We’ve noticed several Five Guys Burgers and Fries locations popping up in the greater Dallas area and decided we had to see what they were all about. Walking in, we were hit with the stark white and red of the very 1950s style decor. The service was what we would expect from the stereotypical happy 50s diner, too; friendly, smiling, and fast. The woman who worked with us even took the time to run us through the Five Guys Burgers and Fries method.

Peanuts are free, so help yourself while you consider the menu. Options here appear simple, with burgers, hot dogs, a veggie sandwich (cheese optional), or grilled cheese. But appearances aren’t always indicators, and when we got to the veggies, we froze. Already there is more on the menu for vegetarians than many burger places with three sandwich options. But what makes this more interesting is the control we had over our meals. Veggies are plentiful and you can have any or all that you want on your sandwich; even the grilled cheese.

Five Guys cheeseburger with grilled onions and mushroomsReminiscent of the chain’s starting point as a take out business, the food comes in a brown paper bag. The omnivore grabbed a cheeseburger with grilled onions, mushrooms and mayo. This comes standard with two hand-formed meat patties, but you can get a “little burger” with one patty if you aren’t starving. The cheese was running out onto the wrapper, so he instinctively grabbed a bit and ate it. Unfortunately, this cheese tastes like the wrapped American cheese singles from the grocery store. He tried the burger expecting something terrible, but was pleasantly surprised. The beef patties saved this burger. The meat is so incredibly greasy and delicious that it is almost easy to forget about the cheese. The patties literally dripped onto the table. Cooked to well-done, these are not the least bit tough or dry. In fact, this burger is surprisingly tender and juicy. The grilled onions and mushrooms are slightly sweet and very delicious, but honestly they absorb the grease and become an added texture. When you come in, skip the cheese and load a burger with toppings to make it your own.

Five Guys grilled cheese with mushroomsOf course, the vegetarian stayed away from the meat and opted for a grilled cheese. Expecting the typical kids’ meal of cheese and bread, she froze when the counter attendant asked what veggies she’d like on that. Toppings on a grilled cheese? Really? She went with mushrooms, mostly because that was the first option she saw when frantically searching the menu, but also because, well, mushrooms are just downright good. The grilled cheese here comes on an inside-out burger bun. The bun is grilled, just like any other, then the cheese and toppings go onto the “crust” parts and the grilled side stays out. We probably wouldn’t have known had it not been for the sesame seeds around the outside edges. Pretty smart thinking on that one. And the buns are thick, so it actually makes for a good sandwich. Unfortunately, we’re back to that pre-wrapped cheese flavor. Adding mushrooms helped, and they were delicious, but next time we will definitely need more veggies to counteract the cheese. Or we may just opt for the veggie sandwich. Anything seems to be possible here, so we’re glad to try again.

No matter what you get on your bun, when you come here, try the fries. Cooked in 100% peanut oil, these are amazing. A sign beside the register said the potatoes were from Hatch Farms in Washington, so not only did we get real potatoes (skins and everything, yum!) we knew whence they came. The Cajun fries are wonderful, but if you don’t like spice, go for Five Guys style.

While there is no veggie patty, the fresh, grilled vegetables, abundance of options and fresh cut fries will keep us coming back.

Until next we meet, enjoy great food and keep a happy heart.

Come back next Sunday for another ride through cattle country.

A recommendation from a friend put Sal’s Pizza Restaurant in Plano, Tx. on our radar, and we couldn’t be happier. With fresh made dough, delicious pasta, and friendly staff, it’s no wonder we like this place. We walked in and immediately felt like we were visiting friends.

Sal's Angel Hair with Garlic and Olive OilOn the first visit, the angel hair with olive oil and garlic (7.95) set the bar for everything else. Clean pasta with large slices of garlic may sound simple, but this was definitely art. The garlic was flavorful and the pasta cooked just right to layer the flavor and texture for a perfect meal.

Sal's Cheese Ravioli with Tomato SauceLater, the vegetarian tried some cheese ravioli with fresh tomato sauce (6.95). We asked and were told the sauce does not contain any meat broth. The sauce was tangy and plentiful, almost to the point of drowning the huge ravioli. The ravioli are filled with ricotta cheese and herbs, so given their size, this is an intense flavor on its own. Balance the sauce to cheese ratio in each bite for the best meal.

Sal's SaladPasta dishes here come with a basic salad and bread. The salad is nothing special, just some iceberg lettuce, a cucumber slice, a cherry tomato, and a pepper, but the house dressing is amazing. A thick tomato-based vinaigrette tangy enough to make you pucker, this is our new favorite dressing.

Sal's Pepperoni and HamburgerAll of us like the pizza here, and prices ranging from $9 to $18, we can actually afford to love it. The carnivore tried pepperoni and hamburger and noticed it is not nearly as greasy as other pepperoni pizzas he’s had. The cheese and meat are piled onto a hand-tossed crust that is the perfect thickness to appeal to both crisp and chewy pizza lovers.

Sal's Slice of Margarita PizzaThe margarita pizza is heavy with cheese and contains no sauce. Fresh basil cut into large strips and generously spread over the fresh sliced tomatoes give this an artful appearance. When the waiter said he liked how it looked, we had no idea it would be this colorful. Beautiful and delicious, we absolutely recommend the margarita pizza.

Sal's Veggie Pizza with added Sun Dried Tomatoes and Artichoke HeartsWe also tried Sal’s Veggie pizza, but we added sun dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts. Those were absolutely worth adding as they changed the dish from what would have been a better than average mushroom, black olive, green pepper and onion pizza to an amazing texture and flavor combination.

None of the pizzas are overloaded with red sauce, so if you prefer heavy sauce you should ask for it. We love the dough, so are happy to be able to taste the bread without an overwhelming sauce presence. All the pizza we tried was dry on the bottom, so we could use our hands without worry.

In short, Sal’s Pizza Restaurant offers delicious pizza and pasta, is a good choice for vegetarians and non-vegetarians, and delivers everything we could want from a great pizza place.

Until next we meet, enjoy great food and keep a happy heart.

Come back next Sunday for another ride through cattle country.

Nam Hua's Vegetarian Menu
We have loved this little place off Beltline and Jupiter for quite a while and tend to lean toward the vermicelli dishes, but decided to branch out this week. Given that Nam Hua has a vegetarian menu with 28 options, we have no excuse for taking this long to try new things. Well, other than the staff making some of the best vermicelli dishes around and we really do love them. Even the omnivore prefers the vermicelli here, it’s just that good. But, in the spirit of adventure, we’ll look at the Bành Canh Chay and Mì/Hủ Tiếu Xào Mếm Chay Thập Cẩm, both from the expansive vegetarian menu.

Nam Hua's Vegetarian number 17The number 17. Bành Canh Chay (6.95) came in a huge bowl with fresh sprouts, lime and parsley sprigs on the side. Chewy veggie shrimp and various other meat substitutes dominated the soup and each type had its own unique flavor, but the textures were pretty similar. The fun part of this dish, for the vegetarian anyway, came in combining fresh, crisp sprouts with big chewy noodles. The noodles are short enough to manage and thick as a garden snake, so pairing them with the sprouts created a wonderful contradiction in texture. The broth comes steaming, so we dropped in just a few sprouts at first so they wouldn’t cook soft while we ate, but we have seen diners dump the entire plate into their bowls before. There are enough to keep you busy however you enjoy them.

Nam Hua's Vegetarian number 20The omnivore tried the number 20. Mì/Hủ Tiếu Xào Mếm Chay Thập Cẩm (9.95) with egg noodles. This dish comes with the option of egg or rice noodles, so you can make it vegan if that is your preference. The noodles were perfectly cooked and covered with large vegetable chunks and sauce. Green and red peppers dominated the vegetable selection and the sauce was slightly salty, but good. Young, long-stemmed mushrooms were flavorful, maybe more so than the fake meat, which tasted closest to ham, but not really like any meat that would come from an animal. It was good, though. Celery, snow peas, cabbage, and leafy greens are all just kind of there, not making any impact on the dish. Crisp vegetables, chewy fungi and wonderful noodles make this a decent dish. Not the best Nam Hua has to offer, but still quite good.

Our favorites, of course, remain any of the vermicelli dishes. The number 7. Bún Thịt Nưóʼng Chả Giò Chay is always amazing and comes with a vegetarian version of the house fish sauce upon request. Cool fresh sprouts, mint, cucumbers and carrots join fried onions, tofu paste and egg rolls atop vermicelli noodles to create the most wonderful flavor and texture combinations a mouth could ever want.

Come for lunch or dinner and know you’ll have enough to keep you full. The service speed varies by day, but we are always greeted by friendly people upon arrival. We’ve brought friends in for a while now and have never had a complaint. Nam Hua definitely has our recommendation. Go in, try either of their menus, and share a meal with friends.

Until next we meet, enjoy great food and keep a happy heart.

Come back next Sunday for another ride through cattle country.

New to Ethiopian food, we here at the VICC Project have been looking for places to try it around Dallas. We have been pleasantly surprised by several restaurants around the Dallas area, but by no means have tried them all.


(On Greenville at 635)

When we sat down we first noticed the decorations in the tables. Combs, jewelry and other items preserved with shellac in the table tops bring color and before even the menus arrive. The staff, or at least the one woman we encountered, is welcoming, friendly and willing to take the time to explain each dish to newcomers.

When we saw the menu, we commented that there is only one vegetarian dish under the veggie dishes heading, the rest of that section is dedicated to fish dishes. Of course, the vegetarian went with the Daily Assorted Ethiopian Veggie Combo (9.99), while the omnivore branched out for ZilZil Tibse.

Ibex Vegetarian CombinationThe vegetarian combo offers a variety of split lentils. The pink lentils look like they are cooked in a meaty sauce, but we were assured they are vegetarian. And they are amazing. The spice builds a little bit, but not so much we can’t take it.

This was our first experience with Injera, a fun sourdough bread with fermentation holes all over. Of course we love it. While it smells like wine, it tastes like a sourdough base with some type of wine or tartness to it. And we don’t just like it because, as the plate, utensil, and napkin of the meal, it lets us use our hands. This stuff actually tastes great by itself.

We also liked the cabbage and carrots. They are sweet, like a pickled dish, and look like they might contain mustard seed or powder, but have no heat. Along the same lines, the beets and onions are incredible.

There is definitely enough food here to share. Two of us got the same thing, so now we know to split it next time.

Because the injera crepe lines the plate, there’s more food here than ya’ think.

Ibex ZilZil TibseThe omnivore’s zilzil tibse were quite nice, too. Prime beef sauteed in seafood and Awaze sauce with onions and tomatoes to accent the beef are amazing. Again, the injera plate and a bit of salad add to the sizzling beef to make this a huge meal.

On the side came a sauce that the omnivore described as “horseradish wasabi death sauce of the flaming apocalypse.” It’s actually quite good, but the he has a tender pallet when it comes to horseradish, so keep heat thresholds in mind when ordering.


(In Garland at Buckingham and Jupiter)

A very small restaurant, we were pleased to see drawings on the walls and small areas set up for hookah and music. Definitely the least expensive of the places we visited, we were still able to fill our bellies and carry some home for later.

The veggie combination plate came with four items plus a salad in the middle, but this was still enough to fill up and have carry leftovers home. Again, the injera makes this a much more filling meal than your eyes will register, so be ready to indulge. The lentils are a little spicy here, and the injera is delicious.

Again, the omnivore went for zilzil tibse, and discovered that there is a difference in the dishes. Here, the jalapenos mixed with the beef were incredibly hot and delicious. He had advised the waitress, who we thought may have been the cook as well, that he liked spicy dishes and she obliged with a wonderful balance.

The sweet tea (which, let’s be honest, is not the first choice if you want an authentic experience) tasted like a lemony instant variety, but the food was amazing.

Queen of Sheba

(Off Beltline and Inwood in Addison)

We happened to walk in while a person we took to be the owner was outside on a call. She opened the door for us and welcomed us personally into the restaurant, which is by far the most upscale (fancy napkin folding and ambient lighting kind of upscale) of the places we visited. Queen of Sheba offers vegetarian a la carte items as well as a vegetarian combination plate on the Ethiopian menu. We also found an Italian menu on the back, making this the perfect place to bring those friends or family members who outright refuse to try anything new.

Queen of Sheba Vegetarian CombintaionAt about $15 a plate, Queen of Sheba offers the most food per plate of anyplace we tried. The vegetarian combination includes a variety of dishes from lentils to pickled cabbage, and every one of them is wonderful. The Gomen and Shiro are our favorites, but all of the items on the plate keep us coming back for more.

Yet again our omnivore went with Zilzil Tibse, so we may have to stage an intervention at some point, but he noticed that this version has a medium spice and comes with three vegetable items on the side.

As always, the injera filled us rather quickly, but there was not as much, nor was there an offer of more, even at an additional charge. There are forks on the table, though, so had we not been overstuffed by that point, we would have been fine.

Again, there is more than enough for three people on any one plate, but be prepared to ask for a to-go box before the waitress stacks your dishes. She asked if we were finished, we said yes, and she piled them up to be washed. And she’s a quick one, so ask fast.

We did not partake in the had washing ceremony, but it sounded like an interesting experience.

While all of these places are Ethiopian restaurants, each one brings a unique cooking style and piece of culture to the business. Our recommendations would honestly depend on what you want. If you are looking for great food on a budget, try Gojo. For what we thought was the most immersive experience, go to Ibex. And if you want that fine dining experience, Queen of Sheba is for you. We found wonderful food and friendly service at each restaurant and will return to each one in the future.

If you know of a great place we should try, please let us know. From what we have seen, we are huge fans of this type of food and would love to try more.

Until next we meet, enjoy great food and keep a happy heart.

Come back next Sunday for another ride through cattle country.

If this week has taught us anything, it has taught us that Forrest Gump had it right when he said, “you never know what you’re gonna get.” We eat at recommended, trendy restaurants that are not as good as the hole in the wall, family run places we tend to frequent. Yet, while in Denton, a friend recommended Rasoi, the Indian Kitchen, for a quick dinner before a meeting, then drove to a gas station and got out of the car.

A gas station! Needless to say, skepticism ran high. We noticed the cars at the pump area were actually parked and not filling up their tanks, so that helped. As we walked in to what appeared to be a convenience store, we saw bags of dahl in various colors, a cigarette rack and a small buffet. A friendly woman came from the back and asked what we wanted. Nothing was labeled, so we asked for whatever was vegetarian. While the woman loaded our plates with rice and what seemed like everything from the buffet (which was not, in fact, serve yourself), we noticed a menu with specials of the day that included one main dish and rice for $4.99.

Vegetarian plate at Rosai, the Indian KitchenCheap food at any place can be scary. Cheap food out of what still registered as a gas station in our minds prompted a strong fear response, but we soldiered through. It was a good thing we did, too, because this place proved to be a great find! We are pretty sure there was a saag and potatoes dish, and maybe chana and some dahl on the plate, but honestly we didn’t ask and she didn’t tell. She plopped one scoop of everything vegetarian atop the rice, asked if we wanted salad, which she centered on top of the pile, and we went around the corner. The space where the merchandise shelves once stood now houses maybe a dozen tables. The reach-in coolers stay stocked with drinks, but there is also a soda fountain if that’s more your speed.

We sat down and dug in to find nothing was overly spicy, and everything tasted great. The potatoes seemed like new potatoes rather than the large Idaho variety and all of the vegetables stood out on their own merit. The “everything vegetarian” option was only about $7, so definitely not expensive and we left so stuffed we almost opted out of the meeting for which we were in Denton in the first place. And we couldn’t even finish! Two vegetarians could split this plate and have plenty of nutrition to keep them going from lunch to dinner.

From the time we pulled up to the time we drove away, we went from skeptical, to curious, to a little fearful, and finally landed on genuinely pleased. Overall, this place is a great find. Bollywood movies on a large screen television and comfy couches between the dining area and convenience store add to Rasoi’s atmosphere that you really just have to experience to understand.

Until next we meet, enjoy great food and keep a happy heart.

Come back next Sunday for another ride through cattle country.

Those of you who have been with us from the beginning know that we are not the militant vegetarians so many meat eaters criticize. We understand that different people like different things and that meat is a huge part of many diets. That’s fine! We make choices that work for us and don’t expect others to live outside of their own choices. We do, however, respect all life and believe that living, feeling, thinking creatures should be treated as such. A cow is not a plant and a pig is not a window, they feel differently, experience fear, and communicate with their own species. We should treat them with at least some level of respect. We’re not saying let the herd sleep in the house. We just think that all the members of the herd should be allowed live without fear and that if you must kill them, you could do it in a humane way.

Unfortunately, not everyone shares our views. We admit to being empathetic to the feelings of others, both human and non-human, so when we saw an article saying that an investigation by Mercy for Animals led to a felony animal cruelty conviction, we were excited. Then, when we saw the sentence was only 30 days in jail and 42 months of probation, we felt it was a little light. Of course MFA did a great job investigating and the fact that people can finally be held responsible for the harm they cause is fantastic news, we just felt the offender in that case didn’t get much of a punishment.

From a societal standpoint, kicking, beating, tearing off limbs and other atrocities have been considered acceptable actions toward animals in industrial farming situations. That’s why MFA can do such in-depth investigations, because these things happen on a regular basis. But times they are a changin’ and we couldn’t be more pleased. This felony conviction set the precedent that we are accountable for what we do to our “food” animals, even in an industrial farming environment.  We are, well, some of us are, becoming a more educated society. Through education we develop understanding and empathy for those around us, and this conviction shows our evolution at the legal level. Perhaps future convictions will carry heavier sentences and truly dissuade farm workers from mistreating the animals under their care.

Unfortunately, obstinance allows people to refuse any education that might make them appear somehow “wrong” in retrospect. We’ve learned that slavery, refusing to educate women, putting prisoners into stockades, and countless other positions are wrong throughout our growth into human society. We have even put limits on the cruelty we can inflict upon animals during experimentation. Yet there are always people who stick with a failing argument just for the sake of sticking with it, so we have to expect that level of blind grasping on this brand of atrocity, as well.

In general, we know that those of us who care about other living beings are still a minority, but we are growing. This felony conviction is the first of what we hope will be many animal cruelty convictions of industrial farm workers. The bigger issue, as MFA pointed out, is the industry itself. Family farms may view their livestock as food, but the cows are milked every day, chickens are fed and allowed to run around in the sun, and all the animals are treated as an investment until slaughter. At the very least, we should be able to hold industrial farms to the same standards. This will be a long road, but if all of us, meat eating and vegetarian alike, make an effort to support cruelty-free sources and get the word out that we will not abide torture of any living things, perhaps we can make this climb to a less abusive society together.

Until next we meet, enjoy great food and keep a happy heart.

Come back next Sunday for another ride through cattle country.

We talk about lunch and dinner all the time, but breakfast can be a fun meal for vegetarians. From breads to souffles to frittatas, morning meals are definitely among our favorites. Maybe it’s the eggs, or perhaps the ability to incorporate almost anything from the fridge into the meal, but we love the days we can have a good meal when we get up.

We’re not saying cereal and toaster pastries are beneath us, and we’ve had our fair share of bagels in the car on the way to work, but when we have the time, a little while in the kitchen is the highlight of our day. There’s just something about walking to the fridge with no plan, pulling out some eggs and butter, then just looking to see what we can find. Since we don’t eat bacon, our options are expansive.

Frittatas, for instance, are super simple and delicious. Scramble some eggs, toss them into an oven-proof skillet (coated with butter, of course) and see what’s left in the refrigerator. Cheese is good, but how about leftover carrots, fresh zucchini, and maybe some vegetarian chili? Umm. Yum! Empty the containers onto the frittata just as the eggs begin to set on the bottom and move the entire skillet into a preheated oven for a few minutes. Presto, blamo, you have an awesome breakfast. Add a little cheese over the top, or maybe some salsa for a bit more flash.

If one dish does not offer enough variety, run with potatoes. Relatively cheap and extremely versatile, those are huge favorites of ours because they go with pretty much everything. Through trial and error, we’ve discovered our version of the perfect hash browns. Because we’ve never written any of this down, we’ll go through it as we normally make them, but remember that ours turn out a little different every time. First, heat some oil – we use olive, but if you use grape or peanut be sure to watch it for smoking – in a skillet. While that heats, take a couple of potatoes and peel them. (Yes, the skins are good for you, but we just like our potatoes naked.) Once peeled and eyes are removed, cube the potatoes into small (maybe a third to a fourth of an inch?) squares. Toss them into the skillet and cut a sweet onion into similar sized pieces. Throw the onion into the skillet and give it a good shake to blend the two ingredients, coating them in the oil. Smash a couple of large garlic cloves and toss them in, then shake the skillet again. Move the ingredients periodically so they don’t burn, but let them sit long enough to start to crisp. As the potatoes begin to turn brown just around the edges, toss in some dried Mediterranean basil. Actually, toss in a bunch of this stuff because it makes them amazing. Add a little salt and a couple of turns of back pepper and keep an eye on everything until the potatoes finish cooking.

The fun of a leisurely breakfast lies in the creative process, so go nuts with whatever you find in the fridge and let us know how it turns out. We love new recipes, so share ‘em loud and share ‘em proud.

Until next we meet, enjoy great food and keep a happy heart.

Come back next Sunday for another ride through cattle country.

For about three years a little Indian restaurant has stayed tucked in a shopping center off Belt Line and Central Expressway in Richardson. But Udipi Cafe is not just another Indian buffet. Everything served at this restaurant is vegetarian. Not just vegetarian friendly, but 100% meat- and broth-free vegetarian food. How have we missed this for so long?

Whatever kept us away before, we’re definitely going back now. The wait staff is a mix of people from friendly and helpful to curmudgeonly yet somehow easy to like. The food, however, is absolutely wonderful. On our first visit, we were so overwhelmed by options that we had to ask for a recommendation. Yes, it was strange and wonderful to have an entire menu from which to choose; so strange that we couldn’t make a choice.

Udipi Cafe Soup AppetizerDuring dinner, an appetizer of soup came to the table. If this is a standard item, be aware that we dubbed it “Death Pepper and Cauliflower Soup.” We felt it in our tear ducts, yet we it was extremely flavorful and we kept putting our spoons back in the bowls. Definitely try it if you can take the heat.

Per our request, our waiter gave us a few options. He first recommended a dosa, which one of us ordered, then said the mutter panner or butter paneer masala would be good. We went for the second option and were delighted with the dish.

Udipi Cafe Huge Butter Masala DosaUdipi Cafe Butter Masala Dosa FillingWhen the food arrived we discovered that Udipi Cafe is very generous with portions. The Dosa was huge, possibly the biggest one we’ve had so far. The beautifully crispy crepe is monstrous, but the filling is centered over a plate so we were pleased to find that this is actually manageable. We still had enough to take home, though. The spicy yellow potato filling definitely builds the heat, but it takes a while. The sauces are not going to cool anything down, either. This is delicious, but bring tissues if you aren’t used to spicy foods.

Udipi Cafe Butter Paneer MasalaOnce we tasted the butter paneer masala we had to ask and discovered that the paneer is made in house. It is firm, yet doesn’t crumble, and has a nice flavor on its own. The sauce is not spicy at first, but give it a minute to build and you’ll fall in love as fast as we did. Creamy and tomato based, this had a slight anise seed flavor that made the thick sauce stand out.

Udipi Cafe Buffet PlateIf you are in the mood for a buffet, come in for lunch. At about the size of any other buffet, this one holds only vegetarian dishes, so you get twice the normal variety. Try all of your favorites, of course, but be aware that they will bring you a fresh, yet slightly smaller, dosa, so save some room.

The only negative we encountered was the dessert cart not holding gulab jamun. That’s not actually a negative so much as our being spoiled by most other buffets we encounter offering it. We were honestly too stuffed for much dessert, so it’s probably a good thing it wasn’t there.

Overall, we were delighted to find an Indian buffet where we didn’t have to deal with goat meat while reaching for the spinach and we were even more pleased when we discovered the food is delicious. We will definitely add Udipi Cafe to our must frequent list. Maybe we’ll see you there on our next visit.

Until next we meet, enjoy great food and keep a happy heart.

Come back next Sunday for another ride through cattle country.

Sometimes people just want a burger, there’s no getting around that. Even vegetarians enjoy the experience of opening our mouths a little too wide to sink our teeth into a toasted bun, toppings, and a juicy patty. But not every burger is created equal. We’ve run into a few awesome, and some awful, veggie burgers and thought we’d share what we found. If you agree, disagree, or have other information, please share. As always, if you have a place you recommend, let us know so we can try it out.

Red Robin: Veggie Burger

Known for its burgers, RR should also get our respect for the veggie burgers. Not only does this restaurant offer a veggie burger with a Gardenburger patty, it also offers the vegan Boca patty. And, as if two vegetarian patty options wasn’t enough, you can substitute either alternative on any burger at no additional charge. That’s right, Red Robin accommodates vegetarian and vegan diets without penalizing us for our choices.

The Whiskey River BBQ burger with a bocca patty and no cheese makes a delightful vegan dinner with enough food to share. Thin and crispy onion straws soften as the sweet BBQ sauce drips down the patty to the edge of a toasted bun.

Since the kitchen uses soy based oil to fry, the endless steak fries and panko-crisp onion rings offer perfect compliments to a great, and meatless burger.

Denny’s: Veggie Burger

Surprisingly good, Denny’s starts with an Amy’s Organics patty, then throws in mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach to make this a rather healthful burger. Well, healthful enough to counteract the scrumptious pepper jack cheese melted on the patty. They are open all night and appear to have the same menu throughout the country, so put this on your list of safe road trip stops.

Carl’s Jr.: Definitely an F-you Veggie Burger

We saw their “veg it” option and thought we’d give it a try with a quacamole burger. Boy were we disappointed. Pulling the meat off of the regular burger and charging the same price is not the best plan if you are trying to keep vegetarians in your dining room. Bun, lettuce, tomato, and sauce. That’s what we got. Not even the avocado that would have been on the regular version of this $6 burger. And the saddest part is, they put this on their website as a valid vegetarian option. How about when you sell half the product, the charge half the price? Just a thought, guys.

Burger King: Veggie Burger

We didn’t ask if this was made in house, but it’s pretty good either way. There are water chestnuts that give the patty added crunch, so that’s a little different, but we kind of like little texture surprises. The usual BK fixin’s go on top, and as always you get to make it your way, so this is a nice fast food burger option.

JG’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers: Veggie Burger

We only recently discovered this fun little burger joint that has been in business for 27 years. (Yes, we wondered how we missed it, too.) A sign on the soda machine boasts “Best burger in Dallas First Runner Up” and we can see why. The veggie burger comes with a wonderful vegan patty that holds together well and has incredible texture. If you enjoy cheese, that’s available, too. The bun is toasted with butter, so vegans should let them know to hold that when you order. You choose your toppings from a condiment bar we honestly thought was a salad bar when we walked in. While here, try the onion rings. Sweet onions encased in sweet batter push these near the dessert section, but we couldn’t get enough. And speaking of dessert, JG’s has Blue Bell ice cream and shakes! Regular burgers here are greasy and delicious, so keep this on your mixed group dining list.

Chili’s: Veggie Burger

The black bean patty is good if you like those, but we’re split here. The vegetarian dislikes them, the carnivore loves them, and the omnivore is indifferent. While it’s a veggie burger, it’s not our first choice. But, if you find yourself at Chili’s with a group, you know the menu offers at least something to eat.

BJ’s Brewhouse: Veggie Burger

Just like any burger, you get a TVP-based (according to our waitress) patty on a wheat bun with lettuce, tomato, pickle and mayo. There is garlic either in the patty or on the bun, so this is not a “make out later” option, unless your partner just loves garlic breath, but it’s quite good. A little dry, but we still recommend keeping the ketchup on the side because the dryness seems to make it better. Just try it and you’ll know what we mean. Served with beautiful steak fries, this is a very good veggie burger.

Jake’s Hamburgers: Veggie Burger

Jake’s makes all of their patties in house, and the black bean patty is no exception. This looks close to a real burger, but is still shaped a little to perfectly. This has great flavor and goes beyond what you expect from black beans. Of course, eating one of these next to someone holding the Atkins burger was a little funny, but it’s a great place for a mixed group.

Village Burger Bar: Veggie Burger

We tried the location in The Shops at Legacy and are so glad we did. This is by far our favorite burger. Instead of a veggie or black bean patty, the Portabello burger comes with a huge portabello mushroom cap on a toasted bun. We didn’t ask what they did to this mushroom, but it tasted incredible. And the burger is completely different from what we expected. Goat cheese and spinach are not obvious toppings for a burger, but they make this one a masterpiece. The shoestring potatoes are really good and just salty enough. If you like sweet potato fries, VBBar has some decent ones, but the shoestrings were the table favorites. Our neighbors’ onion rings smelled incredible, but we didn’t try any on this visit. We did, however, discover some yummy drinks in the mango margarita and watermelon mojito. This is a wonderful place for mixed groups, happy hour, or families. All of their burgers are great (even the meaty ones) and the atmosphere is extremely relaxed. Add this to the top of your list for the next time you crave a burger.

We’ve tried a few burger places and given our thoughts. Rather than taking our word for it, we hope you’ll be able to try a few. Now it’s your turn. Let us know where you have encountered the best, the worst and the most interesting veggie burger options.

Until next we meet, enjoy great food and keep a happy heart.

Come back next Sunday for another ride through cattle country.

This week’s post is a little different. You may have noticed that today is Monday, making this a day late, but we thought we’d see how a weekend retreat works for vegetarians. This time, rather than a team of three, only the vegetarian went, so I’ll be writing directly to you. I’m the normal writer, but usually the information comes from all of us.

After spending the weekend at a retreat in the woods, I’ve discovered (or confirmed) three things: the mass-produced vegetarian foods from the freezer section are not camping-friendly; vegetarians are more common that we might think in Texas; and people will go out of their way to accommodate you even when they could get away with serving you PB&J.

I was lucky enough to be at a retreat with a full kitchen in the dining hall, so keeping Boca and Morningstar Farms patties frozen was easy. I had access to a microwave, so cooking them wasn’t difficult, either. But while I watched my burger spin on the carousel, I wondered what I would have been doing if this retreat had been held where we had to use tents and camp fires. First, it’s August in Texas, so we’re under the summer burn ban. But even if fire were an option, what would I have done to keep the patties frozen? I’ve taken specialty foods to the lake or park in a cooler on day trips, but never where they would be without a proper freezer for more than 24 hours. That would not have been easy. Since the sponsors supplied all retreat food, I ate what I was given and was thankful for what I got. That probably would have been the situation without a kitchen, only I’d have either burned myself trying to keep the patties on a stick to cook or survived on pickles, nuts and cereal. Thank goodness I had access to that kitchen!

While opening the burger patties, one of the other volunteer staff members came in asking if that was for the other vegetarian. About the time I opened my mouth to ask who this was (I was excited to not be alone on BBQ day), another staffer said four of us had signed up for the retreat. Since we had about 40 people there, that’s 10% vegetarian! (OK, maybe there were a few more people and it was only 8%, but I’m still excited about this.) Not only was I not alone, I was part of a decently sized group! But, either two of those registered didn’t show up or they made do with potato salad and pickles because the only one I found joined me in the kitchen to watch the burger patties go round and round.

*Note: ancient microwaves do not heat evenly nor do they heat quickly, so be patient if you find yourself in a camp dining hall with a veggie patty to cook.

When I registered for this camp, I listed my dietary preferences in the allotted box and added, “but I survive on PB&J so there’s no pressure.” The organizers took it upon themselves to make sure they had enough vegetarian options for multiple meals and that we vegetarians had a choice. Sure, it boiled down to (fake)beef or (fake)chicken, but it was still more of a choice than I expected. Maybe it was the people I was with, but I found myself appreciating their kindness and willingness to go out of their way to make sure I had enough to eat. They even got special buns to go with the patties. (Everyone else had sliced beef or sausage, so they didn’t need buns for their barbecue.)

So, the next time you organize a retreat, remember that vegetarians could (maybe, if we try) make up 10% of your guests and we love it when you take it upon yourself to make us feel just as welcome as the “normals” in the mix. I appreciated everything that was done to make me and the other vegetarians feel welcome this weekend, and I’m sure others would, too.

Next week we’ll look at Ethiopian cuisine and I’ll do my best to be on time. Thanks for waiting this time.

Until next we meet, enjoy great food and keep a happy heart.

Come back next Sunday for another ride through cattle country.

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