On the (Veggie) Burger Trail: The Edamame Burger at Frida
During the month of January, Lori Fredrich will be making some special stops on the burger trail to find the latest, greatest and most delicious veggie burgers in Milwaukee. The criteria for presentation, bun, toppings and value will remain consistent with those established for the Burger Trail; but the veggie burgers themselves will be rated on the basis of overall quality, flavor, texture and preparation.
2238 N. Farwell Ave.
There's something about the moment when the still silence turns to a gentle bustle at Crossroads Collective. It's the time just before the lunch or dinner rush. The air changes, awakened by energy and the chatter of friends, gathering in groups at the community tables and placing orders at vendor counters. It's lively and bright and a reminder that the East Side is alive, well, and moving swiftly into the future.
It's one of the reasons I love to visit. It's one of those places where I enjoy eating as much by myself as in the company of others. I've also grown to love each of the vendors for different reasons; it seems Crossroads has something for just about any one of my food-based moods.
On this particular occasion, however, I visited with one thing in mind: the Edamame Burger from Frida, a veggie burger I'd heard about but which I'd never tried.
The Edamame Burger features an edamame-based vegetable patty topped with roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, refried beans and chipotle aioli; the burger is served with chips on the side ($10).
The burger stood a good four inches high, showing off each distinct layer of its composition. First came the glossy bun, slightly charred the underside. Then the orange-hued chipotle aioli, the strings of onion and the deep red of the tomato. All crowned the nicely formed edamame patty, which was pale, but flecked with bits of color.
The bun was soft and sweet with a beautifully glossy exterior which had been grilled just enough to give it a light row of delicately striped grill marks. Inside it was nicely toasted, giving the bun a subtle texture and bit of color. This burger didn't need heft to absorb juices; but it did need the buns solidness to hold things together, and the roll did its job well.
The housemade burger was hefty and a closer look revealed that it was doppled with green bits of edamame, flecks of red pepper and deeper green flecks of what I determined was likely cilantro. The latter brought flavor and the chopped edamame offered the otherwise homogenous patty some welcome texture.
Overall, the patty's flavor reflected the sweet nutty character of the edamame; but it played nicely with both the burger's seasonings (perhaps a hint of cumin, flecks of black pepper…) and the layer of full-flavored earthy refried black beans which lay beneath it.
As for the texture, this burger did lean toward the softer side, flattening and spreading with each bite; but – combined with its Mexican inspired flavor – it reminded me of a soft, warm comforting vegetarian torta. In short: delicious.
As for the toppings, they brought a world of flavor to the table. Roasted tomatoes, though out of season, screamed of summer with their rich, concentrated tomato flavor. In some ways, they were the star of the show, taking the entire burger up a notch.
I found myself a bit torn about the onions; they were a light golden brown and still distinctly crisp (definitely not caramelized in any traditional fashion); however, the cooking had mitigated their bite, so their flavor was gentle, and their crunch kept the burger from being too soft overall. I would be interested in trying the burger again with truly caramelized onions.
But let's not dwell too long on the onions. After all, the layer of beautifully flavored black beans, which glossed the lower half of the bun seemed to ground the sandwich, while the tangy, smoky (and yes, slightly spicy) chipotle aioli brought all the flavors together.
I've frequently paid more for lesser veggie burgers, many of which likely made the journey from freezer to griddle. So it's a joy to pay for a burger that was created with intention and which comprises a balanced blend of flavors I'd gladly enjoy again.
The Edamame Burger at Frida goes the extra mile in terms of both intention and flavor.
Frida is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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