My first time with an Impossible Burger was a pleasant stroll through the uncanny valley.
Over the weekend we decided to take advantage of the sunny day with mild temperatures and head to McMenamins Edgefield out in Troutdale. As you may know, I live in Portland without a car and take transit everywhere; I was pleased to learn that the TriMet 77 bus drops you off directly in front of the Edgefield property. After an easy ride we did a fair amount of exploring of the grounds, and decided to get something to eat at the Black Rabbit Bar. And what did I see on the menu, but the Impossible Burger. I had been wanting to try it for some time, and this seemed like as good as any an opportunity to do so.
I was given two options: “American Style” with cheese or “Vegan Style” without cheese. I ordered it Vegan Style but it still came with cheese… which I learned later happened to be vegan (Chao brand). Go figure. It was a very thin slice and I decided to eat it (not knowing at the time it was vegan all along). Along with the cheese, the burger came with shredded lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions, a vegan sauce (likely made with a vegan mayo base), and pickle on a sesame seed bun. It also came with a boatload of fries, which were good.
When I lived in NYC I became known for having a heightened sense of smell (subway stations in the summertime were a nightmare), and that continues here in Portland. When I raised the burger to my mouth I did not get as strong a grilled meat smell as I expected but did detect a kind of nutty aroma, but that was extremely short lived. I bit into the burger and liked what I tasted—meaty for sure, though missing a kind of intensity that comes with grass-fed beef. It was juicy enough and even dripped some of those juices onto my plate and a few renegade fries. It was, for use of a better phrase, a very well-behaved burger.
The texture was satisfying, and reminded me of a much more sophisticated version of the Morningstar Farms-type of burger (key ingredient is TVP), but it was way beyond the “Grillers” of my college days. The Impossible Burger had a nice crust on it, and it really felt like eating a burger. As an omnivore I wish it smelled more like meat but maybe that would drive it deeper into the uncanny valley.
The Impossible Burger is definitely the best imitation of a beef burger that I’ve ever encountered, though it’s important to know that it is not an exact replica (hence the uncanny valley reference). Those who are naturally prone to nitpick will probably be disappointed with it. I really enjoyed it, and if for some reason I was told I could never eat a beef burger and had to eat the Impossible Burger instead, I’d be OK with that. But let there be no mistake—I still love me a high quality grass-fed beef burger.
I encourage my omnivorous friends to give the Impossible Burger a try when they have a chance. I am looking forward to eating another one and seeing how other restaurants in Portland prepare it.
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