The vegan burger at Righteous Foods in Fort Worth topped our reporters' list. Photos by Andrea Ridout.
March 8, 2019
What’s in a burger? Normally, a hamburger is made from meat – but the burgers on our list are plant-based and are incredibly delicious. GreenSourceDFW reporters Andrew Ridout and Andrea Ridout, a son and mother team, are vegan and vegetarian respectively. They’ve sampled veggie burgers around the Metroplex and found several that are very – well – meaty.
VEGAN VS VEGETARIAN
First, for those who don’t get the diff between a vegan and vegetarian, here’s a quick primer. Vegans do not consume any animal products including beef, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy products and even honey.
GreenSourceDFW reporter Andrew Ridout scrutinizes the Impossible Burger.
Like vegans, vegetarians don’t consume any meat but will usually eat eggs, dairy and other non-meat animal products. There are many splinter groups within vegetarianism including some who will eat fish (Pescetarians) or those who consume dairy but not eggs (Lacto Vegetarians).
A recent Gallup Poll found that 3 percent of Americans identified as vegan and 5 percent said they were vegetarian. However, according to USA Today, Nielsen reports that 39 percent of Americans in 2017 were actively adding more plant-based foods into their diets.
More and more people are opting for a plant-based diet for three reasons - animal welfare, health and the environment.
Over 9 billion animals are killed annually for meat consumption worldwide. In addition, the inhumane conditions of factory farms has come under scrutiny in recent years.
The health benefits are also profound. Multiple studies have linked a high-fat, meat-based diet to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes – but recent indicators cite other concerns. Men’s Journal Magazine: “Eating a lot of well-done or barbecued meats has been linked to increased risk for colorectal and other cancers. Considering the health of the world, it’s also worth noting that industrially farmed cows are often fed antibiotics, a practice that contributes to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.” The healthiness of a plant-based diet is also detailed in the film Forks Over Knives.
Still others go veg because it’s considered the most environmentally sustainable diet. Massive amounts of water, feed and land is required to raise animals. That’s why a 2010 United Nations report recommends a vegan diet to mitigate climate change. According to Forbes Magazine who reference a recent University of Michigan life cycle analysis of Beyond Meat, “Beyond Burger generates 90 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions, requires 46 percent less non-renewable energy, has more than 99 percent less impact on water scarcity and 93 percent less impact on land use than a quarter pound of US beef.”
NEW VEGGIE BURGER OPTIONS
Many who go meat-free still miss the taste of a juicy burger. Thankfully, gone are the days of cardboard-like bean or veggie burgers. There are now many choices that come close to a meat-based hamburger experience. Some of the newer alternatives are so close to real hamburger both in taste and texture that even diehard carnivores can’t tell the difference.
Over the last couple of years, a handful of companies, most notably Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, have developed alternatives to meat-based burgers that use pea protein (Beyond Burger) or heme that is the red part of blood that makes meat taste like meat (Impossible Burger). Plant-based heme is fermented and mixed with plant protein to create vegan “meat.” See how Impossible Burger's developed the plant-based heme.
Gardein is another company that has created an impressive line of meat alternatives. Check out their Ultimate Meatless Burger and Meatless meatballs, says our Editor. In addition, Engine 2 offers a healthy line of low-sodium, oil-free vegan burgers that can be found at Whole Foods.
SON VS MOM
So enough about the stats – let’s get to the fun! In our quest to find the best veggie burgers in DFW, my mom, Andrea Ridout, and I chose seven restaurants around the area and tested their burgers. We poked, prodded, sliced, diced, smelled and savored each morsel – and noted our favorite feature of each.
Green Source DFW reporter Andrea Ridout digs into the Impossible Burger.
First, I’ll review the vegan offerings that don’t use any type of animal products in their burger production, toppings or sides. Then Mom dishes on her vegetarian choices that sometimes include eggs or milk in their formulation or dairy cheese as a topping. Please note that prices may vary slightly from our test burgers.
We’d love your “feedback” too. Please let us know a great veggie burger that you’ve eaten by emailing the Editor at [email protected].
ANDREW'S FAVORITE VEGAN BURGERS
BEST OVERALL EXPERIENCE – RIGHTEOUS FOODS
Vegan Hemp Seed, Mushroom and Black Bean Burger with Yucca Fries ($14 for the combo)
From the moment that one enters Righteous Foods in Fort Worth, you know that this place is unique. Not only is their décor mid-century and totally cool but the menu is as creative as it gets. Even their slogan made me grin, “Healthy Food That Tastes Like It’s Bad for You.”
I sat on the shaded patio amidst cacti and succulents with warm sunlight dotting the stainless steel tabletops. The atmosphere was friendly and I soon struck up a conversation with a couple at a nearby two-top who described their meal and past visits to RF.
My lunch arrived quickly, served on a rough-hewn plank. The Hemp Seed, Mushroom and Black Bean Burger was loaded with avocado, house pickles, fresh tomato and piquillo peppers. I had asked the waiter to cut the Gouda cheese, which she gladly did. A small basket of Yucca Fries was served alongside my burger with a dipper of green Romesco sauce. A drink of cool water in a glass made from a cut wine bottle was refilled every few minutes by said very attentive waiter. Even the owner came out to say hello.
My only complaint about this delightful experience is that I could have eaten much more than I did. Perhaps I should have purchased some of the cookies glaring at me from the Righteous Foods baker’s case as I headed homeward. Ah, next time.
LARGEST SELECTION: SPIRAL DINER
Vegan Burgers (Burgers starting at $10.25, homefries $3.95)
I was first introduced to this local vegan institution, whose decor harks back to diners from the 1950s, at my cousin’s wedding reception over a decade ago and it has been a favorite ever since. Founded in 2003 by Amy McNutt, Spiral Diner is the vegan comfort food pioneer of North Texas. The popular hipster venue offers no less than nine burger setup options and four types of patties including a soy and wheat protein Veggie Burger, a Cashew-Quinoa Patty, a Portobello Mushroom Cap or the Beyond Burger that adds $2.50 to any selection.
Spiral Diner offers nine burger setup options and four types of patties.
For variety, try the Big Kahuna Burger topped with grilled pineapple, homemade bacun, BBQ sauce, crispy onions, cheese, lettuce, pickled jalapenos and mayo – or the Ghost Burger with Moore Jam’s pineapple ghost pepper jam, cream cheese, grilled organic spinach, french fried onions and ketchup – or perhaps the deceptively simple Cowboy Burger topped with homemade bacun, bbq sauce, mustard, mayo, pickles, red onion and lettuce on a buttered sesame seed bun. Any and all are fantastic and the choices are broad enough that you’ll never get bored.
If your family and friends aren’t vegan, bring them along anyway. Have them try the Spicy Buffalo Chik'n Nachos. They’ll knock their socks off. Spiral Diner has probably converted more folks to non-meat diets than any other restaurant in DFW. With 3 locations in Dallas, Fort Worth and Denton, there’s surely one not too far from you.
Spiral Diner has probably converted more folks to non-meat diets than any other restaurant in DFW.
MOST MEAT-LIKE – RODEO GOAT
Vegan Impossible Burger (Burgers start at $8.50. Impossible Burger is $2 extra. Fries are $3)
If you’re looking for a fun and rowdy venue to entertain a mixed group of meat eaters and vegan/vegetarians, Rodeo Goat is a good choice. In addition to traditional meat-based burgers, they offer several alternatives including their homemade veggie burger, quinoa patty and the Impossible Burger.
For our test, I selected the vegan Impossible Burger prepared “Neil Young” style that is topped with sprouts, tomato and avocado. I opted for Hand-Punched Fries with ketchup on the side. If I had not known that this burger was vegan, I might have thought that the kitchen had made a mistake and served me a beef patty. The taste and texture was akin to eating beef. For someone who is trying to go without meat but still missing that beefy experience, the Impossible Burger is an excellent choice.
A fun side note about Rodeo Goat – they welcome four-legged friends too. Bring your dog along and sit indoors or out. Bowser will have just as much fun as the rest of the family.
Rodeo Goat has locations in Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano and Rockwall.
For someone who is trying to go without meat but still missing that beefy experience, the Impossible Burger is an excellent choice.
MOST CONVENIENT– CARL’S JR.
Vegan Beyond Meat Burger ($8.29 for the burger, $2.19 for the fries)
I was excited to see that a chain fast food burger restaurant was adding the Beyond Meat Burger to its menu at over 1,100 outlets. Anyone who normally eats at Carl’s Jr. will gain exposure to vegan options just by this one daring change to the CJ selections. As far as we know, it is the only vegan burger easily available at a drive-thru restaurant in this area. So kudos to Carl’s Jr. for their efforts.
When you order a Carl’s Jr. Beyond Famous Star Burger, make sure to specify your toppings. The vegan burger is served with egg-based mayonnaise unless you delete it and they do not offer a vegan cheese option. I found my vegan burger to have a taste and texture that is similar to a meat-based Carl’s Jr. burger. So if you are looking for a family restaurant that fits into a traditional burger experience, the Carl’s Jr. Beyond Famous Star Burger should please most of the folks in your crowd. Locations in the Dallas area and Arlington.
ANDREA’S FAVORITE VEGETARIAN BURGERS
BEST SIDES - HOPDODDY
Impossible Burger and Parmesan Truffle Fries ($12.75 for the burger, $7.25 for the fries)
I decided to ramp up the vegan Impossible Burger at Hopdoddy with Tillamook Cheddar and Sassy Sauce. I chose their amazing Parmesan Truffle Fries as my tag-along and they were the perfect complement though I was torn between them and the sweet potato fries. Both are memorable.
I concur with Andrew that the Impossible Burger is the closest to real beef flavor that we tested. The chewiness was just right and would probably satisfy most Texans, even zealot carnivores.
HopDoddy also offers their La Bandita, a black bean and corn patty, avocado, Texas goat cheese, arugula, cilantro pesto, chipotle aioli, tomato and onion on whole wheat. It’s a far cry from the stiff bean burgers of the past and a tasty alternative if the Impossible Burger is not your style.
Hopdoddy has six DFW locations.
MOST EARTHY - HEALTHY HIPPIE CAFÉ
Quinoa Patty Sandwich ($9 for the sandwich, $6 for nachos, $5 for the pudding)
A hidden gem north of Fort Worth is the Healthy Hippie Café, located on the second level of a small strip center in Watauga. Owner Kelli Myatt has created a true vegetarian oasis, which you realize the moment that you step inside. Meals are prepared with care and an emphasis on quality nutrition that creates a healthier mind and body.
Healthy Hippie staff will be the first to tell you that they do not serve a burger-imitator but rather a sandwich that is an entity in itself that each customer creates from a variety of choices. Diners can select from a Green Pea, Black Bean, Cashew Quinoa or Red Lentil Patty with a slew of schmears including avocado, baba ganoush, cucumber dill and several others.
Kelli Myatt is a dance and fitness instructor who opened the Healthy Hippie in 2016.
I ordered a Quinoa Patty Sandwich with cheese on a bun that did not resemble nor taste like a burger but was delicious in its own right. Served with a small green salad drizzled with yummy House Antioxidant Dressing, I topped it off with a side of HH’s amazing Veggie Nachos slathered with homemade vegan cheese sauce. Dessert was Chia Seed Pudding encircled with fresh bananas, blueberries and strawberries. Who says that vegetarians go hungry? I was about to burst!
FAMILY FRIENDLY - BURGER HOUSE
Vegetarian Burger ($5.39)
For over 35 years, our favorite family burger joint has been Burger House in Dallas. Their Greek-influenced patties and spicy fries were greatly missed as we transitioned to a meat-free diet. So we were pleased when Jack’s added a vegetarian option even though it’s not truly vegan. Made mostly from rice, the patty does contain eggs as a bonding agent.
For vegetarians or even vegans who are in transition, this burger is the bomb. On one hand, it’s the least expensive on our list. Secondly, the taste is darn delicious. In fact, the veggie burger delivers such a great experience that we have influenced many of our meat-eating family members to try it and they have given positive reviews.
Another plus about Burger House is that they serve your meal in an old-fashioned mesh basket so there’s less waste than most fast food establishments. Now if we could just get them to change from Styrofoam to compostable cups.
When you order at Burger House, be sure to add a large fries or tater tots on the side and sprinkle on extra seasoned salt. You can even buy a shaker of this secret-formula spice to take home!
Last but not least, folks have started to notice both vegan and vegetarian burgers popping up on menus all across the area. Chapp’s Burgers includes a vegetarian patty in its lineup and it’s quite tasty especially paired with their sweet potato fries. The Chapp’s experience is more upscale than normal fast-food establishments with a wide variety of choices for toppings such as cajun spice, bbq sauce, grilled onions, mushrooms, jalapeños or pineapple and even fried egg or avocado. Seven different cheeses are also offered for those who are vegetarians so you can truly customize your burger. Locations in Arlington, Cedar Hill, Grand Prairie, Keller and North Richland Hills.
Burger King has offered a MorningStar Farms Garden Veggie Patty for about two years and it looks like it’s here to stay. A Burger King Whopper has 670 calories while their Veggie Burger only has 420 calories. Opting for mustard instead of mayo will knock off about 80 more calories, so it’s a great choice if you are watching your waistline. Locations aross DFW.
THE IMPOSSIBLE AND BEYOND
Search the Impossible Burger website for locations that are serving it in DFW and you’ll see a few surprises such as Houlihans, Snuffers, Buzz Brews and even Top Golf. Beyond Burger is dominating grocery coolers at places such as Tom Thumb, Kroger, Albertsons and even Walmart. We bought some, cooked them on the grill recently and were delighted with our own home-based vegan burgers. Just a tip – slightly undercook them and the flavor and texture are better than if well done.