Somehow, I’ve found the courage to go public with an announcement that will come as a shock to those of you who know me.
A few weeks ago, I grilled, and subsequently consumed, a vegan burger.
Before my comrades in the carnivore community start unfriending me, hear me out. I was at home in a controlled environment, and it was simply a test to see if these plant-based patties lived up to the hype. I was fully expecting to replace this wannabe burger on my plate with a bone-in ribeye after my first bite. Alas, the results of my research didn’t turn out the way I expected.
It was delicious, and my certified personal trainer wife of nearly 30 years celebrated my discovery and ranked it as a healthy milestone in our marriage.
Curious to learn if vegan burgers were as good at local restaurants as they were in my back yard, I hit the streets and ended up at a place where you’d never expect to find a beefless burger.
“We’ve had a vegan burger on our menu since our first day in business,” said Ben Rine, owner-operator of Divine Bovine, 1021 N. Wilmot Road. “We actually sell more of them than I’d like to admit.”
Rine prefers the patties from Northern California’s Impossible Foods over similar products because of what he calls a superior taste and texture. The burgers are made from pea and potato protein, coconut oil, yeast extract, food starch for binding, and an essential plant molecule called heme that Rine says gives his burgers the reddish color to match customers’ temperature preferences.
“People who are strict vegans don’t necessarily like the red color if the burger is cooked on the rare side,” he said, “but the meat eaters who are just taking a break or slumming it on the veggie side think it’s as cool as can be. It’s gone over incredibly well, and I couldn’t get rid of it at this point.”
Rine was quick to caution that the vegan patty technically stops being vegan when it’s bathed in butter and stacked on a bun with one of his 13 burger preparations. But that doesn’t seem to bother most who order it.
“It’s mind-numbing to see just how many people put bacon on their vegan burgers,” he said.
During my visit, I opted for their vegan burger prepared as the Big Dipper, with sherry-buttered onions, cheddar cheese, potato crisps and Horseradish cream sauce, served with a side of beef gravy for dipping. Enough said.
Rine will soon be offering another vegan option to his menu with the addition of a patty from Flagstaff’s NexVeg. He says this one is for those “hardcore vegans” who don’t really like the Impossible burger. “Those look too much like meat and it bothers them,” he said.
“Once I tasted the NexVeg patty for myself, I was blown away,” said Rine. “It doesn’t taste like a burger and it’s not even trying to, but I’ve honestly found myself fantasizing about this patty.”
While there are vegan options at Divine Bovine, the menu is dominated by beef, with imaginative burgers made from a blend of chuck, brisket, and short rib. Their newest item is the jalapeno popper burger, topped with roasted jalapenos, crispy jalapenos, cilantro cream cheese, candied bacon, a house-made sriracha ranch dressing, and bacon crumbles.
I’m delighted that I can now enjoy a vegan burger in public. Just don’t tell my barbecue brethren as I’ll be kicked off the competition circuit.
Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at email@example.com. Russell is also the publisher of OnTheMenuLive.com as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.