May is National Burger Month, but you don’t have to eat beef to celebrate in Kansas City.
Lots of local restaurants serve mouthwatering veggie burgers built to satisfy both vegetarians and carnivores. These filling meat-free burgers are made with all kinds of good-for-you ingredients: Think black beans, chickpeas, artichokes, mushrooms, brown rice and quinoa.
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One of my favorites is the Mean Bean burger ($10) at The Burg & Barrel, 7042 W. 76th St. in Overland Park. Head chef Nick Prolago makes the spicy patties with a mix of black beans, corn, onions and southwest seasoning. They’re griddled until hot and charred on the outside, then served on a glossy golden bun with melty pepper jack cheese, a tomato slice, curly bibb lettuce and mayo made with chipotle peppers and cilantro. Try it with a side of Cajun fries — they’re crispy, crunchy and coated in a sweet and spicy seasoning that’s truly addictive.
Chickpeas form the base of the falafel burger ($10) at Brewery Emperial, 1829 Oak St. Garlic, onions, parsley, cilantro, cumin and chili flakes add aromatic appeal to the patty, which comes on a buttery-soft brioche bun with vegan cucumber mayo, lettuce and garlic-parsley sauce. I love the light and crispy texture of the falafel, which reminds me of something you’d find in a really good Mediterranean market.
The heartiest veggie burger I’ve tried is at The Rockhill Grille, 2000 Grand Blvd. Executive chef Sam Hefter, who worked at Houston’s on the Plaza until it closed early this year, came up with the recipe while cooking for his vegetarian girlfriend.
Hefter starts by roasting artichoke hearts, then he pulses them a food processor until their texture resembles pulled pork. The shredded ’chokes are stirred up with corn, black beans, brown rice, green onions, red pepper, sweet potato, paprika and honey, for a touch of sweetness. That mixture is formed into a hefty patty, seared on both sides and served on a toasted brioche bun with thick slices of tomato and red onion and a pile of lemony arugula. The $12 burger comes with fries and is incredibly filling, but because it’s made with so many veggies, you don’t feel like you need a nap after the meal.
Another Crossroads-area restaurant that serves an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink veggie burger is Howard’s, 1708 Oak St. Picture a thick patty packed with quinoa, lentils, brown rice, red beans, carrots, garlic and wild, local chanterelle mushrooms. The mushrooms lend a rich, earthy flavor to the $10 burger, which can be ordered on a salad if you prefer to skip the bun.
At Larkburger, a Colorado burger chain that recently opened at 13611 Metcalf Ave. in Overland Park, a roasted portobello mushroom stands in for a veggie patty on the meat-free burger. A small costs $4.29 and comes with lettuce, tomato and griddled onions. Customers can add their choice of cheese for 79 cents (I added cheddar and didn’t regret it).
You can also order a portobello burger at Unforked, which has locations at 7337 W. 119th St. in Overland Park and 2450 Grand Blvd. in Crown Center. The Thai Dye Burger ($6.10), layers a meaty ’shroom with Thai sweet chili, roasted Brussels sprouts and melted mozzarella on a toasted egg bun. With a side of skinny, bendy shoestring fries and a frozen lemonade, it might be the perfect summer afternoon meal.