Hold the Beef: Harry Caray's Tavern Hits a Homerun

By John DiGilio in Food on Jan 14, 2011 7:20PM

2011_1_DiGilio_CarayBurger.jpgHold the Beef is a monthly series exploring Chicago's vegetarian burger scene. If you know any veggie burger joints that we should check out, post them in the comments!

Vegetarians rejoice. The days of sitting idly by while your carnivorous friends banter about what makes a burger great are coming to an end. Thanks to the growing popularity of veggie alternatives, you too can chime in and shoot the patty yourself. Choose the right restaurant and you may actually find that you have the bragging rights at the table when your meatless burger turns out to be tastier than their pile o' grilled flesh. Such was the result of our recent experiment at Harry Caray's Tavern.

Veggie burgers at Harry Caray's? Holy cow, who knew? Certainly not us when we entered the restaurant. On our way to see a movie at the Navy Pier IMAX, our group decided to grab some dinner. The meat eaters in the group insisted we pay homage to Harry himself with a stop at the Tavern for burgers. The vegetarians were trepidatious, but willing to give the omnivores their way. We figured that if worse came to worst we could graze on salad while the others gorged themselves on animal. Imagine our surprise to find a really tasty-sounding veggie burger on the menu. Surprise turned to shock when our burgers turned out to be better than theirs!

Any picky vegetarian will tell you that the secret to a great meatless burger is the creativity with which the cook approaches it. Bland, meatless burgers are the bane of our vegetable-powered existence. So it is all about the flavors in and on the burger. Harry Caray's veggie patty was standard enough. What set it apart from so many others we have eaten was the tasty mix of toppings in which it was nicely smothered: thick and creamy goat cheese, salty Kalamata olive spread and tangy arugula leaves. It was quite the combination. Other condiments were barely needed. The herbivores at our table were in agreement. Harry Caray's veggie burger was delicious and filling.

Now sitting across the table were our meat-loving friends. They ordered Peppercorn-Crusted Wagyu Burgers. These sounded fancy-schmancy with their premium beef, brandy sauteing, and gorgonzola topper. To be fair, they did look good. But there was hardly the same oohing and aahing coming from the meat eaters as there was from us veggies. Though they were happy with their choices, even they could not help but notice that we seemed to be getting the better end of the deal - an admission rarer than the beef on some of their buns! Sure, the Wagyu Burgers may be a hit with most, but the Veggie Burger knocked it out of the park with us.

Harry Caray's Tavern is located on the Navy Pier at 700 East Grand Avenue.