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Meatless Wonders

The Impossible Burger may be the Bay Area’s most famous veggie burger, but it’s far from the only one worth craving.


All hail the Impossible Burger—and the other plant-based patties in the following photos.

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The Earth Burger at KronnerBurger.

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The Melrose burger gets an umami bump from miso paste and shiitakes..

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The Impossible Burger looks like a real burger, right? That’s thanks to heme.

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The veggie burger at the Lodge on Haight.

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Nothing vegan about the American cheese here on the Veg Burger, but damn, it’s good.

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When the Impossible Burger debuted at two San Francisco restaurants in October, it did something no other burger had done in the history of grilled patties: It became so popular that you needed to buy a ticket to eat it. This would have been a noteworthy feat for any burger, but it was even more impressive because the Impossible Burger doesn’t contain meat. It is instead entirely vegan, and while its inventors at Redwood City’s Impossible Foods won’t call it a veggie burger (they prefer to say it’s plant-based), we will. But it’s far from the only excellent veggie burger in the Bay Area. Here, along with the Impossible Burger, are four others that are worthy of your stomach—and none of them even require tickets.

The Earth Burger
If you ate Chris Kronner’s Earth Burger right after KronnerBurger opened in Oakland last year, then you haven’t eaten the Earth Burger that he’s serving now. It’s changed, and for the better. Gone are the chickpea flour that tended to burn and the glut of mushrooms that turned watery. There are still mushrooms, as well as cabbage, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, and cauliflower. But thanks to changes in cooking temperature and technique (the patty is now twice-cooked), the Earth Burger is a vegan fantasia, particularly when it’s served slathered with KronnerBurger’s tofu mayonnaise. Kronner, who estimates that he serves between 25 and 40 Earth Burgers a day, reports that their appeal is not limited to the flesh averse: “We definitely get meat eaters that order them,” he says—albeit with a topping of bacon or bone marrow. $13, 4063 Piedmont Ave. (near 41st St.), 510-410-7145

The Melrose Burger
When Natalie Goble and Lowell Sheldon opened Handline in Sebastopol in early October, they turned a former Fosters Freeze into a hotbed of hyperlocal grub filtered through the fast-casual lens. While their menu focuses on sustainable seafood, the virtues of Handline’s Melrose burger make it a worthy destination for wandering herbivores. Its patty, whose ingredients include quinoa, lentils, beets, shiitake mushrooms, and miso paste, is plopped onto a toasted bun, buttressed with iceberg lettuce, avocado slices, and St. Jorge cheese fonduta, and then further embellished with housemade Thousand Island dressing and Calabrian relish. It’s a study in what happens when elevated hippie food encounters excess, and it’s delicious. $11, 935 Gravenstein Hwy. (near Fellers Ln.), Sebastopol, 707-827-3744 

The Impossible Burger
Touted in the press as the bleeding veggie burger, the Impossible Burger gets its “blood” from heme, a protein molecule genetically engineered from yeast. Though its flavor and texture most closely resemble meat’s when the patty is served raw, the cooked version also makes a fairly convincing facsimile, particularly if you haven’t eaten an actual burger for a while. Made primarily from wheat and potato proteins and coconut oil, it’s a testament to the power of food science; fortunately, it’s also just a very good burger in its own right. Currently, it can be found only at Jardinière and Cockscomb; get it while it’s hot. $19 at Cockscomb, 564 4th St. (at Freelon St.), 415-974-0700; $16 at Jardinière, 300 Grove St. (at Franklin St.), 415-861-5555

The Veggie Burger
Before he opened the Lodge on Haight this past April, Matt Nudelman had perfected his veggie burger recipe at his previous Haight Street restaurant, Greenburger’s. Built from organic brown rice, organic black beans, and, in Nudelman’s words, “a bunch of other stuff” including beets, jalapeños, shallots, and housemade barbecue sauce, it’s topped off with clover sprouts, pickled beets and jalapeños, and a smear of avocado spread. Although diners at Greenburger’s customized their own burgers, at the Lodge, Nudelman says,“it’s built the way I want to eat it—I decided I should stop giving people a choice.” His despotic streak is justified: The burger’s flavors are so well balanced and satisfying that we wouldn’t want it any other way. $11, 400 Haight St. (at Webster St.), 415-872-9502

The Veg Burger
The indirect result of the years Wesburger ’n’ More owner Wes Rowe spent dating a vegetarian (“I needed to learn how to feed her,” he explains), Wesburger’s so-called Veg Burger is composed primarily of equal parts pinto beans, mushrooms, and barley, with some panko thrown in to keep things from getting mushy. It can be ordered to replace the beef patties in all of the restaurant’s regular burger combinations, but we recommend it in the Okie burger, a beautiful mess of grilled onions, mustard, bread-and-butter pickles, and American cheese. Veggie or not, the overall effect is that of a classic, old-fashioned burger: a visceral, lusty thing that inspires both nostalgia and obsession. $12, 2240 Mission St. (near 18th St.), 415-745-9371


Originally published in the December issue of San Francisco 

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