Tag Archives: burger

Beyond Burgers at Carl’s Jr!

We all heard the news on Instagram at about the same time, and I think the collective vegan mind imploded.  It seems that Beyond Meat and Carl’s Jr. teamed up behind closed doors to surprise the heck out of just about everyone.

It wasn’t one of those lame media teasers, where a major brand was testing some new vegan option at one or two stores, this was NATIONWIDE.  Today.  Every. Carl’s Jr.

So I did what any self-respecting vegan would do – drove my happy butt to a Gresham, Oregon Carl’s Jr. and ordered a burger.

THE GOOD:

A sign right next to the front door proclaimed that the Beyond Burger was now an option.  All the staff inside we showing off Beyond Burger shirts and hoodies (I tried to beg for one, but no dice).  Everyone seemed knowledgeable about the new vegan options (at least how to make it vegan).

46507964971_50f94a2219_b

It was odd (albeit nostalgic) to be sitting in a fast food restaurant waiting on a burger and fries.  It has been at least 10 years, if not more, since I had done that.  So there was a strange feeling about sitting there ordering burgers and fries.  It was cool.

Roadtrips will never be the same.  We can pull into a seedy Omaha truck stop, and have a vegan burger.  Coming home late from work and picking up dinner will also be changed.

THE BAD:

The staff’s understanding of veganism as a whole was severely lacking.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not looking a “gift horse in the mouth (to use a truly vegan colloquialism) ” but these guys seriously had NO CLUE.

45594715535_60bf260592_b

When asking about the cheese, I was told it was not vegan, as it had SOY in it.  But that because it was pasteurized, it was all fake anyway, and no dairy.  That aside from the soy, it was vegan.  We couldn’t believe it!  So we ordered it with this new “vegan” cheese option.  Thankfully the woman ran out from the back, in time to change our order, alerting to us the cheese was in fact NOT vegan.

Then we debated about what fries were and were not vegan.  So, I hope the grunts at Carl’s Jr are prepared for the onslaught of pissed off vegans asking questions and expecting answers.

THE UGLY:

I think we all knew this was coming.  But they DO NOT use a special area to cook these burgers.  They get cooked right where all the beef also gets cooked.

45594713445_34c7051754_b

The only reason I went ahead with my order is this.  They are only cooked on the “charbroiler.”  They invited me back to look at this contraption.  It is a wire mesh belt that feeds the burgers from one end through to the other.  Like a giant pizza oven. So the only shared cooking surface is a tiny amount of wire mesh.  Oh, and by the way, that mesh passes through that machine at over 750 degrees.  So I can only hope/assume that any meat residues are blasted and cooked off.

I know the vegan committee might dock me some points here.

IN CLOSING:

The fact I went to a Carl’s Jr. and ordered a burger and fries, and enjoyed a vegan meal is, in itself, remarkable.  it speaks to how far veganism has come, how much the market has changed, and how the perception of veganism has also progressed in mainstream society.  

I praise any company that has been historically a meat-offering establishment and is willing to try something along these lines.  It is a bold move, and one that can have massive positive repercussions for animals, fellow vegans, and even meat eaters.

32635158108_5107a6a857_b

But there are two schools of vegans.  The first is an ultra-emotional, almost fascist approach where anything that deviates from this oft-unattainable vegan god-like status, is not a vegan.  They will shun anyone that walks into a business that sells any meat, regardless of how that company is possibly changing.  They will boycott Beyond Meat.  They will shame vegans on Facebook groups that even think about supporting a fast food chain.

The other group is a little more progressive in thought.  They see the bigger picture.  That sometimes you need to take two steps backward to take one forward.  Sometimes you must give your money to big, evil companies in order to show how popular vegan options are, with the only goal of showing other large companies that vegans are here to stay, and that market share is growing.  In the end, that will benefit the animals.

If you find yourself in the latter group, head down to a local Carl’s Jr.  Get the Beyond Famous Star Burger (but hold the cheese and mayo).  You’ll be glad you did.

If you are in the first group, well…maybe there is a drum circle somewhere for your rage.

Restaurant Review: Sweet Alchemy [Vermont]

Growing up in Vermont, most places I considered “vegan” were stereotypical hippie joints – local co-ops bathed in patchouli oil, incense, and Birkenstock footprints.  And, while many places in the Green Mountain State still resemble those icons, the vegan scene in Vermont is changing.

On a recent trip home, we pulled our car into a non-descript parking lot in Essex.  The property is shared with a nursery/greenhouse. A small sign over a beautiful deck read “Sweet Alchemy Bakery and Cafe.”

39535036645_781d949012

From the outside on this chilly Winter day, so far the experience was quintessential Vermont – from the rolling frozen hills in the distance, to the barn-esque design of Sweet Alchemy.  Once inside, the warm, sweet smells of a talented baker completed the experience.

Continue reading Restaurant Review: Sweet Alchemy [Vermont]

Restaurant Review: Blackwater Bar [Portland]

Today we ventured down Broadway in Portland, looking for a spot for some lunch goodness.  The only problem?  I wanted something new.  I remembered hearing about Blackwater Bar in Portland, an all-vegan bar.

33823675100_5becaaae2f

Blackwater is a punk-rock themed bar, that teeters on the edge of dive status for me.  Once you walk in, the space is on the dark side (not sure if deliberate for the punk theme) and has a good mix of booths and chairs with tables.  The place is pretty good size, with a full sized stage for live music shows, a bar in the back, a couple of pinball machines, and ample seating.

Continue reading Restaurant Review: Blackwater Bar [Portland]

RESTAURANT REVIEW: 49TH STATE BREWING [ANCHORAGE]

Traveling to Alaska as a vegan can be pretty daunting.  There is hope though, in the sparsely populated vegan options on menus at places like Bear’s Tooth, Middleway Cafe and others.  But you can also get sick of them pretty quickly.

So I decided to join some friends recently on a downtown crawl.

We started the night at 49th State Brewing Company.

The brewery is located in the old Snow Goose space, and they have done an amazing job with the design.  I would have taken more photos, but it was Iditarod weekend and the place was absolutely PACKED.  To the gills.  So apologies for that (you can find some photos on their website).

Continue reading RESTAURANT REVIEW: 49TH STATE BREWING [ANCHORAGE]

Restaurant Review: VeganBurg [San Francisco]

When I used to travel to Singapore, I always made sure to stop at VeganBurg – a country-wide vegan burger joint that prided itself on healthy vegan options.

So when I heard their first (and only) US location was in the heart of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, I knew I needed to go.

While the menu options seemed  little lighter than I remember, the space itself was really nice, clean, and bright.  I ordered the “Cracked Mayo” burger with seaweed fries (not as hippy as they sound, I promise), and Kristin ordered the Smoked Franks with a side of fries. Landen went with the standard – Chicken Tenders.

Continue reading Restaurant Review: VeganBurg [San Francisco]

Restaurant Review: Next Level Burger [Bend]

UPDATED 9/14/15!  We returned to NLB for an amazing breakfast!  See the new content below!

When it comes to vegan fast food, us vegans miss out on three key elements of the fast food culture:

1. We don’t camp out weeks in advance of an opening.  And, while I would never be one of the schmucks in a $20 Coleman tent sleeping on a sidewalk outside some vegan Chick-Fil-A, the concept of it is appealing.  I mean, how committed do you need to be to artery-clogging, fat soaked food to actually sleep outside for a week?  That is true, foodie commitment.

Camping in the winter for a week. For fried chicken.

2.  We can’t just have a greasy, bad-for-you burger experience.  Most vegan burgers I have seen are typically some malted oregano-kale infused, carrot fiber burger, promising all kinds of health claims. Sometimes, I just want to eat something bad for me too.

3. We don’t have a vegan fast food mecca that beckons us to make multi-mile journeys off major interstates.   We need a vegan In-and-Out kinda place.

So when I heard there was a new vegan burger joint in Bend, I had a chance to do a little of all three.

Continue reading Restaurant Review: Next Level Burger [Bend]

Product Review: Beyond Meat’s BEAST BURGER

I have been waiting for the Beast Burger from Beyond Meat for a VERY LONG time.  Ever since my friend over there told me it was in “the works” I wanted to try it out.

As a vegan, veggie burgers are crucial.  First, they give me a staple I can relate to from my meat days.  I know to some this may sound stupid, but that’s just how this vegan rolls.  On a nice summer day, I still like tossing something on the grill other than corn and asparagus.  Or, in the winter I may crave a bacon double cheeseburger.

Beast Burger with crispy onions, pickles, and BBQ.

There are a lot of contenders in this space too.  Companies like Gardein, Field Roast, and now Beyond Meat all produce decent burgers (in addition to the Boca and other large brands).  But it seems like each one trades off something.

Gardein’s burgers are good, but plain and oily.  Field Roast’s Hand formed burgers require you to refinance your home mortgage ($7.99 for 4 small patties) and companies like Morningstar add egg whites so they are not even vegan.

All of this meant I was really stoked to finally get my paws on a brand new burger.

Awesome packaging and branding.

As always, the retail packaging was designed well and the price was good.  Two 1/4 pound patties (frozen) per $6.49 box means a premium, all vegan, non-GMO burger patty for $3 and change.

I tossed them on the grill along with some asparagus.  I decided to pair them with some vegan bacon strips from Sweet Earth and Chao regular cheese slices.

Lunch. FTW.

These burgers grill up really nicely over a well seasoned propane grill.  I applied a little spray olive oil to each side (per the instructions) to help them out a little.

Watch them grill:

Beasts on the grill.

I heated them up really well, melted some Chao cheese on ’em, dropped the bacon on and had a GREAT lunch.

My first impression was yes.  Yes to a good-tasting,  hearty as heck, well made vegan burger.  The flavor was right in the middle of the “not so meaty but still meaty enough” scale that companies like Beyond Meat must navigate carefully.

While the taste is what really excited me, it were the nutritional claims that made me look twice.  Beyond Meat claims that the Beast Burger:

  • Has more protein and iron than beef;
  • Has more omega fatty acids than salmon;
  • Is GMO free;
  • Features a “beyond nutrient blend” which apparently makes me healthier.
The claims are right on the box.

All of this poses a question I will ask myself rhetorically,

“If I can eat more protein and iron, more omegas, less cholesterol (as in zero), less fat, and less cancer-causing meat stuff, while enjoying a great texture and flavor why wouldn’t I?”

The ingredient list, while long, is all natural, basic ingredients.  I see things like pea protein, canola oil, beet juice powder, onion powder, paprika, etc.

A long ingredient list and pretty decent nutritional specs.

I mean when you look at the actual nutrient benefits of these burgers, combined with the taste and texture, relatively low cost, no worry of food-borne pathogens, ease of cooking, and a multitude of other benefits….shouldn’t’ we?

Some Chao melti-ness on my beasts.

At least one thing is for sure.  My freezer will be full of these things, and I look forward to dragging some with me to Moab and the Rubicon later this Summer.