For non-meat eaters, vegans, vegetarians and people with complex dietary restrictions, finding a tasty meat alternative (or as the kids say these days “plant-based”) meal when going out to eat can often be a challenge. This is especially, true when going out to dinner with a group of friends in New Smyrna Beach, and darn it, you just aren’t in the mood for another salad. You may have switched to a plant-based diet but some days you might find yourself wondering, “is that all there is?”
Growing up on the left coast, I’d guess at least half of my friends were non-meat eaters of one variety or another, and trust me there are as many varieties as colors in the big box of crayons. So when my new neighbors arrived a few years ago and told me they were vegan, I didn’t bat an eye. That is of course until I found out they were Flagler Tavern regulars. Hmmm….really? I found myself looking at Tavern’s menu differently and through their eyes.
Over the past three years, Tavern has made an honest attempt (and a pretty successful one at that) at offering real alternatives for a variety of dietary needs and choices including Gluten Free, Keto Friendly and Vegetarian options along with suggested substitutions on popular menu items. But what about Vegans? What could we possibly offer for our vegan friends that was tasty and fit within the Tavern menu? I mean we’ve all tried the cardboard vegan cheese and the hockey puck meatless burger patties. Yuck.
The solution came from the two different sources. First we were seeing a lot of advertising for The Impossible Burger on TV. I was so excited I actually tried one from a local fast food franchise. That was enough to never want to try it again, dull, grey, hockey puck. Yuck. Two bites and in the garbage. The one day after a conversation with our neighbors Michael and Alan, about wanting to change our diet; they had a host of recommendations, things they had tried over the years of what they liked and didn’t. And one of the things on the top of their list was The Impossible Burger patty. I told them my tale of sorrow and they laughed, it’s all in how you cook it, and promptly gave me a box and a several other favorites to try.
So here is what I learned, prepared plant-based foods have come a long way. Michael was right, it was about how you prepare it. And the The Impossible Burger was actually really good (Mark ate it!) and did satisfy my burger craving with less guilt. So then Michael asks, “So when are we going to get the Impossible Burger at Tavern?” knowing full well I’m on the marketing and events side of the business and have little-to-no influence over what goes on our menu….lol I’ll I could promise at that point was I’d share their idea/request/impossible dream.
Fast forward a few months and a few thousand (ok more like a hundred) inquires from Michael & Alan, “Any word on the Impossible Burger?” During menu revision meetings, our Executive Chef Robert Borst, humored me and cooked one up. Everyone loved it! Yes, loved! I’m not sure what kinda magic he worked back there but that “burger” came out plump, juicy and yes, yummy! And as luck had it, from all the great new menu items that we tried, The option to “Make it an Impossible Burger” was added to the menu. That and several other dietary alternative options including the crazy good Fiesta Avocado appetizer (make it vegan by asking for it without mayonnaise and squeeze a lime over it – Great tip Alan); Cauliflower Mash as a new side option and substitution option on several dishes, and our new super yummy Fried Avocado Tacos.
I was so excited to share with my neighbors that their suggestion made it on the menu, that on release day I sent them a picture. And they in turn sent me two back. Appropriately, Michael and Alan were Flagler Tavern’s first ever, Impossible Burger customers! If feels great to have had a small hand in adding the The Impossible Burger to our menu, but the real credit goes to two men with an impossible dream and one chef that can really cook!
Food for Thought —