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Burger Battles: How 4 local plant-based patties compare to beef

Regina Fox

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I raised Holstein dairy feeders growing up and fell in love with the cows and the process year after year. I worked hard to nourish, groom, and train them to be fit for show, but I worked harder to push the thought of them becoming steaks out of my mind. In hindsight, I realize I had an important job: to ethically and responsibly raise beef to be processed and consumed.

I believe animal agriculture is important to many peoples’ lives, not to mention livelihoods. However, I also realize the importance of introducing plant-based proteins into our diets to safeguard the future of our planet. In short, I am very much an omnivore—eating more veggies than meat but never willing to turn down some beef jerky. It’s served me well in life for many reasons: my protein variability, dietary flexibility, etc. But recently, it’s presented the opportunity to explore the remarkable and noteworthy changes in the burger scene in Columbus.

Eating green is trending right alongside the city’s awareness about sustainability. If you spot a classic cheeseburger on a restaurant menu, odds are it has a plant-based counterpart. But, how do they stack up? Can a meat burger really be compared to a plant- based patty? If so, which is better? Well, folks, I do believe that after consuming eight different burgers in one day, I have answers to all your questions and more.

Northstar Burger vs Classic Cheeseburger at Northstar

The Northstar Burger is arguably the tallest pillar in the local veggie patty community. It’s been perfected over the restaurant’s 15 years of existence to ensure only the best finished product is handed over to the customer with that signature Northstar hospitality. I’ve let Earth Day after Earth Day pass me by without getting my hands on a free Northstar Burger, so I went into this experience as a first-timer—I finally tasted what all the hype was about. The black beans + brown rice + beets patty is moist and billowing at the bun with smoky flavor that complements the white cheddar cheese. The earthy beet taste pairs well with the burger’s kale, tomato, pickle, and onion toppings. I think it’s safe to say Northstar has created the standard to which all veggie burgers should be held.

The classic beef buddy made its way onto the menu when Northstar Easton hit the scene and has been superbly received ever since. Niman Ranch provides the brisket and chuck for this ground-in-house-daily sandwich. Coming as no surprise, the Classic Cheeseburger is just that—a classically juicy, savory, and perfectly greasy cheeseburger. The chewiness of the beef and the crunch of the veggie toppings create the perfect bite every time. Bonus points for that gorgeous cheese melt!

The Original White Castle Slider vs The Impossible Slider with smoked cheddar

Well, well, well, White Castle, we meet again, except this time, I’m sober. Northstar is a damn-near impossible act to follow, but I tried my best to keep it in perspective as I held the fun-sized- sandwiched between my fingers. “I could find enough change on the sidewalk to buy this sandwich,” I reminded myself as a single onion shaving fell onto my lap. I took a bite. “Hm,” I thought. “I wonder if there’s any room on the crave train.” While moist beyond my personal preference, the quality of the burger is right on par with the price and for that reason, I’m in (Shark Tank tone).

It looks, sizzles, and tastes like beef, but it’s made from plants! The smaller-than-a-floppy-disk-sized patty of the impossible burger is quite a convincing substitute for beef, especially with all its colorful veggie fixings! But while the plant-based burger is flavorful, it lacks the moisture you’d typically find in beef. However, in the Impossible Slider’s defense, I wouldn’t check the moisture box with the Original Slider either. Alas, the White Castle buns seem to soak up more than their fair share of the juiciness.

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Burger King Whopper vs Burger King Impossible Whopper

BK can hang its crown on the coat rack in the corner of the market they’ve carved out with their flame-grilled burgers. The Whopper is simply a good fast-food sandwich. The beef is tender and melts in your mouth alongside the fresh toppings and generous dollops of mayo and ketchup. I can’t believe I’m saying this as a born-and-raised-Midwesterner, but this was my first time trying a Whopper. It won’t be the last.

Burger King just recently stepped up to the plant-based plate and I think they knocked it out of the park. Hardly distinguishable from the original, the Impossible Whopper has the signature broiled taste we’ve come to know and love from BK. (At least most of us.) The composition of the burger isn’t quite as tight as the beef and there is a subtle grainy flavor that comes through, but for a comparable price to its beef counterpart, I’d recommend this for a #MeatlessMonday lunch.

Third and Hollywood Burger vs Third and Hollywood Corn and Black Bean Burger

As a member of the same restaurant group as Northstar, Third & Hollywood refuses to settle for mediocre, which is why they serve the same Niman Ranch brisket and chuck blend. This upscale Grandview gem ups the ante with a more generous patty of succulent meat that lends some of its juices to the bun below, creating a perfectly gluttonous, greasy handheld. It’s a sexy-looking sandwich. I just wish I could say the same about myself when I was devouring it.

Guac is extra and so is this veggie-based burger. After a long day of burger bites, this one was the tops. What I like most about this veggie burger is that it doesn’t try to trick you into thinking it’s beef—it’s an entree all its own. The texture of the patty is creamy with help from the rugged mound of guacamole and smooth smoked gouda. I was pleasantly caught off guard when I kick struck my palate from the southwestern-flavored sauce on the underside of the sesame seed bun. If you want your veggie burger to convince you you’re eating beef, this may not be your pick. But, if you’re looking for an outstanding, protein-forward, fresh, and fun sandwich, I’ll point you to Third & Hollywood every time.

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Food & Drink

Restaurant Week Sneak Peek: Wolf’s Ridge Brewing

Regina Fox

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In less than 10 years at its natural sunlight-soaked digs on N 4th Street, Wolf's Ridge Brewing has managed to become a place revered not only for brewing some of the best beers the city has to offer, but also for serving some of the best food.

What better time to experience them both than Restaurant Week January 20-25?

We were lucky enough to get a sneak peek of Wolf's Ridge three-course menu before it was released to the public, and we think you're really going to like it.

First Course: Choice of baked brie, endive salad, or bread and butter

The endive salad offered depths with every bite: the brightness of the shaved pear, the fresh earthiness of the endive, the texture of the fennel, the crunch of the walnuts. But the star of this dish was certainly the pool of tangy, creamy blue cheese dressing hiding below the colorful mixture.

Second Course: Choice of salmon, grilled cauliflower, or pork tenderloin

Without a shadow of a doubt, I believe each one of the entrees offered during Restaurant week are slam dunks, but to me, the choice was obvious: pork tenderloin.

The three plump and pink cuts of pork were so tender, they could be easily cut with just a butter knife. The succulence of the meat played well with the sweet, nutty sunchoke puree, and rich smoked hazelnut butter. Like the french origin suggests, the demi-glace soaked into the tenderloin truly was the "icing" on top.

Third Course: Choice of cheesecake or fudge bar

If at the end of your meal you're feeling bright, light, and flirty, the cheesecake is for you. The toasted coconuts coating the mousse-like rum cheesecake, icy pineapple sorbet and orange marmalade will send your palate on an all-inclusive trip to the seaside.

Feeling a little more dense or moody? The punch of the espresso ice cream, thick chocolate bar, and sticky caramel crémeux will have you closing your eyes, and "mmm"ing through every bite.

At $40, the Wolf's Ridge Restaurant deal is quite possibly the best time to experience the creative, elevated menu. But, you and the other 900,000 residents of Columbus already know that, right? So, don't wait to make your reservation!

To learn more about Restaurant Week January 20-25, visit eat614.com.

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Restaurant Week Sneak Peek: Pig out on amazing deal from Hoggy’s

Mike Thomas

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Longtime fans of barbecue in Central Ohio will remember Hoggy's, the family-owned local barbecue chain which originally opened in 1991. Recent history saw Hoggy's step away from the restaurant game in favor of a thriving catering business. With a newly-renovated store on Bethel road, this OG Columbus BBQ joint is getting back in the retail mix.

Scroll down for an exclusive giveaway

We recently stopped by Hoggy's to preview all the delicious goodness they've cooked up for Restaurant Week. With a deal this sweet, it's time you got reacquainted with this awesome, homegrown barbecue spot!

Restaurant Week Deal: Choose three meats, two sides, and your choice of cobbler or banana pudding, all for $15.

You read that right: THREE meats. While Hoggy's brisket, pulled pork, or pulled chicken are all solid choices, be sure that one of your trifecta of picks is the baby back ribs. These are truly some of the best ribs we've tried in town.

Bonus sleeper pick: we found Hoggy's wings to be exceptionally crispy and flavorful, serving as the perfect delivery method for their great BBQ sauces.

When it comes to sides, you really can't go wrong at Hoggy's. From the potato salad to the "cowboy style" baked beans, each side has the same home cooked flavor that you'd hope to find at a family cookout.

As long as you're treating yourself, don't be afraid to go double-starch in the sides department. The mac and cheese (with both penne and elbow macaroni) is a can't-miss, but then who in their right mind can can pass on cheesy potatoes?

If you have any room left for dessert, either of the available options will be sure to send you over the edge into a food coma. Hoggy's satisfying cobbler is served oven-hot, just like grandma used to make. Likewise, the decadent banana pudding is everything it should be and more, with a fluffy, creamy texture that is unlike anything we've seen elsewhere.

When it comes to Restaurant Week, Hoggy's isn't playing around. For $15, this is one of the best bang-for-the-buck deals on the entire RW lineup. Don't sleep—there will be time for that after you've stuffed yourself with sides, dessert, and all the delicious smoked meats you can handle!

To learn more about Restaurant Week January 20-25, visit eat614.com.

Comment your favorite BBQ side dish to be entered to win dinner for two at Hoggy's!

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New plant-based diner takes root in Downtown

614now Staff

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From the people who brought us Eden burger comes a new plant-based diner sure to satisfy your hunger.

4th & State is a vegan cafe and diner located in the heart of downtown Columbus under the leadership of Chad Goodwin.

Click here to read more about Eden Burger

Featuring fare aimed at both breakfast and lunch, hours will soon be expanded to cover dinner service to coincide with the launch of the restaurant's beer and wine program.

Below are pictures of a few of the most popular breakfast items thus far:

4th & State is located at 152 E State St. and is open Monday through Friday from 7am- 3pm, and Saturday through Sunday from 9am- 4pm. To learn more, check out their Instagram.

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