Thursday, September 30, 2010

Astor Bake Shop


I had eagerly awaited the opening of this bakery, next to one of my favorite local bars - Hell Gate Social. When the bake shop finally opened its doors, the hours were a little funny at first so I kept showing up when they were closing, or at a time when they were not serving the lunch menu, etc. I tasted an insanely rich slice of chocolate cake, a breakfast sandwich, and a chocolate croissant, but I was dying to try the lentil burger…

Finally, I did – and it was completely worth the wait!
I had pretty high expectations for this burger. I was anticipating it being a 4-star one, but it completely defied my expectations and turned out to be a 5-star instead!


The patty was delicious – I have to admit, I am usually a fan of burgers that have more vegetables and grains than beans, but this is the best lentil burger I have ever tasted. The outside of the patty was crispy, the inside was soft, and it fell apart in my mouth but didn’t fall out of the bun in pieces. Perfect.

It comes topped with tomatoes, pickled onions (a first for me – they were great!), and an amazingly tasty horseradish sauce. My plate also contained a side of mixed greens, some of which I added to the burger since I like my burgers with a leafy crunch. And the bun was everything you would expect a bun from a bakery to be: sweet and soft and delicious!


I asked if the burger was vegan, and was told that they currently use egg as a binder for the patty, but are working on finding a replacement to make it vegan (how awesome and thoughtful is that?). The horseradish sauce is dairy-based, but you could definitely order the burger without it (although it was delicious… hopefully they will get a good dairy-free sauce that you could substitute too!)

Finally… the true test of a five-star burger: Was I already fantasizing about going back to eat it again, only one day later? YES!

Cost: $6.95
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Burger patty: 4      Bun: 5      Toppings: 5

Astor Bake Shop
12-23 Astoria Blvd
at the corner of 14th street
Astoria, NY 11102

YumVeggieBurger review #27

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Belgian Room

I came to the Belgian room for drinks and Belgian Frites after work one evening, but when I found out they had just added a veggie burger to their menu (something I had suggested to them before! Don’t underestimate the power of vegetarians asking for more options on the menu!) I immediately ordered it.

They told me the patty was one they made themselves, with black beans (and eggs – sorry vegans!) so I was quite eager to taste it.


It was served to me with no toppings – although a bottle of ketchup was offered. I tried it first as it was, and I must say it was a pretty tasty burger. Not too spicy, but the beans were pretty flavorful and the texture was soft and rich. I mentioned (constructive feedback!) that they should serve it with at least some lettuce and tomato, which were then brought out for me, and did add a nice crunch and juiciness to the whole thing. The bun was toasted (always a good thing), and pretty good although it was not as memorable as some amazing ones I have tried.


Since they have made a few changes to the menu, including the addition of the veggie burger, it sounds like they are still perfecting things – and might end up coming up with specialized toppings for the burger eventually. Since they have so many tasty dipping sauces for the fries (I am partial to the chipotle mayo, myself) I can imagine those flavors would adapt easily to a veggie burger.

Overall, I am quite thrilled that a bar I have often visited now has an entrée on their menu that I can actually order. First the GO Burger truck adding veggie burgers to their permanent menu, now the Belgian Room… this city is becoming even more vegetarian-friendly by the minute!

Cost: $9.50
Rating: 3 stars
Burger patty: 4      Bun: 3      Toppings: 1

The Belgian Room
125 St Mark’s Place
between 1st Ave and Avenue A

YumVeggieBurger review #26

Friday, September 24, 2010

Question for other food bloggers

Hypothetically, of course...

Suppose a friend or relative invited you out to a bar or restaurant that happened to be owned by an acquaintance of theirs. Knowing that you write a blog in which you review restaurants or specific food items (such as veggie burgers!), your friend or relative encouraged you to review what you ordered from the menu, saying "don't write anything bad about this place, though!"

If the meal was disappointing, or flat out terrible, would you go ahead and write the review?

I am very much against censorship. And in regards to my blog specifically, I think it would defeat the whole purpose if I left out reviews as a favor to a friend of a friend or whatever, just because they contain criticism. It's not because I fancy myself a journalist with certain ethics of that field to uphold, but it's because I'm so passionate about this project.

My goal for this blog is that eventually it will become a super-useful archive of all the veggie burgers in NYC (and as far outside of the city as I travel!). This will take me several years, of course - not even considering all the new restaurants that will open during that time period, or all the existing ones that might add veggie burgers to their menus in the meantime. But it's a longterm goal. And if I should ever come close to reaching it, I don't want to have any burgers omitted from that archive of information just to protect a restaurant's reputation.

If a restaurant owner ever read a negative review of mine, and was inspired to improve the quality of the veggie burger on his menu, I would more than happily return to give them a second try - and a glowing review, if it was indeed improved.

I'm not out to destroy anyone's reputation with what I write here - I think it would be pretty crazy to think that one little vegetarian blog could do that, anyway. I'm just trying to document information, which was originally only for my own purposes (to help me remember where the best veggie burgers were) but is now something I want to share with others who may find it useful as well. And warnings about bad veggie burgers are a key part of that information.

Monday, September 20, 2010


You know how sometimes you just want to eat a crappy burger with nasty American cheese on top?
That’s called being drunk.

Sometimes I’m so dedicated to this blog that I order a burger which I KNOW will be bad. Because someone has to review it, right? The world needs to know. So I “take one for the team” and eat a burger at a sports-type bar that clearly just added a generic “veggie burger” to its menu as an after-thought to capitalize on the increasing popularity of vegetarianism, without concern for the quality of said menu offering.

This was one such burger.


Generic veggie patty… check! And very dry, at that. I don’t know if it was just that bad to begin with or if they cooked it for too long with no oil, or what… but it was bad. That kind of imitation-meat texture, mixed with peas and carrots (why are the makers of generic veggie patties so uncreative when it comes to choosing what vegetables they include?)


The bun was pretty standard for bar food. The toppings were your basic lettuce, tomato, and onion, with a pickle on the side. The fries were definitely the best part of the meal.

Obviously, no one comes to this bar just to eat the veggie burger. I’d love to do a survey someday to see how many veggie burgers places like this sell per week… I can’t imagine it’s a large number. Guess frozen burgers keep for months, though!

But if you like sports bars filled with tons of people at 2am in Hell’s Kitchen, by all means do not let my review of one menu item deter you from enjoying that scene.

Cost: $9 (add $1 for cheese)
Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 1      Bun: 2      Toppings: 2

401 west 50th Street
between 9th and 10th Ave
New York, NY 10019

YumVeggieBurger review #25

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Caravan Of Dreams

Once again, I’m using this website a an excuse to try out restaurants I’ve been dying to dine at for ages… Caravan of Dreams has been on that list for awhile. I can’t even count the number of times I walked past, but I never had a good excuse to go in – until now.

I met my friend John here around 6pm – at that time of day, the lighting was beautiful in the restaurant. I fell in love with the place immediately. Rich, comfy colors, potted plants all around the windowsils… it felt like someone’s bohemian kitchen where I would have been perfectly content to spend hours eating, talking, reading, etc.

unsuspecting diners who I rudely photographed without their knowledge

The veggie burger comes with a side salad (which was pretty tasty) but I also splurged and ordered a chilled avocado coconut soup as an appetizer. FYI, it was delicious.

But I was most excited to taste the burger itself - and it was great. The sprouted-grain bun was positively overloaded with sesame seeds (I’ve never seen that many on one bun before!). As a little kid, I would have probably bee horrified by this sight. But now as an adult, I loved it. The grilled onions and peppers were fantastic, too. Grilled onions are one of the best things you can put on top of a burger, in my humble opinion.


Although the patty tasted wonderful, it did not hold together well at all. I’m all for a burger that falls apart as you eat it. Some of my favorite ones are those which leave a big mess in your hands and on your plate as you eat them. But they have to hold together just enough so that you still get an even ratio of bun, toppings, and patty in each bite. This one had issues with that – the patty squished and oozed out of the bun as I started eating it so that after a few bites I realized I was only eating toppings and bun, and most of the patty had slid out and onto my plate.


That’s what forks are for, though! Because it was delicious: potatoes with other vegetables and grains (it was all mashed together so it was hard to pick out individual ingredients), grilled. And clearly a house-made patty too, nothing pre-packaged or generic about it.

And I’d love to return to Caravan of Dreams to try some of their other dishes another time… even though it wasn't the best veggie burger I've ever had, it was still a good one. And clearly they know how to cook good vegan food - there were a lot of things on their menu that I would have been tempted to order if I hadn't gone straight to the veggie burger. And it’s always great to have another vegan restaurant I can confidently recommend to someone.


Cost: $13
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Burger patty: 4:       Bun: 4:       Toppings:4

Caravan of Dreams
405 east 6th Street
between 1st Ave & Ave A
New York, NY 10009

YumVeggieBurger review #24

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Not entirely burger-related

Remember my review of the terrible burger at Bridgeview Café? The one that I said gave veggie burgers a bad name?

Biking down Vernon Boulevard this morning, I passed this restaurant and noticed that all the signage was gone and the inside looked dark and empty. Their website simply states
Goodbye, crappy veggie burger!


Bianca, from the awesome blog Vegan Crunk, was kind enough to give me the Most Versatile Blogger Award yesterday - thanks so much, Bianca!

The rules for this award are that I have to share seven things you "may not know about me", and then pass the award on to five other deserving bloggers.
Whenever people tag me in things like this on facebook, I just ignore them. But I've found the blogging community to be much more fun and friendly and something about it just makes me feel warm and fuzzy. And this award especially does that.

So! Seven things you may not know about me... unless you're one of the people who knew me before I started this blog... but everyone else who reads it probably doesn't know these things:

1. I'm pretty geeky. I quote The Lord of the Rings and wear Battlestar Galactica t-shirts. I want to dress up as River from Firefly for Halloween this year if I have time to make a costume.
2. Dan Savage is my idol.
3. Until about a month ago, I was under the impression that brussels sprouts were gross. I had never actually tasted them. I finally tried them, and realized what I'd stupidly been missing out on for years.
4. I'm either hardcore or annoying about recycling, depending on your perspective (my roommates would probably say annoying)
5. I've been a vegetarian for years, but I just recently (in the past year) started trying to eat as little dairy as possible for health reasons, which has lead to the discovery of some amazing vegan recipes (like my favorite comfort food - macaroni and cheese!)
6. I refuse to drink beer. I love hard cider though.
7. I mentioned in a previous post that I quit my old job, but I didn't say what I am doing now... I worked as an art department assistant on a feature film last month, and I'm working on another film now that's just about to start shooting, so that's why I haven't been online too much lately. I love it so much I can't even begin to describe it, even though I am totally a broke (but not quite starving!) artist now.

And now I will pass this award on, to five other bloggers who I love:

1. Hour of Gold - Carlea writes amazing fiction, posts the coolest/weirdest links, and steadfastidly updates every single day, which I am always rather in awe/jealous of. Also, she's the one who inspired me to start baking my own bread.
2. The Foodista - because she has kept me up-to-date on the newest and best restaurants since well before I started reviewing veggie burgers, and she also lives in Astoria!
3. The Luxury Yacht Review - although it has nothing whatsoever to do with yachts, or reviews of yachts, Derek's blog is a great collection of reviews of film, music, literature, and beer.
4. Singer Eats - although I have been so busy with film shoots that I still have not had time to visit the co-op that Dianne posted such a great description of. On my next day off, I keep saying... whenever that happens! In the meantime, though, I love her reviews of NYC restaurants (many of which I can't wait to go try!)
5. A Soy Bean - Abigail's posts are so detailed and descriptive and always make me hungry.

check them out, they are definitely worth reading!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bare Burger

I’ve been to Bare Burger a few times since it first opened in my neighborhood. It’s kind of a fun and quirky place that proudly advertises its use of all-organic ingredients in its unique assortment of burgers. While I personally find their menu a bit too pricey on certain items to make it a place I frequent regularly, I have always enjoyed their veggie burgers - so of course I had to treat myself to another dinner here… for the sake of the blog.

The cool thing about Bare Burger’s menu is that once you choose your meat (veggie for me, obviously – but they have some more “exotic” meats that my carnivorous friends quite enjoy, like ostrich and bison) you can then choose from an assortment of topping options, each with a name like “jalapeno express” and a suggestion of which type of burger the toppings go best with. For this review, I stuck with the basic “Original Bareburger” with Monterey Jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, raw red onion, and Bareburger special sauce. The veggie burger and the bun are both vegan, so ordering the burger without the sauce or cheese will make it completely animal-product-free.


A couple warnings about the menu, though – some of the different toppings are not available on all burgers. I tried to order a veggie burger with the carmelized onions and cucumber mint yogurt and was told that this was only available with the lamb. I’m still not sure why they have this policy, as it seems like it would be as easy to put those toppings on any patty, but alas!

Second warning: Unlike most restaurants, fries are not included with the price of your burger here, which is why I consider it a pricier-than-I-normally-prefer place even though at first glance it doesn’t seem to be (add an extra $3 to each price if you want fries with your meal, then you’ll see what I’m talking about). But you should order the fries anyway, because they are really quite good – and they have a great selection of dipping sauces, and I’m a sucker for fries with good chipotle mayo. The milkshakes are also delicious, but definitely not cheap either.


But like I said, I was treating myself to this dinner for the sake of the blog. And it was definitely worth it. My burger was delicious, hearty and healthy – not trying to be mock-meat, but with more substance than vegetables simply mashed together. The Bareburger special sauce is quite tasty too, although I felt like there should have been a bit more of it, or maybe the patty itself could have been a bit juicier. The bun was excellent – I’ve tried Bare Burger’s brioche bun before, but prefer the 7 grain (and recommend it to others).

I chose the “Original Bareburger” toppings for this review, but I would like to come back and do a proper review of some of the other ones I had tasted in the past before I started this blog – I recall the Jalapeno Express and the Avocado California both being excellent, and a little more exciting than the basic “Original”… as is to be expected.

Is it “the best burger in town” as their restaurant claims? Well, not quite… but it’s certainly one of the best in my neighborhood (I hear they are opening a second location in Manhattan soon as well). And it’s refreshing for a place that is famous for its burgers to incorporate veggie options so easily into its menu (yes, options plural - they also offer a portabella mushroom). This is far from a generic frozen veggie patty tacked onto the menu to make a few bucks off of vegetarians who get dragged into the restaurant by their meat-eating friends… this is actually a place I recommend to other vegetarians.

Cost: $8.98 +$3 for fries
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Burger patty: 4    Bun: 5    Toppings: 4

Bare Burger
33-21 31st Ave
Astoria, NY 11106

YumVeggieBurger review #23

EDIT: multiple locations around NYC, and around the country now!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Organique [delivery]

My friend Becky loves to get delivery from this place. I think nearly every time I’ve come over to her apartment for dinner, this is where we have ordered from. They’re fast, you can order online (great for people like me who hate talking on the phone!) and the food is pretty good as far as delivery food goes.

The veggie burger on the menu is described as a “boca burger made with organic soy with organic blue cheese and organic pickles”. They aren’t just using the name “boca burger” to describe any old veggie patty, either – it is actually a boca burger. Like the kind I have in my freezer. Two of them actually, stacked together with the other toppings between two halves of a bun.


It’s always a bit disappointing when a restaurant uses pre-made patties for its burgers – especially when you can identify them as ones you can buy yourself for a fraction of the cost. But, that would defeat the point of ordering delivery… right?

To their credit though, Organique does a good job of spicing up a familiar frozen burger patty with interesting toppings (not quite as good a job as Foodswings, but...). The pickles, blue cheese (not vegan), and spicy mayo make it quite tasty, and the whole thing is rather satisfying – and filling! Two burger patties is a lot of food!

I realize that I’m biased as a rather frugal girl who thoroughly enjoys cooking anything in her own kitchen… I confess, I hardly ever order delivery when I’m at home by myself. Yet I can imagine how, if I didn’t have a dozen veggie burgers in my freezer at all times (I do… thanks, Costco!) and I was feeling too tired to cook something from scratch, ordering from a place like Organique would be rather appealing. And how many delivery places serve all-organic food, anyway?

Cost: $7.45
Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 2       Bun: 2       Toppings: 3

110 east 23rd street
between Lexington & S Park Ave
New York, NY 10010

YumVeggieBurger review #22