Beef not your thing? Here are our favorite vegetarian burgers around Washington.
The Groundswell at Red Apron Burger Bar
You wouldn’t expect a burger place that puts such emphasis on its locally raised beef to have such a good veggie burger. But the care that chef Nate Anda puts into his meat carries over to his mushroom-cashew-and-rice patty, which is as flavorful as his specialty beef without trying to imitate it. Other veggie burgers are either mushy or bland, but this one holds its shape and is perfectly spiced with a smoked chimichurri sauce. A generous slather of mashed avocado is cool and creamy, a nice contrast in texture. At last: a veggie burger that can hold its own against the meatier parts of the menu. $8.35. 1323 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-524-5210. —
The Shouk burger at Shouk
When was the last time you felt this good about eating a burger? The patty at this Middle Eastern-inspired vegan fast-casual spot is full of ingredients that don’t send you into a guilt spiral — chickpeas, black beans, lentils, mushrooms and cauliflower help round out your daily dose of vegetables. But healthful doesn’t have to be boring. Shouk’s riffs on standard condiments include roasted tomatoes, pickled turnips and tahini. The burger holds together so well that the extra protection provided by the fluffy pita around it is almost redundant, except for the fact that it’s much better than many of the generic buns out there. $9.75. 655 K St. NW. 202-652-1464. —
The veggie burger at Junction Bakery & Bistro
Chefs making fancy riffs on beef burgers is nothing new, and it only makes sense that the meatless version would be ripe for an upgrade, too. At Junction, chef Nathan Hatfield took a thoughtful approach to building a vegetarian burger, full of savory umami flavor. He roasts tofu, beets and cremini mushrooms, cutting down on moisture for a cohesive mix. Further body and depth come from black beans, almonds, Parmesan and Great Northern beans. The beets also provide the burger with a vivid — rare, if you will — red appearance. Other gourmet flourishes: a roasted garlic aioli and crispy shallots. A tender onion brioche roll adds further height to this towering specimen, so open wide. $14. 1508 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. 703-436-0025. — B.K.
The seasoned black-bean-and-rice burger at the Pub & the People
This Bloomingdale bar sports a wildly delicious fried-sumac-and-chickpea burger, with cucumber and pickled red onion and a side of cumin-coriander fries. For a veggie take on the cheesy goodness of diner-style burgers, though, it’s hard to beat the seasoned black-bean-and-rice patty, a rendition that’s good enough to convert even a carnivore. The rice and beans produce a flavor that’s both savory and sweet, and a texture that remains tender off the grill. It’s all topped with aioli and a soy glaze, a thick slice of Monterey Jack cheese and baby kale to keep things green. $12. 1648 N. Capitol St. NW. 202-234-1800. —
The house-made veggie burger at Woodmont Grill
Could a lowly veggie burger ever justify an $18 price tag? It would seem like extortion. Until, of course, you inhale the scent of hickory wafting up from this version and bite into its crunchy, sweet exterior — pure alchemy, thanks to a coating of molasses and the unexpected addition of prunes in its blend of black beans, rice and jalapeños. Inside is a tender center rendered pink with beets. Served by Woodmont Grill and other restaurants in Hillstone Group’s chain of posh restaurants, this burger is so popular that the Internet is teeming with recipes from home cooks attempting to replicate it. It doesn’t fuss with Middle Eastern spices or soy meat. It aims to recall something else: a fancy, $20 steakhouse burger. That’s exactly what it is, and it’s worth every penny. $18, $17 at lunch. 7715 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda. 301-656-9755. —