Harvesting the Best Veggie Burger in Austin: Billy’s on Burnet

Billy's on Burnet in Austin, Texas

Billy’s on Burnet is tucked away off the corner of North Loop and Burnet in Lo-Burn IBIZ District

This guest blog post is by Kat Mandelstein.

This post is part of a series on The Austinot. It’s a companion series to the Search for the Best Burger Joint in Austin by Austinot owner, Eric Highland…who is not a vegetarian or vegan. If you’re a true carnivore, be sure to check out Eric’s series.

If you’ve been looking for the best veggie burger in Austin, that’s where I come in. All my review titles start with “Harvesting the Best Veggie Burger in Austin.”

In this series, I’m not only judging the veggie burger itself, 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.

Billy’s on Burnet Overall Impression

I have driven, walked and run by Billy’s on Burnet for years (I used to train next door at Goddess Fit), but I had never eaten there. When a friend of the family found out I was writing this blog series on veggie burgers, she insisted I try Billy’s on Burnet because of the number of veggie burger choices on their menu. She was right, there were a lot of options; whereas most restaurants that serve veggie burgers only give you one choice.

I ordered the Vegetarian Mushroom Burger, but had them hold the cheese and mayo since I am vegan. I also had them sub my fries for fried green tomatoes. You can also sub your fries for onion rings, fried okra, fried mushrooms or a cup of their veggie chili.

Billy's on Burnet Vegetarian Mushroom Burger

Billy’s Vegetarian Mushroom Burger

My husband Dan ordered the standard veggie burger, hold the cheese and mayo, and had them add veggie chili to his veggie burger. The standard veggie burger also has avocado and sprouts on it. If you remember from my last review, I paid extra to have avocado added, so it’s great that Billy’s includes it already on the basic veggie burger.

Billy’s is really more of a neighborhood bar than a restaurant. So if you want a good beer on tap with your veggie burger, then this is a good place for you. They have vintage video games, a jukebox, a pool table and the standard neon bar signs and TVs with sports playing on them.  As far as décor, Billy’s on Burnet feels a bit stuck in the ‘80s and some of the furniture shows wear and tear.

They have a big deck out front with picnic tables and they do allow pets on the deck, which is a plus in my book. You order at the counter, they give you your drinks and a number and then they bring your food out to you when it’s ready.

Kat’s Veggie Burger Review Criteria

For consistency, I decided to adopt 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.”)

So 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
Arcade Video Games at Billy's on Burnet

Billy’s on Burnet Veggie Burger Review

  1. Veggie Burger Patty = 6  The patty is soy-based and has a nice texture. It was a little thin, but it was cooked just right. This is a true vegan patty, unlike other restaurants in town that mix cheese into the patty. Billy’s does serve cheese on top of the patty standard, unless you ask them to hold it like I did to keep it vegan.
  2. The Bun = 6  Their bun is a soft Kaiser roll. It was soft and fluffy and tasted good, but was not super memorable.
  3. Toppings = 8 All veggie burgers include tomato, onion, lettuce and a pickle spear. Depending which veggie burger you order, you have many choices on toppings. The sautéed mushrooms on mine could have used more seasoning or some sautéed onions mixed in. The avocado, sprouts and veggie chili on Dan’s burger had a lot more flavor. I would recommend ordering it his way, with or without the chili added.
  4. Messiness = 7 This depends on your toppings. My Vegetarian Mushroom burger was fairly neat. Had Dan not added the chili, his would have been fairly easy to eat too. If you order the chili on top, like he did, expect it to be messier to eat as the chili oozes out.
  5. Garnish = 5 The burgers are served open face in a basket, with their sides under them and a stick holding the veggie toppings to one side of the bun. Not that attractively presented, but this is more of a traditional burger joint than a restaurant.
  6. Taste = 6.5. If I were just rating the Veggie Mushroom Burger, I would have rated it a 6. But if I rate the Vegetarian Burger with chili that Dan ate, it would get a 7. So I split the difference in my rating.
  7. Fries or Side Item = 6 French fries come standard and they were OK, but nothing to write home about. However, Billy’s deserves a slightly higher score here for their variety of side options. The fried green tomatoes were not the best I have ever had, but I appreciated having choices.
  8. Atmosphere = 6 My husband would have probably given a slightly higher rating in this category. He commented that Billy’s definitely has an Austin vibe. But for me, the atmosphere did nothing to truly improve the experience. They don’t have a very big staff and they stay behind the counter other than dropping your food off, so service level added nothing to the meal either.
  9. Cleanliness = 5 This place is a little run down. The tables and chairs were worn down and the tops of the table were a bit sticky. Since they have limited staff, I get the feeling they don’t have time to clean the tables or carpets as much as you see waiters do in regular restaurants.
  10. Other Factors = 8 Billy’s on Burnet has many choices for veggie burgers and sides. I applaud them for that, especially given the type of establishment they are. They also have a good selection of beers on tap, in addition to bottle beers and wine. I also give them extra points for the pet friendly deck. One strange thing I noticed on the menu is that they charge .60 per item for to-go food. This would keep me from coming here if I didn’t have time to eat on site.
Billy's on Burnet Veggie Burger in Austin

Standard veggie burger with chili at Billy’s

Bottom Line on the Veggie Burger at Billy’s on Burnet in Austin: 6.35 out of 10

Overall Score = 6.35. The overall score is the average of the 10 categories.

Billy’s on Burnet definitely gets that there are a lot of us vegetarians and vegans in Austin, and have dedicated a whole section of their menu to this. For that, I applaud them. I can’t think of another restaurant in Austin, particularly a neighborhood bar, that goes to such great lengths to give us options. It may not be the best veggie burger you ever had, but it’s definitely better than average and you have several styles to choose from.

For a neighborhood bar, this is also a friendly laid back place to meet a few friends and hang out, watch your favorite team play or even play some pool or old school video games. No dress code required; just come as you are. For those of you who are always searching for dog-friendly hangouts where you can eat a meal too, your furry friends are definitely welcome here as long as you sit on the patio.

At the end of the day, I would not put Billy’s on Burnet at the top of my list when I’m craving a good veggie burger. However, since it’s a local Austin hangout this side of downtown, not too far from my office, I will definitely be back. I’d like to try one of the other veggie burger options, and maybe the fried okra as a side.  One thing is for sure: I will definitely not order my veggie burger to go, since they charge extra for that.

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 where I’ve never eaten a veggie burger that have been suggested for me to review are: Mr. Natural, Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse, Elevation Burger, Mother’s Café & Garden, Woodland, Big Daddy’s, Whole Foods, Galaxy Café, BJ’s Crown & Anchor, Freddy’s Custard.

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.

 

@TheAustinot asks:

Where is your favorite veggie burger in Austin?
Billy's on Burnet on Urbanspoon

  • carrie

    so, this is weird, but my favorite veggie burger is at waterloo ice house. this is the only thing i would ever order at waterloo, but it’s SO delish–get it with avocado! i’ve heard amazing things about 24 diner’s house made veggie patty, and hop doddy’s is pretty good, but requires a fork…

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

      Carrie, Agree with you on Hop Doddy’s needing a fork, a bit to crumbly and beany but very good if you ask them to cook it well-done. Their bun is awesome.
      Will have to try 24 Diner. Is it pretty much the same as Waterloo? Which I would classify as decent (especially because of the avocado which is how I order it too), but not in the best of category.

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

    I just don’t “get it” not trying to be argumentative.. but I guess I’m just a carnivore and blinded by the meat. Are veggie burgers actually tasty? They strike me as something that I’d have to “settle” for.. someone please enlighten me. hehe I mean after all, we didn’t crawl our way up from the bottom of the food chain to eat plants right?

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

      Eric, yes a good veggie burger is actually tasty, but there are a lot of them out there that are not tasty…think spongy or squishy beans…so finding a good one is rewarding! There are many reasons to eat veggie burgers. For me, it is because I don’t eat animal by-products because of the hormones which impact my already whacked out hormones. I know other people with other health issues who also eat plant strong because it has been proven to slow down and even reverse issues like heart conditions and diabetes. Then there are those that are ethically opposed to eating animals who are die-hard vegan and vegetarians because of it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AprildawnwithanE April Dawne

    As burgers go (veggie or meat-infused) I think Billy’s is just ok, but I too, appreciate the array of sides you can get w/your burger. I usually opt for a salad and they don’t disappoint. Good place to go after a 60mi bike ride for a burger, salad, ice tea and beer for my riding buddy.

  • Alyssa

    Hands down Freddy’s place has the BEST veggie burger I have found.

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

      Thanks for your feedback Alyssa!

  • Beth

    There are so many great contenders in town, but, hands down, my favorite is still P Terry’s

  • blixco

    I’m one of those Billy’s regulars…a lunch regular. I’m there twice a week sometimes. The number of vegetarian and vegan options are very unusual for a beer and burger joint, especially one with such an old Austin feel to it. The owner has owned or managed a number of bars around town, and he’s a great guy. The staff are also very cool…no waiter / waitresses means you have to walk to get your food. Not a huge deal unless you’re immobilized. The beer selection is always very good, with an emphasis on local beers. And they have decent burgers (you can make any burger vegan / veggie, so the Cobra Burger with a veggie patty is my current favorite).

    The thing for me is the place. What you find run down and grungy I find preferable to, say, any of the too-bright too-loud places that have sprung up around it. Plus the jukebox at Billy’s is remarkable…not your normal load of crap, it adds greatly to the joint.

    In some ways it feels plucked out of 90′s Austin, kept sealed off from the Californication that is running roughshod over the town. A bit like Crown and Anchor, actually, in that it recalls a time when things weren’t at all what they are now. Not that all development is bad or whatever, it’s just nice that places with an older Austin character can be found, and we’re lucky: they do vegan.

    So, yeah: maybe not the greatest veggie burger, but certainly a good tasting veg friendly menu in an iconoclastic setting. In my opinion, that’s way better than being elbows deep in a fast food joint or some neo-retro-hipster foodie destination. It’s a bit punk rock, ya know?

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

      @ef835834caf3027848bd5093edb9dd98:disqus that is one of the most well thought out and articulated comments we’ve had on the Austinot. I really appreciate you stopping by and sharing your 2 cents. You can write and your opinionated. Ever thought of doing a guest blog post? I’m the founder of the Austinot and I’d love to talk to you about it if you are interested. Shoot me a contact form if you are. ~ Eric

      • blixco

        Thanks, I may just do that….

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

          Looking forward to seeing your contact form if you decide to.

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

      Blixco, thanks for your POV. Good input from a regular. Reminds me more of my college days here in the 80s (probably because of the videogames and the jukebox) than the 90s when I came back the tail end of that decade from the Metroplex having migrated there for a job and thrilled to be back in Austin.