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Veggie burgers dare to be tasty

Just as some carnivores turn their hunt for the Best Burger into a full-time job, vegetarians yearn for a distinctive veggie burger to help them down the path to nirvana.

Sadly, most restaurants are content to serve up dry old Gardenburgers, but not these creative kitchens.

Chez What? Cafe

There are many reasons to visit Chez What? Cafe. There are the cheap Oly stubbies with their brain-teasing rebuses, the sweet treats from the bakery case and the clever, kitschy dŽcor. Chez What also has a satisfying homemade veggie burger, crammed with black beans and rice. Match this with the addictive shoestring sweet potato fries, which are superior to the french fries. And be sure to check out the new bar, annexed two months ago, where you can get a Maker's on the rocks, admire the belt-buckle mobile and ponder the banner behind the bar that reads: 'Drink is the Working Man's Curse.'

2203 N.E. Alberta St., 503-281-1717

LaurelThirst Public House

LaurelThirst's lust-worthy veggie burger, made with sunflower seeds and walnuts, has an impressive following. The patty doesn't taste a bit like birdseed, and it doesn't try to mimic meat, either. The nuts give it a protein punch, making it a hearty meal that doesn't just fill you up with grains. Although it's good on its own, a little fat helps: The burger is best when topped with a gooey mess of sautŽed mushrooms, onions and Swiss cheese. If you don't feel like swallowing smoke and bluegrass with such a veggie delight, try the LaurelThirst at lunchtime when it's quiet and doesn't resemble an airport smoking lounge.

2958 N.E. Glisan St., 503-232-1504

Little Wing Cafe

Yes, Little Wing serves Gardenburgers, but not your ordinary Gardenburgers. The Deluxe Veggie Burger is impeccably dressed with Thousand Island dressing, whisper-thin red onions, sprouts, thick tomato rounds and cucumber slices. All this comes on a rosemary bun with your choice of melted cheese, plus chips or green salad for $5.95. And since this is such a 'healthy' lunch, you have every right to devour one of Little Wing's stunning desserts.

529 N.W. 13th Ave., 503-228-3101