It even bleeds a little.
You can get it cooked medium, medium rare, or rare, if that’s your sort of thing. It sizzles the same way and oozes and comes with a little bit of pink in the middle. And it’s supposed to be healthier for you.
The Impossible Burger, a vegan, plant-based alternative to beef, has taken off wildly since its inception in 2016 and several Triad restaurants are selling the hype.
“We just have a very, very good response to it,” says Jo Croon, the front of house manager at Big Burger Spot on Nicholas Road in Greensboro. “We’ve had a lot of people coming in specifically for the Impossible Burger.”
The locally owned fast-casual joint — which has two locations — is just one of a handful of restaurants in the city that carry the product, and Croon says it’s improved their business.
“It does help our sales,” she says. “A lot of vegan and vegetarian customers appreciate it.”
Croon says they’ve had the patty as an option on their menu for about a year and customers can substitute it for a regular beef patty for an upcharge of a couple of bucks.
Big Burger Spot has other vegetarian options too, like a black-bean or chickpea patty, but the Impossible Burger takes plant-based meat to a whole ’nother level.
According to the Impossible Foods website, which makes the Impossible Burger, the reason why their patty looks, smells, tastes and even sounds so much like meat is because they use a particular ingredient called heme.
“Heme is what makes meat taste like meat,” the company explains. “It’s an essential molecule found in every living plant and animal — most abundantly in animals — and something we’ve been eating and craving since the dawn of humanity.”
At Impossible Foods, which is based out of Redwood City, CA, they extract heme from a protein called soy leghemoglobin, which comes from the roots of soy plants. The company takes the DNA from soy plants and inserts it into a genetically engineered yeast and ferments it in a way that’s similar to how Belgian beer is made. And instead of producing alcohol, the yeast multiplies and creates a lot of heme. The company has a cute, animated video explaining the science behind it here.
But regardless of how it’s made, the Impossible Burger has been a game changer for those who crave the taste of meat without the actual animal product.
“The first Impossible Burger that I had was at Bites and Pints on Spring Garden,” says Todd Turner, a local photographer and frequent TCB contributor. “It wasn’t exactly like a beef burger, but it was crazy close. I loved eating burgers in the past and I didn’t stop eating them because I had lost the taste; it was for the animals.”
For non-meat eaters like Turner, the Impossible Burger and the also popular Beyond Meat Burger — which can be purchased in grocery stores, unlike the Impossible product which is currently only wholesaled to restaurants — are just a step closer to normalizing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. (Impossible Foods did tweet in November 2018 that they will be selling their burgers in stores this year).
Earlier this month, Burger King announced that they would be rolling out the Impossible Whopper to all of their stores nationwide after they tested the product in Missouri. This marked the Impossible product’s first appearance at a coast-to-coast, fast-food restaurant. The patty is also on the menu at other chains like the Cheesecake Factory, Hard Rock Café, Red Robin, White Castle and most recently, Little Caesars. Chains like TGI Fridays, Del Taco and Carl’s Jr. have introduced Beyond Meat to their menus.
“A lot of people that enjoying eating vegetarian burgers are very excited about the potential of these being distributed through some major fast-food chains,” says Turner. “One of the hardest things about being vegetarian is that when you need to grab something on the go, there aren’t exactly a lot of options to scratch the itch.”
And while the spread of a non-meat option is a win for vegetarians and vegans, many local restaurants say they’ve had a hard time getting the product since Impossible’s partnership with Burger King.
An employee at Bites and Pints says that because they’ve had issues with distribution, they have been substituting the Impossible Burger with Beyond Meat.
Fishbones and Sticks and Stones in Greensboro and the Canteen Market and Bistro and Bobo’s Deli and Grill in Winston-Salem have followed suit.
“Burger King has pretty much bought up all of the supply,” says Helen Rohr, the manager on duty at Canteen. “We’ll try to get back to the Impossible Burger when we can.”
Foothills also has the Beyond Burger as a regular item on their menu.
Pearl Xu, a spokesperson for Impossible Foods said via email that the company currently has the Impossible Burger in 200 Burger King locations and plans to have them in all 7,200 locations by the end of this year.
Xu also said that the company will be using a significant portion of a recent $300 million investment to increase production and are “aggressively recruiting additional new hires” to meet demand.
Still, other locations in the area say they’ve had no problems keeping the Impossible Burger in stock.
“We order them every week to keep up,” says Matt Wise, the bar manager at Char Bar 7 in Greensboro. “We try to plan ahead.”
And thankfully for vegetarians, it seems restaurants plan on keeping the products around.
“We’ve had it about a month and a half and used them for tacos too. It’s been very positive so far,” Wise continues. “I have a guy who comes in and orders a double stack every week. People like them.”
Locations in the Triad that serve the Impossible Burger:
Big Burger Spot — both locations
Bites and Pints — currently substituting the Beyond Burger
Fishbones — currently substituting the Beyond Burger
Sticks and Stones — currently substituting the Beyond Burger
Char Bar 7
Canteen Market and Bistro — currently substituting the Beyond Burger
Mary’s Gourmet Diner — have both the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger
Foothills — uses the Beyond Burger
Bobo’s Deli and Grill — currently substituting the Beyond Burger