, it was a delicious lunch.

Cost: $7.50
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Burger patty: 3      Bun: 3      Toppings: 5

Hello Deli
213 west 53rd Street
between Broadway and 8th Ave
New York, NY 10019

YumVeggieBurger review #15

Monday, August 9, 2010

Not A Burger

Yesterday I read that New York Times Article regarding the question of whether vegans and vegetarians should feel "obligated" to serve meat at their wedding receptions, and subsequent commentary on it at Jezebel.

And I can't help but think... what was the point of this article? It seems like it's just drama for the sake of drama. Are people really up in arms over this "controversial" issue enough to merit news headlines?

If I were attending the marriage of two people who I knew to be vegans, I'd expect the menu to be vegan, and I'd actually be shocked and confused if it was not. However, as someone who has dated a lot of meat-eaters, I know that if I were to marry an omnivore I'd compromise on a reception menu that had both meat and vegetarian/vegan options - afterall, if I wouldn't expect my boyfriend to stop eating meat once we were married, why should I demand that he not eat it at our actual wedding itself?

I don't see much to argue over here... Just more sensationalization of vegetarian/vegan lifestyles where there really is no need for it. I have thrown vegetarian dinner parties at which omnivores were present, and they all enjoyed the food I prepared for them even though there was no meat in it. I don't think I know any meat-eaters who are so carnivorous that they would really be bothered by ONE meatless meal on ONE special occasion... especially if the food was really good, as (surprise!) a lot of vegetarian/vegan food certainly can be!

Anyone else think it's kind of absurd that this article was even published?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Choice Market

I ended up in DUMBO for the first time in awhile, and was lucky enough to be meeting a friend who had promised he knew a good place to get lunch – a place that had veggie burgers! So here is my first review from Brooklyn…

The menu described this the patty as “ground lentils, rice, barley, red peppers, beets, onions, zucchini, and corn”. It sounded delicious.
And it was!


A wonderful blend of ingredients and flavor, topped with the standard lettude/tomato/onion – but with the addition of sprouts, which was excellent. The curry mayo dressing which was an unexpected yet very tasty flavor which complimented the burger extremely well - although if you wanted the burger to be vegan, I'm sure it would still taste great even without the mayo.

The only problem with it was that the patty itself did not hold together. It was actually already falling out of the bun when it was served to me, as evidenced in the photograph. Eating it was a rather messy process, and I had to ask the waitress to bring me a fork so I could at least enjoy all the pieces that spilled out onto my plate. It was kind of like the sloppy-joe of veggie burgers. I would have probably given it four stars if it were not for that. Of course, it still tasted great!

The bun was good too. And the fries were thick and crispy, although honestly I was too full to eat all of them. Plus I had splurged on dessert for myself, because the huge glass display cases of cookies and cakes and pastries were ridiculously tempting while I waited in line to place my order.

Cost: $7.50
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 3    Bun: 3    Toppings: 4

Choice Market
108 Jay Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201

YumVeggieBurger review #14

Monday, August 2, 2010

G0 Burger food truck

I didn’t realize the GO Burger truck served veggie burgers until I stumbled across the New York Street Food blog, and saw mention of it. According to GO Burger’s twitter feed, the veggie burger had been featured as one of their daily specials every day for the past month or so.

Since I had to pick up a lightsaber and run a few other errands, I thought I would stop by the South Street Seaport and see if I was lucky enough to catch the truck on a day when veggie burgers were still on the specials menu.


The truck was parked across the street from the seaport, very easy to spot. As I approached it somewhat apprehensively, I noticed the handwritten signs displaying the specials of the day, including: “Veggie Burger“

Happily, I placed my order. One of the two guys working in the truck was especially friendly and talked with me while the other guy prepared my burger. I asked him why the veggie burger was only a special instead of being on the regular menu. He said that it actually was a regular menu item now – they are just waiting to get the new menu printed for the side of the truck.  He also told me that the reason they started serving veggie burgers to begin with was because so many people had asked for them.  Hear that? This is why it never hurts to ask! I told him how awesome I thought that was.

They gave me my burger in a brown paper bag – I wasn’t hungry enough to order fries, but they do cost extra if you want them.



The burger is actually a falafel burger – the entire patty is like one large falafel ball, flattened, and sandwiched in a bun with toppings. The guys in the truck told me it was vegan. There was a creamy sauce on the inside of the bun when I unwrapped the whole thing, but it might have just been a tahini-based sauce.  You should ask just to double check if you don’t/can’t eat dairy though.


Toppings included lettuce, tomato, pickles, and a chopped assortment of onions and peppers in the sauce. It tasted pretty much like any falafel you would order from a street vendor in this city – only I think I prefer my falafel wrapped in a pita rather than a hamburger bun. I happen to love falafel, so I thought that overall it was a very tasty burger – but since it really was just falafel disguised as a burger, I think it’s more of a novelty enjoyment than something I would eat frequently, since I know I can get a regular falafel on any street corner, at a lower cost too.


But as a novelty, it IS a fun one – I had a good time visiting the seaport again, and eating lunch out in the hot sun. And as far as I know, GO Burger is the only food truck in this city that serves veggie burgers… Does anyone know of any others? So I have to give them a lot of credit for that, and they seem like cool people who deserve it.

Cost: $7.00 (fries are $3 extra)
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 4     Bun: 2     Toppings: 4

GO Burger
currently parking by the South Street Seaport, but check their twitter feed to see if they’ve moved

YumVeggieBurger review #13