My Epic Quest For the Best Veggie Burger in Jakarta

For Aaron and I, one of the toughest parts of traveling is that we are vegetarian.  We both stopped eating meat in high school (long before we ever met) and we’ve both stayed true to our herbivorous ways for the past 14 years.  Neither of us eats meat or fish and we have to be wary of broths, sauces and bits of meat that somehow always manage to make their way onto our plates.  We aren’t vegan, so the fact that we eat dairy and eggs makes life on the road much easier for us.  Regardless, navigating our way through a new country and a new cuisine is always a challenge and figuring out what we can and can’t eat is a constant adventure.  This is especially true in countries like Indonesia where the concept of vegetarianism is completely foreign and for the most part downright bewildering to people.

So when we first touched down in Jakarta during our backpacking trip 10 long months ago I did the same thing I always do.  I scoured Happy Cow and TripAdvisor to find veg-friendly places to eat and that is how I first heard of Burgreens.  Not only was it rated #3 out of the over 5,000 restaurants in Jakarta but it was a pure-vegetarian restaurant, something I honestly didn’t expect to find in this city.

Veggie burgers at Burgreens restaurant, Jakarta, Indonesia

I was immediately intrigued and I could hardly contain my excitement as I looked on Google Maps to see if we could walk to the restaurant from our hotel, which was located near Jakarta’s backpacker haunt, Jalan Jaksa.

It turns out Burgreens was nowhere near us.

That was the first time I realized just how enormous Jakarta is.  We were located in Central Jakarta and Burgreens was 17 km (10 miles) to the south.  It might not seem like a horribly long distance, but given that Jakarta has some of the worst traffic in the world, it can literally take hours to go that distance.  Seriously.  So, just like that, our hopes of scarfing down what were supposedly the city’s best garden burgers were dashed.  We left Jakarta a few days later to never look back…or so we thought.

Little did I know at the time that six months later I’d be moving to Jakarta, a city that had served as nothing more than a pit stop a few months prior.  As Aaron and I were settling into our new apartment in Jakarta, one of the first things that popped into my mind was Burgreens.  I think about food a lot…what can I say?

Burgreens restaurant, Jakarta, Indonesia

It turns out that one of Aaron’s co-workers, who also happens to be a fellow vegetarian – a rare breed among Jakartans – kept telling Aaron about this great vegetarian restaurant that she just had to take us to.  She scheduled a date, told us she’d pick us up on Sunday, and that she’d take us to Burgreens!  I couldn’t believe that I was finally going to savor those veggie burgers I’d literally been waiting six months to try.

As I soon found out, I was going to have to wait a little longer to wrap my hands around one of Burgreen’s famous veggie burgers.

Traffic in Jakarta is seriously insane.  And don’t even get me started on weekend traffic.  To put it in some sort of perspective, I’ve learned a grand total of three Indonesian phrases since I moved here: terima kasih (thank you), selamat pagi (good morning) and macet (traffic jam).  I have made many a cab driver laugh with my knowledge of the word macet.

It’s tough for anyone to understand how truly horrendous the traffic in Jakarta is unless you’ve been here.  That Sunday, Aaron and I were picked up at 12pm.  By 12:35pm we had succeeded in exiting our apartment complex and inching a kilometer or two down the road.  I looked out the car window incredulously when I realized we were still literally across the street from our apartment building.

Considering Burgreens is located 17 km (10 miles) away from our apartment, Aaron and I knew we were in for a long day.  But we were both excited to get out of our neighborhood, which is like a self-contained city that can feel a bit suffocating at times.  Plus, we knew there were veggie burgers waiting for us so at the very least we had something to look forward to.

Despite the fact that we were up for an adventure, part of us couldn’t believe anyone would actually be willing to brave hours upon hours of Jakarta’s notorious traffic just to eat at a restaurant.  Seriously who in their right mind would spend hours in a car for a veggie burger?

Oh, I guess I would…

So there we were, five us piled into an SUV – me, Aaron and three of his co-workers, who are all native Jakartans.  We crept through the city at a snail’s pace as they pointed out landmarks and gave us an insider’s glimpse into this complex city.  We rolled past ramshackle homes, glitzy malls, graffitied walls and million dollar mansions.

Burgreens restaurant, Jakarta, Indonesia

Roughly two hours later we finally arrived in the tree-lined neighborhood of Rempoa in south Jakarta.  Seeing trees was such a drastic change from what I’d seen in the rest of the city, which from my experience is an endless mass of gray, concrete buildings.

Burgreens was like a little oasis and very welcome change of scenery in more ways than one.  As we walked into the restaurant I instantly felt like I was back to California.  That particular day, Burgreens was hosting a community event – there was a health food cooking demonstration, a booth selling t-shirts made out of plant-based materials (like coconuts!) and a vendor hawking organic cendol (a sweet coconut milk-based Indonesian dessert).  It was like being at my favorite farmers market back in Leucadia, California.

Burgreens restaurant, Jakarta, Indonesia

There were women wearing flowing skirts and walking around barefoot.  There were men with dreadlocks and baggy pants.  This was like no place in Jakarta I’d seen.  It was like being transported back to my college days at UC Santa Cruz.  Aaron and I were back amongst our own.  Finally, people who truly understood why we’re vegetarian.  People who promoted things like sustainable living and animal rights and understood the importance of recycling in order to help curb Jakarta’s horrific trash problem.  I felt right at home but more than anything it was refreshing to know that a place like this existed in Jakarta.

Burgreens restaurant, Jakarta, Indonesia

After our long road trip, we were all starving.  After a quick look around we ordered a round of burgers.  I ordered a sampler of mini-burgers because, you know, I wanted to taste them all.  Their patties are made from either mushrooms, a variety of beans, spinach & chickpeas, and potatoes & lentils.  All of the patties were crisped to perfection, topped with organic, locally sourced veggies, smeared with either a raw coconut “mayonnaise” or a tangy garlic sauce, and sandwiched between a whole-wheat bun.

Burgreens restaurant, Jakarta, Indonesia
What? This isn’t pasta?

Another thing that was pleasantly surprising to me was that Burgreens had a huge selection of raw food dishes.  I ordered the the Raw Mushroom ‘Soba’ which looked deceptively like a tri-colored pasta dish but was actually created out of tendrils of radish, zucchini and carrot, lathered in a creamy “soba” sauce and sprinkled with seasoned mushrooms.  Aaron ordered the Green Goblin, a superfood smoothie blended with spinach, banana, strawberry, pineapple and yogurt.

Aaron and I in Jakarta

It was all delicious.  But more than the great food it was the whole atmosphere of the place that made the journey worth it.  For me it was like having a little piece of California right here in Jakarta.  The only problem with Burgreens was that it’s not located closer to my apartment.  It took us another hour and a half to drive back home and by the time we were delivered back to our apartment Aaron and I were both was hungry again.

Have you ever gone on an epic journey just to eat at a restaurant in a foreign country?

About Justine

Justine Lopez is a California native who always seems to take the unconventional route in life. She also suffers from a serious case of wanderlust. In 2013, she set out on a yearlong round-the-world journey and never looked back. Since then she's lived the expat life in both Jakarta and Phnom Penh. She's now living and working as a freelance writer in Beijing. As she meanders her way through Asia she's always seeking out great vegetarian food, budget travel deals and amazing new travel destinations.

20 thoughts on “My Epic Quest For the Best Veggie Burger in Jakarta

  1. Oh my gosh this sounds like a serious trek! Traffic is the worst. At least you weren’t sitting in a taxi racking up an enormous fare. 17 km is very far, Jakarta sounds absolutely massive! I can see why you wanted to go to this place so badly though, that food all looks awesome. Two of my favorite restaurants here in Medellin are vegetarian places…I wonder if you ever went to them? Verdeo and Cafe Zorba, both in El Poblado. Omg they’re SO good…going to Zorba tonight actually! Veg pizza. Yum.
    Leah recently posted…Friday Snapshots: A Lesson in Orchidology

    1. Right? The traffic in Jakarta is absolutely insane. It makes the traffic in Los Angeles look like a joke. I actually take taxis all around the city really often. The crazy thing about Indonesia is that it has the cheapest fuel in SE Asia, so taxis are ridiculously cheap. Sometimes I’ll sit in a cab for an hour and a half and it only costs like $7! The cheap fuel is a large reason why the city has such a horrible traffic problem though…

      I didn’t try those restaurants when I was in Medellin! Sounds like I missed out 🙁 Have a slice of pizza for me!

  2. Oh, that sounds so tasty! As a vegetarian myself, I know it can tough while traveling, but it can also be super rewarding. It is so interesting to visit vegetarian restaurants around the world and see the variety and the similarities!
    Leah recently posted…Finland! A Packing List.

    1. It was really good Leah! I love finding veggie restaurants in other countries. I always look on Happy Cow to find innovative veg restaurants. And I agree, I really love seeing how other countries create veg-friendly variations of local dishes. I have had some outstanding meals while abroad 🙂

  3. Damn, that food looks good enough to travel that far for! I’m now a pescatarian after a decade of vegetarianism, and I have to say an amazing veggie burger is well worth travelling the distance for. I had a black bean burger in Bocas Del Toro with spicy sauce and I can still remember how amazing it was to this day. If I was to be lucky enough to go back there I would have that burger again in a heart beat. I’m so hungry now!
    Hannah recently posted…My 28th Birthday in Amsterdam | The sex show

    1. It was really good. And it probably tasted even better because I had to work so hard for it 😉 I will have to remember to ask you about that restaurant in Bocas whenever I finally get the chance to travel there. That burger sounds amazing! I’m hungry now too…

    1. I could really go for one of those burgers right now. I’m starving! What I really liked about Burgreens was that it was run by six native Jakartans and they managed to create a real community of like-minded people. It was so refreshing to find a place like that in Jakarta 🙂

  4. It’s so great to see that there are more and more places like this opening up everywhere.

    We are both Vegan and actually find it super easy to travel while being Vegan. Most countries we have been to are not huge meat eating countries. Southeast Asia is definitely a great place to get some incredible food.

    Next time we are in Jakarta we will have to check out Burgreens.

    While in Cairo, Egypt we took a 2 hour cab ride to a small Vegan restaurant. Very similar traffic to Jakarta but it was totally worth it. 🙂
    GiselleandCody recently posted…2014 year in review

    1. I agree! I was so pleasantly surprised to find a place like this in Jakarta. I really didn’t expect the restaurant to have such an environmental and socially conscious message behind it. I would definitely check out Burgreens next time you’re here. The head chef is very into raw food and the majority of the options on the menu are vegan. Ha, glad I’m not the only person who took a two-hour journey just to eat at a restaurant!!

  5. Wow! I don’t think I’d be willing to travel 10 miles to eat at a restaurant. Although I probably got lost numerous times (or ran around in circles) while looking for certain vegetarian (or vegetarian-friendly) restaurants in Japan. I was lucky in that my small Yamagata Prefecture city was home to a restaurant owned by Nepali family that was very vegetarian-friendly.

    Actually, a small vegan restaurant that I took a few friends to eat at was a small hole in the wall place I might have gotten lost trying to find if I didn’t know where it was exactly. Anyway, although Japan is definitely not considered vegetarian friendly, there are definitely several vegetarian-friendly restaurants in the major cities. Now that of think it, I would be willing in Japan to go an inexpensive hour long train ride (or so) to go to an awesome vegetarian restaurant.
    Rashaad recently posted…A Mixed Bag

    1. Ha, I didn’t think I’d be willing to travel that far either. Had it not been for our friend inviting us to the restaurant I don’t think I would have EVER gone all the way out there. But it ended up being a really fun day and the food was great. I’d really love to go to Japan and it’s nice to know there are at least some veg options there. I honestly didn’t think there would be any!

      1. The reason why I knew about the vegetarian options in Japan is because I had a book – sort of like a vegetarian’s bible to life in Japan – that included information about the history of vegetarianism in Japan, recipes for Japanese vegetarian dishes and a list of vegetarian/vegetarian-friendly restaurants in the Land of the Rising Sun. Without that book, I would’ve been lost over there.
        Rashaad recently posted…2014 in review

    1. Ha, I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s willing to go to such lengths for a veggie burger! And, honestly, the burgers were so unique and good, so it was totally worth the effort. My only regret is not ordering a bunch of food to take home!

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