Harvesting the Best Veggie Burger in Austin: Elevation Burger

Elevation Burger in Austin Serves Veggie BurgersThis 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 is Open in Austin, Texas

Elevation Burger Austin opens its first drive-thru location this month, on Hwy 183N between Great Hills and Braker

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.

Elevation Burger Online Ordering System

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:

  1. Veggie Burger Patty
  2. The Bun
  3. Toppings
  4. 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)
  5. Presentation (garnish, did they make it look appetizing)
  6. Overall Veggie Burger Taste
  7. Fries or Side Item (extra points for a choice in sides)
  8. Atmosphere
  9. Cleanliness
  10. Other Factors

Elevation Burger Veggie Burger Review

Veggie Burger at Elevation Burger in Austin

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Garnish = 5 Nothing special about the food presentation. But after all it is a fast food restaurant, not a fine dining establishment.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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

Veggie Burger and Fries at Elevation Burger in AustinOverall 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.

Playground at Elevation Burger in AustinI 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.
Elevation Burger on Urbanspoon

  • Lori Luza

    Great writeup, Kat. Elevation is great unless you are there while they are crushing potatoes for the next batch of fries. So, bring earplugs just in case! :)

    Be sure that Big Daddy’s Burger Bar is on your “to try” list. It’s my favorite vegan burger EVAR.

    • http://www.facebook.com/katmandelstein Kathy Mandelstein

      Thanks Lori! If I go to the new drive-thru location I can just crank up the radio and skip the earplugs ; ) That is the third suggestion for Big Daddy’s I have had, so they must be good. Will move that one up on my review list!

  • wordstar

    Your Mom’s Burger at Airport Blvd. — Best Veggie Burger in town

    • http://www.facebook.com/katmandelstein Kathy Mandelstein

      Thanks for the suggestion. Adding it to my list!

    • http://www.facebook.com/eric.highland Eric Highland

      @0db7013a062fcd2aa5111b943663da4d:disqus I’ve been told that I need to go there for my regular burger series too. Maybe @facebook-841669389:disqus and I need to hit that one up together? You up for it Kat?

      • http://www.facebook.com/katmandelstein Kathy Mandelstein

        Absolutely up for that! Dueling burger reviews would be fun..kinda like point/counterpoint on 60 minutes; )

        • http://www.facebook.com/eric.highland Eric Highland

          It’s on like donkey kong

  • http://twitter.com/lfeeney Laura Feeney

    I’d suggest adding Blackstar and Opal Divine’s – I’ve enjoyed the veggie burger at both.

    • http://www.facebook.com/katmandelstein Kathy Mandelstein

      Thanks for the suggestions Laura. Have tried Blackstar, but not Opal Divine’s.

  • http://twitter.com/ClaireEngland Claire England

    (Ha, just posted this to your FB and then saw the comment section here, oops….)
    Awesome that you’re exploring this, Kat! I look forward to reading your discoveries! A couple of suggestions to add to your list:
    Hopdoddy’s Janis Joplin, which is so far my favorite in town – fresh, not at all dry. It does tend to fall apart, but that just makes it messy fun… ;) Oh, and they just started offering a second veggie burger that might even be better!
    Arlo’s vegan Bac’n Cheeze Burger, which gets crazy good reviews on Yelp and is the closest I’ve tasted to a ‘real’ bacon cheeseburger in ages, yum!

    • http://www.facebook.com/katmandelstein Kathy Mandelstein

      Thank Claire, if Hopdoddy has a NEW veggie burger I will definitely have to go back. Janis Joplin has awesome bun, but falls apart easy and is only tasty when well done, otherwise it is smushy beans in the middle. Ario’s if there is no real bacon or dairy, I will give it a try since it sounds interesting. Will check it out and thanks for the recommendations!

  • Kristin S (Two Cannoli)

    I haven’t tried Magnolia, but I do love the veggie burgers at Elevation!

    • http://www.facebook.com/katmandelstein Kathy Mandelstein

      Thanks Kristin, more in the series to come so you can explore them all!

  • Mike T

    It’s a myth that olive oil has a low smoke point. Extra virgin olive has a low smoke point because it is the first pressing and contains many of the flavor compounds. These compounds give EVOO its distinct flavor, but they also burn when cooked. 2nd or 3rd pressings (plain olive oil) have the flavor compounds removed and therefore has a higher smoke point, suitable for frying. You can watch at Elevation Burger when they drop the fries, if the oil was heated above smoke point, you’d see smoke (and smell it, and the fries would taste horrible).

    • http://www.austinot.com/ Brittany Highland

      Appreciate the insight, Mike.

  • Zeehive

    P. Terry’s has a good one.

    • http://www.austinot.com/ Brittany Highland

      That it does, @6a53e2225085de2532ecdba953eb9adc:disqus. One of my favorites! Sometimes I think I just go for the Maine Root root beer though. It is fantastic.

  • Bekah Walsh

    So glad I found your post. I am a new vegetarian and saw an EB is opening near me. I have had some NASTY experiences with veggie burgers, and you’ve made me feel more comfortable about giving these guys a try when they open!

    • http://www.austinot.com/ Brittany Highland

      @google-fdc2582e1679a21426ab0d7aaf3d16a6:disqus, glad you’re encouraged! @facebook-841669389:disqus has written 6 veggie burger reviews on the Austinot so far, with more planned! You can see them all here: http://austinot.com/tag/veggie-burger. Would love to hear your thoughts when you start visiting!