Where the beef isn’t

OK, I admit it: I’m not the best person to tell anyone which locally made veggie burger could convert a carnivore, because I’ve never been a meat eater (though I do know all the words to that 1980s-era Whopper theme song). So you quarter-pounder fanatics can do what you like, but keep this in mind: With more than 30 years’ worth of veggie patties under my belt (literally), I’m fully qualified to find an herbivorous burger that can rock a vegetarian’s world.

Max’s Favorite Veggie Burger: This tasty sandwich, featured at Cafe Max & Rosie’s, wins points for originality. Because while everyone else focuses on trying to make a burger that looks like, well, a burger, this pillar of vegetarian dining goes for what really matters: creating a healthy meal that tastes great. The former philosophy, of course, is what has given us “phony bologna,” “not dogs” and soy pepperoni. But here’s a thought: if you’re going to give up the animal products, why not just go whole hog (pardon the pun)? Max’s burger is a thick, square patty that’s chock full of grain-and-veggie goodness. More moist than chewy, it’s a filling meal. It comes on a whole-grain bun, served with all the fixings and herbed “nayonnaise” — a vegan (free of animal products) alternative to Hellman’s. Sides: a dill pickle spear and tortilla chips. Cost: $5.50. Bonus: mellow atmosphere, wheatgrass growing in the windows, and fruit smoothies galore.

Morning Star Veggie Burger: Sure, it’s called Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company, but this bar-meets-restaurant-meets-movie-theater has more on its menu than slices and suds. And this popular hangout wins points for its burger selection. Love cheese? Try Popeye’s Spinach Burger. The specialty patty takes 20 minutes to make, so be forewarned and consider a “cheeps and salsa” appetizer. Ollie’s Veggie Burger is the second choice — but it’s not for vegans. Looking for a dairy-free option? Go for the Morning Star Farms Burger. Morning Star Farms is a commercial brand known for creating meat-free options geared toward heart health. On a par with Boca Burgers, the Morning Star offering is bigger but boasts the same fast-food-burger appeal. Asheville Pizza serves it on a grilled bun with the works. Unfortunately, there’s no vegan mayo. Sides: beans and rice instead of chips. Cost: $5.50. Bonus: Enjoy a burger with a $2 movie, or all the Allman-esque Southern rock you can stand.

Rosetta’s Veggie Burger: The name may be simple, but in my book this burger, compliments of Rosetta’s Kitchen, is the big winner. The hip vegetarian eatery is famed for its peanut-butter tofu, cornbread and collard greens, but woman can’t live by veggie soul food alone. There are times when nothing but a burger will do. The homemade patty is tasty even without toppings (a claim not all of its competitors can make), but it comes on a toasted whole-grain bun with red onion, lettuce and a generous side of Vegenaise (a highly addictive alternative to egg-based mayo that just makes burgers better). This vegan-friendly burger can be topped with cheese or upgraded with a side of avocado or sweet-potato fries. Cost: $5.50. Sides: tortilla chips. Bonus: This burger is the perfect choice for late-night attacks of the munchies (and happily, Rosetta’s is open after hours).

Got burgers? They do:

* Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company, 675 Merrimon Ave. (254-5339)

* Cafe Max & Rosie’s, 52 N. Lexington Ave. (254-5342)

* Rosetta’s Kitchen, 111 Broadway (232-0738)

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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