Bringing back my favorite format, I decided to embark upon another good, old-fashioned CT Eats competition. This time: vegan burger style. So, prepare your buns, loosen up your belt, and get ready for some fries with that because I’m about to be serving up the hot dish on vegan burgers from four — yes, four — different Rochester locations. With that, let the beefless burger battle begin.
The first burger I entertained in this escapade was the Distillery’s Impossible Burger, andsadly, it was not a good start. When the burger was brought to our table, the waiter looked between me and my male friend and said, “I’ve got an Impossible Burger. I’m guessing that’s for you. Seems like a girl thing.” That started things off on a distasteful note.
Impossible Burgers are great and serve as pretty perfect mock beef, but the Distillery just left it at that and didn’t bother to dress it up even slightly. It was plain and flavorless, and the thin single patty was lost in the giant bun. The Distillery’s gluten-free buns have a good flavor and texture and hold together well, but I wasn’t looking to just eat bread on this meal. I ended up having to remove the bun altogether because everything just felt so dry and plain.
Next was an old favorite of mine: Red Fern’s lentil burger. The exterior of this patty had great, noticeable grill marks, and the interior was creamy, hearty, and satisfying. The slight bitterness of the greens on top and the acidity of the baby tomatoes make for an exciting flavor combination that highlights the rich seasoning of the lentil patty. The rich, creamy aioli, buttery burger, and fluffy gluten-free bread combine to create a texture of silky-smooth richness. This beautiful burger paired with a side of sweet potato bisque and a vegan brownie sundae split with my friend made for a rich and exciting meal.
Giving another chance to team Impossible Burger, I headed over to Swillburger and ordered a single-patty Impossible Burger with a vegan chocolate milkshake. At no extra cost, I got to top my burger with lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, and grilled mushrooms — all of which I was pleased with. The shrooms were lightly charred and brought lovely flavors of smoke, salt, and umami to the plate. The grilled onions were lightly caramelized and had a lovely sweetness and slight crisp. The only topping that added an extra cost was the vegan cheese, which was worth it. This cheese was creamy and silky without being sticky at all (often the case with vegan cheeses), and it had a wonderful flavor that closely resembled a mild cheddar.
I found this use of the Impossible Burger patty to be much more successful than that of the Distillery. The slight char around the patty’s circumference created a delectable texture and smokey flavor. This plus my rich, thick milkshake made for a truly classic burger experience.
Last up, but not least— sorry, Distillery— was the Gate House’s veggie burger. This restaurant allows you to substitute the veggie patty into any of its many burgers, but I decided to go for the “B Anthony,” the one already listed as a vegan option. After leaving off the intended avocado and pickled jalapeños, I was left with meatless hot sauce and hummus. The meatless hot sauce was indistinguishable from meat hot sauce. It had a salty, meaty flavor that was seasoned to a spicy, smokey, barbecue-y concoction that tasted and felt like some sort of fancy sloppy joe.
And, yes, it was just as messy. The hummus had a strong garlic flavor that allowed it to shine even through the omnipotent meat hot sauce. The veggie patty itself, had a harsh, smokey char on the outside but a soft and moist interior with a warm, peppery flavor. Overall, this was a successful veggie burger that didn’t leave me missing the meat even one bit.
These four burgers may have zero beef inside of them, but there’s going to be some beef between them after these results.
To no one’s surprise, the Distillery’s Impossible Burger ranks last by a long shot. It wasn’t terrible, but mediocre does not cut it in relation to the rest of these burger bad boys.
Next up is the Gate House’s “B Anthony” veggie burger. I know this ranking may seem low, but I did really enjoy this burger and you can accredit this ranking to the stiff competition. My advice? Get a less crumbly gluten-free bun, B Anthony burger, and then maybe we can talk again.
In second place is — drum roll — Red Fern’s lentil burger, which I love and have no complaints about whatsoever.
This, of course, leaves Swillburger’s Impossible Burger at the top of the food chain for this first episode of the Beefless Burger Battle.
It’s not just what you’ve got, but what you do with it that matters most, as the kids say, and Swillburger definitely makes the most of the Impossible Burger. The patty is cooked perfectly, the complementary topping options are simply divine and of the highest quality, the gluten-free bun is moist, fluffy, glistened like a beautiful brioche, and all of this comes at a price that won’t leave you with regret. Also, who doesn’t want to enjoy a perfectly-executed classic burger and shake at a barcade — especially when it’s so vegan-accessible? Whether of the beef variety or not, Swillburger is the perfect place to enjoy a great burger.