Try these amazing veggie burgers
This local fast food institution inspires a nearly rabid passion in its fans, who like the multicultural flavors and are grateful for one of the first veggie options from a burger joint in L.A. According to Cosmos Kapantzos, the reserved but friendly owner of the Hollywood location, it was Astro Burger that introduced Los Angeles to the Gardenburger ($6.23) back in 1986 (the same year he went vegetarian), and it's been on the menu ever since. Offered plain and with cheese, the most interesting option may be The Garden Greek: Served "Tycoon"-style with a deliciously tangy feta, sweet onions, tomatoes and parsley wrapped in a scrumptious pita, it offers comfort and familiarity while keeping each bite interesting.
What can you not get at The Counter? The popular burger chain is known for getting creative with their patties, using bison meat, hand-cut ahi tuna or turkey as a brief respite from beef. One of their most impressive creations, though, is the Sprouted Veggie ($11), a hefty meat-free burger with a house-made veggie patty, sliced red onion, mixed greens, roasted red peppers and alfalfa sprouts. A dijon balsamic dressing is slathered on top for a tangy kick, and the whole package is held together with a soft multigrain bun. The Counter has a full liquor license, so you can pair your healthy burger with a local craft brew or one of their adult milkshakes.
In Los Angeles we generally associate vegan cooking with healthy eating. Doomie's is a rowdy reminder that meatless cuisine does not have to be good for you—this is not your hippie aunt's restaurant. On their secret menu is the Holy Grail of junk food: The Doomie's Big Mac ($15.25). This monsterpiece of a meal might be better than the original, with two big, slightly tough patties sporting a meaty texture; sharp, vinegary pickles; plenty of "cheese;" special (vegan) sauce and a sesame seed bun. You can easily split this dish with a friend. Add a house-made vegan dessert and you've completed the guilty pleasure ride.
This just might be the most unusual burger on the list, which is fitting giving its location on the Venice boardwalk. The Spinach-Nut Burger ($12.95) is incredibly crisp and nutty with a coarse texture. Two slices of smoked mozzarella melted into the patty impart grilled notes, and a smoky, spicy and sweet BBQ sauce swiped across the bun delivers a crucial tang. The arugula's pop of pepper makes the burger complete—perfect to enjoy while watching the sun set over the water.
To find Honor Bar, head to the small bar on the left of South Beverly Grill (you can order this burger there, R+D Kitchen and other Hillstone restaurants, too). The menu here has plenty of vegetarian-friendly items—small plates of sushi and a mouth-watering peanut-dressed kale salad—but for your entrée, the must-try is the veggie burger ($15). The patty itself is made in-house: brown rice, spinach, carrots, chopped almonds, mushrooms and jalapeños all mashed together to make a hearty but healthy alternative to meat. It's served on a house-made brioche bun with jack cheese, avocado, arugula, tomato, mayo and Worcestershire sauce. For those looking for a gluten-free alternative, order the burger protein-style in a lettuce wrap (sans cheese and Worcestershire) and you're good to go. The only thing to keep in mind when ordering this decadent burger? It's going to fall all over the place, especially if you order it protein-style, so be prepared to get a little messy.
Borrowed from sibling spot Ingo's Tasty Diner just down the way, this meatless meal takes its cue from straight-up Americana burger joints and tops a black bean burger with nothing but tomato, pickle and cheese—cashew cheese, of course—then serves it up between toasted sourdough for $15. For a sunnier vibe and more stripped-down food specials, head to Ingo's, where you'll find this burger listed as the Vegan Black Bean Burger. (Not too big on creative naming, but really big on great flavor.)
This decades-old vegan paradise still feels upbeat and fresh, and serves its own plant-based proteins with fabulous results. Modern flavors and colorful presentations ensure each meal is a satisfying affair. There are five great veggie burgers on the menu, some comprised of blackened tempeh, some with seitan sausage, and then the heavy hitter: The Native Oklahoma Classic ($9.99). A hearty whole wheat bun supports thinly sliced, peppery seitan layered beneath two crunchy strips of non-GMO tofu bacon, which offers a welcome texture contrast and hints of smoke. The house cashew cheddar is gooey and decadent, cut only by the delicate chiffonade of red onion; a drizzle of the sweet and spicy BBQ sauce and a luscious ranch dressing only makes you crave more.
Once just a Burger of the Month, The Oinkster's house-made veggie burger is now a permanent menu item—and thank goodness, because it's delicious (and only $6.50). Farro, an ancient Etruscan grain that's easier to digest than wheat, gets top billing on the ingredient list, followed by red beans, bell peppers, mushrooms, smoky peppers and smoked paprika to ensure a fresh-off-the-grill experience. There are so many accoutrements that each messy bite tastes different: Sometimes it's about crisp iceberg and snappy pickles, other times you note the perfect bun or the pop of acid that the Thousand Island dressing gives the burger. Either way, you'll be happily searching for a Wet-Nap by the end.
Puran's tends to fly under the radar, which is a shame because its Mediterranean cooking is bright, consistently delicious and often organic. Consider the veggie burger ($12.95), for example. The patty is on the softer side, comprised of tofu, roasted vegetables, parsley, tomato and a pop of lemon that makes each bite cheerful and interesting. Crispy onion straws on top provide a necessary texture contrast, and the smattering of pico with tiny cubes of red onion add an edge. A toasted bun, crunchy on the outside and warm within, complete the sunny trip across a (tasty) Aegean Sea.
You probably wouldn't expect a great veggie burger at a restaurant that only serves hamburgers, but Stout delivers. The comforting quinoa patty is bound together by mashed beans to form a burger that tastes indulgent but not unhealthy. The Bollywood Burger ($11) is slathered with a fiery chutney mayonnaise that achieves a great balance of sweet and hot (and will clear out your sinuses after a few bites). Arugula gives it bite, and a pile of roasted tomatoes on top drops a deep umami bump. Skip the beer and sip a hard ginger-apple cider for the perfect pairing.
Who thought a raw burger would make the list? Live cuisine has come a long way. SunCafe's organic Raw Fiesta Burger ($17) is served on a raw "bun" that's more like two big nutty, slightly sweet crackers. Sandwiched between them is a sturdy patty made of mushroom, buckwheat and sunflower seeds, formed and then dehydrated to make a highly textured burger that's satisfying to bite into and reminiscent of dark, dense European bread (minus the yeast). A generous portion of phenomenal guacamole is topped with the house nacho "cheese" and thinly sliced jalapeño for a fresh, grassy flavor that brightens the burger. The lush cashew mayo ensures it doesn't turn dry. A squeeze of lime would be ideal, but as-is this burger is a lively gem.
The mack daddy of veggie patties, the Impossible Project's veggie burger "bleeds," packs that umami-and-iron punch of a beef burger and is, essentially, a marvel of science. It took years to get the formula just right but by fermenting yeast, the Impossible team achieved higher levels of heme: a molecule that's already naturally occurring in plants and blood. By pumping up the levels of the totally vegan heme, the Impossible Burger tastes like meat, without any of the beef. At Umami Burger's Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Santa Monica, Broadway, Arts District, Hollywood, Los Feliz, Pasadena and Thousand Oaks spots, they serve it up with lettuce, tomato, American cheese, caramelized onions, and miso mustard for a hyper-classic burger experience, sans classic burger. ($16).