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A few years ago, when two plant-based meat products with lofty names hit the market, promising to taste more like actual meat, Bonnie bought some and cooked up burgers at home. I don’t recall whether she got Beyond or Impossible Burger, but I do recall it did not go well. We haven’t tried that again.

Still, I’ve remained curious about faux burgers, and have long wanted to try restaurant versions — if for no other reason to see if I can find one that tastes like actual meat.

I found two burger restaurants that offer plant-based alternatives, with a bonus: Burger Monger — with three Bay area locations — uses Impossible Burger; Engine No. 9 in St. Pete’s Edge District goes Beyond. So we get a double comparison: restaurants and products.

Before we begin, Impossible and Beyond burgers contain very different ingredients — and a lot of them — but I won’t delve into that here.


When we arrived at 7 p.m. on Monday, this fast-casual restaurant on 4th Street was doing a solid business. The counter service was a little slow, but that wasn’t the fault of the server as much as the fact that she needed help.

I ordered my Impossible Burger ($10.99) with grilled onions, tomato and pickles. I also got a single order of Fries ($3.99) and a Chocolate Fudge (hand-spun) Milkshake ($5.49). The server assured me that it was a basic chocolate shake, which is what I wanted.

We sat at a two-top and waited for our orders to come out — which they did in two white paper bags. I liked the relaxed ambience of this place. The sizzle from the open kitchen was the only music.


It wasn’t packaged to impress, but the plant-based meat on the bun looked the part of a regular burger.

The milkshake came as vanilla with a chocolate swirl, which is precisely what I didn’t want but resulted from an apparent miscommunication. The counter person said she’d take it back and have it mixed into a basic chocolate shake.

The ketchup dispenser was empty and there were no packets around. Neither were there any salt or pepper packets. We had to wait for the server to bring them to our table.

Texture and Taste

I was giving Burger Monger mixed reviews up to this point. And then I took a bite of the Impossible Burger. Guess what? Tasted like meat. For real.

While the patty didn’t have the pink center that I’ve seen in some faux-burger photos, it did possess the pebbly texture of cooked ground beef. It even boasted a char — one that I could taste. I offered Bonnie a bite and she agreed with my take. I took a bite of her Steakhouse Monger and actually preferred my meatless version. I ate the entirety of my Impossible Burger with frequent nods of approval and a few mmmmm‘s.

The fries — skinny, moist, hot — were terrific. The shake. Ehhhh. Take a look at the photo at right and decide if that’s a chocolate shake or not. While the silky liquid flowed easily through the straw, the chocolate flavor was rather faint (whereas I like it potent). Plus, there was way too much whipped cream, which further muted the chocolate.

But I really shouldn’t be haranguing about a substandard milkshake when this Impossible Burger was a revelation. Making faux meat taste like a real burger is … possible.


At 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, our party of five had a brief wait at the bar of this St. Pete mainstay, after which we were seated in the far back corner of the full dining room. The place was dark and warmer than I would’ve liked — a bit stuffy — but the din was minimal. We had to turn our voices up, but only a little.

At Engine No. 9, you can sub in Beyond Burger for any their signature offerings. Or build your own, which I did — one patty (instead of the standard two), grilled onions, tomato and pickle. I chose fries as my side for a total of $11.95. I also got a Red Ale ($7) from Leaven Brewing out of Riverview.


Engine No. 9 served its faux-burger meal like any respectable full-service casual restaurant should — on a plate. The fries stood upright in a chrome container. A pile of grilled onions looked fetching, but obscured the burger beneath.

Texture and Taste

While this faux burger tasted beef-ish, it ultimately gave itself away as a meat substitute. It had a hint of unwanted flavor that I’ll call chemical-ish. The patty’s texture was legit, and there were even areas of pink, although, importantly, this burger lacked an exterior char.

The real disappointment was the bun. Perfectly round and tall, it was like something AI would create if you plugged in “hamburger bun.” The bread was overly fluffy and flat-flavored. I checked with my dining companions, all of whom had gotten beef burgers, and they agreed that the bun was ho-hum. The fries — crispy on the outside and seasoned — were not the type I prefer, but all in all they were fine.

Shout out to the Leaven Red. The draft was hearty but not overbearing.

And the Winner of the Beyond Impossible Two-Restaurant Challenge Is …

I’m pleased to announce that it’s possible for me to pick a clear-cut winner.

Burger Monger (Impossible Burger).

A few final thoughts: While I may have been impressed by the beefy flavor of The Impossible Burger at Monger, I’m still not ready to have it replace the real stuff. And I suspect that’d be the case with most other omnivores. (It’s expensive, I’m told.)

I looked up health comparisons between faux burgers and beef burgers, and I concluded that faux burgers don’t provide clear-cut benefits. (They’re highly processed.) Here’s an informative article laying out the pros and cons of each.

I checked with a few of my vegan friends, and they gave these plant-based burgers passing grades, but they only eat them for the occasional change of pace. The market sweet spot for these products would seem to be folks who are transitioning to a plant-based diet. I’ve tried doing that in the past. It didn’t take.

Have a go-to spot for your meatless burger cravings? Share your favorite haunt with us by shooting us an email – just click here!












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