Not all meatless burgers are created equal. Some places regard them as a throwaway item, something you stick on the bottom of the menu to keep the vegetarians from squawking. Others seize the opportunity to put something exemplary between the buns—something that might even attract the attention of carnivores looking to mix it up. Though it’s not exactly a burger, Stella’s Special Sandwich—featuring grilled eggplant, roasted garlic, sweet peppers, feta and pesto mayo—certainly fits the bill. 1279 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, 874-3779.
The sesame- and nori-crusted tofu is organic, which is nice, but it’s also delicious, which is what truly matters—much as our heads may tell us to eat sustainable food, it has to pass the taste bud test or it’s a no-go. Add a half-off beer or mixed drink during their early evening happy hour if you don’t feel like being completely healthy. 30 Baldwin Ave., Paia, 579-8021.
SOUTH SHORE TIKI LOUNGE
The Lounge has an excellent trio of meatless options that our vegan staffer mentions with a loving lilt to her voice: the veggie hot dog (pictured), vegetarian chili and, naturally, veggie burger. All of the above are great mid-bender options for those nights when you’ve been swallowed up by the Triangle and need something besides rum in your belly but don’t want to be weighed down by meat. (Note: It’s not veggie, but the “Mother Clucker” chicken sandwich deserves mention for the name alone.) 1913 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, 874-6444.
Vegans may run screaming in terror from this bad boy, but the Dream Lover—a veggie burger joined by generous portions of chili, jack cheese and sweet Maui onions—is a worthy addition to this beloved burger joint’s menu. Add a milkshake just to really freak out the dairy-free set. 658 Front St. Lahaina, 667-0908.
If you’re strapped for cash and don’t want to short-change your server, cooking at home is a respectable option. Paia’s popular health food store carries an array of veggie burgers made from various non-flesh substances, which are good heated up stovetop-style or tossed on the grill if you’re so equipped. (Please though—no microwaves. “Soggy” is not a word you want associated with your burger. “Juicy,” yes, but that’s a different thing entirely.) 49 Baldwin Ave., Paia, 579-8078. MTW