Editor’s note: Due to our expanding waistlines, the Burger Battle judges are taking a weeklong break to catch up (but not ketchup — not on a burger, anyway). The “final four” burgers have not been determined, but they will be revealed next week. We’re also extending the deadline round-three voting in our reader’s bracket at dfw.com to 4 p.m. Oct. 4.
Call me anemic, but I have a thing for a good burger.
And judging from the number of votes cast in our Burger Battle, I’m not the only person who is either 1) iron-deficient or 2) weak in the knees every time a burger comes calling.
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But when a stellar patty sans red meat presents on an area menu, I am happy to say, I can be often just as interested.
Veggie, tuna, turkey or Impossible, the following disprove the age-old notion that burgers are better with beef. Sometimes all you need is a good bun, a texturally interesting protein, a crunchy garnish or a sauce —there should always be sauce — and the cholesterol high that one achieves from a juicy burger can fade into a distant, though blissful, memory.
Pecan Veggie Burger, $12, Pacific Table
What it is: This creation, a sticky compilation of sushi rice, oats, carrots, onions and mushrooms, is a mouthful. A thick brioche-style bun houses the hefty patty, dense with a mixture of the above and topped with a sweet glaze. Melted, gooey Swiss crests on top, and above that, a handful of bracing arugula and slices of thick-cut tomato and onion.
Burger lore: The bun is actually made at one of owner Felipe Armenta’s other restaurants (The Tavern) and brought in. Also, you will find no pecans here. The burger gets its name because it is grilled over pecan wood.
Why it works: A rainbow of both nutrients and flavors, it is equal parts sweet, savory and satisfying. It helps that it is huge. You’ll cut the burger in half — your dining partner might try to steal it — but you can hold fast to the notion that this is a reasonably healthy choice. Unrelated: The shoestring herb-flecked fries are very good.
Sauce story: The ramekin of yellow mustard might strike some as pedestrian but it adds the perfect acidic balance.
Will it make you forget about a cheeseburger? No
’Shroom Burger, $6.99, Shake Shack
What it is: A breaded, fried portobello mushroom, stuffed with Muenster and cheddar cheese, topped with lettuce, tomato and Shake Shack sauce.
Burger lore: According to BuzzFeed, back in the day, the New York-based chain struggled to find a viable veggie option. “It’s only going to go on the menu if you would crave it even if you were not a vegetarian,” founder Danny Meyer was quoted as saying.
Why it works: There is a virtual explosion — there is no other word for it — in your mouth once you bite into the mushroom. Hot melted cheese pours out, so take care. The lettuce and tomato help to balance the fried patty, offsetting any extra grease.
Sauce story: It’s a well-kept secret what’s in the sauce. Even a recent book—“Shake Shack: Recipes & Stories”— weirdly didn’t divulge the goods. Rumor has it, though, that you can make your own by combining Dijon mustard, ketchup, mayo, a touch of pickling brine and cayenne pepper.
Will it make you forget about a cheeseburger? Close — but no.
Tuna Burger, $19, Waters Restaurant
What it is: In between challah buns is sushi-grade ahi tuna, splayed over arugula and topped with diced cucumber.
Burger lore: It wasn’t on the menu at the previous West 7th location, but Bonnell & Co. knew that they wanted to offer a healthy alternative for the downtown business crowd.
Why it works: The tuna, perfectly seared and cut into thick slices, fans over ever-so-slightly wilted greens, which are on top of a schmear of aioli. Diced cucumber, with a spritz of citrus, adds crunch and interest, contributing to one headily good sandwich.
Sauce story: The aioli, slightly tangy, is dream-worthy.
Will it make you forget about a cheeseburger? Probably not. But it will make you forget about all other tuna burgers.
Thyme for Turkey
Turkey Burger, $11, Lili’s Bistro
What it is: A patty made from 85/15 ground turkey, the flavor kicked up several notches thanks to 11 ingredients. Among them are bell pepper, red onion and spices, including a forest of fresh thyme that runs through the patty, imbuing it with a pungent, earthy flavor.
Burger lore: Owner Vance Martin started serving the sandwich 29 years ago at his first restaurant, Café Panacea. After losing the recipe in a move, he re-created it 15 years ago. Martin doesn’t serve a veggie burger — although he says his version would blow your mind — out of deference to his next-door neighbor, vegan haven Spiral Diner.
Why it works: Served on a toasted, buttery jalapeño bun that comes from a local distributor and is made in South Texas, this burger’s mildly piquant notes reign. Melted cheddar, tomato, avocado and a heaping of alfalfa sprouts lend the sandwich a hippie, feel-good vibe.
Sauce story: None. Ask for Tabasco; douse accordingly.
Will it make you forget about a cheeseburger? Definitely not. Especially when The Bearded Lady’s L.U.S.T. Burger is within walking distance.
Impossible Burger, $14, Hopdoddy Burger Bar
What it is: A meat substitute from Impossible Foods (a Silicon Valley-based company) created in 2011; restaurants around the country, from New York’s Momofuku Nishi to Houston’s Underbelly, have begun serving it.
Hopdoddy is the first chain to get its mitts on the plant-based concoction, which is made with wheat, coconut oil and potato protein.
The patty looks like beef and acts like beef — it actually “bleeds” — but doesn’t really taste too much like beef. Grilled on the outside, it has softer insides, which can be disconcerting to a rookie.
Burger lore: According to the Los Angeles Times, environmentalists are a little concerned about an ingredient in the burger that gives the patty its “beeflike quality.” Soy Leghemoglobin, or hemo, is the basis for the burger’s texture and flavor. Opponents want the genetically modified component to be verified as safe by the FDA — which, so far, hasn’t happened. Impossible says it has conducted its own testing that shows the ingredient is not an allergen. Phew.
Why it works: Covered with melted Tillamook cheddar and topped with lettuce, tomato and onion, it has an interesting, smoky flavor.
Sauce story: Ask for extra “Sassy” sauce, and proceed to smother the mayo-based horseradish honey-mustard condiment all over the burger. This also works for the shoestring Kennebec fries.
Will it make you forget about a cheeseburger: I am personally engineered to crave a burger (with meat) once a week, so: 100 percent no.
Burger Battle hits ‘pause’
Due to our expanding waistlines, the Burger Battle judges are taking a weeklong break to catch up (but not ketchup — not on a burger, anyway). The “final four” burgers have not been determined, but they will be revealed next week. We’re also extending the deadline round-three voting in our reader’s bracket at dfw.com to 4 p.m. Oct. 4.