Veggie burgers have come a long way since yesteryear's pre-processed, cardboard-flavor hockey pucks. Nowadays, they are made-in-house masterpieces full of whole grains, spices, and tasty stuff like black beans and mushrooms.
And you can find them in one form or another on many restaurants' menus. Two particular veggie burgers that we happen to like are Hillstone's House-Made Veggie Burger and FEZ's Black Bean Veggie Burger. Both have been referred to as "the best," but we wanted to put these vegetarian delights up against one another to see who would really come out on top.
May the best burger win!
In This Corner: FEZ's Black Bean Veggie Burger
The Setup: The first restaurant of the FEZ/Switch/Rebar trifecta is a snazzy joint with a bit of colorful Moroccan flair. The sleek pale gray walls are spruced up with touches of bright oranges and greens, and modern lighting hangs from the high ceilings. Comfy couches offer the perfect spot to relax with a couple cocktails or belly up to the lively bar for your libations.
FEZ's menu brings together American faves with a touch of Mediterranean spice. Its veggie burger is a housemade black bean patty.
The Good: This homemade patty was full of flavor with a distinct combination of black beans, garlic, and cumin. The patty was decked out with a tasty red onion slaw that added a nice crunch to the moist burger and a generous helping of tangy goat cheese. The sturdy wheat ciabatta bun was perfect for holding everything in place.
The Bad: We loved the burger's flavor, but the texture was a bit mushy. It kinda slid out the sides when we ate it. And although the goat cheese was a really good addition to the burger, there was way too much of it, and it started to overwhelm the rest of the sandwich.
In The Other Corner: Hillstone's House-Made Veggie Burger
The Setup: Part of the Houston's chain of restaurants, Hillstone is a beautiful building with lots of clean lines, bright windows, and warm wood accents. The upscale restaurant caters to the business crowd around the Biltmore, so it can feel stuffy at times, but the inviting patio is nice and relaxing with a Midcentury Modern feel.
Hillstone's menu mostly is made up of American classics with a little bit of sushi thrown in for good measure. Their version of the veggie burger is handmade daily and has been featured on The New York Times' best veggie burger list.
The Good: Holy, um, cow, this thing is massive! Hillstone's 'burger" is made of a combination of rice, beans, barley, onions, red beets, and several unidentifiable secret ingredients. Served burger-style on a perfectly toasted sesame seed bun with thick, juicy tomatoes, crispy pickles, jack cheese, mayo, and mustard, it almost tasted like we were eating a real burger. The beets gave the burger an interesting sweetness, and the sweet caramelized soy glaze really tied the whole patty together. It was a memorable burger that even the most carnivorous person couldn't say no to.
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The Bad: Shredded iceberg lettuce? Really? On a $14 veggie burger? It's a minor complaint, and we'd still eat this burger once a week if we could, but it would have been nice to see a big crisp leaf of red or green leaf lettuce instead of the tiny shreds of iceberg.
And the winner is . . .
Hillstone. We're still thinking about that amazing sandwich a week after we ate it. FEZ's burger was good, but it's not going to persuade us to give up our half-pound Angus beef anytime soon. Hillstone's on the other hand? We'd actually consider it.