Match #6 of the V.V. Burger Showdown: The Upper East Side’s Battle of 16-14.
Candle Cafe vs. V-Note
16-14 refers to the prices of these fancy pants vegan burgers. After the “draw” of the last showdown, I needed some housemade high quality offerings. After all, paying $16 for a vegan burger includes the tacit promise of a greater chance of burger satisfaction. Paying $14 for a burger should embrace the wide-held notion of “You get what you pay for.” With food, it is often true. But there are other variables to consider.
Perhaps I am paying for history. Candle Cafe‘s roots began to anchor in 1984, when a vegetarian lifestyle was far more obscure. “Healthy Candle” grew steadily from a vitamin and juice bar into a full service cafe. Then, after winning the lottery (literally) in the 90’s, Candle Cafe was born. Candle 79 was soon to follow. Both restaurants are widely considered the creme de la creme of vegan restaurants in New York City. Solid veggie cred that is not wavering. But, I can count the times I’ve visited on (now) two fingers. What’s the deal with that?
V-Note, another Upper East Side all-vegan eatery that I’ve been to (now) twice, is
part of the Blossom restaurant group. Yes, the Blossom with the frozen soy patty I put down so ruthlessly in the last showdown. Thankfully, this location has a housemade seitan burger. It’s also closing its doors at the end of the month! No worries, the Blossoms are blossoming elsewhere…
Candle Cafe’s Black Bean Quinoa Burger:
This is a delicious burger, quite simply. It’s well done in every way–the patty, the potato-onion roll, the fresh, crispy red onion, lettuce, and tomato. Delicious but basic. Wait, more like–delicious because it is basic. The tragic flaw of a veggie burger is that it is often overdone. It’s thought not to be enough. And sloppy and lazy additions increase the likelihood that something will go wrong. And things can go wrong very easily. I respect Candle’s basic deliciousness. Other unadorned burgers could not fare this well. It is Candle Cafe‘s well-developed knowledge of plant-based food that delivers a clean, tasty burger that hits all the marks. [The Vegenaise-y chipotle aioli seemed not housemade but I don’t know this for sure.]
V-Note’s Seitan Quarter Pounder:
V-note’s Seitan Quarter Pounder was a great effort. But a quarter pound of seitan can be a bit off-putting when it isn’t twice-cooked. Sure, I don’t know for sure, but I’ve made seitan enough times (and snuck impatient bites of uncooked seitan enough times) to know what it tastes like when it isn’t cooked thoroughly. I’ve also made cutlets too thick, as this patty was, ruining its texture. So, though a big, seitan-y burger can sound appealing, there is a balance that must be struck guided by a knowledge of ingredients. I enjoyed the thinner, more crisp patty edges much more than the inner bites of the burger. Also, the special sauce hardly had a taste of anything. I would have appreciated a much more acidic zing to cut through a quarter pound of seitan.
So, advancing onward: Candle Cafe!
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A quick bite of dessert from V-Note. A berry shortcake with coconut whip and berries. It’s difficult to pay $11 for something you make better at home.