The Vegetarian Option

Dining out meat-free.

Bareburger's Veggie Burgers Are Best Avoided

Quinoa "California" burger with cheddar, arugula, avocado and onions. [Photograph: Lauren Rothman]

If you live in New York and are craving a burger that sells itself as a notch above fast food options, you're in luck: the city is awash in upscale burger chains these days. Just a few of the options include Shake Shack, Five Guys, and recent California transplant Fatburger, which opened in Midtown in June.

And then, of course, there's Bareburger, whose hype of its "organic, all-natural, grass-fed, free range, humanely raised, sustainable and pesticide-free" menu seems to have struck a chord with New Yorkers, who flock to the chain's 14 locations scattered across four boroughs.

When I noticed that the Bareburger menu offers not just one but three veggie burgers, I decided to stop by the Cobble Hill, Brooklyn location and try 'em out.

I'll start with the good news: Bareburger's farmers quinoa veggie burger is quite good. The patty I was served was nicely seasoned, featured lots of good flavor from the shredded veggies such as carrots, bell peppers and green peas studded throughout, and had a decidedly non-mushy texture—which, for a commercial veggie burger, is about as good as it gets. I took the menu's suggestion and ordered my patty as part of the California ($11.95, pictured at top), which adds melted cheddar, nicely dressed, peppery watercress, raw red onions, and perfectly ripe avocado to the sandwich. In all instances, I opted for the multi-grain roll (actually, I ordered one of the burgers on a brioche bun, but that request must have been lost in translation), which was fluffy and flavorful but too bready; it tended to overwhelm the already-massive burgers.

Mushroom "Smokehouse Portabella" burger with grilled mushroom cap, smoked mozzarella and barbecue sauce.

Things go downhill from here, folks. Next up was the mushroom burger, a dense, gummy disaster of a patty that was incredibly bready, with only a hint of flavor from the mushrooms ground up inside it. I thought I'd amp up the umami factor by ordering this patty on Bareburger's Smokehouse Portabella ($11.95), which features a grilled portobello mushroom cap, melted smoked mozzarella, and barbecue sauce. The toppings here were solid—the cheese plentiful, the mushroom juicy and nicely seasoned—but the patty itself was a heavy, clunky downer. Bareburger offers the Smokehouse sandwich sans patty; I'd recommend that instead.

Black bean "Maui Wowie" burger with smoked mozzarella, grilled pineapple, roasted red peppers, fried onions and ranch dressing.

Bareburger's black bean burger managed the rare feat of being gummy and mealy at the same time. The not-too-flavorful patty had some whole black beans and corn kernels scattered throughout it, but they did little to add any texture. I tried this one on the Maui Wowie ($12.15), sans bacon, which came with smoked mozzarella, grilled pineapple, roasted red peppers, fried onions and buttermilk ranch dressing—quite a mouthful. With the exception of the soggy, greasy fried onions, the toppings here were good—sweet pineapple, a pepper with good texture—but the burger patty made this sandwich irredeemable.

So the bottom line for veggie burger lovers out there? Try Bareburger's good-to-great quinoa burger and quit while you're ahead.

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