Charlotte Is Experiencing a Vegan Burger Renaissance
A new age For vegan burgers
Disclaimer: Health fanatics, this article is not for you. Burger lovers: welcome. If you’re like me, the mention of a vegan burger doesn’t necessarily excite your senses. The word itself is an oxymoron; it makes me think about vegetables, not a burger. As a person that hasn’t had an animal (beef, turkey, what am I missing?) burger in a solid 25 years, I must admit I hadn’t craved any burger until recently.
These days almost any chain restaurant has a vegetarian option on their menu — the veggie burger holding the number one spot. Over the years I’ve eaten way too many black bean burgers. Graduations, rehearsal dinners, birthdays, anything.
“Oh they have a veggie burger on the menu.” It’s the default — the extended omnivore family peacemaker, coming second only to salad.
The obvious go-to, veggie burgers have in the past been tired and boring in my opinion. Most of them are dry, the house-made ones crumbled at first bite and there’s never any suitable condiments that are actually vegan. Then there’s the obligatory burger ingredient vetting which almost always leads to milk or egg products (if not in the burger then definitely in the bun).
This overgeneralized veggie burger has been a staple of Charlotte’s dull vegan past. For years I’ve carried my own homemade vegan condiments in my purse to sauce up the options around town. Black bean patties have been a trend among chains in particular.
So why write an article on the best veggie burgers in town? Simple: I believe in them. I have hope in the future of the new veggie burger and the restaurants that are sprouting up to satisfy the people’s desire. These new burgers are good and the eateries that serve them, even better, be they on wheels or in brick-and-mortar spaces.
When I met my love, Els, he was all about a veggie burger (still is). Having only been vegan for a couple of years, burgers were his transitional go-to. By the time he became vegan, Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers were making their debuts. Having experienced black bean exhaustion I can tell you, these companies made all the difference in my personal burger desire.
This is not to knock brands like Amy’s or Boca, the original contenders, but both Beyond and Impossible were game changers. Finally, there was a burger that tasted like … a burger. Not only did these burgers revolutionize the taste for plant-based eaters, they also presented meat-eating burger lovers with a viable and delicious alternative.
In 2016, both Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods hit the market with slight differences. Impossible is a soy-based burger while Beyond uses pea protein isolate. Initially, it seemed that Impossible was slow to allow consumer availability. Even now, Beyond Meat’s consumer product options far surpass Impossible Food’s variety.
Only recently have I been able to find patties or ground Impossible “meat.” Essentially if you wanted an Impossible burger you had to find a restaurant that served them or dishes made with the ground “meat.” Honorable mention to the late People’s Market, which did an amazing job with their Impossible burgers and even crafted an Impossible breakfast sausage from them.
Initially, I found that those who were used to eating beef burgers preferred the Impossible, however, I’ll leave it up to the carnivores to tell that tale. One of the pros of both companies’ burgers is that the texture really mirrors the way a meat product both comes together and breaks down. This allows for restaurants and the home cook to do whatever they want in the way of seasonings and ingredients. After all, what is a good burger without seasonings and texture?
Els and I began going on “Best Burger” quests throughout the country. At the time, the only solid burger made with a Beyond patty in Charlotte was Pinky’s Westside Grill. And to be fair, their burger always does the job.
Traveling and eating our way through the country, restaurants in Chicago and Los Angeles landed at the top of our lists. Over the last year, it’s been amazing to watch vegan burger joints popping up throughout Charlotte. A bright light among chains that offer “options.” So again we set out to find our favorite burger, but this time at home.
One of the biggest wins for an all-vegan burger spot is that there are no ingredient worries. I don’t have to pack my homemade special sauce, no need to hold the mayo and cheese. It’s allll vegan. It’s like … you get me (((heart))) and you get BURGERS!
I listened to the people and sought out two of the best new vegan burger spots in Charlotte.
Mike’s Vegan Cookout
Mike Roach of Mike’s Vegan Cookout says he’s been a vegan for about four years. “Because I missed burgers so much, I needed to create the best one in the vegan world,” he says.
Though now rolling around as a food truck, Mike’s goal is to expand MVC throughout the nation. He says his dream is to see it at every intersection like you see McDonalds or other fast food chains. The (Panamanian) Burlington native started Mike’s Vegan Hotdogs in 2018, but MVC opened a little under a year ago.
I found the MVC team parked off Central Avenue and I was in and out with surprisingly prompt service.
The burger: They use a Beyond patty. It’s a thick, well-seasoned burger, and I could really tell they put a lot of work into specializing it. It was bursting with juices and flavor.
What I loved: The diversity of the menu! There’s a burger for everyone. I had the El Classico and the Columbiana.
My suggestion: Columbiana (it’s the pineapples for me). Next time I’m trying the “What the Cluck” sandwich though, which is one of their best sellers.
You can follow to find their location via Instagram and Facebook.
Boss of Vegan
Boss of Vegan owner Demetrius Liverpool is not new to the restaurant industry. He is the owner of Top Dog, a hot dog restaurant in The Streets at Southpoint in Durham. While his Durham space offers vegan options, Liverpool knew he needed more when he shifted to veganism himself a year and a half ago.
“I wanted to provide products that would help people, like [they] helped me make the transition easier by trying meat alternatives,” he says. “I believe more businesses will create more options and make it easier for people to transition.”
The burger: They fooled us. They also use a Beyond burger but it’s a thinner patty. It feels more like a fast food burger. The taste is specifically theirs, the flavors did not disappoint.
What I loved: Everything! The chips and the chocolate chip cookies were perfect. The burger was amazing. The sauce comes on the side, and if you’re a sauceaholic like me, that’s a win!
My suggestion: Boss burger deluxe, a Beyond patty with vegan cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes and Boss sauce on a Hawaiian bun.
Boss of Vegan is located at 4431 Brookshire Blvd. just northwest of Uptown. The brick-and-mortar space is dedicated specifically to curbside pickup. The online ordering system is easy. Find their menu on Instagram or at bossofvegan.com.
Whether you enjoy an occasional plant-based burger or fall in the veganism box, it’s undeniable that the future is plant-based. You don’t have to watch sci-fi movies or be attuned to the obvious planetary impacts to notice the trends. As Mike Roach said when asked about the future of meat “Leave the animals alone! I see the meat industry crashing, like it already is!”
We both agreed, my love and I, that these are very different burgers. It’s a testament to the creativity of a new era of veganism. Go try them both! You won’t be disappointed.
Become part of the Nerve: Get better connected and become a monthly donor to support our mission and join thousands of Charlotteans by subscribing to our email newsletter. If you’re looking for the arts in Charlotte, subscribe to the paper for the most in-depth coverage of our local scene.
This work by Queen City Nerve is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.