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As someone who indulges in a fantastically meaty burger every once in a while—currently liking BGR best; wasn’t impressed with Ray’s Hell Burger; still haven’t tried Shake Shack—I tend to judge burgers comprised of beans, grains, vegetables, or assorted soy products with an especially critical eye.

As stated in a previous post (“Should a Veggie Burger Imitate a Hamburger or Be Its Own Sandwich?”), I feel that a veggie burger only works when it tries to succeed on its own merits, rather than merely attempt to mimic beef.

As I’ve searched far and wide for this meatless ideal, I’ve come across a dearly disappointing version at Black Squirrel, which tried in vain to secure the very wild grains of quinoa with flimsy strips of eggplant. And, while I normally advocate for eating real food over processed, weird, made-in-a-lab crap, I actually found joy in the TVP Garvey burger from Everlasting Life and didn’t particularly care for the lentils, mushrooms, cornmeal and flour that create a bland veggie burger at Luna Grill.

Recently, I’ve found two meatless burgers that have made my boyfriend, a noted beef fiend, wishing he had ordered like me.

Albeit better known for its beer, Mad Fox Brewing Company presents a surprisingly spicy black bean burger, thanks to ground cayenne and chili powder, rounded out by cumin, and held together with flour and bulgur wheat. The house-pickled onions and the house-made bun only increase the pleasure of the burger, although I wished for a heavier coating of the cilantro pesto lining the bottom bun.

I thought sitting outside watching a game, while trying to avoid the onion loaf, would occupy my time at Lou’s City Bar. Instead, my attention turned to its veggie burger, another solid black bean-based patty, served with a kicky red pepper aioli. I upped the wow factor, asking for guacamole to top my burger, and of course it worked. But even without the creamy green topping, the burger was a hit.

So far, it seems, those veggie patties springing from the humble black bean tend to fare best. Veggie burger makers, take note.

Photo of the Mad Fox black bean burger by Bennett Lipscomb