Short List: Veggie burgers

Many chefs have mastered the art of the burger, building thick patties that ooze with protein-packed juices and topping them with an array of gourmet accoutrements. But few have been able to conquer the vegetarian version of this American classic, skipping the frozen mass-market products and relying instead on alternative proteins – beans, rice, lentils and soy – to build a meat-free patty that isn’t bland, doesn’t fall apart or have the consistency of mashed potatoes. It’s a tall order, but the following establishments have created something even a meat-eater might consider, dare I say, delicious?

MoKaBe’s Coffeehouse
3606 Arsenal St., St. Louis, 314.865.2009

Both meat-eaters and vegetarians (at least this vegetarian) have those moments when they’re just “craving a burger.” And when your stomach is screaming with such specificity, it wants the quintessentially classic, no-fuss diner burger that you can just pound down and walk away feeling utterly satisfied. If such an occasion arises, I suggest MoKaBe’s Blue Mac Burger. Made with Match meat, the thin-yet-flavorful patty is served on a Kaiser roll and topped with grilled onions, pickles, lettuce, ketchup, mustard, Blue’s special sauce and your choice of Swiss or Cheddar cheese; it’s like you’ve died and gone to diner heaven.

Sweet Art
2203 S. 39th St., St. Louis, 314.771.4278

Usually, when lentils are brought in to pinch-hit for meat, it’s to give the dish a more substantial texture, but Sweet Art’s vegan-friendly Sweet Burger also has a lot of flavor – because it’s a lot of burger. Beefed up (wink) with chopped vegetables and textured vegetable protein, the addition of the wheat bun seems almost silly – surely no one has a mouth large enough to accommodate all that goodness. A quick bisection, however, made things much brighter, especially since you could see the colorful layers of organic mixed greens, tomatoes and the vegan house spread. One bite will set loose two advertised yet invisible ingredients: a mouthful of magic and love.

The Bleeding Deacon Public House
4123 Chippewa St., St. Louis, 314.772.1813

Made with a base of white beans and rice, this clever take on Boudin sausage does not disappoint. The patty itself is intimidating, almost overtaking the wheat bun on which it’s served. But once you’ve got a grasp, get ready for a mouthful of flavor. The combination of Creole spices and the rémoulade sauce creates a pleasant, tangy sensation for your palate that gets hotter with each bite. You can cut the heat by adding the standard toppers (lettuce, onion and tomato), but if you’re looking to take things to the next level, order the spicy coleslaw as a side.

To see this month's Short List Runner-Up, click here.