The Cooperage in Lafayette, California–Why Veggie Burgers Have a Bad Rep!

Following upon my amazingly good vegan bean burger experience at the Park Bistro and Bar in Lafayette (see my Restaurant post here, I wanted to compare the veggie burgers at other restaurants in the area. On a recent Sunday afternoon, I decided to try The Cooperage, a restaurant in Lafayette that had pretty good reviews on Yelp and whose website menu listed “Veggie Burger–house made black bean veggie burger, basil aioli, avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion, toasted bun.” Otherwise, the menu appeared to be  based on the standard American diet “SAD” fare, but one vegan entree option is at least promising.

I had driven by the Cooperage on a sunny afternoon when the outdoor patio looked packed and inviting, and the pictures of the restaurant on the website looked good, so I was in.

The restaurant’s website has this description:

“Locally owned, The Cooperage features American favorites using the freshest of local and seasonal ingredients, featuring slow-cooked meats from our in-house rotisserie ovens. We have reimagined casual elegance, offering a contemporary setting that’s welcoming for all — an intimate dinner, a business lunch, weekend brunch, or dinner with the family and friends.” 

The website also includes an enigmatic magazine review: 

“The Cooperage has the disarming air of a community gathering place but with an urban edge that keeps it sharp”

Okay–this all sounded possible–fresh ingredients, local, welcoming, urban edge. On the Sunday I visited, it was 105 degrees outside, so the patio, while really busy, was not inviting to me. I decided to take refuge in the air conditioning. The dining room inside is large and somewhat industrial. I liked it. There are small banquettes lining the wall. I decided to sit at the large wrap-around bar, with a wooden bar counter. Nice first impression.

There were a lot of TV’s with sports, and a lot of people having brunch and Bloody Marys. After the nice first impression of the bar counter, my second impression of the bar counter was “sticky.”

Since I already knew from the on-line menu that my vegan choices were pretty much limited to the veggie burger, I asked the waiter about it. Yes, it was highly recommended as homemade and vegan. So I ordered it, without the aioli, and with added pickles.

My initial impression of the food, before tasting anything was–fast food quality or worse, greasy bun, cold fries, rotten, blackened, scary, wilted lettuce and avocado that was, well, dead. This stuff should have been relegated to a compost heap, was really unappetizing and hardly “the freshest of local and seasonal ingredients” as promised by the website. I hate to be all negative, so, on the positive side, the pickles looked okay.

Now for the next impressions–I picked up the burger for a bite and it smelled very strongly of eggs. Not a good sign. I put it down and asked the waiter if there were eggs in the burger and she checked with the kitchen. No eggs. It was peak brunch time, so I thought maybe they cooked it on the same grill with eggs?? I tried the cold fries in the ketchup, which was weird and fruity. I ordered some dijon mustard and hot sauce, thinking that might counteract the off-putting odor of the burger.  No luck there.

The burger patty itself was mushy and grey and aside from the egg smell, had no good seasoning or flavor–just eggy, and otherwise mushy, tasteless and greasy.

The burger patty was…in a word–disgusting..

I hadn’t had any breakfast and at 2 p.m. I was really hungry, so I tried making a little sandwich from the less greasy bottom bun and a tomato and pickle and mustard and had a  bite, before I came to my senses–this was dumpster-diving, not really food, and was not worth eating at any cost!

I cut my losses, paid the bill, and left hungry, never to return.


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