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‘There’s no such thing as a vegetarian burger’ is a blanket statement a majority of the burger-loving brigade would concur upon. Sure, a hunk of meat slathered with sauces is an indispensable part of any self-respecting burger, along with some lettuce, pickles, mayonnaise and a thick slice of cheese. But a true-blue gourmand perhaps knows better than to be close-minded about food – think a veggie burger so well-made that you do not miss the classic beef patty! Fortunately, for some of us living in Pune, a lot of restaurants are taking up the challenge of dishing out spectacular burgers in which meat is not-so-conspicuous by its absence.
The yam burger at Elephant & Co. Gastropub, for instance, draws on the sweetish flavour and juicy, starchy mouthfeel of the root vegetable to make a nice, robust, crumb-coated patty. This is then packed between soft buns and served along with Korean-style greens. Still brooding over the lack of meat? We did not think so.
To explore a few more interesting varieties in this category, visit 212 All Day Café & Bar. Their ‘shroom’ burger – crammed with a combination of exotic Portobello mushrooms and garden mushrooms with lots of bubbling, melted gruyère cheese, and served in brioche buns with a side of salad and home fries – is pretty much custom-made for fans of that beautiful, edible fungus. Or if you want to try something even more original, there is one with a soybean-barley patty and cilantro stuffed in a multigrain bun – wholesome, filling and all manner of delicious.
Double Roti also offers a smorgasbord of options – choose from a Delhi-style aloo tikki patty to one made of minced, grilled and spiced cottage cheese, with side fillings spanning aubergine drizzled with olive oil, feta melt, salsa, peri peri pickle chips and sautéed spinach. Or, if you want bite-sized little veggie snackers, The Little Door prepares these ‘Burgerettes’ that are essentially mini-buns with potato-jalapeño patties and beetroot coleslaw, served with a heap of cheesy fries.
For those who find the combination of falafel and warm pita bread irresistible, The Brooklyn Shuffle Bar whips up the next best thing – a lip-smacking falafel burger with a crispy, deep-fried patty made out of chickpeas, accompanied by onions and lettuce. The toasted buns are a tad too dry for my taste and I miss the hummus they used to add to the mix back in the day, but it is a decent marriage of an American dish with Middle-Eastern ingredients.
Then again, who would have thought that a global American diner chain would come up with the most innovative vegetarian burger in town? The guacamole burger at Chili’s, as the name suggests, features the creamy-tangy dip made from fresh avocados as its star element, together with a layer each of fire-roasted jalapeños, sautéed red and green bell peppers, sweet caramelised onions, rich Monterey Jack cheese and cumin-lime sour cream. While the burger originally comes with a chicken patty, you can order it with their southwestern veggie patty.
Finally, if you want to renounce animal products completely and take the vegan route, head to The Real Green Café and order the whole wheat burger stuffed with crunchy, lightly tossed zucchini, bell peppers and onions that packs in a tender, melt-in-the-mouth tofu patty. Never has a nutritious, cruelty-free meal tasted this good.