Match #1 of the V.V. Burger Showdown Semi-Finals: I Must Break You(r Brand Marketing).
We are now in the Semi-Finals of the V.V. New York City Burger Showdown! Sixteen burgers in, I have tasted some amazing burgers. But with new burger options already in waiting for another match-up, this field is ever-evolving. I look forward to starting another Round after a I crown one contender thee best vegan burger in all of New York City… Because a fighter fights. This, the first of the Semi-Finals, will be a hard-earned battle. Previous bout winners need to bring it… and consistency now becomes an important factor in this part of the competition.
The first match-up is Brooklyn-strong’s Pickle Shack vs. the Bareburger chain, coming soon in Dubai (no joke). Can a concentrative quality-driven single location beat the cute Bareburger brand? It was time to find out!
Let’s talk a moment about branding. Bareburger is not the only burger winner in our competition steeped in branding–its own font and cute graphic. In this age of slick, marketing, the food, in the end, stands alone. Pretty packages can complement a quality product, but they certainly cannot compensate for one. This vegan thinks of “Butter” from A Tribe Called Quest. Effort in the superficial… trying to present a specific way… it’s unnatural. Like what Q-tip was saying about Flo, “if you really liked yourself then you would try and be you.” But even further, trying to be “you” means you’re really something else, kinda. Same with brand marketing. I bring this up because it’s not just about food. The country’s popular culture nurtures this superficial, insta-gratification. Unfortunately, it is often valued above authenticity and quality. And I am a proponent of authenticity and quality in all arenas of life… like those that involve Rocky IV and A Tribe Called Quest.
Ok, I’ve earned the “On the Soapbox” tag and I’m ready to review these winning burgers!
Pickle Shack’s Home Made Shack Veggie Burger:
The Pickle Shack has got swagger. They know their veggie burger is amazing. I know their veggie burger is amazing… but I have to start fresh with this one. Like a virgin, from the top: There is something so satisfying about a soft, lightly browned potato bun. Where other denser, drier buns send a patty oozing out Play-Doh Fun Factory-style, the airy potato bun lets the patty and its fixings stay inside. The inside, thoughtful fixings like their own bread and butter pickles and their housemade cashew cheese. The patty is a true star. How do they do it? How do they make a patty that is moist and flavorful that does not 1) ooze out the sides with each bite (Play-Doh Fun Factory-style, again), 2) break off in crumbly pieces Falling Rock Zone-style, or 3) mesh indistinguishably from all the other components of the burger. Could it be that the process of grilling vegetables and mushrooms before patty formation cooks out the moisture that would otherwise render the patty a mushy mess? And could this process also impart maximum flavor? Though this blog is often about deconstructing sunshine of many forms, I don’t need to know in the end. I just need to take another bite.
Bareburger’s Build Your Own (Sweet Potato & Wild Rice patty, Sprout bun, with chickpea onions and pineapple relish):
All vegans have done it before. They’ve looked at a menu and created a hypothetical option based on what’s on the menu, the parts of other meals. But those parts, though extremely important, are only half of it. Anyone can hold a violin up to her chin, raise up a bow and intend to play something beautiful. That’s what you get at many vegan optioned eateries: the intentions, the raw materials, the heart even sometimes. But not always the execution. You have know how to play, know the notes, to create a symphony… or even a catchy jingle.
Sure, I don’t always expect a symphony. Along with being vegan you have to manage expectations (as CP would say), but this is the VeganVictuals New York City Burger Showdown. Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Or two almosts, in this case. Playing around with Bareburger’s “parts,” I made two veggie burgers to showdown Pickle Shack. One, the sweet potato and wild rice patty, chickpea onions and pineapple relish on a sprouted bun and (down there) the other, a black bean patty with pickled red onions on a sprouted bun. Like many veggie burgers before these two, the patties’ texture and a simple sprinkling of salt are their downfall. Pickle Shack blows these two out of the water. Hands down… Don’t act surprised.
The winner of the first Semi-Final battle: Pickle Shack!
So it will be Brooklyn’s Pickle Shack facing off against the winner of By Chloe and Chickpea and Olive‘s battle. But Chickpea won’t be back around until March. Hopefully by then Cafe Ghia‘s semi-final battle with the winner of Candle Cafe and Toad Style will be decided and we can swoop right into the finals!
For research design, click here.
Now, just one more second of your time. I’ve had a lot of vegan cake in my time. Pickle Shack has a vanilla cake that’ll kill ya.
Seriously. The best.