News flash: Veggie burgers are no longer the sad, dry afterthoughts they once were. Thanks to big-name chefs, bold ingredients and a little mad-scientist innovation (looking at you, “bleeding” burger), meat-free patties are now just as legit as their beefy counterparts. Check out some of the city’s best below, both old favorites and new renditions to try ASAP.
The West Side at Momofuku Nishi
David Chang’s Nishi was the first in the country to serve the “bleeding” veggie burger. While the restaurant’s concept has since changed—it’s now an all-Italian affair under chef Joshua Pinsky—the burger has remained on the lunch menu in three different forms. Our pick is the West Side, which pairs the plant-based patty with smoked Gouda, truffle mayo and housemade pickles.
232 Eighth Ave.; nishi.momofuku.com
Whiskey BBQ at by CHLOE
By CHLOE’s guac burger gets lots of attention—and rightfully so—but the under-the-radar whiskey BBQ deserves more love. With a patty made from smoked portobello mushrooms and seitan, plus toppings like onion marmalade, grilled pineapple, kale and a bourbon barbecue sauce, the handheld meal is no slouch in the flavor department.
Multiple locations; eatbychloe.com
Superiority Burger at Superiority Burger
Brooks Headley has worn many hats: Rock band drummer, James Beard award-winning pastry chef and currently, purveyor of New York City’s finest vegetarian burger. He’s managed to replicate the texture of beef with a seared grains patty that’s draped in Muenster cheese and crunchy iceberg lettuce. And just like most great burgers, everything is stuffed into a squishy Martin’s potato roll.
430 E. Ninth St.; superiorityburger.com
The Impossible Burger at Saxon + Parole
Chef Brad Farmerie’s take on the Impossible Burger is all about mushrooms. The juicy quarter-pounder comes topped with the umami-packed ingredient done up three ways: There are roasted oyster mushrooms, a mushroom puree and truffle cheese sauce, all piled into a housemade seeded bun with sherry-braised onions.
316 Bowery; saxonandparole.com
The Happiest Veggie Burger at The Happiest Hour
Is there a better pairing than a strong cocktail and a greasy burger? We think not. This West Village bar makes a double cheeseburger that some—gasp—have dubbed better than In-N-Out, so it’s no surprise that the new vegetarian one is pretty damn good. Franklin Becker, chef behind veggie-forward The Little Beet, was tapped to create the meatless option, which is made from masa flour, corn, black beans, and mushrooms, and topped with classic fixins’.
121 W. Tenth St.; happiesthournyc.com
Spicy Cauliflower Veggie Burger at The Flying Cock
We never expected a Murray Hill pub to serve up some seriously creative vegetarian fare, but this is one time we were happy to be wrong. The spot’s meatless burger uses cauliflower instead of the usual quinoa or mushroom mix and comes with deliciously messy garnishes like a cilantro-lime slaw and spicy chipotle mayo.
497 Third Ave.; theflyingcocknyc.com
’Shroom Burger at Shake Shack
Consider this the godfather of NYC’s fancy veggie burgers. Each portobello mushroom “patty” is stuffed with Muenster and cheddar cheeses and fried ’til gooey on the inside. The resulting crispy cheese bomb is then served with the same accompaniments as Shake Shack’s classic beef burgers: lettuce, tomato and, of course, the irresistible ShackSauce.
Multiple locations; shakeshack.com
Garden Burger at Randolph Beer Dumbo
The popular brewpub recently made its Dumbo debut with an herbaceous meatless number that’s also available as shareable sliders. Crafted specifically to go with beer, it holds up to a night of drinking with strong Southwest-inspired flavors: The patty is a mixture of corn, red quinoa, mushrooms and kale, and toppings include an herbed goat cheese and spicy guac.
82 Prospect St., Brooklyn; randolphbeer.com
Black Bean Burger at The Penrose
The black bean burger at this Upper East Side bar isn’t just vegetarian—it’s completely vegan. To give the patty its juicy texture, chef Nick Testa adds zucchini and mushrooms to the mix and pairs it with arugula, heirloom tomatoes and roasted red pepper hummus. The better-for-you burger comes on a whole-grain bun and, instead of spuds, crispy avocado “fries.” We’re feeling downright virtuous.
1590 Second Ave.; penrosebar.com