Root Hill Burger
256 Fourth Avenue, Gowanus
We have to talk about veggie burgers. Yes, they can be gross; as a restaurant reviewer who has visited many a burger joint, I often let my guest savor a juicy beef burger while I try to make the most of some lesser version—a mushy veggie burger, a bland and sad fish burger, a slippery portobello mushroom between two buns—and wonder where I went wrong with my life. If you’re craving a hamburger, no veggie burger will ever take its place, but a really good one can be a crave-worthy sandwich on its own. At Root Hill Burger, an off-shoot of the Root Hill coffee shop, the “Meatless” burger is one of those rare vegetarian wonders. Unfairly defined by an ingredient it lacks, the boldly spiced patty is reminiscent of Moroccan kefta, a delicate meatball flavored with ras el hanout, a blend of savory, sweet, and aromatic spices. If you find yourself wondering whether you taste ginger, cumin, cinnamon, cloves and cayenne, then you’re probably not missing the meat. Melted white cheddar adds richer flavors, radishes pack a peppery punch, and a spread of tangy Greek yogurt and salty-yet-citrusy preserved lemons brings this sandwich, on a sweet brioche bun, intense depth. Root Hill’s meatless burger out-classes its vegan offering, a griddled Portobello on a black sesame-studded semolina roll, though a combination of rich walnut spread, bitter arugula, and a lively green herb purée make it much more enticing than the typical grilled mushroom-on-a-bun.
This isn’t to imply that the veggie burger outshines the meatier options. A blend of short rib and brisket, from responsibly raised animals via beloved Smith Street butcher Los Paisanos, makes the beef burgers incredibly juicy. It’ll be hard to resist reordering the hamburger piled with white cheddar, crisped root veggies, thick-cut bacon, and smoky-tangy barbecue sauce, but we’re also curious about the version topped with Brooklyn Brine sour pickles, mayo and fontina cheese crisps. Our only quibble is that most of the burgers cost over $10, and the fries—browned, salty, crispy—cost an additional $3. And you’d be silly to skip the addictively delicious, deep-fried and honey-coated garbanzo beans, served alongside the same lush lemon-yogurt sauce that graces the meatless burger ($4). Pair your meal with a Sixpoint Sweet Action ($6) or an amazingly creamy Salted Caramel Milkshake ($6), and it may feel like you’re dropping a lot of cash to dine in a mod-looking fast food joint, where artsy line drawings of hamburgers paper the wall along a pair of ketchup-red eight-seater communal tables. But once we discovered the backyard, where chunky Christmas lights hung from the fence and colorful chairs surrounded rustic wooden tables, our pricey meal of burgers and brews was most definitely worth every penny.
Photo Courtesy Root Hill Burger