Vegan Impossible Burger Gets the SoCal Umami Burger Makeover

Vegan Impossible Burger Gets the SoCal Umami Burger Makeover
image courtesy of author

For decades, Southern California has been known for its iconic burgers — from the now-national chains to the mom-n-pop burger stands — no other city is as synonymous with burgers as Los Angeles. The city is also known, most recently, as the vegan hotspot, topping the 2017 VegNews “Top Ten Vegan Cities” list for not only its sprawling number of vegan restaurants, but also its abundance of vegan festivals. But those two designations don’t have to be mutually exclusive. And for Umami Burger and Impossible Foods, their new partnership is a testament to having your SoCal burger and LA vegan ethos sandwiched between crisp butter lettuce and crunchy umami pickles. Impossible’s “bleeding” plant-based burgers are launching today in nine Los Angeles Umami Burger locations.

“We are constantly innovating and expanding Umami Burger’s menu options, trendsetting, and introducing our guests to new, umami-rich flavor combinations,” Sam Nazarian, Umami Burger’s majority shareholder, said in a statement. “Through our partnership with Impossible Foods, Umami Burger will continue to provide guests with creative options that stick to the brand’s differentiating taste and ambitious standards for quality.”

Impossible Foods has raised nearly $200 million in funding in recent years for its innovative plant technology, including contributions from Bill Gates. In less than a year, the Silicon Valley startup has placed its burger in a select handful of restaurants in San Francisco and New York, as well as at Los Angeles’ Crossroads, the West Hollywood restaurant founded by vegan chef Tal Ronnen.

But according to Impossible Foods founder Patrick O. Brown, M.D., Ph.D, the meaty burger is perhaps “wasted” on vegans and vegetarians because it’s so meaty, so designed for the burger lover who wants a healthier burger experience without sacrificing flavor and texture. At the press tasting yesterday, Brown, a vegetarian more than forty years, told the audience how he passed up an opportunity to taste his own product served tartare style (in France) because he “just wasn’t ready” to try the burger “raw” — it’s that meaty.

Impossible Foods has just begun ramping up its newest Northern California production facility, which, once working at full capacity, can produce four million quarter-pound burgers every month. And the plan, according to Brown, is to replace conventional cow burgers everywhere, including fast food chains like McDonald’s or Burger King, as well as roll out retail products in all animal categories: meat, milk, eggs, and even fish.

The Impossible Burger is made entirely from plants, including wheat, soy, and potato. And while it tastes, looks, and smells like beef when cooked, its environmental footprint – or lack thereof – is significant. According to the company, it uses 75 percent less water, 95 percent less land, and creates 87 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than beef made from cows. Like its competitor the Beyond Meat Beyond Burger, which is sold at another California chain, Veggie Grill, the Impossible burger is naturally free from hormones, antibiotics, cholesterol, and artificial ingredients, while being an excellent source of protein, fiber, and B vitamins.

The Impossible Burgers are available at Umami Burger locations in Santa Monica, Broadway, Arts District, Hollywood, Los Feliz, Costa Mesa, Anaheim, Pasadena, and Thousand Oaks.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.