A few years ago, Tucson couple Ari Shapiro and Kerry Lane had a vision for a vegan restaurant while hiking in Canada. They wanted to create “an animal-free version of Shake Shack.”
The idea: Make everything from scratch, in house, using only fresh produce and forgoing any kind of mock meats to create a burger-and-fries experience for everyone. In 2018, that idea came to fruition with the opening of Beaut Burger in Tucson.
And in February 2021, it expanded to a location near 33rd Street and Indian School Road in the Arcadia Lite neighborhood of Phoenix. The modest-size kitchen is located in a refurbished shipping container, and guests can order at the window before taking a seat on the shaded outdoor patio with its sparse desert ambiance (think landscaping rocks with strategically spaced shrubs).
Beaut Burger’s new location has the same menu as the Tucson original, plus it shares space with Bristlecone — Shapiro’s and Lane’s vegan soft-serve concept (offering vanilla, chocolate, swirl, or prickly pear flavors). Naturally, burgers dominate the menu, with 11 different kinds served, from the standard cheeseburger to a jalapeño, roasted zucchini, and sour cream iteration.
Shapiro explains how Beaut's burgers are a little distinct.
“The burgers have a little notoriety. They’re maybe not for everyone, but the people that are into them are really into them. They’re not trying to mimic meat. They’re not textured soy protein,” Shapiro says. “They’re made with a ton of unprocessed veggies, grains, beans, and spices. People always have a hard time when I ask them what it tastes like. It doesn’t taste like a black bean patty. It doesn’t taste like a Beyond Burger or like an Impossible Burger.”
Lane, a vegan/macrobiotic chef, makes everything from scratch in house, except for the cheddar and Swiss cheeses (those are made by Daiya Foods), and technically, the hamburger buns, which are made at Beaut Burger’s Tucson location.
“It’s a total scratch kitchen, for better or worse. It’s very prep intensive. Anyone that wants to come and see our kitchen, they’re going to see like 30 things of spices and the walk-in is full of produce,” Shapiro says. “We just don’t use any kind of mock meats. Nothing’s frozen.”
In addition to the burgers, the menu includes a tofu salad sandwich, an artichoke patty cake sandwich, and a popular Reuben drowning in sauerkraut and vegan Thousand Island dressing.
But the burgers are definitely the star of the show, Shapiro says. The Wry Reuben made with tempeh is another heavy hitter, but there are also Cauli Bites with beer-battered coating, and people rave about the hand-cut fries. Those fries can be served with seven varieties of house-made sauces, everything from typical dippers like tartar, barbecue, Buffalo, tomato aioli, and chipotle mayo to more unusual flavors like beet and tamarind chutney.
Despite Beaut Burger’s lack of mock meats, Shapiro says many carnivores are repeat customers.
“We didn’t make Beaut Burger for vegans. Some of our biggest fans in Tucson are carnivores,” Shapiro explains. “They come just because it’s a good burger. We don’t want people to say, ‘That’s a good vegan burger.’ We want them to just say, ‘That’s a good burger.’”
Beaut Burger is now open daily from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
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