Masie Johnson is an up and coming artist who lives in West Midtown. At only 20-years-old, she has already fielded a print that made the runway at New York Fashion Week and she frequently shows her work at local galleries in Atlanta. Her current vibe is generally impressionistic, brightly-colored florals on repurposed glass or metal signage. Johnson moved to Atlanta to pursue a degree in Studio Arts at Georgia State, but in high school in Las Vegas at the Southwest Career and Technical Academy, she studied Culinary Arts. She also happens to be my niece, and when we get together, usually the conversation turns quickly to an aesthetics of food. Here for your amusement is our recent contemplation of the plant-based burger revolution, an area where Johnson has taken it upon herself to become a low-key expert.
Why have you embarked on this quest to try so many plant-based burgers in Atlanta?
I recently began this journey to try most—if not all—of the plant-based burgers around Atlanta in correlation to having recently become vegetarian, looking for places I could eat.
Give me a list of all the places you’ve eaten a plant-based burger here in town? And let us know in each case whether it was an Impossible, a Beyond, or something else. What is your absolute favorite Atlanta spot to get a plant-based burger?
Bareburger (Impossible, Beyond)
Burger King (Impossible)
Farm Burger (Impossible)
Flip Burger Boutique (Impossible)
Grindhouse Killer Burgers (Impossible)
Slutty Vegan (Impossible burger, Beyond dog)
Yeah! Burger (Impossible, Beyond) – This Impossible burger is my favorite.
Have you run into a lack of supply at any of the places that say they carry veggie burgers, but then don’t have them when you show up to order one?
I personally have never run into a lack of them, but I know quite a few people who have run into that issue.
In general, do you prefer the Impossible or the Beyond? What criteria are you using to decide which is better?
Overall, I side with the Impossible burger because of the synthetic bleeding and added crunch and sweetness from the addition of its coconut oil coating.
Having a veggie patty is a good start, but what sort of challenges have you encountered with toppings? Is the usual lettuce and tomato doing the trick, or does a veggie burger seem to beg for something different?
This is an interesting concept because it goes back to my overall favorite spot to get one, which is Yeah! Burger. It truly depends on the restaurant. A place that makes a good burger with good toppings generally also makes a good Impossible burger with good toppings. A true veggie burger, those prior to the Impossible and Beyond burger, absolutely begged for more interesting flavored toppings from sauces to added veggies. The Impossible burger and the Beyond don’t actually call for new or special toppings; they’re created to be a 100% beef burger made of 100% plant-based ingredients. However, with the Impossible specifically, because of its added sweetness, it could absolutely have some new flavors in the form of toppings added to it because it has a very similar taste to meat that is just slightly sweeter. This leaves room for complimentary sweet toppings such as a pineapple mango chutney, or spicy and savory ones such as a jalapeño vinaigrette.
Do you think any of the plant-based burgers you’ve tried could fool a diehard meat-lover? Is fooling ourselves about it even a reasonable goal?
Yes, absolutely. I’m huge foodie and culinary school graduate with the title “they who can taste all.” I think there are differences in taste but it’s very subtle if you’re not scientifically analyzing them for composition. If both a beef burger and an Impossible burger received the same seasoning, cooking, and topping, the difference is negligible. In fact, depending upon your taste buds and flavor profile preferences, the Impossible with its undertone of sweetness may actually taste better to you. I’m not sure if fooling ourselves is the goal, because the burgers are different. But with the same person cooking an Impossible the same way they would cook any beef burger, the result will be a burger your devout vegan best friend and devout carnivore best friend could both enjoy.