Boka's Bear Burger: Almost this big, almost this meaty.
The Eats: Boka Kitchen and Bar, 1010 1st Ave., 357-9000. Urban American cuisine with a Pacific Northwest flair.
The Deets: Boka's upscale dining room, expeditious service, and "refined, satisfying meals" crafted from 85% organic ingredients last week won them Seattle Weekly's 2012 "Best Fast Food" award. With a recent lunch hour to fill and the restaurant just around the corner from the office, the time was perfect to see how things would stack up on the herbivore end of the rating.
The Beets: Boka's vegetarian offerings are well-executed but sparse; at lunchtime that means a salad (the crisp and lovely Boka, with pistachios, shaved fennel, and goat cheese with a mint vinaigrette), a small selection of soups, the kitchen's famous--quite deservedly--truffle fries, and either a grilled cheese sandwich or the "Bear Burger."
In the vegetarian mindset, a menu item that shares its name with a living creature--a living creature, mind you, that happens to be of the subspecies "horribilis"--could potentially play out into a slippery slope. Because it's the only namesake vegetarian lunch entree, such a title promises a level of flavor matched only by the size of its portion. I had rightful high expectations, cemented by the recommendation of a meat-eating friend, who also ordered it, when I set into the creation.
Its gourmet accoutrements, including Mama Lil's mustard relish, fresh avocado, and Beecher's cheddar, piled high and sandwiched between a locally made (Columbia City Bakery, also a Best Of 2012 winner) ciabatta roll, are hard to get wrong. The burger itself, a chickpea and diced vegetable fritter, could stand on its own as a simple appetizer, dressed with a bit of mint aioli, but in burger form it was exceptionally satisfying, warmly seasoned with parsley, garlic, and onion, and held together well through repeated bites.
And it lived up to its name--after my side Boka salad, halfway through, I called it quits and boxed it to go. The Bear not only won the round, but provided enough sustenance for a meal the next day.
The Tweet: Boka's Bear Burger is made for vegetarians, but craved by all. Skip haranguing over your few options on the menu and go straight for it.