Thursday, April 21, 2011

Black Iron Burger Shop

I’m working on a film that starts shooting today, so I may not have time to eat any veggie burgers, let alone post about them, for the next few weeks. But since yesterday was my birthday, I made sure to treat myself to a burger for lunch…


The art director and I were in the east village already, and I remembered coming to Black Iron Burger Shop once before with some friends, but that time I had just eaten and so did not have room left in my stomach to sample the falafel burger! This time I came prepared with a hearty appetite.


The burger comes with lettuce and tomato, but since it was my birthday I treated myself to extra toppings of grilled onions and jalapenos. And it turned out that those were a brilliant choice, because their strong flavors complemented the falafel flavor amazingly well. Now I want to eat more burgers with jalapenos on them!


The bun was your standard soft, squishy, lightly toasted and topped with sesame seeds. I asked the waitress if the burger was vegan or not, and she kindly went to check with the chef, who confirmed that the falafel patty itself was vegan but the bun it was served on was not.


I know I expressed some disappointment over the falafel burger from the GO Burger food truck, but Black Iron Burger has now given me a new appreciation for falafel burgers. Or maybe I was just super hungry from a long morning of work? But this falafel patty was perfectly crispy on the outside, flavorful and rich on the inside, and not too dry in combination with the other components (patty, toppings, etc.) My choice of jalapenos and onions definitely contributed to how much I enjoyed it, and I’d recommend that you order them as well if you come here to try the burger!

First photograph taken of me at age 25!

A very satisfying (and filling – we were stuffed after our meal!) birthday lunch. We ordered a side of fries too, but couldn’t even finish them between the two of us.

I should also note that I think this restaurant has one of the coolest bathrooms in the city – look at these walls:

Cost: $6 (extra toppings $0.50 - $1.50 each, fries $4)
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Burger patty: 4      Bun: 2      Toppings: 5

Black Iron Burger Shop
540 East 5th Street
between Avenue A and B
New York, NY 10079

I did have to spend the rest of my birthday working, but my lovely art director gave me a cupcake from Champs Bakery, and I received happy birthday wishes from the whole film crew. And my awesome father gave me a gift certificate to Candle Café, so look forward to a review of their veggie burger coming soon!

YumVeggieBurger review #55

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Vegetarianism in the news... in a bad way

I can't tear my eyes away from all the posts and comments surrounding the VegNews Controversy today...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thistle Hill Tavern

A friendly reader named Jhonn first alerted me to the veggie burger at Thistle Hill Tavern last fall… but it’s in Park Slope, a neighborhood I must admit I don’t find myself in too often, so I hadn’t had a chance to check it out yet, although I kept hearing the restaurant’s name (it was honored in Time Out New York’s 2011 Food & Drink Awards).


But last weekend my dear friendCarlea, who just so happens to be a brilliant author, came up to New York to participate in a reading at Barbès in Brooklyn. We had to go somewhere for dinner afterwards, to celebrate, so why not someplace that was already on my veggie burger to-try list? (I’m sneaky like that… luckily, my friends humor me).

Carlea reading one of her short stories – check out her blog for a peek at some of her writing!

I tried to make a reservation once we realied we would have six people going to dinner together, but Thistle Hill does not take reservations. So we showed up at the restaurant just after 7pm, and was told there would be an hour-long wait for a table. Okay, we went across the street for drinks and photobooth fun. But an hour later when we came back, there were still no empty tables large enough to seat our party. We ended up waiting an entire extra hour (that’s two hours total!). The restaurant’s host was very apologetic to us though. I just hoped that the veggie burger was worth the wait…


We were finally seated and able to place our orders – the veggie burger is listed on the menu as “vegan burger” so there is no confusion there! Bravo, Thistle Hill Tavern. It arrived with a side of the same tasty fries the host had given us a plate of to snack on while we stood around waiting (a very nice gesture).


The burger was served on a potato roll, which was lightly toasted but still deliciously soft in the middle. And sweet but hearty, which is what I love about potato rolls. The patty itself was equally hearty – a mixture of white beans, mushrooms (tiny enough that they didn’t bother me!) and cracked wheat. I’m not sure I’ve had a burger with cracked wheat in it before, but it gave a great texture to the whole thing. I was quite impressed. Two of my friends also ordered the veggie burgers, and enjoyed them too, although Carlea noted that the patty fell apart quite a bit as she was eating it.

Carlea and Michelle bite into their burgers


I ate all my pickles separately before biting into the burger, because that’s just a habit of mine going as far back as I can remember. But I still kept the lettuce and onion slices on it as toppings – I have to say, I wish there had been a spicy or smokey sauce on top as well. It needed a little bit of an extra kick and some extra moisture. I think sometimes chefs forget that veggie burgers aren’t going to ooze juices like meat burgers do without the addition of any extra elements. A good sauce is the perfect way to make a veggie burger deliciously flavorful and juicy.

Overall, every one in our group decided that although we were quite famished and impatient by the end of our two hour wait for a table, the food was indeed worth the wait - both the veggie burgers and the other entrees that were eaten. And the restaurant staff were very nice to us (complementary appetizers, as well as the aforementioned french fries, won me over) and quite apologetic to us about the wait being twice as long as they had told us it would be. But I would recommend for others coming here in the future that you do not attempt it on a Saturday night with a party of more than two people! Or at least arrive later in the evening after the main dinner rush.


Fun Fact: The ever-observant Carlea pointed out that one of the owners of Thistle Hill Tavern is Fat Mike from the band NOFX

Cost: $13
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Burger patty: 5      Bun: 4      Toppings: 3

Thistle Hill Tavern
441 7th Avenue
at the corner of 15th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215

YumVeggieBurger review #54

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tandoor Chef's Vegetable Masala Burger

Last month I got an email from Tandoor Chef, an Indian food company that sells a lot of vegetarian and vegan dishes, asking me if I had tried their Vegetable Masala Burger. I told them I had not, and had not seen it in my local grocery stores, so they offered to mail me some samples. How could I say no to that?

getting this box in the mail was pretty exciting, I have to say!



I fried one up on the stove (they cook very quickly, probably faster than the average frozen burger) and loaded it up with roasted red peppers on one of my favorite multigrain rolls.


Delicious! Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, full of potatoes, carrots, peppers, green beans… And… remarkably similar to the vegetable masala burgers I frequently purchase at Trader Joe’s. In fact, I would swear they are identical. So I grabbed a Trader Joe’s box from my freezer to compare: same ingredients! And also vegan.

Tandoor Chef's burger on the left, Trader Joe's on the right
(Trader Joe's was a bit more frozen since I just took it out of the freezer seconds before the photo)

According to Wikipedia, “Trader Joe's sells many items under its own private labels, requiring their sometimes brand-name suppliers not to publicize this business relationship, and offers these products at a significant discount to brand-name equivalents.”
Hmmm… same burgers? Seems likely to me! Which is good news for people who live in places (like my hometown) that do not have a Trader Joe’s yet, as Tandoor Chef may distribute this product to your local grocery store (check the list of locations on their website).

And like I said when I posted my review of Trader Joe’s burgers, they are truly tasty, and a very versatile patty well worth a place in your freezer.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Tandoor Chef’s Vegetable Masala Burger
purchased at: sent to me as a free sample
price: unknown (if anyone sees or buys these at their local grocery, let me know!)

YumVeggieBurger review #53

Monday, April 4, 2011

The First Annual NYC Vegetarian Food Festival

A vegetarian food festival... in a city that loves its food... pretty brilliant idea, no? I was pretty excited about this event, so yesterday I headed over to the west side of Manhattan to check it out just in case there was a veggie burger or two to see...

I knew it started at 10am, and I had thought about trying to arrive early, honestly I did, but I ended up getting a bit distracted that morning, and did not arrive at the venue until 2:45. I saw a line of people as I was walking west on 18th street, and figured there was probably a bit of a line to get in but wasn't too worried - until I realized that this line, sizable though it was, was merely for people waiting to order food from The Cinnamon Snail food truck. The line to for the festival itself was coming towards the doors from the other direction... I followed it the length of 18th street to 7th Avenue, up the avenue, and then back east on 19th street where I finally saw the end of it. It was like waiting in line for a huge concert (and the last time I was in a line that long was probably indeed for a concert).

view of the line going down 7th Avenue

To make a long story short, I waited in line for just over two hours. Security guards from the building the festival was being held in came walking past the line several times and were quite rude to everyone waiting in line, telling us that the doors would be closing at 5:00 and that we would not make it in, and that we should just leave now. When I just stared blankly back at one of them (I was halfway through the line by this time, judging by how fast it was moving I guessed I would just squeeze in through the front door before 5pm) he snapped in my face "Hello? Do you understand me?"

I decided this sign was wrong, since I had gotten halfway through the line in "only" an hour by the time I reached this point... maybe it was a joke? or put up earlier when the line was moving even slower (if that was possible!)

18th Street... half a block away from the entrance! I would point it out in the photo but you still can't really see it yet...

The highlight of the whole tedious line-waiting experience was when the guys from The V-Spot started walking down the line selling vegan empanadas for $3.

Tofu with vegan cheese - it was delicious!

Finally, the line reached the door!

Some of those rude security guys guarding the entrance


Inside was absolutely packed full of people. It was extremely difficult to walk from table to table, people were pushing and crowding, eagerly grabbing at the free samples and trying to shove their way to the front of some of the displays. I didn't see anyone get into an altercation over it, but I would honestly have not been surprised to see a fight break out, it was just that crowded!

I had been a bit worried that there would be no more samples of actual FOOD left by the time I got in, after that lengthy line, but most of the people who had set up tables had thankfully brought enough samples to appease even this insanely large turnout. I tried so many things that I couldn't photograph or write down everything, but it included a lot of vegan chocolate, other desserts, healthy vegetable-based snacks, etc. Some were from companies I'd heard of before (like Earth Balance), others were smaller brands I was not familiar with, and some (like V-Spot, who had a table inside as well) were local restaurants. While most places were giving out small samples for free, others were charging a dollar or two for a small plate of vegan macaroni or a scoop of vegan ice cream.

vegan marshmallows from Sweet and Sara - I was so excited to be able to buy vegan Peeps!

I LOVED the Teese mozzarella sticks! They probably had the biggest crowd of pushiest people around their table, too, all waiting to get a sample.

And I picked up a pack of marshmallows to bring home, since I've never had the chance to buy Dandies before.

The The V-Spot guys posing for a photo!

Delicious vegan macaroni and cheese with mock-chicken from The Loving Hut

There were even samples of Coconut Bliss ice cream

The raffle tickets being drawn for prizes...

I didn't see any veggie burgers anywhere, but I wasn't too disappointed by that (they would be rather hard to serve samples of, I suppose... unless they were sliders!)

Overall, I was glad that I was able to get in and have time to sample everything. Too bad I missed the cupcake and donut eating competitions (not that I wanted to participate... just watch!). Was it worth the long wait in line? I'm not sure. The fact that it was so crowded inside, and so hard to walk around or see anything, was quite a bummer. While I loved the samples that I tried, it seemed like there still weren't really enough different products and restaurants for what turned out to be such a big festival. Clearly the organizers were taken by surprise by the huge turnout, but I'm still a little baffled as to why that came as a surprise, when the event was being promoted so extensively in the last couple weeks.... Technical/organizational difficulties aside though, it was clearly a success - its popularity pretty much guarantees that it will happen again a next year (hopefully bigger and better then!)

When I left, The Cinnamon Snail was still outside - with no line now! I've been dying to try their food for ages (but have never made it out to Hoboken to visit their truck before)... so I was really excited to purchase one of their cinnamon buns. Unfortunately, it was just really stiff and dry, like it had been sitting out all day... which I'm sure it had. I couldn't even finish it. It was probably good when fresh, alas :(


I heard other people in line raving about the sandwiches they got from the truck though, so I'll give them another chance as soon as I can.