It's not all beef in the burger world, you know. Chicken, bison, ahi tuna, even vegan— OC restaurants know how to impress outside of cow meat. Here are some of our favorites.
The Impossible Burger from Umami Burger
Umami is pretty serious about their beef. However, one option we weren't banking on was their mission to offer a meat-free burger that actually "bled". You read that right. It's made of potatoes and other plant-based ingredients.The verdict is still out, but now they've got a vegan doppleganger for those who want to at least look like a carnivore. Find your nearest location at www.umamiburger.com.
Prime House-Ground Colorado Lamb Burger from Dublin 4
Gastropubs are known for their burgers and brews, but we find ourselves ordering something other than the beef variety in Mission Viejo. Instead of aged cheddar, there's creamy goat cheese. Fire-roasted red pepper replaces standard issue tomato slices. And pickled red onions are the ingredient we didn't know we needed. Our flavor revelation goes off like Disneyland fireworks. 26342 Oso Pkwy, Mission Viejo, (949) 582-0026; www.dublin4gastropub.com.
'Nashville Hot' Fried Chicken Sandwich from Jimmy's Famous American Tavern
If we were marinated overnight in buttermilk, honey and spices, we'd be as flavorful as JFAT's fried chicken entry. Slap on that slaw, lettuce and some bread and butter pickles, and you're golden. Bring on the heat in Dana Point and Brea! www.j-fat.com.
The Sputnik from Rick's Atomic Cafe
We locate some out of this world eats in a hidden office park by SNA. Rick's offers a few custom options, but we had a favorite assembly for this nutritious blend,
"A homemade veggie patty made with lentils, cashews, leeks, onions and mushrooms, it satisfies like a typical burger. Contain it in yeasty sourdough for complexity, then counter the earthy flavors with a mild slice of mozzarella. After that, the toppings are very Five Guys, allowing as much of whatever they offer. This includes, but isn't limited to, alfalfa sprouts, cucumbers and cilantro. However, there is something about the unassuming patty that appeals to the typical carnivore."
3100 Airway Ave., Costa Mesa, (714) 825-0570; www.ricksatomiccafe.com.
Bison Burger from The Counter
One of the customizing pioneers, they know you secretly want a burger to your exact specifications. From style to protein to sauce and toppings galore, a meal here is one big checklist. We recall when they introduced bison . . .it was so exotic at the time! Nowadays, it's a nice organic option that fills our belly nicely. Splurge on this meat, and learn why it remains on their menu. Find your nearest location at www.thecounterburger.com
Lamb burger from Haven Gastropub
This one time, us Forkers had a battle about who had the best burger. While it was the task of yours truly to judge Haven on their signature meal, we secretly craved (and went back for) the lamb. Here's what we discovered,
"Beef may be the star in a classic hamburger, but there should be special awards for alternative meats. Every bite was as satisfying as the last. Those sprouts are our new lettuce; we want to pile them on. But the kicker had to be both the onion jam and tzatziki spread. Our fondness for Greek cuisine was all over this combination. Individually, the components were good. Together, we remained silent for a minimum 15 minutes while we inhaled it."
190 S. Glassell St., Orange, (714) 221-0680; www.havengastropub.com.
The O.C. Burger from Burger Parlor
Next up on our tasty 10, one bird we never tire of in Downtown Fullerton and Old Towne Orange. We still order it to this day, and here's why,
"Could it be the soft, yet study bun that only Mahon serves? That's definitely a component. While others snicker at the sprouts and marinated carrots, we say, "Yes, please!" No more guilt over skipping a salad. Avocado and provolone assure us the gluttony monster isn't lurking that far behind. With the juicy Carl's Jr-esque mess created by sinking into one, that secret sauce they mention hardly computes. Our burger is that tasty, as is. No char or hot sauce required."
Veggie Burger from Butterleaf
Found inside TRADE's food hall, messy goodness is a thing at Butterleaf. Lots of avocado and sauce means all-around flavor. Worth the wait, for sure. Just don't ask us to choose between their side dishes. 2222 Michelson Dr., Irvine; www.butterleaf.co
Thunderbird from Hopdoddy
It was a tough call between this and their Continental Club, but seared poblanos, avocado and Tillamook pepper jack made all the difference. And what a handsome bite it made for. We like having it at the bar, so our drinks arrive faster. Find your nearest location at www.hopdoddy.com.
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Classic Breakfast Burger from The Scratch Room
We searched for the perfect morning pick-me-up, and happily located it in Anaheim. Scratch Room's Classic played out as if Jimmy Dean and In-n-Out had a baby. And that yolk porn? Awww, yeah. It's the ketchup to our thick-cut wedges. 2415 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 236-5613; www.thescratchroom.com