For many meat-eaters, the concept of a meat-free burger remains anathema, like caffeine-free coffee or alcohol-free cocktails, as pointless as it is wrong. And the EU seems to agree, as it looks to ban the use of the word burger for non-meat products (anyone for a tasty veggie disc?). When the alternatives to meat involved people doing unspeakable things with lentils and roasted veg in buns, the naysayers had a point. But recent innovations have seen plant-based burgers transformed, to the point that some now even bleed. Here’s six tips for where to get your veggie-friendly burger fix.
Located in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, V Rev specialises in tasty, innovative vegan fast food as well as boasting as many terrible puns (Kevin Bacon, Soy Division etc) as gorgeous flavours. As well as hot dogs and sandwiches, there is an impressive burger menu, including an excellent fishless fish burger, the Fillet To-fish. Made from beer-battered tofu-fish it comes with tartare sauce, a fabulous rainbow slaw and tomatoes.
Temple of Seitan
One for all those who think veggie burgers are the work of the devil. They would be sorely tested at the excellently named Temple of Seitan (what is it with vegans and puns?). Named after the chicken substitute made from wheat gluten, this vegan fast food joint serves up delicious faux chicken burgers with all manner of spicy sauces and toppings, as well as a range of chick’n wings and other vegan burgers. But the chick’n is where the action is here.
Many potential vegetarians (and vegans) have seen dreams of a healthy, good-for-the-planet diet dashed on the rock of a bacon sandwich. There’s something about bacon in bread. If that’s the case for you, then head to Wales and Anna-Loka a smart café-restaurant run by vegan Buddhist monk-turned-entrepreneur and restaurateur Adam. The smokey rasher bap (available during the day, but not in the evening) is so perfect you’ll want another right away. The two burgers on the menu (one seitan, one beetroot, cashew and red lentil) are equally impressive. And don’t leave without trying the triple-cooked chips.
Spread Eagle pub
Another burger not from a proper burger joint, but this is a must for anyone visiting the increasingly acceptable part of Hackney, once off-limits to non-locals. People who moan about gentrification should visit the Spread Eagle. At this 100% vegan pub the food comes from vegan Mexican specialists Club Mexicana, and their chick’n burger (another seitan special) has the perfect texture and just the right kick. There can’t be many better even in many “real” chicken joints. The rest of the Mexican-inspired menu is equally amazing.
Anyone who imagines that vegetarian must mean healthy, virtuous salads, hand-picked quinoa and raw broccoli, hasn’t been to Paradise Palms. Here the desire to not eat meat bumps directly into the desire for meaty southern soul food. The result is that food at this entertaining bar, diner, record shop and live music venue, served by an operation dubbed Lucky Pig, is sloppy, greasy and delicious in all the right ways. This is what people mean when they talk about “dirty food”, because when a bean and seitan burger comes with three-bean chili, pickled jalapenos and cheese as toppings, you know it’s going to get wonderfully messy.
The Grumpy Panda
Another venue bringing together the demand for dirty food and plant-based eating is the Grumpy Panda, which proudly proclaims itself the north-east’s first American-style vegan diner. And it serves up a suitably fine selection of veggie burgers, with a personal favourite being the Kansas BBQ, complete with “cheez” (a melted burger slice is one of the few times vegan cheese does it for me), grilled onions and crispy onion bits, as well as lashings of BBQ sauce. Again, things are going to get messy.