I recently got to enjoy a nice lunch with my fellow blogger in crime, Quarrygirl. After much deliberation, we opted to have our lunch at Real Food Daily. We settled on RFD because we both like it, and also because her man hates it… so she doesn’t get to go there often. I on the other hand have always enjoyed their food and they offer one of the best vegan brunches in town. Quarrygirl has already posted her write up about our lunch at Real Food Daily, so I better pick up the slack here and give you my take on things.

'Vegan nachos at Real Food Daily

It was a given that we’d start off with the vegan nachos. I mean, who goes to RFD and does not get the nachos? You’d have to be crazy! The “Better with Cheddar Nachos” involve tortilla chips, melted cashew cheese, black beans, pico de gallo, guacamole and tofu sour cream. Now don’t go getting all excited thinking this stuff tastes like real cheese or sour cream, because it doesn’t. That said, it’s delicious. The creamy cashew cheese is more of a melted cheese-like sauce, and it reminds me of those super cheap nachos you can get at places like 7-11 where you ladle the watery cheese sauce out of a heated pool onto a paper tray of stale chips. Only these chips were not stale, the food was not cheap, and the taste is amazing. It doesn’t taste much of cashews and to my tastebuds it’s reminiscent of Cheese Whiz, but in a good way. That’s probably not the comparison it’s creators were after, but there you have it (comfort food is comfort food, regardless of how you slice it). They serve a regular and jalepeno version of the cheese. We got the jalepeno but just like each time I’ve been to RFD in the past and asked for the jalepeno, it wasn’t at all spicy. I never know if they’ve messed up and brought me the wrong one but I’m starting to think that their spicy jalepeno cheese… just isn’t. Spicy or not, I still like it, and there was hot sauce at the table to make up for the lack of heat so all was well.

The sour cream doesn’t come very close to tasting like real sour cream either, but it’s yummy all the same, spiked with herbs of some sort (dill?) and with a nice creamy texture. Mix it all together with fresh pico de gallo, beans and all the rest and you’ve got yourself a rather delicious appetizer.

I’m glad that we were served a generous and filling portion of the nachos because I didn’t get through much of my main entree.

'The RFD burger at Real Food Daily

I got the RFD Burger with The Works and I’m sorry to say that it was just awful. You know I’m not very picky and that most of my reviews are usually good ones… that’s because I genuinely like most of the stuff I eat, so I don’t use the word “awful” lightly. The burger is a tempeh vegetable patty that comes with grilled onions (none for me thanks), lettuce, tomato and is served on a rustic roll. When you pay extra to get it with the works you also get avocado, tempeh bacon and cashew cheese. Sounds good right? Nooooooooooooooooo.

The first thing I noticed was that the burger was bright red. Hey, that’s fine with me, I love red! I contemplated out loud that maybe the burger was made with beets to give it that brilliant color and the waitress who overheard me confirmed that this was indeed the case. Cool, I like beets just as much as I like the color red, and this thing looked good, so I was eager to dig in. The burger was so big, especially with all the toppings that I decided to cut it in half for easier handling. This proved to be not so easy as the “rustic roll” it came on was hard as a rock. I don’t know if it’s that the bread was stale or just over-toasted, but either way I could hardly get my knife (or later, my teeth) through it without nearly destroying the whole thing. Once I finally got it cut in half and gave it a bite, I was immediately taken aback by an overwhelming sweet flavor. It was almost as if it had been made with sugar, and a lot of it. I surmised after another bite that the sweetness was probably from the sugary beets. I might like beets, but I don’t like sweet burgers. Strike 1.

The next and bigger problem I had with this burger was the texture… it was extremely mushy. Now I’m used to all manner of veggie burgers and I certainly don’t expect them to have the same texture or consistency of real meat patties. I recognize that vegetarian burgers will often be softer (like bean based burgers), or maybe flaky, sometimes even crumbly. This was none of the above, instead it was like soft clay. I kid you not when I tell you that between the sweet flavor, red color and muddy texture, this burger reminded me exactly of Play Doh. I really felt like I could just scoop some of it out of the bun, roll it around in my hands and form it into a cute little figurine that would stand up on it’s own on the table. I tried to get over both the weird flavor and offputting texture, but I could not… the burger was simply inedible. After hearing my description and noting that I wasn’t able to eat it, Quarrygirl decided to give it a try as well. Judging by how her face immediately squished up into a “that’s icky” expression after taking a bite and how fast she handed it back to me with the simple word “NO”, it’s safe to say we both thought it was downright nasty. Strike 2.

'The RFD burger at Real Food Daily

I realize this picture is blurry and unappealing, but I think it conveys well the unappetizing nature of this burger and the cut-away view gives you better idea of what I’m getting at when I describe the texture as Play Doh-like mush. And, as much as I do like the color red, there’s something just repulsive about a vegan burger that’s got the look and consistancy of raw ground beef. Gross.

This was actually very surprising to me because I really like Real Food Daily and eat there on a semi-regular basis. I’ve had some very good lunches there and their brunch on Sundays is one of the best options for a vegan breakfast that you’ll find in Los Angeles. This was my first time not enjoying a meal there so hopefully it was just a fluke. I don’t know if it’s just that they really messed up the burger on this particular occasion or if that’s really what it’s supposed to taste like and how they always serve it. I won’t be finding out as I’ll never order that yucky burger again, but I’ll certainly be back to Real Food Daily as they’ve got plenty of other options which I know are delicious. I feel bad even having to write this bad review because I know that it’s the exception rather than the rule, but it is what it is.

Given the burger failure you’d think the nachos were the highlight of my day. You’d only be partially right (because those nachos did rule!) but that’s only because you haven’t yet seen the awesome surprise Quarrygirl had in store for me… vegan donuts!

'Vegan Donuts from Dee's Nuts

[Update: Bah! I've changed the entire donut part of this post to reflect the fact that since it was written, it's been revealed the donuts weren't 100% vegan and were being sold out of unsanitary conditions. Ick! Some things really are too good to be true :( ]

All in all, a lovely food filled day. Despite the fact that my burger was vile, I did get to eat some yummy vegan nachos, gorge on a collection of fine vegan donuts, and spend some time with one super cool vegan lady. What more could one ask for? Oh I know, more vegan donuts please!


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30 Responses to “Real Food Daily Veggie Burger FAIL”
  1. Sounds like Quarrygirl saved the day with those delectable-looking donuts! The one on the bottom right looks glittery. :)

    But barf! A play-doh burger? Now that’s just nasty and inexcusable. I know just what you mean about the mushy burger texture. I had an impeccable vegan burger at a vegetarian restaurant a month or so ago, and it was so good I went back a couple days later to order it again. That time, it was so mushy that it made each half of the bun mush apart into big chunks. It was not the least bit appetizing or satisfying! I actually really regretted that I didn’t send it back! It was completely unacceptable that I had to pay for it, and that sounds like the case with your burger as well. You shoulda returned it right back to that kitchen!!! I thought your red burger looked really good in the pic, and beets and tempeh is a-okay with me, but not if it tastes like sweet play-doh.

  2. VeggieGirl says:

    Yeah, that burger LOOKS awful, so I can only imagine just how bad it really is :-( Bummer!!

  3. FoodEater says:

    ruby red vegan: I agree, I really should have sent it back. I’m way too nice about stuff like that and I need to get over it. I seem to have this false belief that when the server takes my plate away and notices that I hardly touched the food, that they will then show concern, ask me what the problem was, offer me something else or take the charge off the bill. Obviously that rarely if ever happens. I need to learn to stick up for myself better in situations like this one.

  4. Vegyogini says:

    I never order veggie burgers because they’re bound to have the much-despised onions cooked right in, so I’ve never had an RFD burger. Thank goodness! I’m sorry you had such a negative experience with it, but at least you had the yummy nachos. I think that is dill in the sour cream, although I’ve only had it once and can’t confirm that. Maybe I’ll make those nachos myself using my RFD cookbook!

    I tried a Dee’s Nuts glazed donut at the vegan XMas party and thought it was ok. It was at least a day old, so maybe that’s why? Maple and chocolate coconut sound good!

    Oh, and heck yeah, we deserve to be included on all the free vegan stuff that bloggers are offered because we’ll definitely review the products fairly and quickly. Wheelers promised me ice cream multiple times and never delivered, so you’re not alone there.

  5. Lisa Marie says:

    Ok those vegan donuts are making my tummy rumble. :drool: I wish I lived near places that sold such things. Minus the nasty veggie burger. I had a similar incident like that about a month ago. I went to this diner and ordered a vegan veggie burger. I seriously doubt a vegan even made that burger. It’s like they grabbed a bunch of green crap and molded it into a burger and said “Eh… it’s not like we’re eating it :dies laughing:” It was that horrible.

    Those nachos look good too. -sigh

  6. Whoa, that must have been a fluke, because the burger with the works is my favorite thing at RFD, perhaps tied with the supreme burrito.

  7. Tracy says:

    There is a really good vegan place here in Phoenix that serves a nasty red burger as well. What’s the deal?? Those nachos look awesome.

  8. Kirby! says:

    Those donuts look soooooooooo yummy!! The blue one is so pretty! My friend brought back some vegan donuts from Mighty-O in Seattle last week, and I SCARFED ALL of them. And I’m supposedly “not a donut person.”

  9. I’m not the biggest fan of RFD because I had some very crunchy granola meals there a while back, but you’ve convinced me to give them another try for the nachos.

    And thanks also for the 411 on the doughnuts! Those look great!

  10. Janet says:

    That sucks about the veggie burger, at least the avocado looks like it was at the perfect ripeness…I had a veggie burger once that was so “meat-like” I couldn’t eat it even though the server assured me it was their veggie patty. You win some, you lose some. Those are certainly some nice looking Nachos, though, and you’re so lucky to have eaten those donuts cuz they look scrumptious!

  11. Lex says:

    RFD Burger with the Works is my favorite thing there!!! Yours looks like a WEHO Mutant! I’ve gotten bad food at that location numerous times (pretty much every time) and I think there is an ongoing sentiment that the Santa Monica location is where the quality control works. Done right that burger is irresistibly tangy and firm, and not play dough. Your pic of it makes me never want to go to the Weho location again, I thought they just singled me out for some reason, lol.

  12. quarrygirl says:

    foodeater! i love your post! and i agree, those donuts were awesome, i wasn’t stretching the truth either. ;)

    sorry about your burger. at least we still had an awesome time and got to shove some tasty nachos in our gobs.

    yayayayaya to the vegan bloggers’ lunch!

  13. Nice, finally some vegan donut-age in L.A!

    I can finally stop reheating those refrigerated spelt one’s they sell in some health food stores :)

  14. FoodEater says:

    Lex and The Wind Attack: Weird. Hard to imagine this thing being prepared in a way that would have come out good, but I’ll take your guys’ word for it! Something must have really gone wrong in the kitchen the day I ordered this. I’ve never been to the Santa Monica Real Food Daily so I cannot compare, but until this fated burger and I crossed paths, everything else I’ve had at the WeHo RFD has been great. I guess it’s good to know this must have been a one-off veggie burger failure.

    teenage glutster: Oh my god, those health food store grainy donuts are so nasty! How dare they even try and pass those things off as donuts? Well donut salvation is now at hand… Dee’s Nuts are so good they’ll make you forget that “health food” and “donuts” were ever used together in the same sentence :)

  15. Kevin says:

    I too have never gone to the Santa Monica RFD, but I agree that the quality of RFD has gone downhill fast. It would take some serious coaxing to get me there again.

  16. Honor says:

    That burger looks horrendous. I’ll take some donuts, though.

  17. Melisser says:

    That burger looks straight up UNCOOKED. Did you say anything?
    Last time we went, Ryan didn’t care for his reuben, it was tiny & pricey for no sides. We love the nachos, but I agree on the lack of spice. RFD is just good to me, not great.

  18. Melisser says:

    OH! I’ve also always loved the Santa Monica location & had issues in WeHo!
    Also, donuts.. yum!

  19. I’m in the LA area once in a while, but have never been to RFD. I’ll remember to be cautious about their “beet burger” – don’t get to eat out much since there aren’t many veg friendly places around me, so I’m still jealous!

  20. Yep, I’m a little too nice about sending bad food back too, but I’ve gotten better. Usually I just figure it’s better to say something because then I’ll end up complaining about the bad food for the rest of the day and wish I had gotten something yummy… But then there’s always the possibility that there’s something wrong with whatever they send back. Ugh. I hate that!

  21. Eric says:

    Totally agree about that burger. When I first arrived in LA three years ago the first thing I got at RFD was a burger with “the works”. I share your thoughts about the texture of the patty as well as the sweet taste. I’ve gone back to RFD many times since my first visit, but have NEVER ordered that burger again.

    Also, I like the brunch at the WeHo RFD, but I have to say the tofu scramble that comes with the big breakfast plate is completely uninspiring. Sauteed onions and tofu ain’t a good recipe, IMO. I can do better at home…easily.

    Donuts look AWESOME! Can’t wait to try one!

  22. FoodEater says:

    Melisser: Yeah, from what I can make of it, it seems to have been cooked only on the outside. Yuck.

    ruby red vegan: Yeah, in retrospect it would be better if I stick up for myself more and do my complaining while at the restaurant instead of afterwards. Ultimately it would be better for all involved as I might just get something brought back that I actually like, and it would also spare the restaurant my potentially bad reviews in the aftermath. I think I’m just too laid back for my own good… need to work on having a little bit less of a “whatever” sort of attitude :)

    Eric: I’m glad to know it wasn’t just me that thought the burger was way off!

    As for their scrambled tofu though, the times I’ve had it there it’s been very good. Here’s some proof!. Definitely it’s on the simpler side of things, but I loved it.

  23. Canary says:

    I’ve never been a fan of RFD – their food always seems dry and stale and just bland to me. Have you had the People’s Donuts up here in the bay area?

  24. Pympixy says:

    I think something has been going on over at RFD. I usually frequent the WEHo location, I’ve only been to the Santa Monica location a couple of times. It used to be one of my favorite places to eat, (I even bought their cook book), but over the past year I’ve found myself increasingly disappointed.

    They used to have the best cupcakes EVER, but they’ve changed the recipe and now all of their cupcakes have an aftertaste that reminds me of lemon pine sol. Plus, they are now horribly crumbly and dry.

    I actually ordered my Thanksgiving dinner from them this year, because I had eaten it in the restaurant the year before and really loved it. Unfortunately, the dinner I ordered this year was not very good at all. The pumpkin pie actually went bad in my fridge because no one ate it, it was that bad. – Pumpkin pie has NEVER gone uneaten in my house before!

    I have tried the RFD burger in the past, and I thought it was pretty good… maybe a little salty. However, that was a couple of years ago.

    My favorite thing to get there are the Tacos – and so far I have yet to have bad taco’s there. I’ll continue to go back for the taco’s, because I love them… but I hope whatever is going on in their kitchen improves soon.

  25. Josh says:

    I’ve had the Works Burger a couple times and dug it, though I think the Reuben is the way to go.

    Their doughnuts, their cupcakes, both have been too sweet for my tastes.

  26. VeganNYC says:

    That’s funny. I just moved from NYC and the first place I ate (at everyone’s recommendation) was RFD. The nachos were some of the best I’ve had (albeit an entire meal of its own), but the entree was just dry and boring. Next time, I’ll just get an appetizer. On another note, I finally just made it to Ronald’s Donuts in Las Vegas which was mind blowing. The shop doesn’t say vegan anywhere, but if you ask, 80% of all the donuts are vegan. But no one there knows! It’s just the regular donut and coffee crowd. I’d highly recommend it. On a last note, I’m glad I found your blog. I’ve been looking for a good guide to all these restaurants with honest feedback. Thank you.

  27. therubyforest says:

    FIX coffee in Echo Park also sells Dee’s Donuts, and her chocolate chip and sugar cookies!

  28. FoodEater says:

    Canary: I have not yet tried People’s Donuts… will have to make it a goal to do so!

    Pympixy: Too bad about your Thanksgiving dinner, you’re right… if the pumpkin pie goes uneaten, something is definitely wrong.

    VeganNYC: I’d really like to try Ronald’s Donuts as well, but I probably won’t get to any time soon as I avoid Las Vegas like the plague. Someone’s going to have to go there for me and bring me some back!

  29. Ica says:

    RFD is right around the corner from my office… through my many visits i could only suggest breakfast and nachos! everything else.. ehh. love your blog.