When the New York Times recently put out an article on veggie burgers, I had to do a little cheer because they mentioned my favorite veggie burger in the city. It was a burger that I was too embarrassed to tell friends about—lest they judge me for two facts: I not only 1) love veggie burgers, but 2) my favorite comes from a nationwide chain.
It's the veggie burger at Hillstone, near Gramercy Park. The $17 price tag is high, but it's easily large enough for two meals. Break into two $8.50 meals, and it's a fair deal and something I often do for takeout lunches. The "burger" is hearty, a gridded number with a slight crunch on the exterior. It's made from a foundation of rice and beans and beets, an easy to pinpoint but unexpected element.
The Times article mentioned an ingredient I wasn't aware of: prunes, which explains the meaty sweetness. You'll notice, but unless you go looking for prunes, it's hard to pick out. A blanket of Jack cheese is melted over the surface, the burger completed with housemade Worcestershire sauce and the usual fixings: pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. The burger comes with fries—a golden mountain of super-crisp shoestring ones. Eat right away, alternating fries and burger bites, and they're delicious, well-salted. Wait too long and the fries become greasy and heavy; however, they are flexible with substitutions and if fries aren't your thing, go with the immensely satisfying baked potato. It comes steamy, "fully loaded," and complete with sharp white cheddar, large enough to be a meal on its own.