I Had the Impossible Burger, and It Was Amazing

Yes, it was amazing.
Yes, it was amazing.

What Is the Impossible Burger?

I first heard about the Impossible Burger a few years ago.

What is the Impossible Burger, you ask?

Our burger is made from simple, all-natural ingredients such as wheat, coconut oil, and potatoes. What makes the Impossible Burger unlike all others is an ingredient called heme. Heme is a basic building block of life on Earth, including plants, but it’s uniquely abundant in meat. We discovered that heme is what makes meat smell, sizzle, bleed, and taste gloriously meaty. Consider it the “magic ingredient” that makes our burger a carnivore’s dream.

Impossible’s goal was to make a vegan hamburger patty that was as close as possible to the taste and texture of actual ground beef. If you’ve never had a vegetarian meat patty in a sandwich, burger, or as the “protein” in your meal—that may not seem like such a tall feat. But if you have had vegetarian meats on a regular basis, you’ll know how difficult it is to make fake meat look/feel/taste like real meat.[1]

More on the burger in a second.

Visiting Gott’s Roadside

The nearest—we thought, at least—Impossible Burger joint: Gott's Roadside in Walnut Creek, CA
The nearest—we thought, at least—Impossible Burger joint: Gott’s Roadside in Walnut Creek, CA

We made plans to head to Walnut Creek a little before lunch time, so we could take Smokey on a hike, and also so that I could check out Leica’s now previous flagship M, the Typ 240.

When Allison first suggested Gott’s Roadside, I scoffed because there’s a Gott’s in St. Helena, right across the street from a pizza shop we frequent. We went there a few times in college, when it was still called Taylor’s Refresher. Back then, I ate meat, and I recall their burgers were quite good.

Good burgers aside—why would we “waste” this opportunity to eat out in Walnut Creek when we can have Gott’s whenever we go to the Napa Valley? Well, as Allison noted, that particular Gott’s in St. Helena is always crazy busy. Plus, “It has the Impossible Burger,” she said. I had always wanted to try that, so why not today?

I’m glad we visited, because if we hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to try the Impossible Burger!

A Sidetrack in Typography

The line was *much* shorter here than the typical line length in St. Helena
The line was *much* shorter here than the typical line length in St. Helena

Placing our order was easy, because the menus featured an incredibly fun and legible typeface: Archer, from Hoefler & Co. 🤗[2]

Archer is the perfect choice for a place like Gott's
Archer is the perfect choice for a place like Gott’s

Sure, Gott’s could’ve used any other cutsey and/or scripty font. But if they had the good taste to tap such a renowned font foundry as Hoefler & Co., they must have good food too, right?

Yes, that's Archer on their website, too 🤓
Yes, that’s Archer on their website, too 🤓

And just to make sure their designers were consistent, I peaked at the source of their website.

Yup, there’s Archer in a font-family declaration:

font-family: "Archer SSm A", "Archer SSm B";

They even had the good sense to use a `weighter-than-Light` version of the font:

font-weight: 800;

While the dining room is unquestionably evocative of the burger joints of old, there’s a fair amount of modernity sprinkled in. There are polished cement floors, there’s an open ceiling concept thing going on, and there’s geometric seating throughout.

"Diner-ish" is what I'd call the atmosphere
“Diner-ish” is what I’d call the atmosphere
Fancy lights at Gott's
Fancy lights at Gott’s

The Impossible Burger

Allison's veggieburger on the left (with garlic fries 😆), and my Impossible Burger on the right (with normal fries)
Allison’s veggieburger on the left (with garlic fries 😆), and my Impossible Burger on the right (with normal fries)

Allison ordered the veggieburger, just in case the Impossible Burger was too close to a real hamburger patty, which was never that appealing to her (even while she was eating meat).

I don’t particularly miss eating meat, but I came to Gott’s to try this dang burger, so I got the Impossible Burger.

Of course I had to sample the meat patty by itself, because I didn’t want the other flavors from the bun, sauce, and vegetables interfering.[3]

The meat crumbled like a real ground beef patty. There was an authentic `meaty` texture to the patty. There were little striations throughout that were just so reminiscent of actual cow muscle tissue that has been ground up together with connective tissue bits like a real hamburger patty. (I could have done without that much realism, but I guess it is part of the experience.)

Finally, it was time to taste it.

After taking that first bite of the Burger, it was like I was instantaneously transported back to my childhood, barbecuing hamburgers with my grandpa in his backyard. I hadn’t had a “hamburger”—or any meat, for that matter—in at least 5 years. But the Impossible Burger was so similar to a real hamburger that it caused this euphoric wave of nostalgia to come over me.

It was an incredibly surreal experience.

I paused long enough to take this picture
I paused long enough to take this picture

The Impossible Burger patty has this slightly charred flavor about it. It definitely wasn’t burnt; I think it was the Maillard reaction in full effect. (And what a glorious reaction at that.)

In place of high cholesterol animal fat, Impossible uses coconut oil in their Burger. Before trying the Burger, I was scared there would be an underlying coconut flavor—kind of like how coconut ice creams always taste like, well, coconuts. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case for the Impossible Burger. It tasted fatty, just like real meat tastes fatty.

I didn’t watch the chefs prepare my Impossible Burger, but according to Impossible Foods, their Burger bleeds like real meat:

It’s blood without the murder.

Meat without the muscle.

Pleasure without the guilt.

The Impossible Burger is almost impossible. It’s too good to be true, but it is.

What This Means for The Future of Meatless Meats

I ate the rest of the Burger slowly, which is not my usual M.O. (ask Allison). While I was eating it, I started to wonder what this would mean for the future.

As far as I know, Impossible Foods isn’t imbued with some kind of crazy divine intervention making it all possible. They’re just a bunch of scientists. Scientists with millions of VC money, of course. And those scientists with VC money literally made meat from plants.

Isn’t it crazy for you read that? (It’s crazy for me to have typed it!)

The Impossible Burger patty was first. Grind it up, and now you’ve got `ground beef[less] beef,` for spaghetti sauce, or for gringo tacos. If they can do that, why not a steak eventually, too?

And once Impossible (or some other company following in their footsteps) is done with beef, why not chicken? Why not pork? Why not all the other animal flesh that people eat?

If we take Impossible’s word for it, they’re saving so much of our planet by making their Burger in the laboratory. This contrasts with the old-fashioned way of making meat: the method in which we waste tons of natural resources raising animals, only to kill them later to harvest their flesh for eating. Why shouldn’t we make all of our meat in the lab?

Sure, it took it a lot of money for Impossible to make this happen. But like all innovations, this should invariably come down market with time. Would there be tons of pushback from Big Ag? You betcha.

But change is inevitable. The mere existence of a company like Impossible Foods is evidence alone that something big is happening in the food industry.

In ten years, maybe I’ll be writing another blog post about how I just tried the Impossible Steak? 🥩(🚫🐮)

  1. So difficult, in fact, that most vegetarian food manufacturers don’t even try! And in all honesty, I don’t think they should. I converted from being a meat eater a few years ago. Prior to my conversion, I had vegetarian meats at school, but not much at home. After converting, we had vegetarian meats at home a lot. Are Morningstar Farm’s Grillers just like having a real ground beef hamburger? No. But who cares? It’s still good. I would contend that for most vegetarians, vegetarian meat analogs don’t have to be exactly like their real meat counterparts.

    But the Impossible Burger is literally like real ground beef. Keep reading.

  2. I used Archer for Allison’s dental website 👍🏻

  3. I contend that you could put a mediocre vegetarian meat patty in between buns with sauce, tomatoes, pickles, ect., and the overall experience won’t be that bad.

    So, had I tried the patty as just a part of the hamburger, I don’t think I would have done the patty justice.