While they represent another addition to the city’s fixation on homely-gone-haute dining—see our ongoing obsessions with the taco or the poutine—vegetarians have had few mouth-shattering, and creative, local hamburger options. Which isn’t to say that we’re devoid of solid meatless options: Hogtown Vegan‘s grease-bomb of a Big Mac, for example, satiates comfort-food cravings; Cruda Cafe, in St. Lawrence Market, has a wild mushroom-nut burger, which is a raw-food delight but only a burger by the loosest of definitions; countless others, meanwhile, offer up variations on the traditional ground soy patty. Still, many of Toronto’s veggie burgers choose to be either soul-nourishing or inventive. Rarely are they both.
It’s surprising, then, that one of Toronto’s most lust-inducing veggie burgers—and one that’s simultaneously unusual and homely—comes from The Burger’s Priest, a cheeseburger joint known to make carnivores wobbly kneed. You’ve likely heard the hype: If you believe its marketing materials, it’s a religious joint, but it truthfully worships at the altar of Alberta beef. It’s a restaurant billing itself as anti-gourmet, serving impossibly crumbly, formed-to-order patties to classic American standards. And the lineups are legendary, even during off-times, despite their decidedly less-than-trendy locations at Queen and Coxwell and Yonge and Lawrence.
It’s classic. Traditional. Eerily Catholic. So, were we betting folk, we wouldn’t count on them having a decent veggie burger. But one bite into Burger’s Priest’s Option burger proved us wrong. Very wrong.
Disclaimer: The Option isn’t vegan (sadly). And at first glance, topped with traditional accoutrements—lettuce, onion, tomato, ketchup and mustard, squished in a white bun—its patty-croquette doesn’t look appealing. Don’t let that deter you. Coated in a crisp, airy panko batter, the Option’s patty is glorious in its simplicity: It’s simply two mushroom caps crushed by a solid mass of grated cheese. One bite in, here’s how it looks:
Portabello burgers, of course, aren’t a rarity, but there’s few that are textured quite like the Option. The mushrooms, loosely packed and griddle-fried, provide the burger’s intense, earthy base. The dense cheese blend—heated, but not to the point of stringiness—provides a creamy, artery-clogging wallop. And the panko crusting provides a pleasant crunch, without overwhelming with its greasiness. The result: An addictively offbeat burger—which counterbalances its uninspiring toppings—that’s just as melt-on-your-tongue, and swoon-inducing, as any of the Priest’s meat offerings. (Not that I’d know.)
Paired with its hand-cut, slightly oversalted fries—which gives the potato an excellent, kettle-chip quality—we’re buying what Burger’s Priest is preaching. There’s a Cheesus Crust joke to be made here, but we’re not going to be the ones to make it. Hosannah!
Article written by Mark Teo