During the month of January, Lori Fredrich will be making some special stops on the burger trail to find the latest, greatest and most delicious veggie burgers in Milwaukee. The criteria for presentation, bun, toppings and value will remain consistent with those established for the Burger Trail; but the veggie burgers themselves will be rated on the basis of overall quality, flavor, texture and preparation.
Urban Beets Cafe & Juicery
3077 N. Mayfair Rd., (414) 763-7034
If anyone serves up a great veggie burger, I’d expect it to be a restaurant dedicated to plant-based fare. Fortunately, a growing number of eateries catering to the veg-set have cropped up over the past five or so years, so there were a number from which to choose.
On this trip, I chose Urban Beets, a venue which opened its first location in 2016. Founded on a mission rooted in a commitment to wellness, empathy, sustainability and better living, the restaurant expanded to include a West Side location in Wauwatosa in 2018,subsequently closing their Downtown location in January of 2020. Urban Beets offers breakfast, lunch and dinner options, along with a newly added weekend brunch (that's well worth your time to check out).
Their regular menu includes two burgers: the B.L.T. Burger which features a house-made vegetable patty, coconut bacon, tomato, lettuce and mayo on a pretzel bun ($10.50) and the Classic Burger with a house-made vegetable patty, tomato, pickles, onion, lettuce, provolone, & russian dressing on pretzel bun ($10.50). Both are served with a side of chips.
On this trip, I opted for the classic.
This was a burger worth eyeing up. The ingredients were slightly askew, but allowed for a view of each of the sandwich’s colorful components: the crisp leaf of romaine lettuce coated with just a hint of housemade Russian dressing, the ruby-hued slab of fresh tomato, the pop of purple in the rings of red onion, the cheese covered vegetable patty and its craggy edges and the layer of thick-cut pickles lining the base of the pretzel bun. It definitely made me want to dig in.
As I’ve noted in past reviews, I’m not always the biggest fan of pretzel buns for burgers, as they tend to be fairly aggressive in terms of the flavor and heft they bring to the proverbial table. But I was surprised by this one. It was flavorful, but not overpowering; and it was soft enough that it didn’t make eating the burger a chore. I was surprised to find that it hadn’t been toasted (a practice I’d consider to be a foundation for any burger), so its cut edges were still soft and supple, leaving it to readily soak up any sauces in its path.
The housemade vegetable patty had the look and heft of a falafel patty, though its flavor was dissimilar. It was flecked with red bean skins and beautifully seasoned with a combination of aromatics and spices that I’d be at a loss to identify in full, but which offered the burger a delicious, savory quality. Even better, its texture was firm, but not dry. It held together impeccably and complemented the accompanying toppings in the best possible way.
The toppings exhibited a good balance of sweet, salty, savory and briny. There was plenty of freshness in the tomato and lettuce, which still had a crisp edge. The sweet red onion offered flavor and a modicum of bite; but it was also pleasantly crunchy. Meanwhile, the savory patty was coated with a layer of nutty, salty vegan cheese that resembled American cheese fairly enough to bring an indulgent familiarity to the table.
Meanwhile, the deliciously salty, briny pickles added a great deal. They provided a crisp crunch, a familiar "burger" flavor and a pop of acid which kept things balanced. Meanwhile the tangy, slightly sweet sauce was a boon to both the burger and toppings, adding both moisture and flavor and really pulling all the components together.
There was no doubt in my mind that the creation of this veggie burger was a mindful process. It was thoughtful and balanced in terms of composition, and the burger itself was a good protein-packed example of what a veggie burger can be. At just over $10, it was more-than-fairly priced for the amount of effort that went into its creation.
The Classic Burger at Urban Beets is a satisfying veggie-based burger that's well worth seeking out.
Urban Beets in Wauwatosa is open Monday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.