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Restaurant of the Week: Sookie’s Veggie Burgers

Eating one’s vegetables is non-negotiable at Sookie’s Veggie Burgers. The plant-based burger joint is now a fixture on State Street in Madison.

Owner John McCune initially launched his business concept as a food truck in Milwaukee shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic began. The eats were so well received he was able to keep attracting customers by occasionally vending at events and hosting drive-thru pop-ups in Southern Wisconsin’s two most densely populated cities.

A patty packed with veggies may not sound like an easy sell in the dairy state. But McCune’s vision since opening the brick-and-mortar this March stretches far beyond the food to a comprehensive focus on sustainability. Yes, the menu is entirely vegan. But all the serving and packing wares being compostable leave little doubt about McCune’s sincere desire to minimize his carbon footprint as an entrepreneur.

Creative director and local artist Esperanza Tyson also leaned heavily into a green living vibe in terms of décor. One-hundred recycled bottles hang from the ceiling—each one containing a real plant. (Their growth is continuously stimulated by the grow lights directly above.) Even the tip jar on the counter is covered in living moss! Equally eye-catching and eco-friendly are the repurposed wooden tables. Once gigantic spools needed for industrial labor, Tyson’s upcycled dining furniture matches the rainbow mural she painted on the largest wall that also depicts the pup the restaurant was named after.

However, make no mistake, the nosh is meant to be the main attraction. Being quite closely located to the UW-Madison campus, the menu as a whole is reasonably priced. The hummus trio or a side of sweet potato fries can easily feed two. Each sandwich is also sufficient as a stand-alone for those on a quick lunch break or a tighter budget. The meatiness of the portobella mushroom is sure to be a pleasant surprise for omnivores who regularly find veg-centric options to be lacking in regard to satiety. And many an herbivore will be tempted to order two of the Sweet Heat Beet Burger.

McCune insists there’s much more to be rolled out before year’s end. Local smoothie bar SuperCharged Foods will begin sharing the interior space in early May. In addition, he is hoping to add vegan ice cream, hot sauce and craft beer—all produced by regional vendors—affirming “things are getting more colorful and exciting every day.”

To learn more about Sookie’s Veggie Burgers, visit www.sookiesveg.com.

Photo credit: Rachel Werner

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