He Said/She Said: These veggie burgers sizzle with flavor

Just because you don’t eat meat doesn’t mean you should settle for a processed, characterless patty. When you’re craving a meatless burger, stick with restaurants that slather on the TLC between the buns.

John’s profile: Grainy is OK, mushy not so much, no need to pretend
Patricia’s profile: Prefers a grain-based burger, but not afraid of old-fashioned, fried-in grease

Eternity Vegetarian Deli and Juice Bar
11 S. Euclid Ave., St. Louis | 314.454.1851
Mon. to Thu. – 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fri. and Sat. – 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

P – Eternity is definitely about the food and not the space; the flow of human traffic sometimes makes it seem more like a community center than a deli.
J – Apparently it takes a village to man a steam table.
P – But the food …
J – We both opted for the Garvey burger, as neither of the other options – Boca and lentil – seemed all that appetizing. The Garvey patty is relatively thin, well-textured and fried perhaps to a fault.
P – I’m not sure I’d fault them for it. The burger was reminiscent of diner deliciousness, replete with crispy edges and juices pooling in the red plastic basket. With the accompanying fries, this meal came close to hangover heaven.
J – I can definitely get behind grease and fat, but the Garvey bore an almost unappetizing resemblance to a BK Veggie, without the fake gristle.
P – But here made with loving presence.
J – I did not feel the love in the yellow mustard and ketchup dressing. Blunt. And what happened to its skinny fries? These exude an unwholesome amount of oil.
P – You’re forgetting the relish with which we inhaled those burgers. Greasy, yes, salty, yes, but some of us need a fix once in a while. And the Garvey is textured soy protein, making it not altogether bad for us. Plus, since we ordered the combo, the salad definitely contributes health points.
J – Don’t get me wrong; Eternity is a favorite. It’s just that there are several sandwiches on the menu I would order before this. This is not Eternity’s best material.
P – Burger aside, the salad’s Prince dressing would be reason enough to return again and again.
J – I would eat Prince dressing on shredded newsprint.

OR Juice and Smoothie
6654 Clayton Road, St. Louis | 314.647.8881
Mon. to Sat. – 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Kitchen until 8 p.m.)

J – OR Juice and Smoothie rules. They won’t even let you put your cell phone next to their food. Like either of us has a cell.
P – Don’t forget, they also stir soups clockwise to foster positive energy.
J – Next time, I’m going to turn my fork over, just to screw with them. But on to the food. This burger is the best of all worlds: grain-based patty, perfectly formed, well-dressed with no surprises. It’s a classic.
P – Usually I object to mayonnaise in any form, but here it was light enough to blend magically with the ketchup, forming a Thousand Island-esque dressing that provided moisture to the burger without overwhelming its flavors.
J – It’s condiment alchemy! However, those chips are unfriendly.
P – OK, normally I’m not a fan of the flavored chip. But something about these worked to complement the burger, and I found the salty, tangy seasoning particularly pleasing.
J – Whatever you say, but this is the sort of chip dust found on dorm room carpeting and slumber party pillowcases.
P – Again, the ambience leaves a little to be desired. Three tables are all the small space allows. Best to get food to go and picnic at the park across the street.
J – They have to provide space for the coconut monkeys. This is veggie-burger heaven.
P – The burger did come close to perfect, avoiding the Scylla and Charybdis of meat simulation and vegetable mush.
J – This is the veggie burger, evolved.

Natural Fact Deli
7919 Big Bend Blvd., Webster Groves | 314.961.2442
Mon. to Fri. - 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sat. and Sun. - 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

P – I have a real fondness for Natural Fact, a fondness strong enough to keep me coming back despite the more-than-occasional lack of key ingredients. After suffering the frustration of the absence of onion rolls in our first attempt, out of affection we gave it another try. But that time, although the menu lists two meat-free burgers, only one was available on our second visit. Which is too bad, because if memory serves, both can be quite delicious.
J – The Natural Fact Meat-less Burger was more loosely packed than some other examples of the form, with chunks of actual vegetables providing a textural variety. The Jack cheese, perfectly melted, provided a necessary binding agent.
P – The burger tasted truly house made, featuring signature health-food ingredients like brown rice, bulgur, rolled oats and garbanzos along with mushrooms, red bell peppers, celery and carrots. The combination may seem charmingly retro in that sort of ‘70s northern California way, but the burger was well-balanced and nicely updated.
J – And the chips were of a piece with the burger. Homemade from sweet potatoes, they possessed an endearing chewiness that stands in sharp contrast to the prefab sides available elsewhere.
P – Diners are given a choice of condiments that range a bit out of the ordinary, including two kinds of mayo, three kinds of mustard, ancho chile sauce and horseradish sauce. I went with the ancho chile, which was tasty to begin with but may finally have overwhelmed the subtler burger.
J – The Natural Fact is a slice of college-town life for those who remember that fondly. But in such places one takes the bad with the good: The soundtrack to our meal was provided by the Beatles. And I want you to know, I really, really hate The Beatles.
P – Believe me, I know.

Cardwell’s at the Plaza
94 Plaza Frontenac, Frontenac | 314.997.8885
Lunch: Daily - 11:15 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Dinner: Mon. to Thu. - 5:15 to 10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. - 5:15 to 11 p.m., Sun. - noon to 9 p.m.

J – Plaza Frontenac. The people here are spray-tanned and made-up. What better place to search out the real fake meat?
P – AuraPro is less fake meat than “high-quality protein alternative.” It’s on a number of menus across the city, substituting for crab, pork, chicken and sausage besides the burger. And while it does its best to replicate the meat-eating experience, it really is its own product rather than a simulation. Cardwell’s did AuraPro right with this burger.
J – Whatever, the thing was a guilty pleasure. It truly had the mouth feel of death.
P – The burger came topped with corn relish and avocado and a melting of chipotle Jack cheese, which actually worked wonderfully in combination, neither too sweet nor too rich. Served on a toasted roll, the burger was almost too big to get my mouth around. But I persevered.
J – A range of sides was offered, though those we tried –
potato salad and french fries – were good but less than inspired.
P – While perhaps not inspired, the potato salad was a notch above average, though you’re right about the shoestring fries. At $9.75 a plate, albeit an enormous one – I swear if we had weighed the burger, it would’ve come in at two-thirds of a pound – I would split the burger and order an extra side next time. And there will be a next time.
J – But maybe not for a while. Guess I don’t miss meat all that much. Speaking of guilty, I utterly dug the mixture of grease and ketchup that left an atavistically satisfying pool of “blood” on the plate. I’m gonna go kill something.