Tag Archive for sobo

Best Veggie Burger Throwdown

Let’s face it: nothing quite says “summer” like a good burger done on the grill. If you are a carnivore, your first choice will likely be a big ol’ slab of beef, but if you are vegetarian or vegan, sometimes choices can be, shall we say… less than tasty?

Despite the fact I don’t eat a lot of meat, I’m not a huge fan of tofu. I’ve never been able to cook it so that it didn’t taste like anything but tofu, so I don’t buy it often. There are certainly commercial veggie burger brands on the market: Yves, Money’s and Morning Star (available at Trader Joe’s in the States, or at Pirate Joe’s on 4th), all make palatable varieties. I’ve been known to buy the Costco packs and pull them out of the freezer as needed.

Best ever veggie burger

But I was curious: if I want to make my own. what is the best veggie burger recipe? There are a bunch of options out there, like a tofu, or TVP-based burger, a grain-based burger made with rice, oats or quinoa, a bean-based burger, a nut-based burger, or a mushroom– and vegetable-based burger. Often, recipes will combine a few or all of these together.

The challenge with veggie burgers is often with texture and how well they bind together or hold up to grilling. And they can sometimes be dry.

I gathered four of the finest culinary palates in the city (okay, not really, but they were hungry and willing and honest, and most had been, or currently were, vegetarians), and four veggie burger recipes. I didn’t tell the subjects what the basis of each of the burgers was, or where I had gotten the recipe from. I just made them and served them. They were required to try each burger naked, and then they could add whatever condiments they liked. The tasting team was rounded out by my 11-year-old son/food critic. Each of the tasters scored each burger on a scale of 1-5 (5 being the greatest), rating it on Taste, Texture and then gave it an overall rating. I will add some additional comments on each about how complicated the burger was to make.

The Burgers and the Results:

1. Best Ever Veggie Burger 

Let me say for the record (and I know I’m not alone here), but The Kitchn is one of my all-time favourite go-to food blogs. They seldom steer me wrong.

This burger is a beet-based burger, so we immediately called it “Pink Delight.” For obvious reasons. The beets pair with hearty brown rice and black beans, and are flavoured with onions, garlic, smoked paprika, mustard, cumin and coriander.

“A little soft, liked the cumin.”

“Nicely moist. The colour’s a bit much, though.”

“Works great with the pesto, cumin was great, too.”

“Since I hate beets, I can’t quite love this one. But otherwise good. Moist.” –this last comment from Jen, who sucked it up and took one for the team and tried the burger, despite having a serious beet aversion.

My note: SO MUCH WORK (yup, in capital letters). You have to roast the beets. Then you have to peel them. Then you have to grate them. Then you have to sauté the aromatics. Finally, you puree everything together in the food processor, but yeesh. A lot of work. And my kitchen ended up looking like a scene from a Tarantino movie. 

Total Score: 51

falafel burger

2. Mediterranean Chickpea Burgers from Weber’s Big Book of Burgers: The Ultimate Guide to Grilling Backyard Classics.

The basis of this burger is chickpeas, so we dubbed it the “Falafel Burger.” It’s filled with Mediterranean spices, like cumin, coriander, and fresh cilantro. I also made a pesto/mayo/yogurt spread that went really nicely with this burger in particular. Reactions were unanimous: we all like Falafel. We just don’t want to eat it in a burger.

“Too much like falafel. Not enough ‘heft’.”

“It’s tasty. Reasonably moist. But it’s a falafel, and I wouldn’t want to eat it in a burger bun.”

“Tasty, but a tad mushy. Overall, not bad!”

My note: easy–just huck stuff in blender.

Total Score: 50 (every single person gave this one a 10)

3.The Great Big Vegan Burgers from The Sobo Cookbook: Recipes from the Tofino Restaurant at the End of the Canadian Road.

Everyone took one look at this burger, and immediately agreed it needed to be called “The Hippie Burger.” Not shocking. Tofino is hippie central, and this burger is totally vegan. I was completely smitten with Sobo when I ate there a few months back, and have been avidly cooking from this book since I got it. This is the heartiest of all the burgers–there’s quinoa, portobellos, pumpkin and flax seeds as well as carrots, spiced with cumin, coriander and chilli.


“Lacks moisture. A bit too crunchy. Better with BBQ sauce. Good in a bun.”

“Best in a bun. Needs sweetness. Exactly what a carnivore thinks vegetarians eat.”

My notes: also a lot of work. Not quite as much as the beet burger, but still a lot to do and many, many steps. Wish I’d pureed it more. The recipe said to leave it chunky, but I don’t think that worked.

Total Score: 35

4. Best. Veggie. Burgers. Ever.

This burger is a nut-based burger, in this case, walnuts. You add some breadcrumbs and eggs to bind, blitz it in the food processor, and bam! Burgers.

“Tasty and satisfying. Goes with a bun and burger condiments.”

“Too sticky.”

“Too pasty. Needs seasoning.”

“Bitter. Pasty.”

My notes: While it was probably the easiest one of the four to make, it was my least favourite to eat. The insides were mushy and pasty and not a very pleasant texture. It didn’t taste good. However, two of my tasters, Jen-the-beet-hater and Michael, said it was their favourite, and the most “burger like” of the four. 

Total Score: 46

The Best Veggie Burger??  By a hair, The Best Ever Veggie BurgerI’ll be making these again, but this time, instead of cooking the beets, I’m going to juice them, and use the pulp to make the burgers. I’ll be back with my adaptation of the recipe if they are a success!
What’s your favourite veggie burger? Share in the comments below–despite the research, I don’t think my search is over!
Big love to Michelle, Jen, Jen-who-hates-beets, and Kristi for being fantastic taste-testers and good sports. 

Hippie Pancake Recipe from The Sobo Cookbook

I recently had the immense pleasure of going to Tofino. While there, I got to eat a ton of different places, and consequently wrote this blog post: Where to Eat: Tofino.

Probably the place that impressed me the most was Sobo. A quick history: Sobo began its life as a food truck. That purple truck still exists today, but it’s now Centro Feastro, which you can see a lot in downtown Vancouver. Chef Lisa Ahier started it, dishing out seafood chowder and fish tacos to hungry surfers and happy locals. Her business grew too large for the truck eventually, so she sold it, and took over the space at 311 Neil St.

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When I visited her late in the afternoon, the place was busy. It’s busy all the time. In a world where we are moving increasingly towards specialization, Sobo remains stellar across the board. Locals rave about her huevos rancheros, and line up every day to eat them. Her Killer Fish Tacos and her salmon chowder still reel them in at lunch. And a dinner, they come for short rib, seafood stew, and duck ramen. In addition, they have a wonderful bakery that makes pies, cookies and cornbread, and they even have a take-out freezer selling soups and the like that you can take home with you, as well as home-made cookie ice-cream sandwiches. It appears she can do it all.

It was great to meet her, and get a chance to preview her new cookbook. We had stopped by IMG_3594for one of her famous, hand squeezed key lime margaritas, and she offered to make us a snack. What came out of the kitchen was plate after plate of “snacks,” including crispy moroccan-spiced chickpeas, polenta fries, flatbread pizza with exotic mushrooms, and Seared Qualicum Scallops with a sweet pea risotto cake, fromage à la crème, a lemon mint sauce and microgreens. My absolute favourite thing, though, were her Cibolo Shrimp. A Texan-born pescatarian, Lisa wanted a bar snack akin to a chicken wing, so she made it with shrimp. The recipe pairs a crispy, cornmeal-breaded spot prawn on a bed of gem lettuce with a  cayenne tequila sauce, bleu clair cheese and dill. Soooooo good. 


If you are in Tofino, you must go. If you are in Tofino this Monday night, May 12, you must go to her cookbook release party.

I got a copy of it a couple weeks back, and it now bristles with post-it notes on pages of recipes I want to make. I’ll share her famous fish tacos with you down the road, but for today, I am going to share a breakfast (well, who says pancakes have to be for breakfast, right?) recipe with you.

Lisa calls these Flaxseed and Ginger Pancakes, but I like the term Hippie Pancakes. If you’ve ever been to Tofino, you’ll know that hippie culture is still pretty strong there. A lot of the original settlers there were draft dodgers from the States, and they just never left.

hippie pancakes.jpg

These are some serious pancakes. I’d make these while camping somewhere along Long Beach, before a day of serious surfing. They will set you up for the day. There is whole wheat flour, flax, and lots of spice, making them filling without being too heavy. There are no refined sugars. In fact, there is very little sugar at all, and no oil.

I served mine with an apricot sauce over top, but you could do any kind of stewed fruit: apples, pears, berries or stone fruit would all be delicious. Or just plain ‘ol maple syrup.

In addition to most of Chef Lisa’s best recipes (Key Lime Pie, anyone?), The Sobo Cookbook: Recipes from the Tofino Restaurant at the End of the Canadian Road features little anecdotes about the locals who supply her with the raw ingredients for her recipes. The photographs are beautiful. Jeremy Koreski is a local surfing photographer, but he does a wonderful job of capturing Lisa’s rustic dishes.

Hippie Pancake Recipe

(recipe courtesy of Chef Lisa Ahier’s The Sobo Cookbook)


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 whole flaxseeds
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp allspice (I used 1/4 tsp ground cloves and 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg white
  • 2 1/4 cups milk
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp molasses


  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients, whisking well.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the dry mix, and pour the wet into it. Mix until combined, but a few lumps are okay.
  4. On medium heat, grease a nonstick griddle or fry pan, and drop 1/4 cup of pancake batter onto it. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until bubbles start to form in the middle. Flip and cook on the other side for an additional couple of minutes.