I haven't been moved to song about a veggie burger yet. But my love of the beef patty has also obliged me to seek the occasional healthy alternative. Here are five favorites so far:
Vegan bean burger at Sketch, $7: Burger Queen Phyllis Farquhar casts hypnotic powers with ground meat and onions, but makes a serious vegan patty, too. Her faux-burger has so many grains (quinoa, oats), beans (seven kinds), veggies (potatoes, carrots, onions), spices (coriander, cumin), and textured vegetable protein inside, it's practically an entire health-food store on a bun. The deep-fried exterior that makes it taste like the love child of a burger and a falafel-especially with tahini dressing.
Sketch, 413 E. Girard Ave., 215-634-3466; sketch-burger.com
National Mechanics' National Veggie Burger, $7: No mock meat here. This is a veggie patty for people who love their veggies - you can see those carrots, zucchini and broccoli (my favorite flavor touch) shredded and packed into patty form, ever-so-lightly bound with panko crumbs. It's really more "latke" than "burger," but I'd look forward to eating this again.
National Mechanics, 22 S. 3rd St., 215-701-4883; nationalmechanics.com
The Ziggy at Hip City Veg, $8.50: Little is house-made in the signature burger at this popular vegan fast-food concept. But there's just something about the mock meat combo here – Gardein patty of textured protein plus smoked tempeh strips – that can satisfy a converting carnivore. Must be the creamy pink "special sauce" spiked with Dijon, pickles and capers.
Hip City Veg, 127 S. 18th St., 215-278-7605; hipcityveg.com
Quinoa Burger at PYT, $12: This burger boutique makes far weirder creations than a veggie patty for the Red Bull crowd of Northern Liberties. Compared to the Buffalo Pretzel Crisp Burger, a burger made from quinoa is mainstream. The only question is whether this grain pile was going to fall apart. It did not, thanks to a light egg binder and a melting provolone lid that kept each ivory quinoa bead in place for an earthy chew, accented by the crunch of fried onion strips.
PYT, 1050 N Hancock St., 215-964-9009cq; pytphilly.com
Village Whiskey's Veggie Burger, $10: It's virtually impossible to resist my favorite beef burger in Philly. But at least Jose Garces' bean and lentil patty looks the part - a thick and beautifully crisped puck dolloped with guacamole and red cabbage. One bite tells the truth: patty goes squish and explodes into mushy bean dip on a bun. But the ingredients are so finely tuned, the flavor is there. Lots of primo whiskey also helps.
Village Whiskey, 118 S. 20th St., 215-665-1088; villagewhiskey.com
- Craig LaBan