This is Los Angeles, the land of In-N-Out, Astro Burger and Bob’s Big Boy. The City of Angels knows a thing or two about burgers.

But this is also Los Angeles, the land of yoga, high colonics and the Master Cleanse, and that’s why we know even more about veggie burgers. When executed well, a veggie burger can be just as, and in some cases, even more satisfying than a regular beef or turkey burger.

Think I’m nuts (or brown rice, mushrooms, onions, cheese and oats a.k.a. the makings of a Gardenburger)? Chow down on one of these bad boys, and I guarantee you will happily eat your words with a side of fries.



Best in Show: The Big Macro, M Café de Chaya (7119 Melrose Ave.,?Los Angeles; 9343 Culver Blvd., ?Culver City; 9433 Brighton Way, ?Beverly Hills; mcafedechaya.com)

Riddle me this: How, from a simple base of oatmeal, brown rice and tofu, to which they add diced onions and shitake mushrooms, finely shredded carrots and zucchini, soy sauce, thyme and oregano, did M Café manage to make angels sing on a plate? I dunno, but they did!

Between the pillowy dome of a lightly toasted bun smeared with decadent vegan thousand island dressing, you’re greeted by the crisp crunch of romaine lettuce, thinly sliced red onions, pickles and tomato, and a fluff of alfalfa sprouts all resting atop a hearty patty completed by slowly melting vegan cheese. It’s a majestic handful and mouthful.

By the time you’ve reached your last pickle-y, cheese-y, dressing-y, super satisfying bite, don’t be surprised if you find yourself contemplating a second round of the same. Addictive beyond measure, this macrobiotic vegan burger gives other burgers a new standard to reach. And it’s a high one.



Best New on the Scene – Umami Burger (Veggie Option), Umami Burger (850 S. La Brea Ave.,?Los Angeles; 4655 Hollywood Blvd.,?Los Feliz; umamiburger.com)

“Umami” (pronounced “ooh mah-me,” like you just caught your mother doing something naughty) means the fifth taste. At the intersection of sweet, salty, sour and bitter, lives umami.

Revered for its “meaty flavor,” it’s said that soy sauce, veal stock and parmesan cheese all have umami in abundance. You know what else has umami on lock? Umami Burger, Los Angeles’ latest burger chain to cause a sensation.

Several years ago, the Counter was this city’s end-all, be-all when it came to burger bonanzas, but today, Umami has foodies going wild. Sadly, their menu isn’t exactly the most veggie friendly. In fact, they’ll only make one of their selections vegetarian; everything else is served as described on the menu, no substitutions. EVER! (Or at least that’s how our waiter made us feel when we went to check out the new outpost in Los Feliz.)

Luckily, their one veggie burger is an absolute knockout. What you get by asking very nicely is Umami’s signature burger on a brioche bun featuring Boston lettuce and roasted tomatoes, but your burger has been replaced by a succulent roasted Portobello mushroom cap. Its smoky, savory richness will have you wondering why anyone eats cow to begin with. Now that is some umami goodness!



Best Cheap Thrills: Streamliner, Johnny Rockets (johnnyrockets.com)

Sometime you just want a burger, fries and a soda gulped down in a Naugahyde booth while listening to rockin’ oldies. But if you want the cleaner version, you head to Johnny Rockets for the Streamliner.

Everything about this burger is old school: the good ol’ fashioned white bun, iceberg lettuce, slightly tasteless tomato slices, pickle chips and grilled onions, but the burger is a 100 percent soy Boca Burger patty that just happens to taste like really cheap hamburger meat. It’s all the indulgence of a crappy yet delightful drive-thru with none of the artery-clogging beef.

With a Vanilla Coke and some fries dipped in ranch dressing, your mouth is going to rock around the clock tonight. One word of advice: Always ask for ketchup on your burger. Ordinarily it’s served with just yellow mustard.