As a devout carnivore, I had never sought out the legendary Impossible Burger. But as someone who is food-curious, well, I’ve always wondered about it.
When I saw that White Castle rolled out an Impossible Slider, well, that curiosity began to get the better of me.
First, I wanted to know exactly what it was I would be eating, so, in case you haven’t researched what’s in the Impossible Burger, here’s a rundown: Wheat and potato protein give it a burger-like texture, coconut oil and soy give it the sizzle, the meat flavor comes from heme, and konjac and xanthan bind it all together.
What the heck is heme? Yeah, I asked the same question.
Apparently, heme is a molecule that is found in plants and animals, but is found in great abundance in meat. Smash a bunch of plant heme molecules together and you get something meat-ish. (Sounds like it should be called an Implausible Burger, but whatever.)
“We’ve been eating and craving heme since the dawn of humanity,” the Impossible Foods website informs.
Then, I find out that Eater.com called the Impossible Slider “one of the country’s best fast-food burgers, period,” and I’m supposed to not try one?
I stopped by the White Castle at Seventh Street and Broadway the other day and ordered three of these $1.99 Impossibles (a regular slider with cheese is under a buck). The clerk said, “They take 10 minutes to cook. Is that OK?”
Ten minutes? Um, OK. I had walked in halfway expecting it to be just like any other White Castle slider, which are paper-thin and full of holes so they’ll cook faster. So, I was already thrown.
About a dozen minutes of wasting time on my phone later, my order came up. I took the bag of Impossibleness home (one of the burgers was for my girlfriend, Cynthia) and right away I knew this was no White Castle burger. You know the smell those things implant in your car, and this smell wasn’t it. It was almost sweet-ish, and I guarantee it was gone within five minutes of me getting out of the car. That onion-y White Castle smell can last for days.
When I pulled the first one out of its square, red box, I noted several details, the first of which was that the patty is round, not square. Not a White Castle. The bun and cheese are square, though, so if you squint, it helps your imagination. A bit.
Second, the sandwich is much thicker than a true slider, and there are no holes in the patty. In addition, the thing is grilled, not steamed, so you don’t get that soggy, steamy sensation. Sheesh, with a true slider, when it first comes off the grill, if you hold one between your index finger and thumb, it will droop almost in half and a couple of onions will fall out. It’s beautiful. But this one has a brown coating of char and none of that heavy onion aroma and flavor. I always was surprised to see the onions are actually made into the patty.
To my senses, the patty bears a closer resemblance texture-wise to breakfast sausage, with a bit more of a spongy pull to it than a good burger would have. In fact, it reminded me a bit of one of those spongy McDonald’s sausage patties in terms of form and texture.
And if there was a pickle on either of the two I ate, it was basically nonexistent. Cynthia said she had one very thin pickle on hers but could barely perceive its flavor. I’m sorry, but the pickle is part of the White Castle experience, as much as the sogginess and the pungency of the onion. Mostly, this was salty, kind of like any other fast food burger.
As Cynthia got about halfway through hers, she said, “It’s really good.”
After eating a couple of them, I think it’s fair to say I walked into White Castle that day expecting something closer to the original, so I felt a bit let down. But that’s not really fair to the burger and, clearly, that was never the goal when this thing was conceived. So, if it’s plant-based food you seek, and you don’t want to, you know, just eat vegetables, you could surely do worse than the Impossible Slider.
But what it mostly succeeded in doing for me is making me want real sliders.