When I found out that VeganBurg was opening nearby, I knew I had to go, mostly out of curiosity, but also because it’s close to my job. I go through brief flirtations with vegetarianism, only to end up in the arms [or wings] of my beloved chicken, and maybe VeganBurg would make a convert out of me.
The Haight’s VeganBurg is the very first of its kind within the United States. The restaurant is part of a successful Singaporean fast food chain. It’s a plant based fast food place, advertised by public figures like Paul McCartney and Bill Clinton, if you need the celebrity endorsement.
VeganBurg, with its simple exterior painted in neutrals, looks almost out of place within the colorful stores along the Haight. The space itself is a minimalist’s dream: monochrome, sleek, and high-ceilinged, with enough interesting details to not be boring. The decor is mostly grey and white, with reclaimed wood tables, simple metal chairs, and exposed brick details. Green vines and trees serve as the only pops of color in the store, and there are little benches cushioned with grass beds [word to the wise: don’t wear a dress and tights if you’re sitting on these, they’ll tear].
Walking into the space is like taking a breath of fresh air; the restaurant is so bright and open compared to the other tiny stores on the Haight. The cashiers are the rare mix of friendly and attentive, without forcing it.
There are also a lot of food options. VeganBurg has nine burger choices, ranging from a pineapple-topped Hawaiian Teriyaki burger to a Paleo burger (which subs buns for layers of lettuce). You can also order spinach poppers, “ch’cken tenders,” and even a tofu hotdog. The various sides include everything from broccoli to vegetable soup.
I order the “Cracked Mayo” burger, at the cashier’s suggestion, along with some seaweed fries, and a mango lemonade. The food is presented in a metal pan atop a bed of light brown tissue; the burger is lovingly wrapped in a paper explaining the restaurant’s mission. The bun looks lightly toasted, the burger crispy, and the lettuce, tomatoes, and onions look bright and fresh, like someone put an Instagram filter on them.
The soy patty doesn’t really taste like beef, but it’s good. It tastes like a piece of peppery crispy chicken, and has a bacon-y aftertaste, like most vegan meats. The mayo in the burger is a little off. The lack of egg makes it taste less tart and almost too creamy, so I scraped it off after two bites. The vegetables on the burger are the real winners; the lettuce is crisp and refreshing, and the tomatoes are sweet and juicy.
My favorite part of the entire meal were the seaweed fries. They arrived perfectly golden, accented with salty bright green seaweed flakes, about the texture and size of parsley. They were perfectly seasoned with pepper, had nice crunch when you bit into them, and didn’t get greasy or soggy the way other fries do. The most disappointing part of the whole meal was the mango lemonade. It lacked the tartness of lemonade, and tasted slightly watered down.
All in all, VeganBurg’s offerings are good for a vegan restaurant, and satisfying to meat eaters, but the prices aren’t. A meal at VeganBurg will set you back almost $14. While I forked over the cash, I thought about Super Duper’s cheaper 100% beef burgers, and I realized that I could never truly go veg. But I will return to get more of VeganBurg’s perfect seaweed fries.
1466 Haight St
San Francisco, CA 94117
Photo courtesy of Claudia Sanchez