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March Church of Burger: Gone Veg

March 25, 2010

March’s Church of Burger venue was our not-so-token veggie burger, as it received enough votes to be considered along the beefy big boys in its own right. Located in the Shaw neighborhood of St Louis, Sweet Art is a bakehouse-slash-art studio offering vegetarian cuisine and tantalizing baked goods in a cozy cafe at 39th between Cleveland and Flad. I’m not going to hate on meatless food; I was a vegetarian for a long time and still seek out meat-free options when dining out. Too often, a veggie burger at a restaurant means a preformed patty I could have purchased myself–like a <shudder> Boca Burger. Excuse me? You think I don’t know that was frozen ten minutes ago? <eyeroll>

Fortunately, that’s not Sweet Art’s game. They’re offering up a veggie burger that’s a damn fine sandwich, carnivore or not.

After a few beers at Mangia (okay, I admit it, and a little pork), the founding members of the Church of Burger (Andrew Mark Veety, Stefani and Jonathan Pollack, and Bill Burge) squeezed around a small table in the crowded cafe (sign #1 of a great neighborhood joint).  Not to worry; a friendly patron and his family let us know they were vacating a larger table and that we could take it. Unsolicited helpful friendliness is sign #2 of a great neighborhood joint. Sign #3 of a great neighborhood joint: diversity of patronage. Besides us, there was a table of straightedge throwback punks, some yuppie babywearers, a gaggle of young, Black teens, all sipping coffee, munching sandwiches, and ogling the downright sinful-looking baked goods in the display case. This food draws all types, and this place just has a feel-good vibe.

As we stepped up to the corner to order, we discovered that the kitchen had only three veggie burgers left. Since there were five of us, I ordered the 39th, a BLT with “facon”. I’ll admit, I like fake bacon; we still eat it at our house even though we make “real” bacon, too. The generous Mr. Burge and I swapped a half of each so I was able to try the burger.

Damn, y’all, but this is a good sandwich. The hefty patty, which didn’t seem to be attempting to mimic actual meet, is made with lentils, TVP, nuts, carrots and other veggies, but it’s slightly sweet, actually caramelized, giving it a rich flavor, and, weirdly, it’s pretty juicy. In fact, it really baffled me how juicy this burger was, particularly in comparison to some burgers I’ve had in town made with actual beef. There’s coriander and cumin in there, leaving no doubt that this burger’s not your typical bland offering. Easily the tastiest non-animal burger I’ve ever had.

The wheat bun is toasted, and I think it’s an excellent choice for a veggie burger. In my experience, house-made veggie burgers can often crumble, and the wheat burger was sturdy without being toothsome and made silverware unnecessary. While I’m a firm believer that toppings are extraneous on a beef burger, the bright, organic lettuce and actually ripe, flavorful tomato (as opposed to limp iceberg and styrofoam “tomato” disks you so often see bringing down a burgers mojo) shows the care Sweet Art takes with ingredients.  Seriously, look at that tomato! In March! I do believe in fairies! <clapclap>

I meant to photograph the luscious cupcakes at Sweet Art, I really did. Truth be told, I rarely buy cupcakes in St Louis. They’re kinda like kiddie pageants–decorated to the hilt and utterly tasteless.  You know what I’m talking about: $4 cupcakes with topping after topping all hiding a dry, disillusioning mess. The cupcakes at Sweet Art can officially be added to the short list of cupcakes in St Louis that I’d actually spend money on (along with the cupcakes at now-defunct Veruca and the cupcakes at Stellina Pasta Cafe–I had a strawberry one there a few weeks ago that I’m still thinking about), and they’re under $2.

We have vegetarian friends who often come to town, and I can’t wait to take them to Sweet Art when they next visit. But I doubt I’ll wait until then to get back to Sweet Art. It’s the kind of place I wish I had around the corner in my own neighborhood.

As usual, you can read Andrew Mark Veety’s recap of this month’s Church of Burger on his blog.


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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 25, 2010 4:33 pm

    Are you sure you didn’t photoshop that tomato? It looks totally different than mine! Robbed!

  2. meghan permalink
    March 25, 2010 4:40 pm

    Next time you crave this place & need a dining buddy…call me!

  3. March 25, 2010 7:15 pm

    I’m a lucky vegan who actually is just around the corner from SweetArt. A dream come true, especially considering that other St. Louis restaurants have a long way to go in the vegan-friendly department! I’m also hooked on the Tower Grove un-chikn sandwich, the vegan brownies, vegan cookies, and the vegan hummingbird cake has made my non-vegan guests shed tears of joy. Kudos for not going for the cheap laugh by hating on veg food.

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