District 7 Grill's Garden Burger is simple, with fresh ingredients. (Photo Courtesy Alec Lasar)
The patience and art of slow-smoked barbecue or a tender hamburger is one that earns much respect in Texas. But what about the underdog? The oh-so-forgotten lowly stepchild of the hamburger… the veggie burger.
Most people don’t know that vegetarian burgers now come in a variety of patties such as black bean patties, Boca patties made from soy protein, portobello mushroom patties and corn or rice patties.
Vegetarian Houstonians want — nay, need — specialty-made burgers in this meat-hungry city. With that in mind, PaperCity set out to find the best veggie burgers in the city. Let’s start by excluding the Build Your Own Burger options available at a good handful of restaurants. Instead, turn the focus to restaurants which perfectly plan their vegetarian burgers with the same care they show towards anything else on the menu.
Only veggie burgers that need neither modifications nor further substitutions can make this list. These burgers are so good, you don’t even need to be a vegetarian to enjoy them.
Hopdoddy Burger Bar
Address: 4444 Westheimer Road
Austin sensation Hopdoddy did not just bring its organic and fresh ways to River Oaks District. It also brought a love for non-traditional burgers. Its La Bandita veggie burger is made from scratch — the patty and bun are both made in-house.
For the patty, Hopdoddy combines black beans, corn, beets, shredded carrots and seasonings; fresh buns are prepared consistently throughout each day. The thick patty is paired with goat cheese, avocado slices, cilantro pesto, arugula, white onion and tomato.
However, the clear star ingredient in this burger is the soft, rich goat cheese spread that heightens the flavor of the entire burger.
Address: 5015 Westheimer Road
At the new Shake Shack in the The Galleria, veggie lovers can buy a ‘Shroom Burger, which is a fried portobello mushroom stuffed with melted muenster and cheddar cheeses. The patty is topped with lettuce, tomato, and the signature ShackSauce (mayo and ketchup base with garlic and herbs).
Between the buns is a patty with an unexpectedly juicy flavor explosion, one bite triggers the melted cheese lying dormant inside. The burger’s only downfall is its size — it’s much too petite to make for a full meal. Add an order of crispy crinkle-cut fries, a side of herb mayo, and a shake to satiate your hunger.
While you may have to brave a line for a few more weeks until the Shake Shack hype dies down, this veggie burger is well-worth the wait.
Lankford Grocery & Market
Address: 88 Dennis Street
On the corner of Dennis St. and Genesee St. near Midtown you’ll find the iconic Lankford Grocery & Market. This legendary Houston old-timer has been around since 1939, when it began as a fruit stand and grocery, before morphing into the restaurant it still is today. This burger joint maintains an old-school vibe and accepts only cash and checks.
While Lankford is typically known for its very meaty hamburger patty, its veggie burger — introduced roughly a year ago to keep up with the new demand of meatless customers — should not to be overlooked. Prepare to happily unhinge your jaw like a python to eat this huge burger. No vegetarian skimping here!
Although the black bean patty is not made in-house, it is seasoned with a special chipotle spice mix and served between fluffy, buttery buns that are brought in daily from Colosseum Italian Bakery in Webster. Lettuce, tomato, red onion, and fresh avocado are background dancers to the sauteed mushrooms covered in melted Monterey Jack cheese.
District 7 Grill
Address: Multiple locations — 501 Pierce Street; 1508 Hutchins Street; 1001 Louisiana Street
District 7 Grill opts for a corn and rice patty with cilantro that is perfectly roasted over fire called the Garden Burger. District 7 doesn’t pull out all the stops on this veggie burger — or fancy it up. Instead, it aims for the simplicity and crunch.
Pick from either the Old School bun, which is a sweet mesquite; the sourdough New School bun; or the Chicago Flatbread, which is Tandoori Naan. This burger is topped with fresh spinach, julienne bell pepper, feta cheese and homemade roasted red pepper sauce, called Roastper sauce. Ask for extra sauce, because honestly, it’s pretty incredible.
Pair the burger with District’s heartily cut steak fries or sweet potato fries — the Roastper sauce is great for dipping too.
Address: 3 Greenway Plaza, Suite C220
‘Tis the season of new, innovative burger joints joining the Houston scene, and Kuma Burgers in Greenway Plaza manages to measure up — all the while being located in a food court. Patrons can choose from a BYOB with a “plain ‘ol veggie burger” for $4, or pick between the Texan Burger, the Mushroom Swiss Burger, and the Spicy Burger.
Kuma Burgers earns a spot on our veggie burgers list thanks to its homemade patty. They start with a slice of eggplant, braise it in soy, bread it with panko, and then fry it. The Mushroom Swiss Burger with grilled onions and mushrooms and Kuma’s scallion aioli sauce (think garlic, green onion, lemon juice and mayo) on a sweet, grilled sourdough bun is savory and juicy.
Try the vegetarian chili cheese fries made with kidney, black, and great white northern beans — but no late lunches. Kuma closes weekdays at 2 p.m.
Did we miss any? Let us know your picks for Houston’s best veggie burgers in the comments section.