Monday screams burger special!!! here in Shanghai (or is that everywhere in the world?*): Malone’s, Blue Frog, Gourmet Cafe, and others make sure there’s at least one day in the week you can grab a burger without forking over American-sized dough.
My coworkers and I decided last week it was about time we partook in one of these burger specials, and with our office situated in expat-heavy Jing’an, we had two obvious choices: Malone’s, which offers a burger & a beer for 50 RMB, and Gourmet Cafe, which does a buy-one-get-one-free deal on Mondays. We went with Malone’s today.
I’d been here a couple times last year for the 50 RMB meal, which is quite a steal considering their giant selection of burgers ranges from 75 to 105 RMB (drink excluded). But then I’d been eating meat. Tonight I had but one choice: their veggie burger (normally 75 RMB) with a patty made from mushrooms, onions, and grains, which sounded alright on paper.
The first thing I noticed when our food came was how pitifully FLAT my burger was compared to everyone else’s. Sure, the patty was different, but did they have to skimp on everything else? A peek under the bun revealed two slices of tomato, some lettuce, and plain mayo. The “low-fat cheese” could barely be seen. No pickles, no creative sauce, no apparent effort put in at all to ensure that their vegetarian patrons feel taken care of amid a sea of meat burgers decked out with all sorts of interesting toppings. It felt almost as if they were making fun of the idea of vegetarians eating burgers — “you probably don’t know how to enjoy food anyway, so we’ll give you the bare minimum.” Maybe they were, but ouch.
Oh well, perhaps they designed the patty to hold its own in the face of scarce resources… or something like that? A couple careful bites dispelled that last hope: the mushroom taste was overpowering, and despite the “grains”, the whole thing was mushy and began to break apart as I made my way through the burger. The lettuce and overripe tomato didn’t help things, and I ended up spooning some crunchy coleslaw in just to add some depth of texture.
Granted, I didn’t go into it with high hopes, so it wasn’t the biggest disappointment ever. At least I’ve got one more crossed off the list in my slow-moving quest for the best (read: least shameful) veggie burger in Shanghai. And had a chance to unwind with coworkers after a long day (yes, it’s only Monday, but it really feels like it should be Friday already). And get to keep feeling smug about my homemade version. So it’s all good.
One of these coming Mondays: Gourmet Cafe. I’ve been there for lunch before and had a delicious — albeit distastefully named — “Bun Laden” (essentially falafel in pita… yeah, they really need to find a new name now), but they also have a bean-based burger. Stay tuned!
Malone’s American Cafe
255 Tongren Rd. near Nanjing West Rd.
(21) 6247-2400 (reservations not accepted on Mondays)
*Google search results suggest that, at least in the English-speaking world, “Wednesday burger special”s are the most common, with Monday being the second most economical day to satisfy your burger cravings. Don’t bother looking for a burger deal on Saturdays.