We check out three meatless burgers so you don’t have to
Fatburger’s Impossible Burger, left, and Bobby’s Burger Palace’s offering.
Cheeseburgers are what Bobby Flay said he craves after a long night in the kitchen and that’s exactly what his newly franchised Bobby’s Burger Palace should stick to: all-beef burgers with American cheese. Forget the veggie burger; I wish I could. In our quest to sample some non-meat burger options we hit up the Las Vegas Strip location of Flay’s counter-service burger joint, fully expecting the $10.95 veggie burger from an accomplished fine-dining chef to wow our tastebuds. Instead, the loosely formed “patty” of barbecued mushrooms, chickpeas and quinoa nearly triggered this reporter’s upchuck reflex. The off-putting, funky flavor couldn’t be disguised by the ample spread of red pepper chipotle mayo and the burger overall was soundly rejected by our quartet. Thankfully the Crunchburger came to the rescue. This is the signature burger of the Palace concept—an Angus beef patty topped with American cheese and potato chips— and one I’d happily devour again, along with a side of fries and BBP fry sauce for dipping. Real meat: good. Ill-prepared mushroom mess: bad. Lesson learned.
The upshot: Brightly lit, with communal tables and an undulating counter set in a neon mod environment, Bobby’s Burger Palace has the makings of a quality QSR concept—just not with its veggie burger. — LM
I’m a big fan of black bean burgers, but the mystery blend of beans, seasoning and who knows what else is a bit of a gamble. If they’re too dry, you’re dealing with a mouthful of glue. If they’re too wet, you have a pile of black hummus squishing out between your fingers. And if the beans aren’t prepared right, you may as well knock off for the day and go swimming because you’ll be a gas-filled buoy. When trying the Smashburger black bean burger, I got plenty of soda, plenty of napkins and cleared my afternoon just in case. I got mine topped with pickles, lettuce, tomatoes and American cheese—the “Classic Smash.” As I do with all bean burgers, I press down on the top bun to see what I’m dealing with. Bean burger aficionados like myself look for just a little squish—millennials know what to do, it’s just like picking out the perfect avocado. The burger passed with flying colors. The taste was great, too, a testament to the scien-tastic methodology behind the scenes at Smashburger. It’s a mélange of slightly beany flavor, a pop of garlic seasoning and a slight heat from the various peppers among the 61 (yes 61) ingredients. As for the all-important gastrointestinal test, I can report no bloat or other uncivilized outcomes.
The upshot: Serious vegans, lactose intolerants and gluten haters must look elsewhere, but for a no-veto burger, it’s a scien-tastic option.—NU
Ever wonder how consumers feel about your franchise? Editorial staffers Laura Michaels, Nick Upton, Tom Kaiser and Beth Ewen check out three brands in a different genre each issue, and report back.
Whether it’s a Tinder profile or performance review, setting realistic expectations is a sign of character. A guidance counselor once told me it’s best to aim high and miss than to aim low and hit, so Fatburger marketing its veggie patty as The Impossible Burger raises the stakes unnecessarily high. Sourced by meat-alternative supplier Impossible Foods, this patty’s PR speak claims that it looks, tastes and bleeds just like beef—a crude way of appealing to carnivorous instincts. Succulent ingredients like wheat, coconut oil and potatoes make up this non-patty, but the alleged secret ingredient is heme, an iron-containing molecule that gives meat its bloody color and texture. Hungry yet? With bared teeth, our team embarked on Mission Impossible, quickly agreeing the Impossible Burger is no revelation—just a big topping-filled burger missing the flavor of a central patty. Half of the team labeled its $15 price “highway robbery,” while the nicer side of the booth said the messy presentation “wasn’t that bad.” You know what else wasn’t that bad? The original Fatburger we also ate as a control.
The upshot: Marketing speak promising the same bloody joy of real beef is both off-putting and inaccurate.—TK