Some eateries grill a colossal portobello cap, slap on a slice of cheese-like product and call it a veggie burger. Others just keep a box of frozen garden burgers on hand – an afterthought, a trifle and perhaps even a snub to the growing number of people who are not fans of flesh and those who are veg-curious. Here are a handful of restaurants bringing big flavor to buns across Chicago, minus the meat.
DMK Burger Bar
2954 N. Sheffield Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657
DMK has crafted a fine reputation by turning out exceptional grass-fed beef, natural turkey and Colorado lamb burgers topped with artisan cheeses in between freshly baked buns. The kitchen does not disappoint the meatless among us. The house veggie and grain burger features rich, aged cheddar, eggplant and tomato smeared with a lively pesto mayo. ‘Shroom fans go for the crispy portobello burger which welcomes the sturdy flavors of Fontina cheese, peppery arugula, marinated tomatoes and a zippy horseradish sauce. If those combos aren’t exciting you, any burger on the menu can be made vegetarian so have yours like a number six (chorizo, guacamole, Sonoma Jack, chipotle aioli, cilantro, onions) or bison burger style adorned with fresh goat cheese, pickled red onions and blueberry barbecue sauce. You’re halo won’t dim if you side it with one of the heavenly hand-cut russet potato fries: sea salt and black pepper with house ketchup or Parmesan with truffle cream.
Grand Lux Cafe
600 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
Grand Lux Cafe offers a range of flavors from Thai and Caribbean to traditional American and European, and shoppers love its convenient North Michigan Avenue location as well generous portions. For a place that serves Polish pierogies, Memphis barbecue, Sicilian pasta and New Orleans shrimp, Grand Lux can also put out a mean veggie burger. The house-made patty is created with grain-of-the-moment, farro, brown rice, black beans and fresh beets, giving it a nice moistness. It’s served on a toasty bun with your choice of melted cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo, plus you can add crushed avocado for an upcharge. In addition, the eatery’s mushroom “burger” is a wonderful fungus frenzy of portobello, shiitake, crimini and button mushrooms mixed with a garlic, cheese and fresh thyme.
The Cedar Hotel
1112 N. State St.
Chicago, IL 60654
Long considered one of the best people-watching points in the city with its 2,000-square-foot outdoor patio in the heart of the Gold Coast (aka the Viagra Triangle), the Cedar Hotel isn’t really a hotel but a lively place to eat, drink and watch the evolution of homo sapiens stroll by. The veggie burger has a ton of protein and modern flavor angles with black beans, quinoa, green pepper, spinach, mushroom and zucchini topped with goat cheese, red pepper aioli and avocado. Side it with fries, truffle fries, sweet tater tots, side salad or seasonal veggies.
Grange Hall Burger Bar
844 W. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60607
A burger-focused place knows its way around a side of beef, but veggie burgers? Such is the case at Grange Hall Burger Bar, a farm-to-table-centered spot in the West Loop. The farmstand vegetable burger is aptly named: sautéed zucchini, red pepper, yellow peppers, onions, mushrooms and garlic mixed with bread crumbs, eggs, oatmeal, raw broccoli for crunch, fresh sweet corn, potato and wild rice. It is lightly dusted with salt and pepper, patted in Panko bread crumbs and pan fried crispy for a crunch-a-licious veg experience. Owner Angela Lee declares, “They are divine. No articulate binders or meat substitutes. Just real veggies that we love.”
Sable Kitchen & Bar
505 N. State St.
Chicago, IL 60654
No matter what you think of the television show “Top Chef,” each of the contestants are chosen because they’re doing some pretty wonderful things back home. Case in point is Heather Terhune of Sable and her ”social plates” concept. Her “Mini Wild Mushroom Veggie Burgers” are coated with red onion jam and goat cheese in half and full orders. Lauded by local publications, the squares of happiness work for eaters of all persuasions. Terhune’s knives know all about meat and seafood but she also produces plenty of other fresh farm-to-table vegetarian options including crispy Red lentil cake, roasted beets with pistachio crusted goat cheese, Three Sisters toasted oat risotto and South Indian vegetable curry.
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Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.