Beyond Meat Burger at Burger-Fi

Quinoa. Black beans. Portobello mushrooms. No, yesteryear’s veggie burgers weren’t fooling anyone. But when you have a patty that sizzles on the grill, browns up, and even “bleeds” with each bite, even died-hard omnivores are intrigued.

Enter the plant-based burger – a new industry of patties that mimic the look, taste and feel of real ground beef. The two major players, aptly named the Impossible Burger by Northern California-based Impossible Foods and Beyond Burger from Los Angeles-based Beyond Meat, are feeding the growing demand for tasty choices to traditional beef.

While only about 6 percent of Americans are vegan, the global movement dubbed Meatless Monday has 31 percent of all those beef-eaters choosing veggie meals at least once a week. Plant-based burgers bring all to the table, opening the door for a whole new audience to visit more meat-centric restaurants.

Impossible Burger at Corner Tap
Impossible Burger at Corner Tap

Their main ingredients are quite different. The Beyond Burger is created with pea isolate protein and beet juice extract for the pink middle, while the Impossible Burger’s secret among wheat and potato proteins is heme. A result of high-tech research on what “makes a burger a burger,” Impossible Foods created this plant-based iron-containing molecule responsible for making meat look pink. Both “meats” offer 20 grams of cholesterol-free plant-based protein.

“There’s an expectation for the Impossible to taste like a disguised veggie burger or have a very artificial meat flavor to it. In reality, it truly tastes like real beef,” says Geoff Turner, general manager of Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap in Chicago, where Impossible Burger sliders have been sitting sidecar to the restaurant’s BBQ pork nachos and rib slabs since December 2017. The sliders feature two all-plant patties, special chipotle lime sauce, lettuce, cheese and pickles on mini brioche buns. “They were well-received right away, and have increased in popularity during the months since adding to our menu.”

Jamie Bissonnette, James Beard award-winning chef/partner with Ken Oringer at Little Donkey in Cambridge, Massachusetts, adds that the Impossible Burger was also well received at his Central Square eatery when it first appeared on the lunch menu in fall 2017.

“It adds a unique lunch option, as well as a story for our servers and staff to engage with guests about,” Bissonnette says. “We’ve seen burger-loving guests opt for [it] because they’re curious and end up loving the taste, as well as vegetarian diners who appreciate the availability when dining out.” 

 

With all this hype, one thing is clear. If someone asks “where’s the beef,” chances are, soon no one will care.

 

 

While smaller neighborhood spots like P.S. Kitchen in New York City are serving it as part of a strictly plant-based menu, the meat-loving mass market is also testing the Beyond Burger. BurgerFi was the first national burger chain to bring the Beyond Burger to its 100-plus locations nationwide last summer, while TGIFriday’s and BareBurger are the most recent to launch this menu item.

“The Beyond Burger allows consumers to enjoy the juicy burger eating experience they crave, but with added health and environmental benefits of plant-based protein,” says chef Paul Griffin, corporate executive chef for BurgerFi.

Several restaurants are moving past patties and are opting for plant-based meat in a variety of dishes. Chef Russell Smith at the Source by Wolfgang Puck in Washington, D.C. makes an Impossible Potsticker appetizer, and Oaxaca Taqueria recently introduced Beyond Meat tacos in its NYC locations. The Stalking Horse in Los Angeles is making a Cottage Pie, with minced Impossible meat, peas, carrots, onions, mashed potatoes, and brown gravy in a cast iron casserole.

Impossible Meatball Sandwich at Clover Food Labs
Impossible Meatball Sandwich at Clover Food Lab

Clover Food Lab, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company known for its innovative ways to get carnivores dreaming about veggies, even channeled its founders’ Italian heritage with a savory meatball sub in its restaurants.

“It was an insane response,” says Lucia Jazayeri, creative director at Clover Food Lab. “Each day we served it, we had more people coming back and bringing their friends to try it. Each day we served it during the first two weeks, we had nearly double the sales of the [sub] than the previous day.”

With all this hype, one thing is clear. If someone asks “where’s the beef,” chances are, soon no one will care.

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Cheryl Fenton knows her five food groups – fruits and veggies, meats and poultry, cheese, bacon, and fries. She loves sarcasm over very dirty martinis and steak dinners (medium rare, if you please), and she’s never met a poutine she doesn’t like. Because life is all about balance, she makes time for a healthy lifestyle with hikes accompanied by her two rescue dogs and bike rides along the Mystic (dogs not included).