In our never-ending quest to find the perfect meat cookie, we often overlook the alternatives. It's unfortunate, really, when you consider beef's rap sheet: It's not all that great for us, and, in many cases throughout history, it hasn't been all that safe, either. Don't get us wrong; we love us some big, fat, juicy burgers. But they get their fair share of attention. We wanted to see what else we could find that would satisfy our cravings and make us feel a little better about ourselves. Here five non-beef burgers you need to put in your mouth hole right now:
The burger: Salmon ($14.75)
Where to get it: Spike Africa's (411 Broadway, Downtown)
What it's got going for it: Fish burgers of any kind are hard to come by, but then again, once you've had this one, you won't want to keep looking. Sustainably sourced from Scotland, the salmon is freshly ground and then grilled just enough to preserve its delicate nature but also keep it intact. It comes between a locally made bun from Bread & Cie, and the house-made jalapeño tartar sauce, made with roasted jalapeños, sweet onions and cilantro, is what takes this burger from something you might order on a whim to something you'll seek out every time.
The burger: Bare Lil Lamb ($18)
Where to get it: Queenstown Public House (1557 Columbia St. in Little Italy)
What it's got going for it: Open just shy of a year, this joint has a ton of organic, grass-fed burger options. But only the lamb burger has the mint jelly. While not really a high-demand jam, it's the condiment here that makes this little lamb (all natural and sourced from New Zealand) stand out. Yeah, the color is a little weird (bright green), especially since it shares bun space with shoestring beetroot (bright red). But put those two together and you've got a merry little Christmas in your mouth. It also doesn't hurt that you can order it with a fried egg, which always makes for a better burger.
The burger: Spicy Black Bean ($7.50)
Where to get it: Station Tavern (2204 Fern St. in South Park)
What it's got going for it: One of the biggest issues with veggie burgers (at least the bean-based ones) is that they tend to fall apart. Some of them are wimpy. Here to provide some good PR for vegetarianism is this burger. The force is strong with this spicy house-made patty of black beans and bell peppers. You won't be leaving hungry, but you'll certainly leave feeling less bloated. And, if you're the type of person who judges a burger by its fries, go ahead. The tater tots and sweet-potato fries are crispy and addictive. Don't be surprised if you find yourself mechanically inserting them into your mouth, one by one.
The burger: Southwestern Turkey ($15)
Where to get it: Adams Avenue Grill (2201 Adams Ave. in University Heights)
What it's got going for it: At any given time across the U.S., people are eating bone-dry turkey burgers devoid of any flavor. It's a shame they don't all live here. If you can wait 20 minutes for what is arguably the best turkey burger in San Diego right now (in one of the most polite restaurants in town), do it. This is a monstrous half-pound patty mixed with black beans, corn and roasted red pepper and served with roasted tomatillo-lime salsa and guacamole. The meat is incredibly juicy and flavorful. If you close your eyes, you'll think you're eating a piece of meatloaf between two pieces of bread. This is one burger that's proud of where it came from.
The burger: Free-Range Buffalo ($18)
Where to get it: The Tractor Room (3687 Fifth Ave. in Hillcrest)
What it's got going for it: At the Tractor Room, some people order their Pabst Pounders with a glass. Luckily, the buffalo burger isn't also trying to be something it's not. It's a badass burger through and through. Buffalo is probably the closest meat there is to beef, yet it hasn't caught on the way it should. It has way fewer calories, and it's very low in cholesterol yet still high in protein. With the right toppings, its slightly sweeter taste makes for a superb meat cookie. This one is, first of all, massive. So, resist the urge to inhale the crisscross fries first. You'll want to make room for this burger. The patty is very well complemented by caramelized onions and a generous portion of blue cheese. Buffalo cooks faster than beef, so ordering it medium is a good way to go.