When I first visited the United States six years ago, I had a hard time finding vegetarian food. The average American eatery did not cater to my meatless diet, leading to disappointing meals of plain cheese quesadillas and bland cheese pizzas. Fast-forward to 2018, and the U.S. is sitting on the precipice of a gastronomic revolution in the form of the Impossible Burger — a sign that meatless food need not be some bland abridgement of cheese and bread.
Impossible Foods showed its mettle to Emory two weeks ago when it planted a food truck on Asbury Circle and distributed free samples of the Impossible Burger to the community. My first bite into the sample slider brought forth a primal surge of excitement, like a caveman biting into a wild animal. The vegan burger was one of the most savory things I had ever eaten, and it was simply made from ingredients including wheat, coconut oil and potatoes. Most crucially, it has the iron-containing compound heme, which is found in blood red meat and plants and gives the Impossible Burger its characteristic meaty taste and appearance.
After just two or three bites, the burger was gone. Impossible Foods sells its revolutionary product to several businesses, including Grindhouse Killer Burgers, which has locations in Decatur and downtown Atlanta.
At Grindhouse Killer Burgers, I ordered a double Grindhouse Style Impossible Burger with a side of fries. The burger featured two Impossible Burger patties wedged between a soft bun with melted American cheese, lettuce, grilled onions, pickles and Grindhouse sauce. Like many restaurants’ signature sauces, the Grindhouse sauce was a Thousand Island deviation.
Within 10 minutes, the waiter served me my burger, a compact mass of faux meat and cheese. The patty itself bore an uncanny resemblance to ground beef. Had there not been a helpful flag on the bun that read “Impossible Burger,” I likely would have confirmed my order with a waiter. The heme oozed like blood from the patty and added to the illusion of beef.
After one bite, I had a “Ratatouille” moment. Of all things, the burger reminded me of the taste of McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, a treasured treat I gave up when I decided to become a vegetarian. Though McDonald’s nuggets are hardly the pinnacle of culinary achievement, that distinct umami of meat is something I have not tasted since going meatless.
That is, until now. The Impossible Burger’s juices melded perfectly with the slight sweetness of the Grindhouse sauce and created a tango of savory and saccharine that was offset by the sharp sourness of the pickle. The patty collapsed under the sheer weight of my greed, leaving a delicious pool of ground faux meat and Grindhouse sauce on my plate. The chunks that missed my mouth enjoyed the consolation of topping my fries, a solid postgame to my hearty burger.
My non-vegetarian accomplice managed to halt me for a split second and requested to taste the Impossible Burger. After I sidelined my gastronomic avarice in favor of my journalistic rationalism, I obliged, interested to see the perspective of a meat lover. She said that it reminded her more of sausage than a burger, owing to the patty’s crumbly texture, adding that she could have mistaken it for meat.
My only real misgiving with the meal was the price: It costs an extra $2.50 to replace the a Grindhouse Killer Burger’s patty with an Impossible Burger patty. At $10.50 for a relatively small burger, the burger is difficult to recommend to people who are not vegetarian or vegan. That alienation of non-vegetarians is crucial. My intrigue in the Impossible Burger is that it is so good it could — after some refinement — be a genuine substitute for meat, not just an option for deprived vegetarians like myself.
Until that day, I will continue to treat myself with the occasional Impossible Burger, and I am excited to see how the concept will be improved in the future.