The plant-based burger that tastes like real meat is coming to the West Coast

The bloody, plant-based burger developed by startup Impossible Foods has been backed by Bill Gates and served by
David Chang of the Momofuku empire in New York City.

Now, the burger that looks like meat, smells like meat, but isn’t really meat, is coming to the West Coast.

Up until now, the burger has only been available at Chang’s Nishi restaurant in New York City. On Wednesday, Impossible Foods announced it’s teaming up with three award-winning restaurants in California that will begin serving the meatless burger later this week.

Jardinière and Cockscomb in San Francisco and Crossroads Kitchen in Los Angeles will sell the burger first-come, first-serve, starting at $14.

Chefs will prepare the plant-based “meat” in ways they see fit.

Impossible foods meatless burger 0146Melia RobinsonThe chefs will receive the artificial meat in ground form.

Traci Des Jardins, owner of Jardinière and a consulting chef at Impossible Foods, will serve the burger with caramelised onion, avocado, and “special sauce.” Earlier this year, the James Beard Award-winning chef prepared the burger for media reviewers.

Chef Tal Ronnen of Crossroads Kitchen previously cofounded a plant-based dairy startup, Kite Hill, alongside Patrick Brown, the CEO of Impossible Foods. His restaurant will serve the burger with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and a custom sauce.

Cockscomb’s Chris Cosentino, an ardent meat lover who calls the Impossible Burger a “game changer,” will put his own spin on it with a preparation of caramelised onions, lettuce, gruyere, and dijon.

Impossible foods meatless burger 0127Melia RobinsonA scientist at the Impossible Foods laboratory slices into a test patty.

Impossible Foods came onto the food scene in 2015 when Google reportedly made a bid to buy the startup for between $200 and $300 million. The two allegedly couldn’t agree on a selling price, but the startup has so far raised $182 million in funding from Swiss venture firm UBS, Gates, Google Ventures, and others.

The Impossible Burger has been years in the making.

The public got its first taste of the meatless burger at Nishi, a restaurant in New York and the newest location in Chef Chang’s food empire. The Impossible Burger comes “Nishi-style,” on a potato bun with pickles, lettuce, and a slice of American cheese. It sells for $12.

Kim Renfro eats the Impossible Foods burger at Momofuku NishiBen Gilbert / Tech InsiderKim Renfro takes a bit out of the Impossible Burger at Nishi.

My colleague Kim Renfro tried the menu item at Nishi earlier this year and fell in love. Renfro, a longtime vegetarian, called the meatless burger a “dream come true” and raved about the patty’s beefy texture and aroma. She said it was the most realistic meat alternative she’s eaten.

I had the chance to try the Impossible Burger at the company’s headquarters last week. Though not Chef Chang’s preparation, the burger still beat any dry, crumbling veggie burger I’ve had before.

The patty seared on the grill, leaking blood-red juices just like real beef. The outside crisped and darkened, while the inside stayed pink and slightly rubbery.

While not indistinguishable from cow’s meat, in my opinion, the burger piled underneath fresh toppings and a Thousand Island dressing was meaty enough.

At the time of the tasting, Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown said the company remains several years away from bringing the Impossible Burger to grocery stores, as its competitor Beyond Meat has done. A massive restaurant expansion is in the works for mid-2017, Brown said.

Until then, meat- and animal-lovers alike can try the Impossible Burger and judge its authenticity for themselves by visiting one of the restaurants that serves it.

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