Portland just wrapped on Portland Burger Week 2018. Since I did a feature on Pizza Week earlier this year (and ate an absurd number of slices in the process), I thought I’d do an overview on all the vegan options for Burger Week too. The short version: from a vegan perspective, the official Burger Week lineup was pretty underwhelming. The most talked about vegan burger of Burger Week wasn’t affiliated with the official #PortlandBurgerWeek, and it wasn’t even a burger, but more on that later.
I considered tossing this whole Burger Week write up idea out of the window, but decided to go through with it anyway in hopes that this would encourage some changes for next year. I recognize that it’s not an easy feat to round up 50 restaurants to participate in a dining week and that it’s taxing on restaurants to churn out discounted burgers all week long. But if you choose to participate, then you gotta deliver. And if you’re going to advertise a vegan option, it should at least resemble a burger.
Over the course of the week, I personally visited every location that advertised a vegan option. When you search for the word “vegan” on portlandburgerweek.com, five restaurants show up in the search results: Bar Bar, Stoopid Burger, Home, White Owl Social Club, and Next Level Burger. (Oaks Bottom Public House shows up too, but that’s just due to their description mentioning that they don’t offer a vegan alternative. At least they’re upfront about that, I guess.)
White Owl Social Club
Earlier this year, White Owl ditched beef and lamb and switched over to the plant-based and controversial Impossible Burger. (I’m not going to get into the Impossible debate here, but I highly recommend reading this article regardless of which side you’re on.) Normally $14 at White Owl and many other places, a $5 Impossible Burger is a steal. Served with special sauce, lettuce, vegan cheese (for extra $1), pickles, and onion on a sesame seed bun. It’s small, but that didn’t surprise me considering how expensive the Impossible Burger is. Pretty tasty, but not life changing. Not a bad start to Burger Week.
Home, A Bar
A vegan, a vegetarian, and a carnivore walk into a bar. Home was crowded, incredibly hot, and there was a Timber’s game on, so I definitely want to commend the staff for keeping it together under those circumstances. Our group ordered every rendition of Home’s Burger Week burger. The vegan version was a thin, overcooked Beyond Burger patty on a pale bun, with three pickles and a shred (yes, a single piece) of lettuce. My friend’s vegetarian version had a slice of cheese. I had to put the ketchup on myself. I appreciate that it occurred to them to accommodate non-meat eats, but this missed the mark.
After seeing many photos of Stoopid Burger’s crazy stacked burger with a onion rings and fries, I was curious to see what they would be serving up as their vegan option. On the Burger Week website, it mentions “gluten-free/vegetarian/vegan options available for an additional charge.” After waiting in line for 10 minutes, I learned that in order to make the vegetarian version fully vegan, you would have to remove the onion rings, fries, honey mustard, and cheese. All that you’re left with is a black bean patty and bread. Even the two Stoopid Burger employees I spoke with said that wasn’t good enough. Or should I say stoopid? (I didn’t order it and went next door to The Sudra for their $6 happy hour.)
Next Level Burger
I have mixed feelings about Next Level Burger, and I have a feeling I’m not alone. Obviously, I love that they’re 100% plant-based and organic as much as possible, but I’ve noticed some quality control issues when it gets crowded. That said, I’m glad you can count on them to offer a actual burger for Burger Week. The Peachy Portland Burger featured a thick Beyond Burger patty, grilled peaches, melted vegan provolone, red onions, red leaf lettuce, and smoked peach aioli. The bun isn’t great and kept falling apart, but the combo of Beyond and summer peaches is nice. It’s not the most amazing burger I’ve had, but hey, it was only $5.
This was the last of the official Portland Burger Week spots I visited. I went into it with low expectations, and I thought it might play out like Stoopid Burger. However, the cashier cheerfully told me that the vegan option was a house made black bean patty with teriyaki sauce, and pineapple slices on a potato bun. I decided to give it a try since they’re offering a house made patty and toppings that you wouldn’t normally see on a burger. It was okay, but there were some interesting flavors going on here. And it least it’s not a super tiny patty with zero toppings.
Bonus: Superiority Burger
NYC’s Superiority Burger crashed our Burger Week and hosted a one day popup at Holiday. I have fond memories of this place, and I actually learned of it through omnivore foodie friends. The Superiority Burger patty is made of quinoa and various veggies (here’s the recipe if you’re curious), and they serve it with dill pickles, heirloom tomatoes, special sauce, and iceberg lettuce. I liked the patty especially as it’s house made and not relying on faux meat, but the ratio of patty to bread to toppings was way off. I don’t know if things have gone downhill at Superiority or if they were overwhelmed at the popup, but I’m sad to say that it wasn’t worth the wait.
Bonus: Rudy’s Pizza
Rudy’s Pizza decided they didn’t want to be left out of all this Burger Week business, so they offered a large vegan cheeseburger pizza for $20 all week long. This burger pizza was all over the ‘gram. It’s definitely one to share with friends as the large is very large. This pie is loaded with Follow Your Heart thousand island dressing, Follow Your Heart cheddar, Gardein beefy crumbles, tomatoes, onions, and pickles. Tastes just like a cheeseburger, but comes in the form of a pizza. So much yessss. Isn’t is ironic that the best vegan burger of Burger Week 2018 is a pizza?