"All of the desserts here are sugar-free," said co-owner Harry Anand, a retired chemical engineer. "Everything here is based on the Weight Watchers' exchange program."
Anand, who is likely to stand by your table and inquire with real concern about how everything tastes, just started offering Gardenburgers a few weeks ago. Soon, he said, he will stock them for customers to take home.
"The Gardenburgers have 313 calories, 7 grams of fat and 16 grams of protein," he said. "Pretty good, huh?"
Perhaps a bit better than the burgers themselves. Although satisfactorily grilled, this patty was served on a plain, white bun that was drier than an April 16 bank account.
The saving grace was the knowledge that it was dietetically correct. We felt so good about it that we topped it off with a yummy, sugar-free ice cream cone.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday February 25, 1993 Ventura County Edition Ventura County Life Part J Page 12 Column 1 Zones Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
Veggie burgers--Due to a coding error, last week's Centerpiece feature on meatless burgers included an incorrect reviewer's rating for USS Chuck Burger; it should have been awarded two stars.
Our rating: *
1847 E. Main St.
This restaurant has been providing terrific vegetarian fare for so long that it's only to be expected that it would come up with a better way to cook a Gardenburger ($4.95).
Just why the burger here is so much better isn't exactly clear. They grill it, just as many other places do. They serve it on a whole-grain bun, just as other many other places do.
But this burger is moist and sweet on the inside, and crunchy delicious on the outside. And instead of the typical side of barbecue sauce, the bun is lightly brushed with tamari sauce and filled with alfalfa sprouts, tomatoes and scallions.
The burger also comes with a small cup of excellent curry potato salad or fresh fruit salad, and a side of crispy corn chips. No doubt about it--this is one of the best Gardenburgers around.
Our rating: ****
The Busy Bee
478 E. Main St.
In the four years this restaurant has been in Ventura, it's made a real name for itself. Not just because it makes good, juicy hamburgers and serves up big, thick cottage-style fries, but also because the place is fun. From its red and white decor, to the mini jukeboxes on every table, to movie posters on the walls, to the "No dancing on tables" signs, it's '50s style all the way.
The restaurant has been serving Gardenburgers for several years, but waitress Kathleen Richmond said there's been a huge upsurge in popularity just recently. Instead of just ordering the plain Gardenburger ($4.49)--which is grilled and comes on a whole-wheat bun with lettuce, tomato and onions--an increasing number of customers also are now substituting the meatless patties for specialty hamburger orders.
"For example, instead of ordering our regular guacamole burger with cheese, a lot more people are asking to substitute the meat with a Gardenburger," she said. In that case, she said, the price is the same for the specialty hamburger.
Customers who want the flexibility of adding other items will be happy here. The one drawback is that the patties we tried tended to be slightly overcooked, leaving them somewhat dry. Maybe we should have ordered a big, thick milkshake on the side.
Our rating: ** 1/2
2358 E. Main St. at Arcade
Wrong county and wrong era, but a diner here can almost imagine a Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsberg hanging out at one of the restaurant's large, community-style tables and soaking in all of the hip talk and pleasant vibes.
It's just that kind of place.
It's also the place where, after tasting some excellent vegetable patties elsewhere, we experienced true culinary ecstasy in a meatless burger.
The veggie burger here ($5.50) is made fresh on site from a recipe that owner Mabel Chase said she got out of Gourmet magazine--and which she feels no compunction about altering whenever the mood strikes or the ingredients require.
"Oh, let's see, it has about five different vegetables in it, but it really depends on what we have on hand," she said. "Usually, though, it has potatoes, spinach, eggplant, peas, bread crumbs and a bit of garlic and curry in it."
What's startling is that this looks like a real burger: dark brown on the outside, thick and juicy. But sink your teeth into this patty--which is served on scrumptious, often still-warm sourdough bread with banana chutney that is to die for--and you know you're eating something in a league of its own.
It comes with a spinach salad with tomatoes, fresh sliced mushrooms and a light poppy seed dressing.
Our rating: ****
SERVING SUGGESTION / VEGGIE BURGER
Feel like vegging out at home? Then try this recipe for meatless patties, courtesy of the City Bakery in Ventura. The ginger-banana chutney makes a wonderful addition, and can be spread on bread or directly on the patty.
City Bakery's Scrumptious Veggie Burger
1 cup onions, minced
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup diced mushrooms
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced eggplant
1/2 cup cooked, diced potatoes
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ginger
dash of salt and pepper
1 cup bread crumbs
2/3 cup flour
Saute onions and butter in a skillet for 10 minutes. Add all the vegetables, plus the cumin and ginger, and continue to saute until excess moisture disappears and the mixture begins to dry. Let cool for 10 minutes. Then add eggs, bread crumbs and flour.
The mixture is now ready to be formed into patties. Place a small amount of olive oil in a hot skillet, and cook the patties over medium heat for two to four minutes on each side or until brown. Serves four.
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups mashed banana
1 cup chopped dates
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup pickled ginger, minced
3/4 cup currants
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
Place onions, banana, dates and cider vinegar in a saucepan and cook for 20 minutes over low heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to cook until the mixture thickens to the consistency of jam. Let cool. Spread over bread or the vegetable patty.