Monday, January 27, 2014

The Green Bean Cafe


It’s not too often that I find myself in New York’s Upper East Side neighborhood, so when I do, I make an effort to find a new veggie burger to try while I am here. The Green Bean Café sounded like a great spot with an extensive vegetarian and vegan menu, so I stopped here for lunch.


After ordering the vegan “chedder burger”, I was surprised when my meal arrived looking like this:


I guess “7 grain bread” meant sliced bread, not the bun I always imagine when I hear the word “burger”. That isn’t just me, right? When you hear “burger” you picture a patty on a bun too, don’t you?

Now, this was quite tasty bread, I must say – just not what I was expecting.


The burger patty seemed to be of the pre-made variety, some kind of soy and vegetable mash blend. Not faux meat, but not particularly exciting either.

The toppings – sautéed onions, mushrooms, tomato, lettuce, vegan mayo, and mustard – were all good. Except the mushrooms, since I am a mushroom-hater, so I picked them off. And there was tons of melted cheddar daiya cheese. Tons!

It was really more like a vegan grilled cheese sandwich with a veggie patty thrown in. Which is actually not a bad idea, and could be really satisfying on a cold, rainy day. But if you were looking for a traditional burger, you would probably feel a bit disappointed to receive this instead.


Cost: $7.50
Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 2       Bun: 2      Toppings: 3

The Green Bean Café
1413 York Avenue
between 75th & 76th St
New York, NY 10021

YumVeggieBurger review #119

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rest In Peace, delicious vegan food

2014 is not starting off so hot for NYC Vegans... two of my favorite restaurants have closed this month!

Last week I walked past Viva Herbal Pizzeria, my go-to Manhattan location for vegan pizza by the slice, only to find the lights off and a for-lease sign in the window. A quick google search turned up a report on its closing from EV Grieve.

And now one of my favorite vegan bloggers, Abby Bean, reports that Foodswings has closed too.

Foodswings, also known to my friends as "that greasy spoon vegan place" and "the vegan stoner restaurant", was one of my favorite guilty pleasures. None of their food even pretended to be healthy, but it was all so delicious.

Their veggie burger was one of the first earlist ones that I reviewed back when I started this blog in 2010!

Although truth be told, I usually ordered their vegan buffalo wings and a pistachio-peanut-butter milkshake instead of a burger most of the times I ate there. I never even ate buffalo wings before I became a vegetarian, if you can believe that! (I used to be such a picky eater) But in the last couple years I became addicted to Foodswings' wings, and I am deeply saddened to see them disappear.

While vegetarianism and veganism are becoming more accepted and more popular, and more non-vegetarian restaurants are offering vegan options on their menus, it is scary to see some of my favorite all-vegetarian/vegan places in NYC being driven out of business by rent costs and other factors.

RIP, Foodswings - you will be mourned and missed, from the bottom of my empty belly which is currently craving vegan buffalo wings! :(

Friday, January 17, 2014

I took my boyfriend to Hooters

Last weekend, I took my boyfriend out to dinner.

Me: Want to go to Hooters?
Boyfriend: Wait, seriously???

Why? Because I had heard that they have a secret veggie burger that is not listed on the menu!

For those not familiar with the American restaurant chain, allow me to refer you to the Wikipedia article which explains ”The Hooters name is a double entendre referring to both its owl logo, a bird known for its "hooting" calls, as well as an American slang term for female breasts.”


And believe it or not, there is a Hooters location in Manhattan. It’s kind of hidden off to the side behind this parking garage, but it’s there.


I have actually been to a Hooters before. A couple years ago I was working on a film shoot in Massachusetts, and when we arrived at our hotel late at night, Hooters was the only restaurant nearby that was still open. I didn’t know about the secret veggie burger back then, so all I could eat were fried pickles and some fries. Despite what the chain is -ahem- known for, I was surprised to see that the restaurant was mostly full of families with young children.

The Manhattan crowd was a bit older. There were less children and more grown men, some in groups, and some sitting by themselves… I mean, I’m sure they just wanted to come enjoy the famous chicken wings in solitude, you know? There were a few families with children, other couples on dates, two girls celebrating a birthday together, and foreign-speaking tourists who seemed like they had made Hooters one of the sight-seeing stops on their American tour.


I spent several minutes looking over the menu, but could not find any mention of the veggie burger option. It is listed on the Hooters website: ”Veggie burger patties available.” but if it is actually printed anywhere on the menus they hand you in the restaurant, I would love to have someone point it out to me, because I could not find it!

So when our waitress arrived to take our order, I asked “Is it true that you offer a veggie burger that’s not listed on the menu?” she confirmed that the mythical Hooters veggie burger does indeed exist, and I happily ordered it. To be honest, I had actually called ahead just to make sure it was real. And on the phone, I asked the restaurant if it was vegan or not. They were not sure, but thought that it might have some cheese in the patty – so vegans, try at your own risk!


Ta-da! It’s real! The oblong patty looked very similar to the Don Lee Farms veggie patties which I’ve bought at Costco in the past. It was a bit thin, but a nice mix of rice and grains, with a pleasant hint of pepper and spice.


I requested lettuce, tomato, and mayo for my toppings. What can I say? They were average. The waitress gave me a little packet of mayonnaise to squeeze out onto the burger. I wish they would just put the veggie burger on the menu with a list of options for toppings! It also came with a pickle and a choice of several sides – I chose potato salad, I think coleslaw was another option. The bun was also average, a bit too dense and dry.

I look way more excited than I had any reason to be about this burger!

Overall, a disappointing veggie burger compared to some of the amazing ones I have been fortunate enough to enjoy – but realistically, pretty much what I expected from Hooters. At least now I know that the secret veggie burger really does exist! And my boyfriend and I had an amusing dinner experience quite different from the usual restaurants we go to!

I wouldn’t willingly seek out this veggie burger again (especially after we got the bill and saw what they charged for it!), but if I am ever stuck in the middle of nowhere with Hooters as my only dining option, at least now I will know I can order something more substantial than sides. Although if you are thinking of trying the veggie burger at a different Hooters location, I would recommend that you call ahead to make sure that it is something the other branches of the franchise also carry.

Oh, and these are the weird wet-wipes they gave us after our meal. I don’t mean to sound elitist, but… given the reputation Hooters has crafted for itself, and the demographic they are marketing to, do they really think their average customer gets the “joke” printed on these?

Cost: $12.29
Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 3       Bun: 2      Toppings: 2

211 West 56th Street
between 7th Ave & Broadway
New York, NY 10019
chain restaurant with locations throughout the U.S., check website for addresses

YumVeggieBurger review #118

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Energy Fuel

Happy New Year! Now that the holidays are over and work has slowed down, I've got a whole bunch of exciting new reviews to share. I was recently working over near Fort Greene for a few days, and took the opportunity to check out a new veggie burger on my lunch break:


Energy Fuel bills itself as a restaurant and juice bar – with a ton of different mostly-healthy sandwich, salad, and wrap options, including many more vegetarian choices aside from the burger.


The burger arrived inside a whole-wheat pita. I guess because that’s healthier than a bun? I don’t mind a burger inside a pita (example, Sparrow Tavern’s excellent veggie burger!), but it’s usually not my first choice just because when I am craving a burger I am usually imagining one with a bun.


The greens were very fresh, and the tomato slice was nice and juicy. The slices of cucumber mixed in were a nice surprise, something I don’t often see in burgers. But I really wish there was some kind of dressing or sauce! It just needed that extra kick of moisture and flavor.


The patty was some kind of average pre-made mash of carrots, corn, and soy beans. It was served steaming hot, and it did fill me up for the rest of the day, but its flavor was not particularly memorable. I asked the restaurant staff if it was vegan, and they seemed confident in saying that yes, it was.

I would probably return here to try a juice or smoothie (they had so many different options, including smoothies made with soy milk instead of dairy!), or a different sandwich on the menu, but if I really want a burger I’ll go someplace that serves a more exciting one.

Cost: $7.00
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Burger patty: 3       Bun: 3      Toppings: 3

Energy Fuel
386 Myrtle Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205
additional locations in Brooklyn and Queens, check website for addresses

YumVeggieBurger review #117