Sunday, September 25, 2011

best of st. louis: the veggie burger

we've been compiling notes for months on veggie burgers in the lou, in all their glory or unfortunate lack thereof. we've always been very thankful to be in a city that is so accommodating to vegetarians' needs, so we've been doing our best to take full advantage of it. it seems like almost everybody has a veggie burger, and some places have really surprised us. this may not be as harrowing or historical a survey as lewis and clark's, but we tried to document every discovery with just as much diligence. it's been hard work. grueling at times. but you know us: anything for science. 

the burgers are listed in alphabetical order, in three categories: the one you can't live in st. louis without having eaten, the ones we think are pretty damn good, and the ones we've enjoyed even though we might change a thing or two. our aim is briefly to mention anything noteworthy while keeping the reading to a minimum.

do not miss:
sweetart: the most interesting housemade patty in the city. reine bayoc has crafted a burger with the most delightful texture and flavor, striking a delicate balance between smooth and sturdy, sweet and savory. the blend of lentils and carrots with a hint of cinnamon and a kiss of their secret sauce is something you'll crave every day you don't get to have one. 

highly recommended:
bailey's range: the basic veggie burger here is essentially the same as the one at the now-defunct terrene, with the chief exception being that the match meat is replaced by pinto beans and hominy. deee-licious.
fozzie's sandwich emporium: both the veggie and the black bean burgers are delicious. while somewhat soft, the boldness and distinction between their flavors is pretty awesome. they even have a vegan menu you can ask to see.
grace manor: chef debra grace boasts two of the most creative burgers in the area and we still have yet to see anyone else make mention of them. the black eyed pea burger, with its bell peppers, jalapeno, carrot, cilantro lime dressing, and sriracha mayo is the banh mi's burger reincarnate--a perfect hybrid sandwich when you can't decide if you want comfort food or ethnic. there's also the ozark forest mushroom burger, made of organic shiitake, oyster, and cremini mushrooms, with some onion, garlic, and rosemary to round out the intense earthiness of the fungi. amazingly, the patty is really sturdy and the awesome flavor and unique texture will put to shame anything out there masquerading a portobello steak as a most other ones, too.
local harvest: their pinto bean patty is smooth and subtle, and the hummus, red onions, pickles, and garlic aioli complement it harmoniously. a lovely brioche bun brings it all together.
lucas park grille: a savory, earthy "match" patty accompanied by grilled tomato, rich parmesan aioli, and their delicious housemade mozz makes this healthful lunch only feel decadent.
mokabe's: we really love this throwback burger. a "match" patty is the only thing that makes this different from the burgers you ate as a kid. dressed old-school style with pickle, onion, ketchup, and mustard. the only thing missing is a plastic-wrapped promotional toy.
puravegan: probably the most unconventional burger on here, this one is totally raw and boasts a uniquely smooth, almost creamy texture. we recommend it with their cheddar sauce.
rooster: we recommend going vegan and ordering yours on their housemade focaccia. dressed simply with tomato, greens, and guac, the patty is really allowed to shine. 
the royale: since terrene closed, the royale's "match" patties are the best in town. with an interesting toppings list and seasonal, local ingredients to choose from, you just can't go wrong here.
sacred grounds: this unassuming coffee shop offers up a great housemade burger, served up panini-style. try some of their other sandwiches, too, and wash 'em down with an artful, lovingly crafted latte. 
schlafly bottleworks: these folks have been perfecting the black bean patty for a while. it's soft inside, crusty on the edges, and seasoned perfectly with chipotle. the toppings add well-balanced flavor, and finishing with the companion wheat bun leaves nothing to be desired. except more more more.
square one: we are huge fans of their build-a-burger menu tuesday nights. they grill up some "match" patties to add flavorful char, and there's a great variety of toppings and housemade aiolis to have fun dressing up your patty.
three kings: this is yet another match meat patty, and it's a very good offering. the burger is definitely a generous portion, and the chipotle mayo is quite nice (though we'd prefer a little more kick). 

atomic cowboy: saucy, maybe too saucy, but the patty is homemade. soft but not crumbly, and the brioche bun adds a nice sweetness. but we need more heat in the chipotle mayo!
barrister's: the "match" patty is a touch too dry. addition of sprouts and avocado is nice, though there needs to be more of the latter for it to really come through. the housemade hummus is a nice, needed flavor kick.
the bleeding deacon: a vegetarian boudin-style burger. very clever, but somehow slightly bland. we're rooting for improvements, as this is a well-loved place with a lot of veg options.
boogaloo: awesome texture and veg accompaniments, but lacking in spices and too reliant on a dormant "volcano sauce."
cyrano's: lettuce, onion, tomato, and remoulade make this a nice, uncomplicated burger. patty is also nice. but nice burgers don't really stand out, you know?
OR juice & smoothie: technically not a burger since they crumbled their "meatballs," this one is actually more reminiscent of a banh mi. it features daikon, carrot, cilantro, and mayo on baguette. it's a tad dry, but a little drizzle of bragg's can fix that.
schlafly taproom: the grilled veg and black bean patty is made in-house. topped with marinated jicama and sweet corn puree, it's a delightful blend of complementary flavors.
sub zero: you can choose either the falafel patty (but be sure to request a pan-fry to avoid a shared fryer) or the black bean. with a gourmet list of ingredients, you can design a burger uniquely to your taste. we love ours with avocado, fried egg, jalapeno, and pepper jack.
vegadeli: they've got two: the soy patty humburger, and the black bean patty. we've had the BBQ humburger and were disappointed by the lack of sauce and the bun straight from the bag. the bean burger is paired with a mango sauce that isn't for us, but overall, ain't bad.

let us know if your favorite patty's not on here, or tell us what you thought of ours!


  1. I love the black bean burger at Sage in Soulard, one of my favorites I've ever had!

  2. The veggie burger list is great! We have had many on the list but may have just had the best one in St Louis – at 3 Kings in the Loop. It is a HUGE MatchMeat burger (with whole black beans) topped with ½ avocado.

  3. Thanks for such a comprehensive list! I don't miss beef burgers, but really am always looking for a really great veggie burger with some real "umph!". Actually printing this out and keeping it in my car.


  4. Awesome list! This was exactly what we were looking for ... all in one place. Bookmarked, for sure. One suggestion I'd make is to have links to the restaurants' sites (the ones that have sites, anyway).

    Thanks again,