Conscious Palate: Veggie Burgers for All

00:00 September 21, 2012
By: David Vicari
[Where Y'At Staff/Provided Photo]

As the burger scene in New Orleans continues to grow and thrive, menus seem to be refl ecting the societal urge to adopt a more conscious diet. Veggie burgers have often been thought of as something reserved for vegetarians or those on a strict weight loss plan. But more and more people are swapping their beef burger for a veggie burger. Packed with essential nutrients and fi ber, veggie burgers are a delicious and healthy alternative to meat, they provide a complexity of fl avors, pleasing texture, and they are hearty enough to keep even the most ravenous diner satisfied.

Many vegetarian patties are made from scratch, combining legumes with rice or grains to create a fi lling and tasty meal. Houston's, for example, takes oat bran, black beans and brown rice then adds diced prunes and jalapenos for a sweet and spicy kick. The result is a hefty burger with real "bite," especially when topped off with melted jack cheese, cool shredded lettuce, diced onion, tomatoes and pickles. Amp up the fl avor even more with a side of couscous, baked Idaho potato, or sautéed vegetables.

Brack May, owner and chef of Cowbell on Oak Street gives a little nod to New Orleans cuisine by using red beans in his Harvest veggie burger instead of the popular black beans. He purees the beans with eggs, and then adds panko breadcrumbs and locallysourced vegetables, which usually consists of carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, caulifl ower, tri-colored peppers, squash, zucchini and fresh herbs. Sweet soy adds an umami element, and then the patties are hand-formed, grilled to order and served on a potato roll with butter lettuce, Roma tomatoes and red onion.

Truburger on Oak Street offers its customers a veggie burger that's great all on its own but can be tailored to fi t a variety of fl avor preferences from their lengthy list of toppings. Chef Aaron Burgau (who also owns Patois) combines beets, brown rice, black beans, fresh herbs, sautéed onions and cremini mushrooms to give his burgers freshness and depth of fl avor. The super-thick, hand-formed patties are fried to crisp perfection in canola oil that no meat product is ever fried in, making this delectable burger vegan as well. What comes out of the fryer is a veggie patty that's crispy on the outside and tender on the inside - mimicking exactly how you'd want a meat burger to be cooked. The addition of roasted tomatoes, a fried egg, or soft grilled onions only intensifi es this burger's already-decadent nature.

[Where Y'At Staff/Provided Photo]

Like meat burgers, veggie burgers come in all shapes and sizes. Portobello mushrooms are often used in place of meat patties since they have a meaty texture, strong fl avor and can be paired with just about anything. Enjoy Capdeville's "Portobello Sando, " which features a seasoned mushroom cap with chèvre (a creamy goat's milk cheese), peppery arugula, red onions and sweet roast ed red peppers on multigrain bread. Or try Phil's Grill in Fat City and Harahan where the vegetarian "Garden District Burger" gives new meaning to the phrase "eat your vegetables." Portobello mushrooms are marinated in a balsamic dressing, grilled until charred and juicy, then topped with red pepper and garlic dressing, red onion, Romaine lettuce, and herbed goat cheese on a Jalapeno bun. Move over, cold pile of peas… Some other note-worthy places with delicious veggie burgers that are sure to please are Down the Hatch, Coop's, Angeli on Decatur, Café rani, slim Goodie's, Juicy Lucy's, 13 Monaghan, and verti Marte.

Restaurants' eagerness to satisfy the diets of their customers has come across in many ways, but the obtainability of vegetarian options seems to be the most prevalent. Farmers markets and delivery services such as Louisiana Fresh make it much easier for local restaurants to create vegetable dishes that are seasonal, resourceful and delicious. Veggie burgers are no exception. Mimicking meat with fl avorful bean and rice combinations or mastering the sear on a juicy Portobello mushroom makes otherwise ordinary ingredients somewhat extraordinary. Most importantly, creating tasty vegetarian burger or sandwich options doesn't just reach out to the large number of people living meatfree lives; it encourages everyone to consider healthier alternatives.

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