At 5 p.m. yesterday, a line stretched down Eldridge Street, people waiting upwards of an hour to get into the space that recently housed Family Recipe. "What's going on?" a passing cyclist asked at one point. "Veggie burgers!" was the response — perhaps not the one the cyclist was expecting. Of course, these weren't any old veggie burgers; they were the new, much-hyped creation of Del Posto's James Beard Award–winning pastry chef, Brooks Headley.
"I didn't think anybody would really show up," Headley told Grub Street. "Veggie burgers are mostly terrible." He paused. "Actually, they're always terrible."
But Headley has been on a campaign to change that with his version: a soft quinoa patty topped with melted Muenster and cheddar cheeses, tomato, mustard, pickles, and a piece of iceberg lettuce on a Martin’s potato roll (or focaccia) that he says is intended to re-create the appeal of fast-food burgers. (For the record, Grub Street's taste tests indicate he's achieved that goal.)
While he's been doling them out at select events — the Beard Awards, an industry party at Questlove's apartment — yesterday marked the first time they were available to the public, sold for $5 each at a one-day-only pop-up event he called Superiority Burger.
And yesterday's 100-person-plus line and extremely positive responses on social media proved the burgers might have staying power beyond a single event. When Grub talked to Headley — during the rare moment when he wasn't helping his team toast buns, warm veggie patties, and mix the Old Bay potato salad he served on the side — if there were plans for a permanent Superiority Burger, the chef just shrugged. "I don't know," he said. "I have a pretty great job right now. I don't really have any plans."