Park Burger's housemade veggie burger: No beef necessary

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For a while, it seemed like a new gourmet burger joint was opening every few minutes in the metro area. Although they're not as ubiquitous as Starbucks (yet), restaurants specializing in well-made burgers were clearly a big trend. The question -- at least as far as this Veggie Girl is concerned -- was whether a well-made burger translated into a well-made veggie burger. And the answer -- at Park Burger, anyway -- is hell, yes.

A vegan friend recommended Park Burger, which opened in April 2009 at 1890 South Pearl Street, saying it was the best veggie burger he'd ever had. Really? Could it beat the Maximus Burger at City, O' City? That veggie burger is pretty righteous; the patty comprises quinoa and pinto beans, giving it a very meaty texture, and the spices develop a crust when it's grilled, so it's a little crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. It tends to be a little dry, but adding the optional avocado slices helps with that slight issue.

To beat City, O' City, Park Burger's burger would have to be really good.

And it is.

The patty is a housemade mash-up of grains, including rice and barley, that's smashed on the grill, so the burger is falling apart slightly -- just like a Smashburger -- when it lands in the wire basket lined with paper. Park Burger burgers come with lettuce, tomato, onion and a special burger sauce (which looks a lot like Thousand Island dressing), plus your choice of additional toppings. The one in the photo has pepperjack cheese, jalapenos and caramelized onions on a white bun; you can substitute a whole-wheat bun or even mixed greens for 25 cents. Other vegetarian toppings include guacamole, jalapenos, a fried egg, mushrooms, haystack onions and other kinds of cheese.

It really doesn't matter what you decide to put on this burger: It will taste fantastic. The patty is so moist it's almost juicy; the flavors, seasonings and spices in the grains blend perfectly; and the whole endeavor is messy and delicious, just like a burger should be. (And it's served right by all-natural Angus burgers that smell good enough to make a girl reconsider her vegetarianism. Just saying.)

Park Burger also makes sweet-potato and regular fries; that's a basket of half-and-half in the photo, cut into shoestrings, fried to a crisp and sprinkled with coarse salt.The sweet-potato fries are tasty, but the regular fries are unbelievably good. That shoestring cut keeps them from getting soggy or soft.

Park Burger also has brews on draft that pair perfectly with whichever burger you choose, as well as wine, cocktails and absolutely decadent milkshakes.

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