Match #8 of the V.V. Burger Showdown: The Battle of Charmed Timing.
Gentrification surrounding the L-train stops has been happening for decades. 20 years ago, as a straggly teenager who frequented the original Domesy’s Warehouse on Kent, I walked through Williamsburg’s then shady streets to pay for my pounds of used clothing. I walked from the J/M/Z line I caught at Jamaica. I got lost every time I went. Because I had to walk with confidence, and that meant getting more lost for fear of seeming lost. It wasn’t unsafe, likely. But I was a kid and kids are scared.
It would be about 10 years later that I moved to that part of Brooklyn, where I stayed for about 7 years, departing right about the time that demand extended the real estate boundaries of young/white to cradle the illegal lofts of the new Bushwick and the steady birth rate of eateries appealing to its new inhabitants. Cafe Ghia is one such eatery, established in 2011.
Meanwhile, as crafty New Yorkers (or Jersey-ers, in this case) bypassed the impossibility of an independent brick and mortar start-ups with food truck ventures, Cinnamon Snail embraced a ready market for their creative all-vegan street food. For both Cafe Ghia and Cinnamon Snail, timing was everything. That is why this battle is the Battle of Charmed Timing…
Cafe Ghia’s Vegan Burger:
Now, sociologically I hate the idea of naive Midwest types having the kind of identity exploration I had when I was 16 displacing native New Yorkers with real, valuable roots and street cred. The kind of cred that trumps a costume change and the art of not shaving. But, as a vegan food prowler, I know well that gentrification often means a new food lead. And that’s great. But what I found to be lacking in the Brooklyn-come-lately’s who’ve found the means to open or be employed by gentri-eats is this disconnect: you’ve entered the “service industry.” SERVICE! industry. And though your latent adolescence makes your accessories partially excusable (I’m a gal who made purses out of empty Marshmallow Fluff and dog treat containers in her high school years. I get it.), your surly, superior attitude is, as Stella Kowalski would say, out of place. You’re serving me. And I was cooler than you when I was 16. But I digress, this is the burger showdown..
I liked Cafe Ghia’s Vegan Burger. It’s hearty and packed with plant textures-mushroom, rice, bean. But the texture fails a bit, as many veggie burgers do. There is a mushiness that seems uncooked, like the patty was formed and placed right inbetween the bun. It’s an edge-er veggie burger, where the edges, which are able to get more loving in the cooking process, have a way better texture than the center. And them edges, which are your first bites, satisfy enough to linger through the those more wet and mushy center bites… and then you get to the edge again at the end. It is no coincidence that winning burgers in this showdown maintain consistent balanced texture throughout. It is an impressive feat for a veggie burger… And a very common downfall.
Cinnamon Snail’s Burger That I Don’t Know the Name Of:
The celebrated Cinnamon Snail (whose brick and mortar location is coming to Manhattan soon!) has a slew of yummy sweet and savory selections. But their burgers are not very… burger-y. They’re more like cutlet sandwiches. Thick, breaded seitan hunks with various sauces and fixings, combinations that are very much not of the “less is more” philosophy. Oh, I ate up my burger special real fast. I would eat rocks on top of a warm, herbed focaccia. But it didn’t taste or feel like a burger. It didn’t taste like much at all actually! The only thing I tasted was the hot sauce. Which you don’t want for a double digit $$ burger.
The winner of the vegan-op battle: Cafe Ghia!
So basic vegan burger beats kitsch burger option. A lesson learned. Cafe Ghia advances to the semi-finals due to the disappointing Blossom draw, paired against the winner of Candle Cafe & Toad Style! With this battle winding down, I’m excited to crown a champion. And I’m also excited to start the second set of brackets. With so many vegan eateries sprouting about, there’s plenty of vegan burger contenders in training.
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