L.A.'s Best Beef-Free Burgers

May is National Burger Month. (And coincidentally, Friday, May 28 is National Burger Day.) Which means it's the perfect time to rethink the burger. Sure, humankind's most iconic gastronomic indulgence will be forever tied to its beefy history as a juicy meat patty sandwiched between two buns. But what about those of us whose dietary quirks (or adventurous inclinations) have us looking beyond the beef? From veggie burgers and salmon patties to barbecued jackfruit, we're dishing on L.A.'s best vegan, vegetarian and other beef-free burgers.

Updated: November 25, 2009

Beyond the Beef

Paradise Cove Beach Cafe

28128 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265

This longstanding paradise on the beach is a mob scene of families and beach bums on the weekends, but braving the throngs--not to mention the eternal wait for your vibrating "lobster" to signal your table is ready--is worth it once you get a taste of the Dungeness crab burger ($18.95) and ahi tuna burger that's sesame-seared and spread with wasabi mayo ($16.95). Each are offered with a side of slaw if you like, but why bother when you can get the mile-high pile of fries?


1604 Pacific Ave, Venice, CA 90291

Wow! Who knew tempeh could be so tempting? This airy strip mall cafe just a couple of blocks from the beach serves up a host of tasty macrobiotic, vegan and organic cuisine (including a handful of meatless burgers). But the BBQ tempeh burger ($10.50) is the real star of the show. Served with lettuce, tomato and red onion on a wheat bun dressed in vegenaise, the homemade patty is smothered in an incredible "secret" barbecue sauce that's a little smoky, slightly tangy and utterfly flavorful. Seriously. This burger tastes so good you'll think it's bad for you.

25 Degrees

7000 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028

Hot, sweaty and hungry after a night at Teddy's? This swanky all-night hang inside the Hollywood Roosevelt is where to go when that 3am burger craving kicks in. The build-your-own burger menu offers multiple choice for patties (yes, there's sirloin but go for the turkey or veggie burger) with more than a dozen different cheeses, sauces and $1 sides like bacon, sauerkraut, fried egg and arugula.

Santa Monica Seafood

1000 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

With its bigger and better digs on Wilshire, this seafood emporium has its own cafe where folks can order the Super Spicy Salmon Burger. The spicy part comes from the remoulade sauce that's slathered on the patty, which is like a firecracker on your tongue, but in a good way. Coupled with a tang of lemon, thin slices of cool cucumber, tomato and chopped mixed greens with pine nuts. Add to that the fluffy, toasted potato bun and you're in, hook, line and sinker.

O! Burger

8593 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069

L.A.'s first all-organic fast-food joint is where to get an awesome burger. Sure, they've got the classic grass-fed O! Burger and the homemade gluten-free O! Veggie, but the free-range turkey patty is where it's at. Get it the standard way for $7.99 and it comes sandwiched between two soft organic buns with your choice of sauce (vegan Thousand Island, barbecue, chipotle or dairy ranch), caramelized onions, tomato, lettuce and a side of cole slaw, Or spare the carbs and get it in a bowl ($8.99) atop a bed of pesticide-free leaves.

Sauce On Hampton

259 Hampton Dr., Venice, CA 90291

This tiny sidewalk cafe proves that big things come in small packages. Its monumental menu (serving breakfast, lunch and dinner any time of day) includes a few burger options (homemade veggie and free-range turkey) but the grilled albacore tuna steak ($10) is the way to go. Seared just on the outer edges, the thick red fish is served with homemade red cabbage slaw (made with yogurt and garlic aioli) that really, ummm... sauces it up.

Pure Luck Restaurant

707 N Heliotrope Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90029

And the award for awesome beefless burger on the Eastside goes to ? this dive bar-esque, gastropubby restaurant that just so happens to be totally vegan. It's the only place where you can get Todd's BBQ "pulled pork" burger, a gastronomic wonder made with jackfruit--yes, as in the exotic Southeast Asian fruit--pickles, onions and vegan mayo on a rustic roll. Even better, the $9.75 price tag (including fries, sweet potatoes, soup or salad) is cheap enough that you can afford to wash it down with one of the bar's tasty $4 microbrews.

Henry's Hat

3413 Cahuenga Blvd West, Los Angeles, CA 90068

This hoppin' gastropub right across the way from Universal Studios might be an ideal place to watch the big game (they've got 16 flat screens) and even play one (their game menu features Risk, Scrabble, Battleship and beyond), but they're not playing around when it comes to their burgers (they've got six of 'em). The incredibly scrumptious turkey burger is topped with brie, mixed greens, tomato and cranberry-red onion marmalade, all sandwiched between two sublimely soft yet durable Melrose Bakery buns.

The Counter

12117 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA 91604

With practically a million different configurations possible, this burger beacon lures loyal followers with its customizable menu of everything from patty type (beef, turkey, and a really great veggie) to toppings (Brie, mushrooms, olives, eggs, grilled pineapple) and sauces (mayo, relish, ginger-soy glaze). Oh, and don't forget the fried pickle chips.