By Mark McLaughlin
Turkey burgers are not just for the politically correct, nor are veggie burgers placed on a menu merely as a sop to non-meat eating members of a lunch party. Although beef is still king when it comes to burgers, it is getting a run for its crown in many quarters from chefs who experiment with putting spiced lamb, seasoned pork, lean turkey and a variety of beans and vegetables or combinations of these (and more) into their grinders. Just as burger joints have escalated their war over who can offer the most outrageous and unique things to top a burger with, so have burger chefs begun to compete with each other over what goes into that burger in the first place. Here are just five of the best non-beef burgers in Boston, and where to find them.
The Kim Jong-Un Turkey Burger (with Stuffing) at Mr. Bartley’s
Mr. Bartley’s Gourmet Burgers
1246 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02138
A turkey burger is standard fare on many menus, but at Mr. Bartley’s not only does it come with stuffing (!) and cranberry sauce, but it also comes with a legend. The Kim Jong-Un (“He’s crazier than Trump!”) stands out in more ways than one, which is hard to do in a menu that includes such tongue-in-cheek delights as the Viagra (Blue Cheese) Taxachu$ett$ (topped with Boston Baked Beans) and the Trump Tower (“It’s Yuuge, believe me”). For good reason, this place has been featured in almost every major magazine and food show, including of course Guy Fieri’s (he loved the Triple-D Burger here so much that his name is in the subtitle. A Harvard landmark since 1960, Mr. Bartley’s is one stop no burger lover – beef or otherwise – should skip.
Trina’s Starlite Lounge Pimento Cheese Turkey Burger
Trina’s Starlite Lounge
3 Beacon St.
Somerville, MA 02143
It is not just the pimento cheese and charred red onion that makes the turkey burger at Trina’s Starlite Lounge so attractive – it is the setting itself (and the fact that it is one of the very few places in Boston you can get a meal up until 2 AM). Order it with a side of Southern Corn Fritters or the rosemary, garlic aioli Tater Tots and you won’t even care that Trina’s turkey burger is red meat-free. Oh, and save room for the home-made pie (if there is any left, as they go quick).
Merguez Morroccan Spiced Lamb and Beef Burger at 5Napkin Burger
105 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02199
The Back Bay probably did not need another burger joint, but when 5Napkin opened its doors it was obvious that this restaurant, already made famous with four locations in New York City, it was obvious that this was not just another place to get a burger. Their 10-ounce Angus Beef burgers are marvelous, but what sets this place aside from all other burger palaces is the Merguez – a Moroccan spiced lamb and beef combo burger served with harissa yogurt. The taste is far more North African than North American, and the oregano roasted tomatoes which come on it are the perfect compliment to this rather exotic variation. They also do a very good veggie and turkey burger, and offer many other choices for those who do not want a regular burger, such as chicken and waffles and ahi tuna on a bun.
Related: Boston’s Best Vegetarian Burgers
Wheehouse Mexican Black Bean Burger
63 Broad St.
Boston, MA 02109
At the Wheelhouse on Broad Street they know how to be creative when it comes to making unique burgers. While their famous Porchetta burger is at least temporarily off the menu, they have a number of other burgers made without beef, including a very fine turkey burger, a wonderful lamb burger, a traditional veggie burger and the veggie burger with a kick – otherwise known as the Mexican Black Bean Burger. Its corn topping and pickled red onions give it a nice south of the border flair. Don’t forget the side orders here either, which with their rotating menu are a surprise every time you walk in the door.
Build Your Own Veggie Burger at Boston Burger Company
Boston Burger Company
37 Davis Square
Somerville, MA 02144
Every good burger place offers a veggie burger, if only to give diners in an otherwise meatasaurus group something to order besides a salad. Boston Burger Company, however, makes a veggie burger with as much care as they do any of their tremendous all-beef burgers. It is served with avocados, roasted red peppers, marinated tomatoes, mixed greens and balsamic vinaigrette. The veggie burger, moreover, can be pumped up with additions from the “Build Your Own” options, which include the traditional burger toppings of vegetables, cheeses, fried eggs and more, but also offers a choice of six different kinds of mayo (jerk, balsamic, pesto, sriracha, cranberry and maple) and several unusual varieties of BBQ and other sauces – some of which are very, very spicey. Those options – and more – are available on all of the beef burgers for which Boston Burger Company is famed, and having them to choose from means a veggie burger can be so much more than just a grey patty on a bun. Boston Burger Company has three locations in the area (Mass Ave in Cambridge and Boylston Street downtown, as well as the Davis Square site in Somerville, and has announced plans to open restaurants in Kendall Square, also in Cambridge, and in Salem). The Davis Square store does, however, have the advantage of not only being on a square where buskers perform regularly, but also of being next door to a J.P. Licks ice cream parlor.