There’s a new option for candidates with certain dietary choices (i.e., Cory Booker) in Des Moines: Dirt Burger, a vegan burger spot in the East Village. It’s a welcome addition to Des Moines’ diverse, ever-expanding restaurant scene, and here just in time for all the campaign staff and candidates who are coming in from out of state.
Starting Line did a team lunch outing a few weeks back to try out their burgers and write up a review.
Dirt Burger is located at 407 E. 5th Street in Des Moines’ East Village, and is open Sunday through Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.
The idea for the vegan restaurant was conceived in 2016 by a chef, an organic farmer, a restaurateur and an artist who realized the lack of healthy fast food options available.
“Most vegan cuisine establishments have a vibe that fits the stigma of vegan eaters being pretentious,” their website reads. “The founders of Dirt Burger knew their business had to be different.”
They describe their food as affordable and their burger as a “lean, protein rich, gluten free, soy free, plant-based burger patty.”
The Bombay Burger – Mumbai curry spiced patty, green chili “yogurt”, poppadum chips, brioche bun
Big spicy fan here, so I figured I’d try the curry-spiced patty. Flavor-wise, the patty was bomb. I’m not vegan so I wasn’t crazy about the texture, but I have to admit it had a good veggie-burger feel to it and was cooked nicely with a grill crisp on it.
The green chili “yogurt” was nice on top of the patty, along with some veggies that were delicious covered in the sauce. Under the patty, though, there was maybe some type of a marinara or other red sauce. To me, this under-the-patty sauce stole the show and accented the rest of it well. It took me a long time to pick up the flavors in that red sauce, and I’m still not 100% confident in what it was – but it was good.
The fries were delicious, not over-seasoned or soaking wet – though I do think I’d order them extra crispy to try to achieve more of a McDonald’s-like crunch. I personally think it’s important to note the fries are made skin-on, which is a huge plus for me (shout out potato skins). They also offer some dipping sauces, again not sure what is in the sauce, but it’s delicious.
Best part: it costs $7. Eating at Dirt Burger is just as cheap as eating a burger at any dive bar, and that I can appreciate greatly.
The Austin BBQ Burger — Barbecue sauce, vegan cheddar, quick pickled cabbage, red onion, fried jalapenos, brioche bun
Right off the bat, the burger looked better than I thought it would. The bun was fluffy and — well — it looked like a bun. It tasted like one, too.
I was a little hesitant to actually eat the burger after I started dissecting it. The patty looked weird, with tiny little chunks of vegetables or whatever, and the cheddar cheese was lumpy and pale. And, when I found out the patty was both vegan and soy free, I knew as soon as I took a bite I’d likely never be able to run for office in this state.
As a non-vegan, the taste of the burger patty didn’t impress me much. It tastes like warm lettuce mixed with breadcrumbs, but the toppings saved the burger overall. The onion and pickled cabbage added some crunch to the burger and the jalapeños and barbecue sauce overwhelmed the flavor of everything else.
I won’t say whether I’d go back — just so I can maintain whatever credibility I still have in Iowa — but I will say that if I do take the risk it’ll be for another order of fries.
Magic Mushroom Burger — Grilled mushrooms and vegan cheddar
The mushrooms were fantastic. There aren’t many ways to screw up mushrooms, but they were soft and flavorful, a little crispy, and everything I like about mushrooms.
I also liked the taste of the vegan cheese more than I expected, but the texture was even better. It’s not solid and it sort of melted in my mouth, which was interesting.
The patty could be worse. It could have had big chunks of vegetables and taste off like any other major restaurant’s version of a veggie patty. But it’s not as good as Morningstar Farms or even Beyond Meat. I thought the texture was fine as long as I had enough padding around it not to notice it. I didn’t love it, but I was able to eat the whole thing.
The bun was fine, it wasn’t much different from normal hamburger buns. It was too small to handle the patty, though. There are brioche and gluten-free options.
Everything was improved by the ketchup. I’m not sure what sauce was on my burger, but it was odd and there wasn’t quite enough to come through under everything else. The ketchup was great, though.
The fries were also great.
We ordered the dirt balls but didn’t get them, which was disappointing because I’m interested in almost all potatoes and I like quinoa.
Torta Burger – Grilled onions & poblanos, corn pico, guac, shredded lettuce, cilantro crema, grilled jalapeno
Having not tried many vegan burgers before, I don’t have a lot to compare to this one, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It certainly didn’t taste anything like a red-meat burger like I believe others attempt to.
The most interesting thing about the Torta burger was how all the ingredients sort of mushed together into one single taste (in a good way). You get a lot of avocado on this guy, which I appreciate, but its consistency was essentially the same as the burger patty. There was no difference in texture to any of the burger and its toppings.
There’s little pieces of corn on the Torta, but I didn’t notice them at all. The jalapenos gave it a little bit of spice, though if you’re looking for a particularly spicy burger, this probably isn’t it.
I’ve also tried two other burgers on the menu, the Original and the Spartan. I wouldn’t suggest the Spartan unless you truly love the taste of the burger patty itself, because that’s about all you get with that one. There’s a collection of tiny green vegetables on top of it, but nothing that adds any major flavors, making it all kind of dry and unpleasant. The Original, on the other hand, has just the right amount of toppings that you’d expect on a regular fast-food or dine-in burger, and is a good introduction to Dirt Burger’s options.
Overall, Dirt Burger has now entered into my regular carousel of lunch take-out spots in the East Village.
by Josh Cook, Paige Godden, Nikoel Hytrek and Pat Rynard