METRO EAST EATS: Substitute burgers

The Alestle staff visited four restaurants around the Metro East that offer vegetarian burgers. We noted the atmosphere, service, taste and price while at each location. The following is what we found: yum!

Red Robin tastes good, but prices are too high

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews is a familiar place for many people, with the red booths, the big burgers and the family setting. However, we didn’t decide to go to Red Robin to experience something familiar. We went to step out of our comfort zone and try their Impossible Burger — something we would say is worth trying.

We tried two burgers while we were there. Ironically, the first burger had a fried egg and bacon on top of it, preventing the burger from being vegetarian-friendly. 

We ordered the Red Robin Royal Burger and replaced the patty for an additional $3.50. The point of this was to see if the Impossible Burger could hold its own against food we already like, and it definitely did.

It tasted very similar to how actual meat would. However, it was a lot thinner than their normal burgers and not uniform in size. It was thin and hard to taste in some bites, while, in others, the Impossible Burger dominated. Overall, it was pretty good, but it lacked consistency.

The second burger we ordered was just a plain patty. The goal was to see how strong the Impossible Burger’s flavor was by itself. As any meat-eater may expect, the burger was not as good without toppings. 

The size was a lot more consistent throughout, but the flavor was lacking. This probably has nothing to do with the patty itself so much as how Red Robin handled it. 

We have had Impossible Meat before and one of its strengths is how well it retains seasoning.

The texture was also spot-on in comparison with meat, and puts up a good illusion when biting into it, even without toppings. 

The only downside to the patty is the price tag. Red Robin has decent food, but substituting for the Impossible Burger is an almost $4 price raise. A meal for two was roughly $40, so just be mindful.

Our suggestion is for people to try the Impossible Burger at Red Robin just to experience it,  but we wouldn’t suggest going there habitually just for a non-meat burger.

RED ROBIN

6699 Edwardsville Crossing Dr.

Edwardsville, Illinois 62025

618-655-9513

www.redrobin.com

Wang Gang falls short on their substitute burger

Like many other restaurants, Wang Gang brought their own version of a substitute meat for burgers with the Beyond Burger, made for those with dietary or lifestyle limitations. However, their attempt falls short of resembling anything remotely close to real meat.

When we first walked into the restaurant, we noticed the dark interior and a large bar area. The decor was a bit too modern to look like an Asian eatery, however, they had enough decorations to tie the look together. It was definitely not the place one would expect to get a burger, let alone a traditional patty substitute. Overall, the restaurant looked pretty nice, even though we just got our burger to go. 

The Beyond Burger has a higher fat content than the Impossible Burger while also sporting higher calories, so it’s overall just a fattier version of regular Impossible meat, which might have affected our judgment overall of the taste. 

We ordered the meat substitute burger with only cheese, in order to better taste the patty. However, as it was less than stellar, we quickly realized this was a mistake. The plain sesame seed bun was not awe-inspiring either. 

While it did taste like a real burger, that’s the only praise we’re able to give it. Perhaps if it had other toppings on it, this would meld the taste a bit better. Eating it plain, however, left us very disappointed in what we had ordered. 

The cheese used to top the burger was very rubbery, making it hard to bite into without having the cheese stick to our mouths.

After making it past the cheese, the patty itself was very dry and tough, something that we’re sure also would’ve been changed by putting more toppings on it. The mix of the dry patty with the thin cheese did not make a good combo, leaving me underwhelmed as we search for alternatives to meat products and ways to limit how much meat we take in.

We think Wang Gang missed their mark on this one. While we only ordered the burger and an order of sweet potato fries, we spent approximately — $17 something we were not prepared for walking in. 

While we can’t vouch for the rest of their menu, except for the fries, but we will say that the Impossible Burger left a negative impression.

Despite the negative impression of the Beyond Burger, we did keep in mind that it is an Asian eatery, so it’s very likely that the rest of their menu is closer to their expertise. Additionally, it might just be the overall higher content of fat in the Beyond Burger as opposed to an Impossible Burger. 

WANG GANG ASIAN EATS

1035 Century Dr. 

Edwardsville, Illinois 62025

618-655-0888

www.wanggangasian.com

The Impossible Whopper is not king of all burgers

The Impossible Whopper is a near-exact replica of Burger King’s signature sandwich.

Burger King’s offerings are often temporary and fairly out of the ordinary. However, the Impossible Whopper might be good enough to make it onto the menu full time.

A Burger King isn’t the classiest joint in the world. It’s fast food, and what diners are going to get from the Impossible Whopper is fast food quality. With that said, the Impossible Whopper is a pretty close imitation of the burger chain’s famous sandwich.

We ordered an Impossible Whopper combo (sized up to medium, which at Burger King is the equivalent of a large at most places) and a Whopper Jr. alongside it for comparison — both plain with cheese. Our total was $13.07, which isn’t bad considering our order was enough for a meal and a half.

The imitation meat patty looks a little different than a standard burger — it was much smoother than you would see with traditional beef patties. There was also a slightly off smell to the sandwich, not unpleasant, but different than a standard burger to be sure.

When we bit into the sandwich, however, we were surprised to find it tasted nearly identical to our recollection of the Whopper. It wasn’t just the taste, either. The Impossible Whopper was just as juicy as any of Burger King’s other offerings.

Despite that, when we took a bite of the traditional Whopper for comparison, there was still a definite difference between the two. 

The biggest distinction was the aftertaste. The Impossible Whopper felt almost entirely natural in our mouths, but after swallowing, the flavor lingered on our taste buds slightly longer than the original. It’s not unpleasant, but it is definitely noticeable when comparing the two side-by-side.

While we visited Burger King to try out the new Impossible Whopper, we’d be negligent if we didn’t at least mention the most important part of any visit to a fast-food chain — the fries. 

Unfortunately, our fries weren’t all that good, but it was around 2 p.m. on a Monday afternoon — not exactly peak hours for fresh fries. (We were the only customers in the restaurant, and there were only two customers in the drive-thru during our entire meal).

If we were given the Impossible Whopper without any indication that it wasn’t a regular burger, we probably wouldn’t have noticed that this was not beef, and that’s about the biggest compliment any meat substitute can get.

However, alongside Burger King’s signature sandwich, we noticed a clear difference, even if it wasn’t a deal breaker for us. For those looking for a cheap, quick way to try an Impossible Burger, Burger King is a solid choice.

BURGER KING

708 Edwardsville Rd. 

Troy, Illinois 62294

618-667-8390

www.bk.com

White Castle takes the crown for Impossible Slider, not Veggie Slider

White Castle is known for their affordable selection of sliders. While typically not held in high esteem when compared to other fast food options, White Castle’s rendition of the Impossible Slider was surprisingly tasty for its price.

The closest White Castle is located 14 minutes from campus in Collinsville, Illinois. This made it the farthest trek included on our list. At least the cheap meal made up for the extra money spent on gas — or so we reasoned in our minds. 

We arrived at the White Castle on a Sunday afternoon, and while the drive-thru was quite busy, the inside of the restaurant was fairly empty. 

The layout of the restaurant was confusing to say the least. The cashier’s window was hidden behind a soda machine, and there were no cashiers to be found. This did not make for a great first impression, however, somebody eventually came to assist us. 

The decor — or lack there of — was typical of a fast food restaurant. There was nothing special about it.

We made our way to the counter and looked over the menu, hoping to find the Impossible Slider as an option. The various slider meals were listed first on the menu above the cashier’s window. To the far right, the types of meat available for sliders were pictured. 

Once a cashier appeared, we ordered the Impossible Slider with smoked cheddar cheese for $1.99 and the veggie slider with American cheese for $0.99. Both burgers were extremely cheap, even for a fast food restaurant.

While the burgers cooked, we waited patiently. Directly next to the cashier’s counter was a window overlooking the grill. We entertained ourselves by watching the cook make all of the sliders. 

The sight wasn’t very appealing, as the grill was doused in small onions and grease. The cheese was peeled off a stack of what seemed to be at least 50 slices. The meat was frozen prior to being placed on the grill and was certainly not fresh.

After waiting a considerable amount of time, our ticket number was called, and we received our sliders. We found an empty table in the restaurant to relax and enjoy the food.

First, we ate the Veggie Slider — the only vegetarian burger option offered at White Castle prior to the introduction of the Impossible Slider. The slider did not resemble real meat in texture, flavor or appearance. The consistency was mushy and the flavor was lacking.

The Impossible Slider — a blend of potato protein, wheat, coconut oil and a few other ingredients — was significantly better than their traditional vegetarian option, despite being double the price. 

At first, the burger was confusing to our senses. The texture was akin to the normal texture of meat and the flavor was significantly better and resembled meat more than the Veggie Slider. The burger tasted crispy on the edges and was coated with salt. 

Although the Impossible Slider lacked the juiciness of a real meat patty, the taste was surprisingly good.

We found ourselves craving the slider after leaving the restaurant. For the price and flavor, the Impossible Slider is an excellent option for individuals seeking a tasty, vegetarian-friendly meal option on a budget.

WHITE CASTLE

3 Eastport Plaza Dr.

Collinsville, IL 62234

618-346-4328

www.whitecastle.com

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.