Who makes the best dirty veggie burger?

Quebec’s not known to be the most vegetarian-friendly place on Earth, so where do our non-carnivorous friends go when they’re seeking a cheap, greasy burger? Cult MTL‘s resident pescatarian put fast-food chains to the test.

Burger King’s veggie offering was pretty OK. Photos by Lorraine Carpenter
It’s not surprising that Quebec, where horse meat is knowingly consumed on the regular, is not the most vegetarian-friendly province. From the fancy, pay-per-topping restaurant to the lowly fast-food chain, most burger joints’ vegetarian options are usually afterthoughts.

Some restaurants craft their own veggie patties (like M:brgr’s “mushy” style) and others forego the patty in favour of a portobello mushroom (Burgundy Lion, Burger de Ville) or a mess of vegetables between two buns (Five Guys). The majority carry something similar to the uninspired store-bought veggie burger, which, as most vegetarians will tell you, are only good for throwing on the grill and loading up with toppings. (That said, the President’s Choice portobello/Swiss is pretty sexy.)

But vegetarians are as prone to cravings for gross, greasy food as omnivores, and sometimes we walk past Cultures in the food court and line up behind the golden arches with the rest of you.

Or at least I do, ‘cause I’m a pescetarian. I ate a veggie burger at a McDonald’s in France in 1998, but over here, the closest thing to a meat substitute is the old fish filet, even if their beef burgers are supposedly half-soy. Wendy’s has no vegetarian sandwich either, but at least the other three (American) fast-food monoliths do. Here are the results of a taste test.
Burger King
You’ll have to look hard for the veggie burger here, as they’ve for some reason placed it on the kids’ menu. That also means it’s small and relatively cheap, so that’s okay. I could definitely taste the promised “flame-broiled” flavour, and the basic toppings — ketchup, lettuce and onion — lent a little crunch, tang and freshness to the burger. Fast, dirty and fairly satisfying.

Harvey’s: The once-king of veggie burgers has fallen on hard times
My old go-to dirty burger, made with a patty so convincingly meaty that I used to wonder if my order got switched, was a disappointment. Maybe it was my fault. As I’ll always do when asked, I chose brown bread (that’s new) and all-dressed. In theory, I like the DIY approach here, and at other choose-your-toppings eateries, but I’m a customer, not a chef — why don’t you tell me what works best on a burger? That’s your business, isn’t it? More importantly, I suspect that Harvey’s has changed its patty; it was boring on its own, and as I gnawed on the sandwich, all I tasted were the toppings (tomato, lettuce, onion, pickles, hot peppers, mustard, relish, ketchup, mayo) and the whole-wheat bread.

A&W: Don’t ask what the special sauce is if you’re not prepared for the answer
The veggie burger at this rapidly expanding chain isn’t a popular menu item, as it comes in a chicken-burger foil bag (don’t let that throw you, they just don’t make a veggie-burger bag) and it took eight minutes to prepare.

I kept a fairly close eye on the grill guy, and I’m confident that he didn’t have sex with my burger. There was just way too much mayo (I scraped most of it off). The patty itself was by far the most complex of the bunch, tasting of spices and actual vegetables. With a generous pile of tomato slices and lettuce, orange cheese, a little onion and a touch of neon mustard, this was easily the best dirty veggie burger, despite its disgusting appearance and excess lube. ■

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