As a longtime vegetarian, lover of food and pushy advocate for plant-based lifestyles, I
have made it my mission to not only try every plant-based burger on the market, but to find the best veggie burgers that Kalamazoo has to offer. So far I have been able to sample burgers from eight restaurants- chains and local, in the Kalamazoo area. All who offer a broad range of plant-based patties: beans, quinoa, falafel, garden veggies, etc. I make no discernment on the specific type of meat alternative contents. At some point in this journey, I came to the realization it is about more than simply the patty itself, but rather, the overall quality and composition of the burger. Too often people experiment with plant-based burgers, going in with a mindset that it should taste identically to the meat-based versions, which ultimately leads to disappointment. Plant-based alternatives are not an attempt to mimic meat to an exact tee, but to provide a tasteful and nutritious source of sustenance for those looking to eat the classic foods loved by meat eaters and veg-heads alike.
I would like to first recognize the veggie burger that I consume almost on a weekly basis-
the Impossible Burger at Burger King. This soy based burger is not only delicious and always hits the spot, but has been revolutionary in being the first veggie burger to enter the market at any major fast food chain in our area; I applaud and greatly appreciate this historic step that Burger King has taken to align themselves with this growingly plant-based era.
Continuing on the topic of fast food veggie burgers, when in Portugal, I was made aware
that Portugese McDonald’s offer veggie Big Macs. I was quick to try one and immediately fell in love, then quickly became upset that McDonalds in the U.S. does not offer a plant-based Big Mac. Upon returning to America, I have since written McDonald's headquarters three separate emails, each harsher than the last, demanding that they add it to their menu. So far I have been met with automated sounding emails, empty of encouraging words, instead suggesting that I just eat a salad or get a breakfast sandwich without the meat on it. To which I replied that no one goes to McDonald’s for a salad and that they only serve breakfast sandwiches until 11:00am, therefore rendering their suggestions utterly ridiculous and non serviceable.
But recently, I was shocked to discover another chain, which had not one, but three
plant-based burger options on the menu! It was my first trip ever to Red Robin at a friend's
suggestion, and I wish I had realized its greatness earlier on as it is now one of my favorite
sit-down food options. Their menu includes an Impossible Burger, a veggie burger AND a vegan burger; money and stomach capacity only permitted me to try one, to which I chose the veggie burger. This grain and quinoa patty came with a topping combination of swiss cheese, salsa, avocado slices, and roasted garlic aioli; a creation that I can only describe as a flavor party in my mouth. All in all redefining what I want as toppings for an ideal burger.
Another very flavorful burger candidate was Hopcats “Beyond the Butcher” vegan
burger, slathered with vegan jalapeno mayo, served on a sizable, fluffy pretzel bun. I have nothing negative to say about this burger, it was delicious and filling and now I believe that all buns should just be pretzel buns, period. Another memorable but not nearly as appetizing bun was that at Crows Nests. While I am a huge advocate for vegan alternatives, this vegan bun, to my disappointment, did not hit the spot. Instead, having a somewhat bland, almost starchy taste. Plus, the burger toppings and patty were quite basic, nothing exciting or new. I felt the need to lay on a thick layer of ketchup in order to acquire some flavor. It was very much a let down, especially since it being my first Crow’s Nest experience. However, I will definitely be returning to try other, hopefully better menu items. And let the record show, Crow’s Nest definitely wins my most aesthetic restaurant and coolest staff awards.
My veggie burger journey has also taken me to the local Mediterannean grill, Zooroona.
While sitting outside on their front porch, under a beautiful, plant awning I sampled the falafel burger offered on their menu. While I thoroughly enjoyed the hummus and Umbaa mango sauce the burger was topped with, I have come to the conclusion that falafel is best served in ball form, dipped in various sauces, rather than as a burger where the taste gets lost in its combination with an also flavorless bun. But, for vegetarians who don’t like classic Mediterranean dishes, the falafel burger is a great option.
Last but certainly not least, I would like to highlight one of my favorite local food spots
in the Kalamazoo area, University Roadhouse, offering two vegetarian burger options. The first, a spinach and feta burger with the option to have your patty grilled or flash fried, taking the servers recommendation, I went with flash fried. A fried feta and spinach patty paired extremely well with the pesto mayo topping. However, on this rare occasion, I was unable to finish the burger. At a certain point it just became too much cheese and spinach to handle. I would also categorize it as a burger for the more adventurous type of foodie.
Their second option is a cheesy black bean and quinoa burger with notable toppings such as guacamole, fresh pico and spicy aioli. Blackbeans and quinoa are, in my book, the best plant-based patty alternatives; given the protein, sustenance and taste they provide. This 10/10 patty, complemented with amazing toppings and an abundance of flavor, plus my unwillingness to give the top rated burger spot to a chain, this black bean and quinoa burger is in fact, the best veggie burger I have eaten in Kalamazoo.
Now, let me be clear, my veggie burger escapade is FAR from over. I am only one person
and I can only eat so many burgers. As such, there are a handful of veggie burgers in the Kalamazoo area I know of I have yet to sample, or am unaware of existing. In addition, as the vegetarian, pescetarian and vegan lifestyles continue to grow and finally become realized as one of the most essential solutions to the climate crisis, menus should and will keep adding these options. In accordance, I most certainly am ready to try more veggie burgers out in my
never-ending and ever growing mission to find the best. So, which one should I try next?