I’ve been eating vegetarian burgers for ten years. This sandwich has gone from stock frozen soy patty to an endless mix of plant-based proteins, grains, veggies, and herbs. It’s been an exciting evolution to watch, and even better for my stomach and appetite. New to the Champaign-Urbana area, I decided to go sightseeing for the tastiest veggie burgers in town.

Crane Alley

My first stop on this adventure, Crane Alley, has two veggie burgers on their menu: a black bean burger and the Incogmeato. Since the Incogmeato ($11) is billed as the “best veggie burger ever,” I thought I’d put it to the test. The patty is the Beyond Burger* burger, a plant-based burger that markets itself as looking, tasting, and feeling like real meat. The burger came with the usual garden: lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle. This was my first time eating the Impossible burger, and I had mixed feelings on it. Crane Alley did a nice job of prepping the burger; the patty was nicely cooked and the burger was satisfying. And the Impossible burger lived up to its promises. It looks, feels, and tastes like meat…especially to someone who’s been out of the beef game for a decade. My carnivorous husband thoroughly enjoyed it (along with his side of vegetarian chili cheese fries). If you’re looking for a burger that tastes like a traditional burger, this is it.

Crane Alley
115 W Main St
Urbana
Su-Th 11 a.m. to midnight
F + Sa 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.

Dancing Dog

Local vegetarian and vegan hot-spot Dancing Dog has the most unique burger on this list. Their classic burger ($10.50) comes with lettuce and tomato (I got the garlic aioli on the side), and fries. Sounds classic enough, right? It would be, except the patty (a mixture of quinoa, beet, and chickpea) is beet red. Literally. This red-hued burger tastes like any other veggie patty, and with a side of fries is indeed a great option for those wanting a classic burger (minus the meat). The burger is about the size of a traditional meat patty, and has a light, sweet flavor that carries through.

Dancing Dog
126 W Main St
Urbana
Su-T 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
W-Sa 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Destihl

This flavor packed burger, the Herbivore ($10.50), is made in house with cilantro, jalapeño, rice, black beans, carrot, and mint, and comes topped with sprouts, spinach, a sweet chili mayo, and pickled carrots. This burger is big in size as well as flavor — it’s larger than most meat patties — and comes with some equally large (and equally homemade) potato wedges. At first glance this burger seemed like it had too much going on in terms of ingredients, but it was cooked perfectly and all the flavors mixed well, especially when combined with the delicious, crispy, and simply seasoned potato wedges. This is a burger for the vegetarian (or vegan) who wants big flavors and has a big appetite.

Destihl
301 N Neil St
Champaign
M-Th 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
F 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sa 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Hamilton Walker’s

Honestly, without the recommendation from a friend, I probably would have never stepped foot into Hamilton Walker’s. Steak and seafood restaurants are usually off the table for me because they don't have many vegetarian options. However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn about their falafel burger ($8.99); I’d never had one before. I ate this burger with the usual lettuce and tomato, as well as cucumber mint sauce. I opted to have it on the side so I could dip at my leisure. The meal includes HW’s house made steak fries and coleslaw. This burger was huge. Inside of a buttery bun sat two, two, falafel burger patties (made in house).  The burger was bursting with flavor from the chickpeas and onion mingling with and mediterranean spices. The cucumber mint sauce was a modern twist on the traditional tzatziki dip.

Hamilton Walker's
201 N Neil St
Champaign
M-W 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Th + F 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Sa 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Su 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Red Herring

The Red Herring is an eclectic vegetarian and vegan Mecca in the area.The burger ($9.50) is substantially smaller than most other vegetarian burger options I’ve eaten (it’s about the size of a fast food burger), but what it lacks in size it makes up for in flavor. Packed with sweet potatoes, black beans, millet, cilantro, and oats, and topped with avocado, tomato, lettuce and a southwest ranch on a lightly toasted ciabatta bun, this burger is hands down one of the best around, and one of the best I’ve ever had. It comes with a side salad (fresh lettuce, cucumber, carrot, and a light Italian-y pesto dressing) that pairs with the burger well. You’ll be left satisfied and smiling.

Red Herring
1209 W Oregon St
Urbana
M-F 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Photos by Jordan Goebig

*Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Crane Alley's Incogmeato was made with an Impossible™ burger patty.