This guest blog post is by Kat Mandelstein.
This post is part of a series on The Austinot. It is the companion to a series on the Search for the Best Burger Joint in Austin by Austinot owner, Eric Highland…who is not a vegetarian or vegan. That’s where I come in.
If you are a true carnivore, be sure to check out his series. But if you’ve been looking for the best veggie burger in Austin, you’re in the right place. All the post titles in my series start with “Harvesting the Best Veggie Burger in Austin.”
In this review series, I’m not only judging the veggie burger, but the whole restaurant experience. With that in mind, know that these are my personal opinions. Feel free to agree or disagree with them. Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations.
Elevation Burger Overall Impression
Elevation Burger has been in Austin for a few years, but this month they open their first drive-thru location at 10611 Research Blvd., where Terra Burger was.
I hadn’t eaten at an Elevation Burger until I sampled it for this review. I had tried a few times to grab lunch at the Great Hills location across from the Arboretum, but they always had long lines and I needed fast food…literally.
When I went to their website to preview the menu, I noticed that I could order food to go online. Those of you who know me, know I’m a technogeek. I decided to give their online ordering system a try, so I would have time to both get the food and eat at the Anderson Lane location on my lunch hour.
Elevation Burger’s online ordering system is easy to use and very convenient. It has a checklist for burger type, condiments, toppings, sides and beverages. I arrived, my food was ready and they handed it to me immediately with a big smile. I didn’t even have to show them my credit card or sign anything. Food was exactly as ordered. A positive first impression for sure!
Unlike most fast food burger joints, Elevation not only has one veggie burger, they actually have two! One veggie burger is vegetarian, but contains dairy (Veggie Burger #1). The other is vegan and tastes like veggies (Veggie Burger #2).
They also have double patty burgers with one beef patty and one veggie patty called “Half the Guilt Burger.” Personally, I don’t get why anyone would order this option, but I do have a friend who eats bacon on her veggie burgers, so maybe this option is for people like her. I bet I could even convince Eric to try one of these.
Since I am vegan, I chose the vegan option: Veggie Burger #2. All Elevation’s burgers are made from organic ingredients, which is impressive for a fast food chain.
Kat’s Veggie Burger Review Criteria
For consistency, I adopted Eric’s burger judging scale for veggie burgers using a 1-10 scale, with 5 being average. (As Eric would say, “Don’t be a hater. If I rate you a 5, that means you were average, and that’s not so bad.”)
Adapting the scale for veggie burgers, a score of 1 translates to “tasted like the dirt it grew in,” while 10 translates to “Mother Nature handcrafted it herself.” Remember, you are free to disagree with me. I am entitled to my opinions and so are you.
When reviewing a veggie burger, these are my categories:
- Veggie Burger Patty
- The Bun
- Messiness (note: Eric rates burgers higher as they get more messy because that’s how he likes them, but I rate burgers lower as they get more messy)
- Presentation (garnish, did they make it look appetizing)
- Overall Veggie Burger Taste
- Fries or Side Item (extra points for a choice in sides)
- Other Factors
Elevation Burger Veggie Burger Review
- Veggie Burger Patty = 8 The Veggie Burger #2 patty is vegetable and grain based and has a great texture. I could see little bits of organic red pepper and corn in the patty, and it was cooked just right. This one is a true vegan patty and it was very tasty and wholesome.
- The Bun = 5.5 Their bun was slightly above average. Nothing very special or memorable, but for the standard hamburger bun, it was soft and warmed just right.
- Toppings = 8 You have a choice of carmelized or raw onions, in addition to their original toppings of Elevation Sauce, pickles, lettuce and tomatoes. I had carmelized onions and they were awesome. They also have balsamic mustard, hot pepper relish and blue cheese dressing, all at no additional charge. I would have paid extra to add some avocado, but that was not an option on their menu. All the toppings were very fresh.
- Messiness = 9 Veggie Burger #2 was a very neat burger and the way they wrapped it made it easy to eat without making a mess. This is a burger you could easily eat while driving or wearing a white shirt.
- Garnish = 5 Nothing special about the food presentation. But after all it is a fast food restaurant, not a fine dining establishment.
- Taste = 7 This is a very good veggie burger. Of the fast food veggie burgers I have tried, not only in Austin but around the country, I would have to say this is definitely one of my favorites. It falls short of a higher score because of the average bun.
- Fries or Side Item = 5.5 The french fries were included with the order, which is unusual for a fast food restaurant. I appreciated not having to pay extra for them. They were fresh, hot and crispy, but a little too greasy and salty. My arteries felt guilty eating these, even though they are advertised as cooked in “heart-healthy” olive oil. (According to my nutritionist, olive oil cooked at high temperatures is really not that healthy for you. Grapeseed or coconut oil is better for high temperatures. Olive oil is healthy only if it is cold or used at a cooking temperature of 350 degrees F or below, under the smoke point which creates toxins.) Other sides offered at Elevation Burger include mandarin orange slices and two cookie options.
- Atmosphere = 6 The atmosphere is a bit sterile and white, but for a fast food restaurant it helps create a clean and healthy feeling. They got an extra point from me for having patio dining. A good option on a sunny day or if you are out and about with your dog.
- Cleanliness = 7 For a fast food restaurant, I was impressed with how clean the restaurant was. Even the patio tables were bussed and clean in the middle of the lunch rush, and the counters and windows were noticeably clean for a fast food restaurant that is highly trafficked.
- Other Factors = 7 Extra point for the efficient online ordering system. Elevation Burger staff was friendly and efficient. I am not usually a fan of fast food chains, but am now a fan of this one and will definitely be back.
Bottom Line on the Veggie Burger at Elevation Burger in Austin: 6.8 out of 10
Overall Score = 6.8. The overall score is the average of the 10 categories.
Fast food restaurants tend to rate lower on presentation of the food and atmosphere, so it may not be fair to judge Elevation Burger against sit down restaurants. But in order to have consistency from review to review, it is a necessity.
As a vegan, I don’t frequent a lot of fast food restaurants. So to say that I’m now a fan of Elevation Burger is a huge compliment to them. They won me over with my first Veggie Burger #2.
The fact that they use organic ingredients is also important and they deserve recognition for that. However, they may want to rethink using olive oil for the fries, and consider grapeseed oil (coconut oil has a distinct taste). I would suggest their headquarters read up on studies that have shown that cooking olive oil at high temperatures is not healthy, so should not be marketed as being “heart healthy.” Getting off my soapbox now!
Their online ordering system makes getting in and out speedy, and they are active on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Elevation Burger actually followed me on Twitter a month or so ago. I am always happy to see local businesses proactively engaging with customers and perspective customers. Elevation appears to respond very quickly to any questions or comments directed at them on their social media accounts.
I am really looking forward to the new location with a drive-thru, to make it even easier to grab a great veggie burger on the go.
The new location also has a playground for kids and picnic tables if you want to sit down and eat.
I used to frequent this location when it was Terra Burger (even though their food was overpriced and their veggie burger was mediocre) because it was one of the few Austin fast food restaurants with vegan options in my driving path. I am thrilled that Elevation Burger is moving into the same location, so I get an even better veggie burger. Next Elevation Burger trip for me is definitely to the new location.
Update: Elevation Burger got back to me on the issue raised about cooking their french fries in olive oil. Typically, deep fryers cook french fries at 375F, which creates toxins. But according to Danny Bone from Elevation Burger Austin, “Our process is patented and our french fries are cooked well below 350F at all times! The blanching process is done at 270F and the frying between 320F and 330F, so all the health benefits are kept. The temperatures vary, however they are always well below 350F so that the health benefits associated with olive oil remain intact for our customers.”
Harvesting the Best Veggie Burger in Austin Continues
So far, of veggie burgers in Austin reviewed on The Austinot, here is the scorecard:
#1 – score 7.8 – Bouldin Creek Cafe
#2 – score 7.5 – Magnolia Cafe
#3 – score 6.8 – Elevation Burger
#4 – score 6.35 – Billy’s on Burnet
Other places that have been suggested for me to review are: Mr. Natural, Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse, Mother’s Café & Garden, Woodland, Big Daddy’s, Whole Foods, Galaxy Café, BJ’s, Crown & Anchor, Freddy’s Custard, Bartlett’s and 24 Diner.
What would you suggest?
Kat Mandelstein is not a native of Austin, but she got here as fast as she could. By day she is the Director of Social Business Strategy & CollaborANT at Ant’s Eye View, and by night she is the President of Social Media Club Austin, sits on the International SocialMediaClub.org Board of Directors and recently became the host of the Social Media Book Club and Webinar.