The Impossible Burger is Coming to Pittsburgh

Burgatory will debut the plant-based "meat" burger at its six standalone locations next week.




photo by Meredith Hanley/Burgatory

 

The Impossible Burger is coming to Pittsburgh.

Beginning this Monday, the plant-based hamburger will be available at Burgatory’s six standalone restaurants. These will be the first locations in Pennsylvania, and part of a very limited number of establishments nationwide, to offer the burger.

Impossible Foods began developing the Impossible Burger in 2011 and it first was publicly sold in July 2016 at David Chang’s Momofuku Nishi in NYC. A select group of establishments in New York and California were the only places you could try it until quite recently; the opening of a new production facility has allowed for expanded availability.

"We've been obsessed since we heard about it nearly two years ago,” says Burgatory co-owner Mike Hanley.

Unlike most vegetarian alternatives, the plant-based burger is designed to appeal to meat eaters as much as it is to vegan and vegetarian diners — that’s because it’s meant to be a meat substitute rather than an alternative.

The key to the burger’s flavor is heme, an iron-binding molecule that creates the pleasing meaty and metallic backnote and rust color in red meat. The creators of the Impossible Burger crafted a lab-developed version of heme by genetically modifying a yeast strain with leghemoglobin from the root nodules of soy plans and then fermenting it. [Like science? Check this out.]

Impossible Foods also uses coconut oil, a saturated fat that’s solid at room temperature, to enhance sizzle and mouthfeel as it melts. Potato protein helps the burger, which primarily is made of textured wheat protein, develop a savory crust via the Maillard reaction. 

The Impossible Burger is a mighty close approximation to a fast-food hamburger, more “meaty” than any other meat-free burger I’ve tried. The heme adds a noticeable iron flavor, and, to a lesser extent, aroma. The Impossible Burger is slightly more earthy and mushroomy than a typical hamburger, and there’s a minerality that resembles a 100% grass-fed patty more than beef that’s grain finished.
 


The burger’s texture also is quite — but not entirely — similar to a beef burger. It looks like hand-chopped ground beef. It changes color when it cooks. It has a greasy shimmer like a burger but without the greasy feel. It “bleeds” (though not as dramatically as advertised). The cooked patty is slightly squishier and a little more crumbly than a standard hamburger, but not dramatically so. The crust finishes with an intense browning, though it also is crispier than a beef patty.

All-in-all, you probably could pass this off as a beef burger if you didn’t tell someone it was lab-created “meat,” but, if they were paying attention, they likely would sense that something was slightly amiss.

Meredith Hanley, the company's director of communications, said she emailed Impossible Foods when the Impossible Burger first came to her attention a couple of years ago, but it wasn’t until several months ago that the company gave the go-ahead for Burgatory to carry it. Since then, Executive Chef Vince Piconi and his team been working with representatives to craft the perfect build for its Burgatory debut. "It smells and seers just like it would when you cook meat. It's a lot of fun to play around with,” Piconi says.

Burgatory initially will serve the patty ($13) with American cheese, shredded iceberg, dill pickle, "angel dust" (salt, pepper, garlic) and roasted garlic mayo in a Mediterra Bakehouse potato bun; it also can be prepared for vegan diners, and then if all goes well, will add it as an option for the chain’s signature individually customized burgers. "We want to stay simple and not mask the flavor,” says Piconi.

"People still view Pittsburgh as a meat and potato type of town, but people are now seeking out healthy restaurants, international restaurants and things you haven't seen before. People [in Pittsburgh] are open to trying new things and are looking for a variety of experiences,” says co-owner Herky Pollock.

Does this mean that beef-based hamburgers are a thing of the past? Not yet; there’s still a hard-to-pin-down sensation missing from the Impossible Burger that you find in a 100% beef burger. Does this mean that I’ll sometimes opt for this alternative? Yes. It’s an enjoyable meal and, even better, eating more “meat” like this could help reduce the number of cattle — particularly those that are feedlot-raised — in our food system. Plus, I didn’t simply feel like I was doing a good thing for the environment when I finished it. I also felt satiated, energized and not at all hungry for a nap.

It’s worth visiting Burgatory to experience one.
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More Eat & Drink:

The Commoner — Too Much of a Good Thing?

The Commoner — Too Much of a Good Thing?

Chef Dennis Marron designs a menu of modern-American fare at The Commoner in the downstairs space of Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh.
Restaurant Review: Superior Motors

Restaurant Review: Superior Motors

Kevin Sousa’s long-anticipated project fires on all cylinders as a restaurant. But, will it fulfill its larger mission?
Restaurant Review: Meet the New Crew at Smallman Galley

Restaurant Review: Meet the New Crew at Smallman Galley

The second class of Smallman Galley chefs offers addictive Detroit-style pizza and other works-in-progress.
Restaurant Review: Scratch Food + Beverage is King of the Hill

Restaurant Review: Scratch Food + Beverage is King of the Hill

The Troy Hill neighborhood spot matures into a casual destination restaurant.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


A Gothic Stroll in the City

A Gothic Stroll in the City

Take a beautiful and potentially eerie walk through a Pittsburgh historical landmark: Homewood Cemetery.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
The Best New Restaurants in Pittsburgh in 2017

The Best New Restaurants in Pittsburgh in 2017

PM dining critic Hal B. Klein's list of the 10 best new openings this year.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best of the ‘Burgh Gift Guide for 2017

Best of the ‘Burgh Gift Guide for 2017

Here are some of our favorite ‘Burgh-inspired gifts for him, her, kids, foodies and more.

Comments


The Unjustifiable Endurance of Bar Louie

The Unjustifiable Endurance of Bar Louie

The chain has two local outposts; the fact that they continue to operate in prime real estate is a complete mystery.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Even When Pens Aren't Playing, There's Good Hockey to Be Found In Pittsburgh

Even When Pens Aren't Playing, There's Good Hockey to Be Found In Pittsburgh

PPG Paints Arena hosts a number of exciting hockey teams this month, and none of them play in the NHL.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Enjoyable Disaster Artist Still Can't Explain The Room

Enjoyable Disaster Artist Still Can't Explain The Room

Reviews of "The Disaster Artist" and "Thelma," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
New Weddings Website Aims for Equality

New Weddings Website Aims for Equality

A local wedding photographer has created a business to connect same-sex couples with LGBTQ-friendly vendors.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
It’s Back! ‘Restored by the Fords’ Gets Premiere Date

It’s Back! ‘Restored by the Fords’ Gets Premiere Date

The new season of the home improvement show featuring Pittsburgh siblings Leanne and Steve Ford debuts on HGTV in January.

Comments