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A Guide to Vegetarian Options at Philly's Burger Chains

How to go meat-free without giving up fast food.

A 'Shroom Burger from Good Stuff Eatery.
A 'Shroom Burger from Good Stuff Eatery.
Good Stuff Eatery/Facebook

Philadelphia has seen a major influx of fast casual burger chains over the past few years — so many new ones have popped up that news of another often elicits some groans and questions as to how many more burgers the city really needs.

But even setting taste and quality aside, these new-school burger chains do offer something that their more established fast food brethren usually lack: inclusiveness. The new breed of burger chain tends toward offering vegetarian, vegan, or allergen-free options in addition to more traditional burgers, so you can grab a quick bite with your omnivorous, burger-loving friends without settling for a meal of fries or a sad side salad. Even so, some are far more veggie-friendly than others.

Here's a breakdown of the many burger chains that are relative newcomers to the Philly area, and a look at what you'll be eating there if you choose to go meat-free. (Of course, with two locations, we can't yet call local-born HipCityVeg a chain — but it must be noted as an essential Philly go-to for quelling fast food cravings in a totally vegan setting.)

Bareburger

Where: 1109 Walnut Street; website
Since When: Opened in September 2014
What You'll Be Eating: Bareburger specializes in providing an insane number of options in general, and they don't skimp when it comes to providing veggie choices. You can build your own burger on any of three vegan patties: "farmer's quinoa," black bean, or sweet potato and wild rice (the latter is also gluten-free). They also have gluten-free buns, vegan buns, and options to sub a collard-green wrap for a bun or have your patty placed on a salad. And there's no shortage of toppings and sauces available, even once you rule out those containing animal ingredients.

Shake Shack

Where: 2000 Sansom Street; 3200 Chestnut Street; 160 North Gulph Road in King of Prussia; website
Since When: The first Philly Shake Shack, in Center City, opened in June 2012.
What You'll Be Eating: Though not friendly to vegans or those that opt for veggie burgers simply as a healthier choice, Shake Shack's 'Shroom Burger is the stuff of cheesy, oozy legend. It's built on a portabello mushroom stuffed with two cheeses, then breaded and fried, and dressed with ShackSauce and any other classic burger toppings you'd like.

Five Guys

Where: 1527 Chestnut Street; website
What You'll Be Eating:
What you won't be eating at this more established better-burger chain is a burger. The vegetarian options here are built from what's left once you overlook the meat: You can get a grilled cheese (on a hamburger bun) or a veggie sandwich, which is a bun full of toppings, with no patty. Still, you won't be limited to a lettuce sandwich: Their toppings list is long and includes things like grilled onions and mushrooms, so you may well be able to build something that can hold your interest.

Good Stuff Eatery

Where: 108 South 18th Street; website
Since When: Opened in June 2014
What You'll Be Eating: The veggie burger here is suspiciously similar to Shake Shack's, right down to the name: The 'Shroom Burger at this DC-based chain from Top Chef alum Spike Mendelsohn is a deep-fried, cheese-stuffed portabello mushroom. You can get the patty served traditional burger-style, or have it wrapped in lettuce or served atop any of their salads.

BurgerFi

Where: 44 North 12th Street; website
Since When: Opened in February 2014
What You'll Be Eating: The VegeFi Burger is built on a patty of quinoa and vegetables, with classic burger toppings on a multigrain roll. (If that sounds good to you but you're not actually trying to skip meat, the chain also offers a burger containing one veggie burger and one beef burger.)

Bobby's Burger Palace

Where: 3925 Walnut Street (additional locations in New Jersey, including the Cherry Hill Mall); website
Since When: Opened in April 2010
What You'll Be Eating: Though there are a few different meats available to build your burgers on here, there is no vegetarian option. You'll be limited to choosing from a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato, a chopped salad, and sides.

Smashburger

Where: 56 Haddonfield Road in Cherry Hill; 550 East Lancaster Avenue in Radnor (additional locations in NJ and at Philadelphia International Airport); website
Since When: The first local Smashburger, in Radnor, opened in August 2013
What You'll Be Eating: Build your own black bean burger, selecting from a substantial list of toppings and a number of bun possibilities, including multi-grain, gluten-free, and lettuce wrap options.

Elevation Burger

Where: 50 East Wynnewood Road in Wynnewood; 3945 Welsh Road in Willow Grove; website
Since When: The first local Elevation Burger, in Wynnewood, opened July 2010.
What You'll Be Eating: This chain, with its roots in the DC area, thoughtfully offers two different meat-free patties on its menu: one cheesy vegetarian burger, and one that's fully vegan. From there, pile on as many toppings as you like to build your own dream burger.

Zinburger

Where: 923 Haddonfield Road in Cherry Hill; website
Since When: Opened in March 2013
What You'll Be Eating: A bit more upscale than the others on this list, Zinburger leans more toward a wine bar concept than a fast casual — but it is still a chain specializing in casual burgers and shakes, and we figure everyone likes options. The veggie burger here features smoked mozzarella, avocado, sprouts, and mayo. The patty itself is vegan, though the buns are not, so vegans are offered a modified version served on a salad without the dairy toppings. If you're a pescatarian, a seared ahi tuna sandwich is also an option here.

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