We sit in Grindhouse Killer Burgers on Piedmont near Cheshire Bridge. On screens above our heads, animated figures from a Japanese movie — young men with spiky hair and round, blank eyes — chatter and grimace. Behind us, a line of silent space-age toys (robots, rocket ships) stands ready to defend the bartender. And on the table in front of us lies a food item whose very name implies that shouldn’t exist in this universe.
The Impossible Burger.
The folks at Impossible Foods see the Impossible Burger as the crowning achievement in fake meat: a plant-based patty (made from wheat, potatoes, and coconut oil, among other things) that is supposed to look, feel, smell, and taste like real ground beef. They position the patty as the answer to a starving vegan’s dream of meat without guilt … and to the world’s desperate need for meat that doesn’t consume so many resources or emit quite so much greenhouse gas.
Right off the bat: if you’re vegan because the idea of meat makes you queasy, the Impossible Burger may not be for you. While it’s true that the Impossible Burger is vegan — that is, made with no animal products whatsoever — the burger is designed to mimic real meat in every way. To be frank: the Impossible Burger is the first veggie burger so realistic that it bleeds.
That said, I don’t think vegans are the target market here — unless they’re the sort of reluctant vegans who linger guiltily outside burger joints, sniffing the air, drooling, and wondering how they ever let their vegan girlfriends talk them into this nonsense. No, the Impossible Burger wants to be the meat-free burger for the rest of us: an earth-friendly veggie patty that will make a Texan cattle rancher worry that his days are numbered.
All of this is swirling around in my head as I lift the burger to my lips.
This particular Impossible Burger, enrobed in a steam-soft bun and topped with grilled onions by the good folks at Grindhouse, is a hot, juicy mess of a sandwich. The first flavor notes come from the yeasty bread, followed closely by the caramel and tang of the onions. And then: the “meat” — savory, chewy, with just the right amount of springy resistance between the teeth.
I pinch off a hunk of the naked patty and pop it in my mouth. Alone, the Impossible Burger is mostly impossible because it is, all at once, both meat and not meat. The flavor and mouthfeel is spot-on. The juiciness I expect is there. The texture is very, very close — as in 98% correct, a solid “A” — with just the faintest feathery, spongy quality to give away the patty’s veggie origins.
Could someone have served me this without my knowing I’d eaten wheat and potatoes? No. No, I don’t think so. I would have suspected, I think, that they had extended their ground beef with filler — cereal, maybe. Maybe. But, especially if you layered the thing with cheese and lettuce and tomato … you just might not notice the difference at all.
Would I order it again? Yes, but that decision would be driven more by novelty than by loyalty. I’m drawn to the idea of a cruelty-free burger … but it will take more than one to make me a true believer.