Unsplash/Eaters Collective

Plate Tech

Progress report. We reported on the Impossible burger last March, back when it seemed like the plant-based patty might never make it to a bun. At the time, the bleeding veggie burger was backed by $183 million in investments, had raised almost as much in its Series D investment round as Blue Apron, and had yet to sell a single burger. The rumors swirling around the notoriously secretive Silicon Valley startup had an early eighties sci-fi vibe: A celebrated biochemist, Bill Gates’ personal investment, lots of fake blood.

Since then, the burger has continued its slow creep into the mainstream via trendy coastal restaurants.

Then, in late July, the Impossible burger suddenly resurfaced. David Chang put it on the menu at New York City’s Nishi for $14, topped with lettuce, tomato, and special sauce. Still no mention of when it’ll hit shelves, but we finally got to try the legendary plant-based patty over the summer. It really does bleed. And it tastes pretty great, too.

Since then, the burger has continued its slow creep into the mainstream via trendy coastal restaurants. This week, it was introduced on two menus in New York—at Saxon and Parole and the Michelin-starred PUBLIC. At Saxon and Parole, it’ll be served with roasted oyster mushrooms, sherry onion, and truffle cream. That plus an order of fries will cost you $17.

As the Impossible burger continues its Instagram-fueled trudge through San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, its competitor Beyond Meat (also plant-based, reportedly meat-like, but backed by a paltry $17 million with investors that include General Mills and Tyson) has taken the opposite approach. It launched its burger patties in the meat case at a few Whole Foods locations in the Rocky Mountains, selling two-packs for $5.99 (about $3 per burger). Since then, it’s expanded into more than 250 Whole Foods stores in 29 states.

Both companies hope to win over meat lovers and vegetarians alike. One’s going after coast dwellers with deep pockets, and one’s fanning out from middle America. It’s a little like a marketing battle between city-slicker Tom Cruise and down-home charmer Tim Allen. Will the winning model look like Mission: Impossible, or will we already be loyal to infinity and Beyond?

H. Claire Brown

A North Carolina native, Claire Brown joins The New Food Economy after working on the editorial team at Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn. She won the New York Press Club's Nellie Bly Cub Reporter award in 2017. Follow her at @hclaire_brown.