I Tried it: The Impossible Burger

It’s not quite a veggie patty, not quite a burger, but this is certain – humans will one day become extinct and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

Welcome to our new series, I Tried It. Milwaukee Magazine writers are getting out an about, trying all the new things our city has to offer so you don’t have to (or so you know what to expect when you do). Before you venture out, check to see if MilMag has tried it first. Read all of our I Tried It installments here.

Eventually, we will all be dead. And I don’t mean everyone reading this or everyone alive today, I mean everyone as in a total extinction of the human race. This is an inevitability. The only question is how and how soon.

There are those in the world who wish to fight against this inevitability. They tend to frame this as “saving the world.” Indeed, Impossible Foods, makers of the Impossible Burger, buy into this, declaring among their mission statements that they strive to “save the best planet in the known universe.”

Of course, they and everyone else taking up this task actually mean to delay the extinction of humankind and not actually save the planet itself. Given every known tendency of human beings, the best thing for the planet itself would be the immediate elimination of its most meme-literate inhabitants. So that’s that, but even the perpetuation of humankind is fraught with misdirection.

Harry Dean Stanton once said, “I only eat so I can smoke and stay alive,” and that kind of gets to the heart of this whole idea. We want to live but we live to do everything that rushes us quicker to the grave. We’re addicted to being doomed.

But that’s not what this is really about. This is really about a hamburger.

Well, not really a hamburger, an IMPOSSIBLE BURGER. The Impossible Burger came out to great fanfare, with many foodie-types billing it as the Next Big Thing. Two years after it hit the market, it is now available at about 3,000 restaurants nationwide, including several in the Milwaukee area — Swingin’ Door Exchange, Stack’d Burger Bar, Fuel Cafe, Sport Club and more. Find a comprehensive list of participating locations here.

The Impossible Burger is the latest in vegetarian meat-flavored patty technology. And I do mean technology.

The invention of the burger involved genetic engineering and a bunch of other stuff that sounds far more troubling than most people care to treat it, but it results in a piece of non-meat that is far less taxing on our environment and health than a traditional hamburger.

The big deal in all this was that Impossible Burgers were engineered to “bleed” as a beef burger might, making the boldest attempt yet of any veggie patty to mimic the taste, look and feel of a real hamburger. It gives you the illusion of hastening death without really doing so. Ain’t we a cute species?

I tried one at the Café Hollander on Downer Avenue. I had a couple of beers to go with, even though it was lunchtime because… well, because why not?

Despite all the big claims about the Impossible Burger and how it is too soon to “make meat obsolete” (utterly stupid, but at least it rhymes), no regular meat-eater is likely to mistake this for the real thing. The patty itself is distinct from both the standard veggie patty and a real burger, existing in a sort of middle-ground that makes one wonder what all the hype is about.

Getting into the burger, a similar sort of middling is found. It’s distinctly better than what you’ll find in the grocery store’s freezer section, but notably un-burger enough not to truly replace your run-of-the-mill human-polluting beef patty.

It’s not that the Impossible Burger isn’t tasty – it’s a fine way to do a lighter lunch – but if you want a hamburger, this ain’t going to do it. Its taste comes close, but it’s more in line with an overly moist turkey burger. As for the feel, it’s really nothing like a real burger at all – a bit too spongy and crumble-prone. It also has a weird habit of flattening out as it is eaten, running past the confines of the bun and breaking away at the edges like a comet hurdling through space towards downtown Pittsburgh. I didn’t notice any “bleed” as I ate. And I definitely would have noticed.

But again, it’s not without its charms, if this is what you’re looking for.

So, don’t eat it to save the world. Don’t eat it to replace ground beef. Eat it because you’re hungry. Eat it because you don’t eat meat. Eat it to give it a try. Eat it so you can live for another pack of cigarettes. Or don’t eat it at all. It really doesn’t matter.