A meat-eater and a vegetarian walk into Rhein Haus Tacoma’s bar. The pair, who’ve been friends for a decade, slide into a booth and admire the soft glow of the establishment’s holiday lights.
“What’s it called again?” my friend Dee, a strict vegetarian, asks me.
“An Impossible Burger,” I say.
“And it’s meatless burger that bleeds?” she asks. A look of disgust crosses her face. She’s not the kind of vegetarian that typically searches out meat substitutes, but all the same we’ve agreed to taste-test the first Impossible Burgers available in Tacoma together.
As we nibble on pretzel bites with beer fondue (and drink beers, of course), we research. She’s suspicious. I can’t say I’m surprised.
But soon it becomes apparent I may have made assumptions about who the Impossible Burger is really for.
Turns out it’s me, the meat-eater, the folks at Impossible Foods are targeting — not the people already avoiding meats that are hard on the environment to produce.
The quick facts:
- The Impossible Burger is made “from simple ingredients found in nature, including wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein, and heme.” Not familiar? We weren’t either.
- Heme (pronounced so that it rhymes with “seem”) gives this new food “the characteristic taste and aroma of meat.” Impossible Foods “discovered how to take heme from plants and produce it using fermentation — similar to the method that’s been used to make Belgian beer for nearly a thousand years,” making a “super tasty” product.
- “Compared to a burger made from cows, making an Impossible Burger uses about 1/20th the land, 1/4th the water, and produces 1/8th the greenhouse gas emissions.”
At Rhein Haus Tacoma there are two options for ordering the Impossible Burger. The first ($15) is an Impossible Burger with regular cheese and a house-made bun. We went all-in with the vegan option ($17), which included a vegan bun, vegan Daiya mozzarella, and house-made vegan mayonnaise. Both options come with fries.
At least we can all agree on one thing.
When our plate arrives we’re pleasantly surprised by the burger’s appearance.
In-between bites Dee mumbles things like: “That’s what I remember beefy being like. The patty’s really holding together. Definitely smells like meat. Reminds me of a savory fast food burger. It’s actually really good!”
I jot notes, then find myself a little nervous to take my first bite. I’m no stranger to veggie and black bean burgers, but all of a sudden my inner child is ready to pitch a fit over the unfamiliar ingredients.
I buck up, take a bite, and discover she’s not wrong. Between the pickles, onion, tomato, and style of bun there is something decidedly fast food-esque about the whole thing — and it tastes like beef!
Not just tastes, but feels in the mouth like it’s meat. The outer edges of our burger are slightly crispy as one might expect from a traditional burger cooked on the grill, and the overall texture has a dampness to it that’s reminiscent of grease. The mention of this freaks Dee out briefly.
Our burger was not bleeding in any way. Whether that resulted from longer cooking time at Rhein Haus or a thinner patty than Impossible Foods’ photos depict I’m not sure, but we were perfectly fine without experiencing that particular effect.
Rhein Haus recently posted about the Impossible Burger arriving at their restaurant (photo below), and the response was huge.
“We’ve sold SO many Impossible burgers,” Rhein Haus’ General Manager Alicia Bussbuffone told Grit City Magazine. “We sell almost 20 a night. Also, the attention from the Impossible Burger has seemed to draw more regular burger diners. Our beef burger sales have shot through the roof!”
The Impossible burger is available nearly all hours the Tacoma location is open. You can taste it for yourself until the kitchen closes for all orders, which is one hour before closing time.
Alicia, who is also not vegetarian or vegan, has given the burger a go as well. Describing it as “super delicious” with a great texture, she went so far as to tell us, “I actually prefer the Impossible Burger to a beef burger.”
Dee has already mentioned returning at some point to order it again.
And as for meat-eating me, who didn’t even realize initially was a part of the target audience, I can honestly say I’m impressed. Given the wide range of meat selections on Rhein Haus’ full menu, I don’t know that I’d pick the Impossible Burger again, but I absolutely can see myself opting for Impossible Foods’ meat substitute for cooking at home once it’s more widely available.
I guess I’m environmentally-conscious enough to be interested in conserving in everyday life, but on the rare occasions I get out to dine I may still want the professionally cooked, real-deal schnitzel. My bad? There’re still some points to be gained in being willing to greatly reduce from your usual consumption, right?
Images via Impossible Foods, Sara McGinnis, Rhein Haus