It seems like every sports bar, student-friendly pub and health food café in town may offer them, but not all veggie burgers are created equal.
To find the best veggie burger in Toronto, we looked for spots that take the time to make their own patties (Pulp Kitchen, for example, does not). We passed on places that rely on suppliers with names familiar from supermarket freezer cases like Yves's (Yellow Griffin Pub), Amy's and Sol Cuisine (e.g. Grapefruit Moon). We also gave a miss to joints that call grilled tofu on toast veggies burgers. Note, too, that we asked non-vegetarian venues if their veggie burgers are cooked separately from their beef, a concept most carnivorous restaurateurs still can't get their heads around.
|WHO/WHERE||WHAT/PRICE||THE DEAL||INGREDIENTS||MEAT CONTACT?||THE VERDICT||RATING|
|LICK’S 2034 Queen East, at Lee, 416-362-5425, and others||The Nature Burger, $4.69, sides extra||Grilled 4-ounce patty optionally garnished with lettuce, tomato, onion, dill pickle, spicy mayo-like Guk sauce and pickled jalapeños on a whole-wheat-enriched bun||Soy-based, high in protein, low in trans fat and sodium, vitamin-enriched, spiced with garlic and onion||None, cooked on a designated grill with separate utensils||Beefy patty approximates the real thing, especially when smoky from the char-broiler; plentiful fresh toppings (love that Guk!) and better-than-most substantial bun||NNNNN|
|VEGETARIAN HAVEN 17 Baldwin, at McCaul, 416-621-3636||Grilled Seitan Burger, $8.99 with salad, blue corn chips and salsa||Two grilled 2-ounce patties generously tiered with grilled bell pepper and zucchini, lettuce, tomato, cuke, alfalfa sprouts, grilled whole wheat bun spread with tofu mayo||Seitan, dried mushroom, Italian herbs||None: veggie resto!||Slightly smoky anonymous patty; all the flavour’s in the first-rate toppings and Silverstein’s herb-freckled focaccia||NNNN|
|UTOPIA 586 College, at Clinton, 416-534-7751||Veggie Burger, $4.50, sides extra||Grilled 5-ounce patty topped with mesclun, tomato, Spanish onion and green-onion mayo on a whole wheat bun||Textured soy protein, Dijon mustard, onion, parsley||Yes: cooked on same grill as regular burgers (loses one N)||Second-largest patty of the bunch, biggest buns (from Alchemy); tastes like beef, but, then, look how it’s cooked; excellent value regardless||NNNN|
|QUEEN MOTHER 208 Queen West, at Duncan, 416-598-4719, and the RIVOLI 332 Queen West, at Spadina, 416-596-1908||The Cozmic Burger, $7.95 with house greens or fries||Compact baked 4-ounce patty stuffed in a quality whole wheat pita spread with ranch-style dressing alongside slices of ripe Roma tomato and leaf lettuce, a carrot stick and five unpitted black olives on the side||Sunflower/sesame seeds, peanuts, soy grits, bulgur, carrot, mushroom, coriander, cumin, basil, thyme, oregano, garlic powder and tomato paste||No: oven-baked in a designated pan on parchment paper||More of a hybrid falafel than a veggie take on a Whopper, the Cozmic’s been around since the 70s; nutty, dense patty could use a topping upgrade; chunky hand-cut fries||NNNN|
|HAIR OF THE DOG 425 Church, at Wood, 416-964-2708||Mushroom Pecan Veggie Burger, $11 with fries||Grilled 5-ounce rectangular patty dressed with ripe tomato, red onion, mayo and leaf lettuce on grilled baguette||Portobello mushroom, pecans, carrot, rice and soy||Some: cooked on its own side of the same grill as the beef burgers||Big points for presentation; toasty Micalense baguette gives somewhat dry burger a not unpleasant garlic bread flavour; pub-grub-style fries||NNN|
|BIG MAMA'S BOY 554 Parliament, at Prospect, 416-927-1593||Grilled Mushroom Burger, $10.95 with potato chips and organic greens||A large veggie-stuffed portobello mushroom cap served on grilled sourdough spread with chipotle mayo||Mushroom stuffed with sautéed chickpeas, lentils, carrot, Swiss chard and onion, scented with Lebanese cumin, pomegranate and lemon||Yes: usually cooked on the same grill as meat before being baked, but can be ordered “just baked.”||Mostly organic ingredients guarantee big taste paired with My Market Bakery’s terrific toast; chips may be store-bought Kettle Creek, but they’re the best around||NNN|
|FRESH BY JUICE FOR LIFE 326 Bloor West, at Spadina, 416-531-2635||Life, Deluxe, and Thai Burgers, $7, Hemp Pesto Burger $8, sides extra||Grilled 4-ounce patty on a grilled multi-grain bun dressed with bean sprouts, chopped scallion and a veritable side salad of mesclun punctuated with bitter radicchio||Almonds, tofu, millet, barley, sunflower seed, beets, spelt, red onion, carrot, garlic and cayenne.||No: veggie resto||Nutty falafelesque patty with a bit of heat, excellent Silverstein’s nut-crusted bun, but we’re not fans of the acrid peanut sauce that comes with the Thai version||NNN|
|HAL BURGERS 244 Adelaide West, at Duncan, 416-979-8787||The Earth Burger, $9.50, with minty beet tabouleh with creamy feta||Deep-fried 4-ounce patty with roasted multicoloured bell pepper on pita||Chickpeas, fava beans, Puy lentils and spicy pepper||No: cooked in the same fryer as the sweet potato fries||A pricey falafel disguised as a “world burger” on crappy pita-esque “flatbread”; notes of poultry seasoning||NN|
|HARVEY'S 278 Jarvis, at Gerrard, 416-977-4583||Veggie Burger, $3.29, sides extra||Grilled 4-ounce patty topped with optional lettuce, tomato, onion, dill pickle, pickled banana pepper and Spicy Buffalo sauce on a commercial bun||Who knows? It’s made by an outside vendor and info was not given. Some nutritional info available at www.harveys.ca||Not technically: cooked on a shelf over the grills used to cook regular burgers||Almost tastes like a regular Harvey’s beef burger, no hard feat as the meat version doesn’t taste like beef either; anemic hot sauce for wimps only||N|
|BURGER KING 267 College, at Spadina, 416-591-9999||BK Veggie Burger, $2.99, sides extra||Grilled 2-ounce patty pre-dressed with lettuce, ketchup, pickle, onion and supermarket tomato on anonymous sesame seed bun||Soy, onion, garlic, pepper, parsley||Yes: they’re broiled separately from beef but cooked on the same broiler as chicken||Since it took 10 minutes to prepare, I’m guessing I’m the first to order one in a very long time; after tasting it, I think I know why||N|