I love the Impossible Burger. I advertise it on this blog. I recommend it to my coworkers. I have taken every member of Julie’s immediate family to try it. On those grounds, I would consider myself a super-fan except that I have met an even greater fan. My friend Alex, in 2 weeks, ate 10 Impossible Burgers.
10 burgers in 14 days.
My daily breakfast is oatmeal, and I eat it only 8 out of 14 days. I pack a sandwich for lunch every day, and I match that frequency at 10 out of 14 days.
Of course, the Impossible Burger isn’t just one offering: it comes in many different flavors. Alex had only had it at one restaurant, and we felt that we had to expand the experience because they’re easy to find. Although you can’t buy them at a grocery store, they are now widely available (at least in the US) thanks to a partnership with Burger King.
Just like the beef burger, different restaurants prepare and serve them differently: doneness, condiments, topping, and buns all matter. With so many Impossible Burger options around the Bay Area and three super-fans, the plan was obvious: a progressive to find the greatest Impossible Burger. 1 evening, 3 restaurants, 3 burgers.
Or as Alex called it, Mission Impossible.
Impossible Burger #1: The Counter
When we take people out to get Impossible Burgers, we go to The Counter. It’s a gourmet burger joint that most famously has a “Create Your Own Burger” menu that you fill out with a golf pencil on a mini-clipboard. However, they now have pre-made options as well, including:
The Impossible Burger: Impossible Burger, herbed goat cheese, organic mixed greens, tomatoes, grilled red onions, avocado, garlic aioli, brioche bun
The Counter Burger: all-natural beef, provolone, tomatoes, lettuce blend, fried onion strings, sautéed mushrooms, garlic aioli, brioche bun
Having eaten so many Impossible Burgers there, we knew what to expect but wanted to set a baseline and share the experience with Alex. We planned to only order one burger at each restaurant, but it was our first stop, so we were hungry. We also felt sheepish about sitting down and only ordering one burger for three people. Instead, we ordered both of those burgers (substituting the Impossible Burger in on The Counter Burger), removing the cheese on both, and getting the burger cooked medium. Here’s what arrived.
We carefully cut both burgers into thirds while doing our best to split the toppings easily. Incidentally, cutting evenly-sized thirds is much harder than cutting halves.
When I had imagined doing this progressive, I thought it might take awhile. Three restaurants requires three car trips, three orders, and three sittings. Were we having conventional sit-down meals, it would take all evening. However, I instantly realized at The Counter that burgers go down quickly.
Whether beef or Impossible, burgers are meant to be devoured. The burger and bun only hold up for a few minutes before getting cold and soggy. And a third of a burger, even in tall, gourmet style, has about five bites in it.
As such, we had just received our food when we were finished eating and discussing our opinions. Overall, great burger. In a Counter burger, the patty was indistinguishable from meat to my palate. The best parts were the brioche bun and the fried onion strings.
We paid and were off to our next burger!
Impossible Burger #2: Burger King
I don’t pay much attention to where fast food joints are. Until punching it into Apple Maps, I didn’t know where the nearest Burger King was but would have assumed it was nearby. However, there in fact isn’t a single Burger King in Mountain View or Palo Alto. Therefore, we trekked up to to Redwood City, which is also the headquarters of Impossible Foods.
We pulled into a Burger King that was decked out with Impossible Burger ads on the windows, the menu, and even on the cashier’s hat. I stepped up and asked for “1 Impossible Whopper, just the burger, no meal” and was politely told that they were out of Impossible Burgers.
I guess all that advertising was very effective.
I asked the cashier if the other location in Redwood City had any, and that question was clearly out of his pay grade. We thanked him and drove over to the next Burger King to find out how impossible this burger truly was to find. On the way, I realized how unusual this trip was. I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I had been to a Burger King, but I suspected it was on a family road trip. Whenever it was, I certainly have never wanted Burger King so badly that I not only sought out one, but two Burger Kings to get it.
The next Burger King location was not advertising their Impossible Burger as aggressively, but I put in the same order: “1 Impossible Whopper, just the burger, no meal.” I waited for the cashier to again deny my order, but he just tapped in my order and asked me if I wanted anything else.
No, we didn’t want anything else. Just the one.
A few minutes later, we received and unwrapped our Impossible Whopper.
Julie and I cook dinner at home on most days. Home cooking doesn’t take much time or work, but fast food does remind me that the floor is very low. It isn’t too expensive (discounting the nutrition), and taking into account the minimal time it takes to eat a burger, you can start and finish dinner within 10 minutes. If that’s just a stop during a work commute, that is awfully convenient.
Anyways, we again carefully cut the Impossible Whopper into thirds and inhaled our burgers.
I again found the burger indistinguishable from a beef burger. In fact, it mostly just tasted like a Whopper: “juicy tomatoes, fresh lettuce, creamy mayonnaise, ketchup, crunchy pickles, and sliced white onions on a soft sesame seed bun.” And I think that was a good thing.
The biggest difference from our first burger was that the Whopper was just wider. I suspect that they have a different standard diameter from The Counter, but I can’t be sure. I will definitely pack a ruler when I next eat three burgers from three restaurants in one evening.
Impossible Burger #3: Gott’s Roadside
Gott’s is a Bay Area burger chain that started up in wine country. It’s nicer than the national fast food chains, but you still order at the counter and get a number. In fact, the only place where we didn’t order at the counter was at The Counter. Go figure.
On their menu, Gott’s advertises:
Impossible Cheeseburger. The Impossible Burger patty made entirely from plants, American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles & secret sauce on a toasted egg bun.
Since Alex doesn’t like cheese, we didn’t want the American cheese. Here’s how my order went:
- Me: “Hi, can we get the Impossible Cheeseburger but with no cheese?”
- Cashier: “Okay, with double cheese?”
- Me: “No, sorry, I meant no cheese.”
- Cashier: “… so you want an Impossible Burger?”
It made sense in my head, but after her clarification, I didn’t feel so smart. In fact, it literally sounds like something out of a movie.
The important thing is that we got our burger as ordered as desired.
Like most burger joints, Gott’s also has milkshakes, and we considered getting one as the dessert of our three-course meal. In our indecision and with the potential for other dessert options, we ended up not getting one. That turned out to be a great decision because I was pretty full after three courses, all of which were of course burgers.
Our buzzer went off a few minutes later, and we cut our final Impossible Burger into thirds to sample it.
You may have noticed the reference to the “secret sauce” on the menu item. Like In-n-Out’s secret sauce, I’m pretty sure their secret sauce is Thousand Island dressing, which is basically just mayo and ketchup. And that is also what Burger King puts on their burgers. Maybe “secret” is the name, not the descriptor.
Like a beef patty, the Impossible Burger can be cooked to different wellnesses from rare to well-done, and it does go through similar states. When it’s more rare, it is red and juicier. When it’s more well-done, it is gray and crunchier. I like my burgers medium-rare, and out of the three, the Gott’s Impossible Burger was the most done, so that was a small knock. However, it was still a good burger.
After we finished our last burger, we sat at Gott’s and talked through our rankings. The order was:
- The Counter
- Gott’s Roadside
- Burger King
This was entirely unsurprising because the price was burgers was:
- The Counter – $18
- Gott’s Roadside – $12
- Burger King – $6
A burger is more than a patty, and we agreed that the main difference was the other stuff. The brioche bun at The Counter is delicious.
However, we all agreed that the Impossible Whopper at Burger King was pretty good and came close to the Impossible
Cheeseburger at Gott’s. I believe that the reason is a related to the statement above: it burger is more than a patty, but it still has a patty.
When you go to a fancy burger joint, they really emphasize the quality of their meat. This isn’t just a frozen disc from Costco: the ground beef comes from specific percentages of specific cuts of specific breeds, and that secret mixture is what makes their burger juicier and more flavorful than any other burger.
However, the makeup of the Impossible Burger is always the same: Impossible Foods cranks out the burgers and ships them everywhere. The Counter and Burger King both get the same stuff, and that really evens the playing field between your $6 and $18 burgers.
So four burgers and about three hours later, my recommendation remains: everyone should try the Impossible Burger. It isn’t just for vegans, and although more discerning palates may find it inferior to beef, it’s still good.