Sydney is a great place for vegan dining: Surry Hills is home to Bad Hombres and Shift Eatery, while in Glebe you’ve got the Cruelty-Free Shop, and there’s now a regular Vegan Street Market in Marrickville. But you don’t always want the finest in plant-based dining. Sometimes you’ve had a long day, or you’re a bit drunk, and you just want a big dirty burger. Luckily there are plenty of options for filthy fast food that does the world good.
If you would rather make your own burgers, try our recipe for beetroot, chickpea and kale burgers!
Lord of the Fries
Finally, a lord I can worship! Lord of the Fries started in Melbourne and has now branched out to Sydney and Parramatta. Anything on the menu can be made vegan, including the shakes and the ‘Halal’ snack pack. The Parramatta branch is exclusively vegan, and hopefully the whole chain goes that way.
Their burgers taste like other burgers are advertised on TV: juicy, rich, and packed with contrasting flavours. The ‘Spicy’ – all the options are delightfully unpretentious – has the perfect crunch of lettuce and sharp jalapeños with tangy cheese and a patty that tastes meaty without the gristle and death. The fries live up to the marketing hyperbole: you can’t go wrong with the sweet potato fries, but the classic are also great.
The vegan halal snack pack (I know it’s an oxymoron and you can’t have vegan ritually slaughtered meat, it’s just what they call it) is a pile of fries crushed under the weight of soy beef, garlic hummus, barbecue sauce, cheese and sriracha. It’s a masterpiece of decadence.
Grilld is the Australian equivalent of Byron in the UK. Their main innovation is how much they will charge for a hot sandwich. It’s quite middle class, which I sometimes feel is the antithesis of a great burger, but there’s no denying the quality of the food on offer.
Grilld only serve one vegan option, a beetroot and avocado concoction that tastes rich and satisfying, but it’s lacking a bit of spice and crunch. It needs jalapeños and pickles! And vegan cheese and pineapple. Perhaps what they really need is a few more burgers on the menu.
The highlight are the zucchini fries, battered chunks of tempura glory that are just the right side of greasy without the courgettes disintegrating. Maybe you should skip the burgers and order three servings of the zucchini fries. I would.
If you’re out for dinner with carnivorous friends, you could do a lot worse than Grilld. But it’s far from the best veggie burger I’ve ever had. Which brings me to…
My initial review notes read: “so massive. I was a bit drunk. It was great.” and since we arrived last May there have been many more trips to Soul Burger, some of them even when I was sober. If Lord of the Fries represents a two-fingered salute to the garbage of McDonalds and Burger King (or as it’s called in Australia, Hungry Jack’s – makes me laugh every time and I don’t know why), then Soul Burger is a declaration of war against artisanal burger chains. It’s totally vegan but you’ll find beef (soy), fried chicken (seitan), and fish (tofu?) burgers on the menu. And every one of them is outstanding: the beef is the closest thing to vegan meat outside of a Californian laboratory.
The portion sizes at Soul Burger are huge. If you order a burger and fries for yourself, you’ll leave with a doggy bag and your head hung in shame. Sadly the fries are not quite up to the same standard as the burgers: sweet potato fries are fine, but the regular fries are a bit soggy and the ‘red’ coating quite bland. But the real stars are the burgers. Jess and I have eaten most of the menu and we haven’t had a duff one yet.
And the winner is…
Everyone’s a winner when you’re eating a burger, and all of the aforementioned restaurants are a great choice. If you set all three in front of me, I definitely wouldn’t choose Grilld, but I have a hard time choosing between Soul Burger and Lord of the Fries.
Soul Burger is where you go for a burger on a date night or your birthday. It feels like an event. You need a strategy for eating the burger to avoid the thing collapsing into its enamel dish. It’s opulent. But I couldn’t eat one every day. Undoubtedly excellent burgers, but somewhere under the piles of toppings and sauces, they lose their humility.
Lord of the Fries, on the other hand, I could happily eat every day until my expanding frame clogged the Westfield food court. Their burgers are just the right size, easy to eat without a mess. They’re delicious, but they don’t boast about it. They make you feel good. They’re the best burgers.