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Reviews of fast food burgers and a look at how the real life version compares to the advertised beauty shot.

Reality Check: Autumn Veggie Burger from Burger Lounge

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[Photographs: top, Burger Lounge; all others, Erin Jackson]

Burger Lounge, a mini-chain with eight locations in Southern California, has added a new, non-beef option: the autumn veggie burger ($8.95). The veggie patty is made with organic quinoa, butternut squash, brown rice, wild mushrooms, sage, and crushed walnuts, and is topped with herbed goat cheese, aioli, lettuce, and tomato. The seasonally inspired burger, which is available only during October, joins the two other non-beef options: a quinoa and brown rice veggie burger with plenty of garlic, and a turkey burger with loads of basil.

The press photo looks pretty appealing, but doesn't quite match up to the actual burger. The patty doesn't have the same vibrant orange hue, and the burger is now topped with lettuce instead of spinach (which I was informed about when I placed my order).

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In reality, the new veggie burger looks a lot like the one that's already on the menu: a thick veggie patty that's surprisingly well browned on both sides. Flavor-wise, the patty is better than your average veggie burger, but not better than the Lounge's base veggie offering. The predominant flavor comes from the walnuts, which taste sweet and a bit buttery. They bring some great texture, but aren't quite powerful enough to shine through all of the brown rice and quinoa. I searched for the flavors of the other ingredients (wild mushroom, sage, and butternut squash), but couldn't place any of them. To really stand on its own, the patty needs more gourd and sage, and less rice.

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Where the autumn veggie burger excels is where most veggie burgers shine: the toppings. On top of the patty, there's a gob of herbed goat cheese, which is creamy, with a subtle bite. On the bottom bun, there's a thick smear of aioli. Both of these elements bring complex, savory flavors, saving the patty from meh mushball status.

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Still, it was tough to eat without major blow-out. I could barely take a photo without the patty slipping off, and things only got worse when I tried to eat it. The patty shifted every time I took a bite, and also started to break apart. A burger wrapper would be a big help, but a better idea is to order a half size of the new quinoa salad, with the veggie patty on top (and the goat cheese and aioli, too). It's only a couple bucks more expensive, and loaded with even more veggies.

About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax

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