Once upon a time, burgers were made of grilled or fried ground beef and served on a fluffy white flour bun. There was never any impetus—or will—to make them differently, and for good reason: Why gild the lily? But with today’s culinary sophistication and hypersensitivity to health issues, we’ve blasted away the parameters of red-meat-on-white-bun to include “burgers” made of everything but beef. Now vegetarians and vegans can attend a cookout and enjoy delicious fare with a fare-thee-well to the same old flabby, burnt tofu slab. Here are nine un-burgers you’ll want to wrap your hands—and jaws—around. BISON BURGER Snuffy’s Malt Shop What’s the closest thing to a traditional all-beef burger? Bison! The bigger, brawnier, earthier animal is the darling of the current ranch scene, and its meat is making plates in steak, chop and yes, burger form. Gaining in popularity, bison meat is astonishingly lean—even more than chicken—and you can count on humane farming. It’s slightly gamy in flavor and satisfyingly dense in chew; at Snuffy’s, it’s served with the standard burger accoutrements: lettuce, tomato, pickle and your choice of cheese. It brings all the red-meat burger satisfaction, along with significant health improvements. Single, $6.69; double, $8.69. 17519 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka; 952.475.1850 CRAB CAKE BLT BURGER BLVD Grill & Bar Not all alterna-burgers are created for the sake of health. BLVD’s captivating sandwich defines a new level of indulgence by substituting the expected beef patty with one of their superb crab. The crab cake alone is moist, tender, delicately spiced and loosely packed. BLVD ingeniously piles some crispy bacon and creamy avocado on top, adding notes of earthbound smoke and buttery sea salt to the ocean-kissed crab. The burger is layered with ruffled Bibb lettuce and fat red tomato slices. An intense lemon garlic aioli makes itself known without upstaging the crab cake. Served on a Breadsmith hamburger roll. Indeed, sometimes more is more. $17. 11544 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka; 763.398.3200 SALMON BURGER Redstone Grill Get yer omega-3s here; your heart will thank you. A salmon burger capitalizes on the fish’s acclaimed natural oils while delivering that char-grilled, meaty satisfaction. Redstone cooks theirs carefully to retain the fish’s natural moistness; you won’t miss the beef for lack of fat. The usual suspects tag along: shredded lettuce, tomato and sliced onion. The addition of a delicate tarragon mayonnaise pairs perfectly with the fish and makes this burger extra-special. Don’t forget to pile on some crunchy homemade pickles—yum! $16. 12501 Ridgedale Dr., Minnetonka; 952.591.0000 BLACK BEAN VEGGIE BURGER Gold Nugget Tavern and Grill This place is a popular burger haven; its menu bedazzles with seemingly endless choices, including vegetarian. We went for the healthy-sounding black bean burger. Beans handily step into the meat patty’s role, matching it protein-wise and adding an extra nutritious wallop of fiber. The dense burger is enlivened by the addition of nubby corn to the beans to make a Southwestern-themed burger that’s as flavorful as any ground chuck, if not more so. It’s slightly crisp on the outside, rewardingly soft in the middle, studded with lots of yellow kernels and gussied up with avocado, pepper jack cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato and fresh, bright pico de gallo salsa. Forget everything you once knew about bean burgers and meet the gold standard. This is slated to become a staple in our burger lexicon. $9.95. 14401 Excelsior Blvd., 952.935.3600 TURKEY BURGERBirch’s Restaurant and Bar Turkey burgers tend to dry out because of their low fat content. But not at Birch’s, one of our favorite eateries where we count on creative, accessible and ever-delicious fare. Birch’s turkey burger is as flavorful and juicy as its beefy counterpart and appointed accordingly: Avocado lends a buttery aspect, countered by fresh and tomato-y pico de gallo. A schmear of mayo is a welcome but unnecessary addition; however, we suggest you spend an extra buck and opt for the fried egg on top. The rich, runny yolk pushes the whole concoction to the tippy-top of luxury. Use a knife and fork and a lot of napkins. $13. 1935 W. Wayzata Blvd., Long Lake; 612.708.3011 SEARED AHI TUNA BANH MI Ike’s Food and Cocktails Hamburgers are the currency of American fast food. Banh mi, which means “bread” in Vietnamese, is an Asian fast food sandwich that is as quick and inexpensive as the American counterpart and, some say, 10 times as tasty. It’s typically made with anything floating around the kitchen—from pork belly and sausage to sardines and pâté—and Ike’s version trumps them all with a generous portion of super-fresh seared ahi tuna. It’s piled onto a thin-crust focaccia and decorated with pickled carrot, fiery Serrano chilies, cool cucumber, pork pâté and sweet-hot wasabi sauce. $16. 17805 Highway 7, Minnetonka; 952.681.7099; PORTOBELLO BURGER Lakeshore Grill at Macy’s Sometimes we’re in the mood for a burger without the accompanying heaviness and indigestion. Especially when we’ve got things to do, like running errands or doing some shopping. Enter the Portobello burger. Think of mushrooms as nature’s meat; the chewy texture and woodsy flavor make a terrific substitute, even approximating the patty shape of a typical hamburger. This large mushroom cap is marinated to a steak-like consistency with spice and herb, and topped with caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, smoked Gouda cheese, green onions and roasted garlic aioli on a fluffy potato bun. You get a choice of sides. We crave the eatery’s classic Lakeshore Salad of baby spinach, sunny little mandarin orange slices and toasted almonds; pick up a bottle of the delicious signature sesame dressing on the way out. $9.95. 12411 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka; 952.591.6727 BISON BURGER The Marsh It’s a stampede! The noble bison is invading menus all across the lake area, much to our delight. The Marsh gussies up their bison burger with aromatic melted Swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms and wilted sweet leeks. It’s hard to believe that something that tastes so rich is, in fact, good for you, but it’s true: one bison patty delivers about 25 grams of protein, 0 carbs and a mere 190 calories. The brioche bun rocks a cakey texture for maximum absorption of the tasty juice. $13. 15000 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka; 952.935.2202 QUINOA POLENTA CAKES Lakewinds Natural Foods Head to the Lakewinds’ deli case where you will discover a plethora of patties made from tasty fare other than meat. We’re partial to the quinoa polenta cakes, which taste good and are astonishingly good for you: The quinoa—pronounced “KEEN-wa”— is an ancient Aztec grain and a “superfood” because of its high protein and fiber content. It’s subtly nutty and sweet, ready for whatever condiments and configurations that suit your fancy. Lakewinds does well to add fresh corn kernels, garlic, thyme and roasted red peppers to their quinoa cakes; we brought a few home to reheat, slap on a bun and slather with organic mustard and ketchup. A slice of cheese is delicious but superfluous. $3.49 each. 7501 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka; 952.473.0292
Burger Alternatives in the Lake Minnetonka Area
Alterna-burgers burst onto the scene.