Although most of the posts in the Conscientious Burger series will focus on my adopted hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, occasionally I’ll feature burgers that I encounter while on the road. In part, this is to encourage you, dear reader, to keep your eyes open for conscientious burgers in your hometown and during your own travel adventures.
J and I recently traveled to the southwest to be in a wedding (congrats once again, V & E!), and our trip took us through SLC, as the airport of Salt Lake City, Utah is known. We woke long before dawn and arrived in Salt Lake very ready for lunch after our second of three flights. Our arrival gate in Concourse C happened be directly across from Squatters Airport Pub, and after perusing the menu, we decided to give it a try.
Like Sarah at the Vegansaurus blog, we were very pleasantly surprised by how many veggie and vegan options were not only available but also clearly marked on the menu [see PDF here]. Offerings included a hummus-and-veggie wrap, a tabbouleh salad made with organic quinoa, and a tofu scrambler from the “breakfast anytime” menu. J was feeling carnivorous and went with the Niman Ranch pastrami Reuben, while I tried the veggie burger. Here’s the 411:
- Menu description: “CHEF’S VEGGIE BURGER: Roasted veggies, garbanzo beans, rice and oats, grilled and topped with hummus.” Also, all burgers are “served on Squatters-ale–infused spent-grain bun (substitute a gluten-free Udi’s bun upon request).” Recommended beer: Chasing Tail Golden Ale
- Included sides: Served with Kettle Chips® or carrot and celery sticks, or substitute chips & salsa or a side salad for $1.50. Also served with classic burger sides of leaf lettuce (shredded, in this case), tomato slices, and some sliced red onion.
- Price: $9.99
- Website: For more about Squatters Pubs & Beers, including hours and menus, head here
Along with my upgrade to a lovely side salad (with their very tasty cilantro-lime vinaigrette, which was served on the side), this burger made for one darn good airport meal. Given the description above, it probably won’t surprise you to hear that it was very much falafel in burger form, minus the tzaziki. It’s such a good idea for a veggie burger that I’m surprised I haven’t encountered it elsewhere. Hummus on falafel may seem like overkill at first — are two versions of chickpeas really necessary on one sandwich? But, as with the falafel wrap at The Great Dane in Madison, it ends up being an appealing combination. The tangy, galicky zip of creamy hummus nicely contrasts with the crunchy, hearty falafel (or, in this case, falafel-like patty). Although it might have been my imagination, I swear that I could detect sweet brew-house notes in the bun from the spent grain. While it didn’t top the absolutely amazing Shelly’s Vegan Wrap from Elephants Deli at PDX, this really was a surprisingly good airport meal.
The only disappointment was my Black and Tan, which was a very literal rendering of the menu description. It turned out to indeed be a “blend of Organic Amber and Captain Bastard’s” Oatmeal Stout — the bartender simply filled the glass with ale and then topped off the imperial pint with stout, with zero effort to keep the two in separate layers as is customary. In fact, it was almost like he intentionally mixed them as he poured the pint, yielding more of a uniform “muddy brown” than a black and tan.
Nevertheless, if you find yourself in need of a meal in SLC, I very much recommend giving Squatters a try.
The black bean burger may have disappeared from Monty’s Blue Plate Diner when their menu was revamped, but it lives on at Monty’s sister restaurant, Hubbard Avenue Diner. Hubbard’s veggie burger is the subject of the second installment in my recently initiated Conscientious Burger series.
- Menu description: “Spiced black beans, salsa, Monterey Jack cheese, and a dab of sour cream on a kaiser roll. It’s messy, but worth it.”
- Also served with: Lettuce, tomato, and pickle slices
- Included sides: French fries, coleslaw or applesauce. Waffle fries, pasta salad, bowl of soup, cup of chili, vegetables, or fruit cup may be substituted for an additional 1.29. Substitute side salad for 1.59. Substitute a cup of soup for .99.
- Price: $8.49
- Website: For more about Hubbard Avenue Diner, including hours and menus, head here.
I recently tried this burger two different ways: as is with an upgrade to veggies for my side, and dairy-free with a side of their homemade hot applesauce. I liked the old-school kaiser roll with its dusting of corn meal on top. Hubbard’s house-made black bean burger is substantial and straightforward, without a lot in the way of spice or other ingredients, so the simple taste of black beans is the patty’s dominant flavor. That said, gluten-sensitive diners might want to be cautious and do more than skip the bun; the host I conferred with wasn’t sure of the recipe details, but thought that flour was on the list, no doubt as part of what holds the beans together. Hubbard doesn’t have any menu items with guacamole or avocado, which I had hoped to add to my dairy-free sandwich, but at my request my server was happy to bring me (at no extra charge) a side of the corn relish that’s an ingredient in one of their salads. Due some confusion in the kitchen, I ended up with an entire soup cup of the relish, rather than a small ramekin. Alas, it didn’t really add much flavor in the end. Similarly, while the cheese and sour cream added messiness for sure, they didn’t really add much else. The salsa, on the other hand, along with the large piece of leaf lettuce and slices of tomatoes, really worked great with sandwich and added the kick of bright flavor that the burger was calling out for. So, next time I order this, I’ll ask them to hold the dairy and add an extra side of salsa. And, if the weather is chilly like yesterday, the hot applesauce will definitely be my side of choice.
I’ve decided to start a new series of occasional posts that will highlight burgers around town (or encountered in my travels) that are vegetarian or vegan alternatives to the traditional burger or else that feature humanely, sustainably raised and typically local meat.
Unbeknownst to me while I was planning this new endeavor, some friends recently started a Madison Burger Championship that pits area meat-based burgers in head-to-head competition using a bracket system à la NCAA March Madness. Their most recent outing was to Sardine for brunch this past Sunday, and J and I joined them. Before we arrived I thought I’d be skipping the burger, but I soon changed my mind. Here’s the rundown:
- Menu description: “Organic, grass-fed Angus® house burger grilled, topped with arugula, tomato, choice of gruyère, sharp cheddar or gorgonzola, and aïoli”
- Included sides: Mixed greens, frites, and a few cornichons and pickled-onion slices
- Price: $11
- Website: For more about Sardine, including hours and menus, head here
I asked our server whether he knew where the meat came from; he didn’t but immediately asked a colleague in the know. I was very pleased to learn that the beef comes from Cates Family Farm, who’ve been featured here before. I opted for the blue cheese and medium temperature; J went with cheddar and medium-rare. Altogether, our group of eight ordered every cheese option and temperatures from medium-rare up to medium-well.
As you can see in the photo below, the sides were extremely generous in portion. The burger itself is a deliciously messy affair thanks to a patty bursting with juicy goodness, melting cheese, and slippery aioli between a chewy, toasted ciabatta. (In case you can’t tell, that’s a steak knife skewering the sandwich.) Burger doneness seems to be a tricky proposition for some restaurants, but our group was in agreement that Sardine did quite a good job with all of our requests. The one quibble I had with my burger was that I found the very sizable topping of gorgonzola a bit overpowering—it is possible to have too much of a good thing. In contrast, I snagged a bite of J’s cheddar burger, and it was perfectly balanced, with the taste of the high-quality local meat having a chance to really shine alongside the other flavors. The two members of our group who ordered gruyère said they found it more subtle than I described my gorgonzola experience.
I don’t know how Sardine’s house burger will eventually fare in our friends’ burger bracket, but it was certainly a fantastic way to start this new series of posts. Watch for further entries to pop up now and then in the coming months. To be sure you don’t miss any, use the links on this page (if you haven’t already) to follow the blog via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, or RSS feed.