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If you just shovel this and its coterie of condiments into your face, you might miss the hefty Beyond Brat’s unsubtle seasonings. Photo by Steve Steward
Vice Burger, 1515 W Magnolia Av, FW. 11am-8pm Sun-Tue. 817-985-6560.

 

I know there are wide swaths of people who will not go near a plant-based meat substitute, and if you count yourself among that horde, I’m not going to try to convince you to give a Beyond or Impossible patty a chance any more than I would try to talk an entomophobe into eating a bowl of ants. And now that I think of it, I wouldn’t pressure a vegan to do that either, but I would definitely try to convince a person amenable to vegan-friendly protein patties to grab a bite at Vice Burger.

Found on the west end of Magnolia Avenue, in the spot formerly occupied by Poké Poké, Vice is a sister business to both Roots Coffee on nearby Bryan Avenue and Boulevard of Greens near Horne and I-30 on the West Side. The latter offers fresh ingredients and healthy plant-based treats and bites such as gluten-free desserts and a “Times Square Bagel” smeared with vegan cream cheese and smoky carrot lox, and in the spring of 2023, Boulevard of Greens was opening this Magnolia spot as a Near Southside location. Whatever caused the concept change between then and now, Vice Burger has turned the space into an adorable, peppy place to snag a pretty filling meal.

Thin Line Fest Rectangle

Taking inspiration from Miami’s pastels and given visual pop by some custom LED art, the restaurant’s vibe is energetic and friendly yet never overwhelming — the fake plants “growing” over the kitchen’s drop ceiling and rattan pendant lamps imbue Vice Burger with a balmy South Beach-boho feel, replete with a fun touches like an upright Pac-Man cabinet, some card- and word-games, and a sun-dappled patio.

Of course, all the good feels in the world don’t matter if the food doesn’t match. Luckily, Vice Burger delivers pretty tasty flavors. On my first trip, I went with the Smoky Bacon Vice Burger, made with an Impossible patty (the other patty option is Beyond), and a sprightly, crunchy kale salad (kale, cabbage, and carrots, drizzled in a vinaigrette and served in a plastic cup). Slathered in the eatery’s signature Smoky Vice sauce (a creamy, delectably peppery vegan condiment), the Smoky Vice’s Pepperjack cheese, grilled onions, fresh tomatoes, and lettuce topped that patty along with a pair of thick-cut, house-made vegan bacon slices crafted from whole-bean tofu. All of that was barely contained within a toasted, buttered sesame seed bun. Each bite was a delight, but it took all of two chomps before the burger began to disintegrate into an open-faced situation. That didn’t bother me a whole lot — I’m not some fussy, rarefied diner who gets apoplectic over using utensils for traditionally hand-held cuisine — but I jotted down a pro tip to be sure to grab a fork and twice as many napkins as you may think you need.

Anyway, the burger was messy but delicious, and I thought about how I would probably put that sauce on anything. As it happens, Vice Burger’s Vice Sauce is also prominently featured on the Vice Burger and the Chicken Vice Sandwich. On my return trip, I tried the regular ol’ burger, finding it just as messy but minus the bacon. Again, the sauce invigorated my taste buds, and the buttery bun and fresh veggies — including some Best Maid pickles — scratched that sensory itch etched into my brain by every Chili’s Oldtimer I ate in the late 20th century. That a vegan burger can take you back to an archetypically tasty, all-beef classic — and, yes, I think an Oldtimer with cheese from, like, 1987 to 2002 is pretty much the gold standard for hamburgers, and I don’t care if that causes your eyebrows to fly off your face in outraged disbelief — that is, in my mind, a pretty good recommendation.

The regular Vice Burger did fall apart like its smokier cousin, but I came prepared this time to accept that the back half of the experience would require forking it out of the paper boat. If that sounds like a hassle to you, Vice Burger also offers vegan hot dogs and brats, as well as a grilled cheese sandwich called the Cheesy Vice. I tried the Vice Brat next to the Vice Burger and found that the brat’s pretzel bun was a lot better at keeping itself and the pile of grilled onions and red peppers, sauerkraut, and tomatoes in check. I also discovered that using a fork for the brat gave me the pause to better appreciate the hefty Beyond Bratwurst sausage. If you just shovel this and its coterie of condiments into your face, you might miss the Beyond Brat’s unsubtle seasonings, a cadre of spices that merit putting the peppers and onions a little bit in the background.

While I didn’t eat the Cheesy Vice, it did strike me as a superior vehicle for appreciating Vice Burger’s bacon — the piece I broke off the Smoky Vice was appreciably crunchy, salty, and, well, bacon-like. For haters of alterna-bacons like turkey, Vice’s tofu version tasted a lot closer to the real thing.

Besides kale salads, sides include a Caesar salad, tots, and Sidewinder Fries, which are like if a steak fry decided to go curly. Be advised: Both the tots and fries are fried in peanut oil, but if you’re allergic (like I am), that kale salad was legitimately enjoyable. Vice Burger also offers chocolate chip cookies and several types of vegan gelato milkshakes — the cookies and cream and strawberry almond crisp piqued my interest the most, though I passed on anything else following my go at the burger and the brat.

While I will likely remain on the animal-protein side of the burger fence, Vice Burger’s signature sauce, cheery environs, friendly service, and savory flavors will continue to entice me to cross over. Whether or not plant-based meats are the wave of the future, I’m happy to indulge in what Vice Burger has to offer in the present.

Vice Burger
Smoky Bacon Vice Burger $12
Vice Burger $9.99
Vice Brat $9.99
Kale salad $4
A vegan burger as juicy, savory, and “meaty” as an Oldtimer? Get your fix at Vice.
Photo by Steve Steward

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