At the beginning of September, BurgerFi became the first fast-casual chain to roll out a Beyond Burger to all of its stores.
The entirely meatless patty, one of a couple new-to-market creations that looks and acts a lot like beef, began retailing at Whole Foods across the country earlier this year. Whereupon veg-heads flipped for it so hard that it frequently ran out of stock.
That’s still happening, per Anthony Martin, GM of the BurgerFi outpost at 12th and Arch in Center City. His store was one of the company’s eight test locations for the new menu item, and when it first showed up in June, people were approaching the counter to ask if they could buy it raw instead of cooked, since the grocery store was sold out.
Since then, the plant-based burger has proved a hit among customers, Martin said, and not just vegans and vegetarians. “I had one woman come tell me it was the best burger she ever had, hands down, meat or no meat.”
Wait a minute. Could that be even close to true? Does a BurgerFi Beyond Burger satisfy that deep craving for the most American of meals?
Based on a taste-test last week, here’s a simple answer: Yes.
Before anyone gets up in arms and sends angry emails or prepares online rants, a caveat. Though quality can vary greatly from one to the next, any self-respecting carnivore knows there’s no true substitute for a real beef patty.
Turkey burger? Meh. Usually dry, always infused with a flavor that won’t let you forget you’re eating poultry. Salmon? An interesting way to eat fish, sure, but really nothing in common with a “burger” except the shape. Veggie? If you’re lucky enough to get one that actually holds together, it can be the centerpiece to a tasty sandwich, but “burger”? A misnomer.
But the Beyond Burger is something new.
No, the plant-based patty doesn’t actually taste like beef. Made from pea protein and beet juice, among other non-meat, gluten-free ingredients, that would be next to impossible. But what it does do is act like beef.
It cooks similarly to a regular beef patty on the BurgerFi griddle, Martin said, forming a brown crust and releasing fats and juices before it’s flipped to sear the other side. And it chews like beef, with the crisped exterior giving way to a soft-but-not-mushy interior that has toothy heft.
Its greatest achievement: It reacts with toppings and condiments just like beef. Because really, most of what we perceive as the “classic” fast-food burger flavor comes from that other stuff between the bun. Want to create a homemade replica that tastes just like McD’s? The beef isn’t the critical component. It’s the mustard and ketchup and pickles and onions.
A Beyond Burger soaks up mustard and ketchup as well as any meat, while providing a great textural contrast to crunchy pickles and making an excellent foil for the sharp taste of raw onions.
A note: The price point is higher — $8.27 vs. $6.27 for a regular BurgerFi beef burger. And there’s no caloric savings for going meatless in this case, plus the fat content is comparable, although there’s less saturated fat and no cholesterol. (See a nutritional breakdown at the bottom of this Men’s Journal article.) So you’d pick the Beyond patty not because you were on a diet, but because you were avoiding meat because of other kinds of issues — the hormones or antibiotics meat contains, or less-than-humane conditions for livestock.
But if that appealed to you, absent any preconception, or the opportunity to compare it side by side — if someone brought takeout back to the office, for example, and didn’t mention the difference — it’s likely you’d mistake the BurgerFi Beyond Burger for a one made of beef.
Agree? Think we’re crazy? After you try one, let us know.