Grilled Tofu Sandwich at Black Shack Burger

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The wonderful grilled tofu sandwich at Midtown's Black Shack rides high on a seeded bun.

I'm not a fan of any of the burger surrogates mired deep in the permafrost of the supermarket's freezer case. Health claims to the contrary, I find them overprocessed and rubbery, often with a chemical aftertaste that may be actual solvent residues.

I am totally in favor, though, of making a burger out of a portobello mushroom cap, breaded and deep-fried mozzarella, or a puree of eggplant.

Tofu can also make an excellent substitute for a meat patty, especially if it's of the extra firm variety, and grilled over flame. This is the case at Black Shack (320 Lexington Avenue, 212-213-0042), a burger joint that's much better than it looks from the outside.

The tofu patty is treated like any burger -- swabbed with mayo, ketchup, and mustard (the latter is key to the flavor much as it is at What-A-Burger in Texas), then deposited on a seeded bun with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and raw onions. The sandwich tastes every bit as good as the regular burger, and as much care has been taken with it. Variations include one with barbecue sauce and deep fried onions (the "Western Tofu"), and a version with cheese. When was the last time you saw cheese and tofu together? Probably never.

The french fries are pretty good, too.

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Also odd for a fast-food hamburger joint is the availability of beer.

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