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Even though we’re reaching the end of outdoor grilling season, we are in no way done with burgers. (Well, they are, but that’s a different story.)

In fact, with the explosion of burger places on Connecticut Ave., NW  in Dupont, the cow invasion has even led to a bona fide nickname: Red Meat Row, coined by Amanda McClements of Metrocurean. And while there’s been obvious attention paid to red meat, non-meat burgers have been left out of the discussion.

I rarely eat veggie burgers. If I want a burger, I want tender, fat-laden meat and nothing can accurately mimic that taste and texture. However, I haven’t ruled out all non-meat burgers. In honor of Red Meat Alley, or in defiance of it, I’m interested to taste these burger joints’ veggie alternatives. See if I can get my bloody-fill with chickpeas, not ground sirloin.

Following the burger places listed on McClements’ Red Meat Row graphic, I checked out the online menus of BGR: The Burger Joint (which has just been named in the Washington Post‘s Fall 2010 Dining Guide by Tom Sietsema), Five Guys, and the yet-to-be-opened GO Burger and Shake Shack.

  • BGR’s veggie burger is an inventive mix of brown rice, black beans, oats, and molasses.
  • Five Guys doesn’t offer a veggie burger.
  • GO Burger relies on a chickpea and herb patty and is pretty pricey at $11.
  • Shake Shack fries a portobello mushroom and fills it with muenster and cheddar cheeses, a relative bargain at $6.75.

But what makes a good veggie burger?

There’s two camps: make a veggie burger taste like meat or make it its own. I’m in the latter camp: I don’t think the patty should attempt to imitate meat’s unparalleled taste.

No one calls a crab cake a “crab burger” because it’s not trying to impersonate red meat. Maybe veggie burgers should take the hint. I’ll be watching.

Photo by TheCulinaryGeek via Flickr Creative Commons, Attribution License