Plant-based meat that “bleeds” started trending a few years ago when Beyond Burger hit the meat section of mainstream stores such as King Soopers and Safeway. Then Impossible Foods — backed by Bill Gates, among others — launched a meaty plant-sourced burger at Momofuku in New York City, and the restaurant industry took notice. The Impossible Foods burger not only looks like raw meat, but also, when cooked, has the texture, bite and crumble that carnivores expect.
It’s not without controversy, however. The company tested an ingredient on rats to overcome FDA pushback, and it ultimately received GRAS (generally recognized as safe) approval in July. The ingredient in question is plant-based heme (the iron-rich ingredient found in animals) created in part by genetically engineered yeast. Some vegans eschew the product, and others lump the genetic engineering into GMO territory. But the Impossible Foods burger appears to be here to stay. And you can find it in at least five establishments in Colorado Springs.
• Bar Louie, 3255 Cinema Point
The first Bar Louie opened in Chicago in 1990, where I lived at the time, and I was a regular. So I was particularly excited to see this restaurant — now in more than 100 locations — embrace the Impossible Foods burger ($13.99). As is, it’s served on a non-vegan buttered bun and with garlic aioli. Hold the aioli and order the toasted multigrain bread (warmed with a buttery soybean oil; it’s vegan), and you’ll find a hearty, meaty sandwich in hand. Cooked well done, the toasted bread and crisp lettuce make it texturally diverse. Of all the burgers I tasted for this review, this is my hands-down favorite and just might fool an omnivore.
• C.B. & Potts, 261 Kaycee Case Place
This Colorado restaurant and brewery chain offers the Impossible Foods patty as a protein option for any burger on the menu (adding $2 to the price). The standard brioche bun is not vegan, nor is the special sauce. But request the sourdough bun and hold the sauce, and you’re good to go. Here they ask you to order the Impossible Burger rare, medium or well done. I opted for medium, and yep, a slightly pink hue was in the first bite. Simply served with lettuce, tomato and onion ($11.95), it has the solid smoky flavor that enhances the “meatiness.”
• Dog Haus, 162 Tracker Drive
This hot dog, sausage and burger joint, with a German flair, launched in California in 2010 and recently landed in Colorado Springs. I was over the moon to see an entire “plant-based” section on the large wall menu but immediately discovered a flaw. What it should say is “plant-based meat.” Yes, they serve the Beyond Meat brat and Italian sausage and the Impossible Foods patty as a burger ($7.99) or sliders ($2.99). But nearly everything else on the plant-based menu — the buns, cheese, mayo and even caramelized onions — is not plant-based. To make it plant-based, hold those items, request the gluten-free bun and add raw onion, lettuce, tomato and avocado. The very thin and crispy well-done patty delivers a fantastic texture that’s quite different from other variations around town.
• Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl & Grill, 13012 Bass Pro Drive
Tucked in the Bass Pro Shop, this bowling alley, bar and restaurant serves a simply prepared Impossible Foods patty ($13). Hold the cheese, request the gluten-free bun (because it’s vegan) and do get the caramelized onion because it’s prepared in oil, not butter. Served medium-well, with the potential to be a bit dry, the caramelized onion balances out the bite quite well.
• Trinity Brewing, 1466 Garden of the Gods Road
Sure, lots of chains carry the burger. But Trinity — true to fashion — has stepped the Impossible good game up. Serving vegan food in Colorado Springs for years and years, they use the Beyond Burger for a vegan option and are having culinary fun with the Impossible Foods plant-based meat. You’ll find it in their vegan tacos ($12), crumbled to perfection and served with pickled onions, street taco style, with a side of black beans and salsa. But the reason to run to Trinity now is for the Impossible meatball sandwich ($14). Tender and simmered in a rich tomato sauce, the plant-based meatballs are nestled in a crusty bun. It’s the best use of the Impossible burger I’ve tasted to date.
While this impossibly meaty plant-based burger might not be for everyone — whether an ethical response to the company’s testing on animals or because the yeast was engineered to create a plant-sourced heme — it’s an innovation I can get behind. While food creators work within an imperfect system, they are developing plant-based food that appeals to meat-eaters and could have a long-lasting impact on the environment and the lives of thousands and thousands of animals.
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