Epic Burger adds the plant-based Beyond Burger patty to its menu. The veggie-alternative, made from pea flour, mimics meat in texture and how it is cooked. (Epic Burger)
Is Beyond Meat’s meatless burger the future of protein? Well, Chicagoans can judge for themselves when local burger outfit Epic Burger begins serving the plant-based patty at all eight of its stores, starting July 19.
Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger patties have been available for just over a year now, first sold in Whole Foods. Epic would be the second burger chainlet to serve the product after Florida-based BurgerFi, but the first restaurant in Chicagoland. (A West Coast vegetarian group, Veggie Grill, has been working with Beyond Meat for a while.) On the retail level, the product is packaged to mimic ground meat, and is sold in displays alongside the real stuff.
The burger — a blend of pea protein, canola and coconut oil and minimal beet juice (for coloring) — purportedly cooks like your typical ground meat puck, even down to the meat “bleeding” as it cooks. At Epic, it will be available with traditional tomato, onion and lettuce toppings, but is customizable per order, starting at $6.99.
Besides mimicking beef’s cooking properties, the plant-based burger is being lauded for its healthier make-up. Beyond Burger clocks in at 20 grams of protein per patty, along with 5 grams saturated fats (compared to a traditional beef burger’s 9 grams), and zero grams of cholesterol, versus 80 grams in beef.
Epic’s CEO David Friedman first encountered the Beyond Burger patty at a barbecue a year ago. “It got pretty darn close to the sensation and satisfaction of eating a burger,” he says. “That’s what is missing from other patties.”
“I really struggled from day one about putting a veggie burger on the menu,” says Friedman. “There’s never been a really craveable veggie alternative, and I didn’t want to commit the kitchen to a ton of ingredients to developing our own in-house.” Instead, Epic added a portabella mushroom to the menu. The mushroom burger is on the way out, to be replaced by the Beyond Burger.
Ironically, Friedman is eyeing pleasing his carnivorous customers with the Beyond Burger. Vegans and vegetarians are welcome at the table, but “I want to convert meat eaters into eating one more plant-based meal per week, or month,” says Friedman. “I want people to learn about how their food is produced, distributed and shipped."
As the buzz around Beyond Burger grows, Friedman hopes to sell as much (if not more) than the chicken burger, which averages between 20 and 30 a day, per store.
For Friedman, working with Beyond Burger is as much about health as it is the environment. “Yes, there’s less of a carbon footprint when growing plants versus animals, but I’m also concerned about the nation’s health,” he says.
“I encourage meat eaters to come out with an open mind and give it a try.”
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