Burger rivalries are nothing new. In fact, they’ve shaped the very fabric of the fast-food industry in this country over the past half-century: McDonald’s vs. Burger King; White Castle vs. Krystal; Shake Shack vs. In-N-Out. But there’s a new rivalry sizzling on flattops in this city, one that’s specifically tailored to contemporary palates — a plant-based burger war that’s not so much a war as it is a boon for vegans.
I’m talking about the beefless battle between Winter Park Biscuit Co. and Plantees. “Hand an unsuspecting meat-eater one of these things, and they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference,” I said in my review of WPBCo.’s burger last summer. Indeed, the same could be said of the burger at Plantees. Both use Impossible Beef patties and come with impeccably fresh lettuce and tomato as well as pickles and vegan cheese.
Both have onions — they’re grilled in the Plantees version — and both come wrapped in a burger diaper, just like at In-N-Out. And if In-N-Out is the standard by which I’m judging these burgers, then Plantees’ burger ($10 single; $14 double) has a bun up.
Unlike the brioche bun employed at its East End Market counterpart, Plantees uses a sponge-dough bun just like they do at In-N-Out. It’s got those squishy mouthfeels and it’s sourced (somewhat locally) from a bakery in Jacksonville. Then there’s their respective secret sauces: Both have the Big Mac tang, but Nick Grecco, culinary director of Team Market Group (which operates Plantees), says his has a secret ingredient for a chef-driven twist.
So, if you’re wondering who serves the better burger, I’ll tell you straight up that they’re both great, and that’s not a cop-out. Rather, it’s a win for our plant-based dining scene, which already rates among the best in the country.
But burgers aren’t the only thing they do well at Plantees. Those “plant-style” shoestring fries ($8) slobbered in a mess of cheese (yes, vegan cheese), grilled onions and chives are an unequivocal reminder that a vegan dish doesn’t equate to a healthy one. On the contrary, this is finger-licking comfort food at its most calorically comforting.
I’m not going to drool at the thought of eating Impossible Chicken Nuggets ($9.50), but then again, I’m not going to drool at the thought of eating actual chicken nuggets, either. I will say that the spicy nuggets were crispy, and dunking them into Plantees’ spicy sauce wasn’t just bracing, it was necessary. There are other sauces available for your dipping pleasure — BBQ ranch, agave-mustard and a green goddess (sans anchovy). The latter dresses the lone salad ($9.50) offering, which mixes together kale, vegan “parmesan,” golden raisins and crispy crumbs.
Shakes are also offered on Plantees’ very focused menu and they … are … thick. Don’t plan on sucking the Oatly-based beverage — we ordered the Robinson cold brew ($7) — through a straw right away. Wait five minutes and let the Florida heat thin the shake out a bit. I did just that while sitting on one of Plantees’ outdoor benches in full view of the supercool mural by JC Rivera and Don Rimx. TMG deserves praise for preserving and incorporating it after converting the old Mills Avenue Coin Laundry building; it gives the scalable, expansion-ready Plantees brand some much-needed character in a corner block oozing with it.
No question, there’s a scene on weekends when folks from Lil Indie’s and Will’s Pub spill out onto the sidewalk and, inevitably, head toward Plantees for a late-night/early-morning bite. Not heard amid the hubbub and chatter: Where’s the beef?