First, and this is important, the people at Hopdoddy did everything they could to make it good. They seared the Impossible Foods patty on the griddle, enough that it had a dark, crunchy crust. They cooked it to an exact “medium rare,” a blackened char gradient leading to rosy red. They constructed the sandwich well, a thick spread of mayo underneath lettuce and a fresh, crispy onion, and a half-melted and good slice of Tillamook cheddar.
Hopdoddy tried its best, but the Impossible Burger, which made its Texas debut Friday at the Austin-based burger chain with the excellent and real burgers, still had the aroma of old refrigerated broccoli floating in a warm bath and the consistency of ground, wet pencil shavings.
To be clear, I am fully behind the mission of the Impossible Burger. It’s made entirely of plants (using ingredients like coconut oil and soy beans in place of big fats), which sounds great. I love plants. It uses something called "heme" (leghemoglobin) to mimic the beefiness of beef. It’s endorsed by chef David Chang.
Beef production also costs the Earth great tons of water; if there’s anything my meat-loving body can do to mitigate the Mad Maxxing of the Earth, I’m happy to jump aboard. I’m perfectly thrilled to go meatless some days — especially if it only acutely sharpens my appreciation for a juicy, real cheeseburger when I’m lucky enough to have one on this changing planet.
But the Impossible Burger is not, at all, good. Here are five things the Impossible patty tastes like and mimics the consistency of:
- A beef patty that you fished out of the bottom of a lake
- Julienned, unseasoned street leaves
- Emptying a paper shredder’s wastebasket onto a griddle
- Finely sliced cauliflower sitting out in the rain
- Ground welcome mats after your dog ran in from outside
It was mushy, deeply wet and not flavorful. It had a crunchy char on the outside, sure, and Hopdoddy was generous enough to supply real, creamy mayonnaise (its “Sassy Sauce”). Otherwise, I felt tears of instant soul-longing for a well-made veggie burger. I felt a big wave of sadness for the plants that went shrieking into this patty of pressed, old fall leaves.
This is where I have a solution: For all the Impossible Burger’s hype, no bite of Hopdoddy’s sandwich tasted anywhere near the hard-worked joy of veggie sandwiches like Spiral Diner’s completely vegan "Bacon Ranch Cheeseburger,” Old Monk’s cashew and bean veggie burger, or Start’s white cheddar-topped quinoa patty.
Also, the Impossible Burger is $18 without fries or a drink. I’ve had drive-through burgers made entirely of grain and a bun made of (I swear) birdseed that tasted far less of blended, rain-soaked yoga mats than the $18, “medium rare” Impossible Burger.
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The burger is available at 11 Hopdoddy locations in Austin, Houston, DFW and San Antonio. It’s a noble cause with a garbagey flavor.
Hopdoddy did everything it could to make it good, but the Impossible Burger is a wet, weird sandwich. And at $18, it's an expensive one.