Nine Layer Burrito at Fresh

FreshLocation: 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Toronto
Website: https://freshplantpowered.com/

Fresh, a chain that specializes in vegan eats, is fine.  I recently had their “burger” and thought it was fine (though it obviously bore no resemblance to an actual hamburger).  I just tried the Nine Layer Burrito, and yeah — it’s fine.

It’s definitely crammed with a lot of stuff: “mushroom & artichoke chorizo, marinated black beans, pico de gallo, cashew queso, jalapeno crema, avocado, shredded lettuce, brown rice, pickled jalapenos.”

Fresh

It’s…  fine.  It’s not as good as a burrito from any decent burrito place, but if you find yourself at Fresh, I’m sure you could do worse.

There’s a whole bunch of stuff in there, and it tastes like there’s a whole bunch of stuff in there.  It doesn’t have a ton of cohesion, but it’s tasty enough for what it is.

I was kinda curious about the  faux “chorizo”, but of course, it’s hard to pick out any one element with all of the flavours that are going on here.  So I tried some on its own; it basically just tastes like funky pureed mushrooms, with absolutely no resemblance to chorizo.

Fresh

The only element of the burrito I found overtly unappealing was the whole wheat tortilla.  I like whole wheat bread as much as the next guy, but it’s just wrong on a burrito.  It calls attention to itself and tastes off.

I also tried the salad with house vinaigrette.  The vinaigrette seemed like it might have been okay, but it was applied so sparingly you could barely taste it.  The “salad” basically tasted like undressed greens.

The Plant-Based, Beyond Meat P.L.T. at McDonald’s

Beyond Meat Burger (PLT) at McDonald'sLocation: 980 Dundas Street, Woodstock
Website: https://www.mcdonalds.com/ca/en-ca.html

What have I been up to today?  Oh, you know, not much, just driving 120 kilometres to try a veggie burger at McDonald’s.  That’s 120 kilometres one way, so 240 kilometres total, or about three hours of driving.

You know, a totally rational, normal way to spend a Monday.  Not crazy at all.

Yes, in case you haven’t heard, McDonald’s recently embraced the inevitable and announced that they’re going to be joining the increasingly crowded fake meat game.

They’ve teamed up with Beyond Meat, probably the most famous purveyor of veggie burgers that (supposedly) taste like the real deal, and they’re testing them out at 28 locations in and around London, Ontario.

Beyond Meat Burger (PLT) at McDonald's

The faux-burger is called the P.L.T. (Plant, Lettuce and Tomato), and they describe it on their website as “a juicy, plant-based patty made with Beyond Meat® and served on a sesame seed bun with tomato, lettuce, pickles, onions, mayo-style sauce, ketchup, mustard, and a slice of processed cheddar cheese.”

It’s… fine, I guess?  It’s a Beyond Meat burger through and through, so if you’ve had one of those, then you know what to expect.  The McDonald’s publicity machine is claiming that they’ve been working with Beyond Meat to create a custom patty that matches the flavour of their standard burgers, and maybe that’s true.  But if it is, I certainly couldn’t tell.

The advance buzz — that this tastes just like a regular McDonald’s burger — is absolutely, positively not the case.  It’s basically fine for what it is, but unless it’s been many, many years since you’ve had a burger at the Golden Arches, you’re not going to be fooled.

Beyond Meat Burger (PLT) at McDonald's

The biggest issues are the taste and the texture (so… everything, basically).  The flavour is vaguely meat-like, but it also tastes off and lacks anything even remotely resembling beefiness.  It’s not gross, but it kind of falls into the uncanny valley of hamburgers.

The texture is about the same — close, but not quite there.  It vaguely approximates an actual hamburger, but again, it’s off; it’s a bit too soft and mushy.

I recently had the Beyond Burger at Tim Hortons; this is going to sound completely insane, but that one was better.  In this particular case, Tim Hortons’ incompetence worked in their favour — the patty had obviously been cooked in advance and kept warm, which dried it out a bit and helped to reduce the off-putting squishy texture.

Beyond Meat Burger (PLT) at McDonald's

Everything else about the burger was fine — the many condiments were all McDonald’s standbys, and they were all tasty enough.

Honestly, it could have used more toppings.  The patty was still the dominant flavour, and in this case that’s definitely not a good thing.  The version at Tim Hortons was more successful in covering up the flavour of the patty with a welcome deluge of assertive condiments.

Is this worth a three hour drive?  For a maniac like me who’s eaten at McDonald’s all over the world, maybe?  For everyone else, absolutely not.  It’s fine for what it is, but when Tim friggin’ Hortons is beating you at your own game, you know you’re in trouble.

Beyond Burger at Tim Hortons

Beyond Burger at Tim HortonsLocation: 4100 Dixie Road, Mississauga
Website: https://www.timhortons.com/ca/en/index.php

The Beyond Burger at Tim Hortons is way better than it has any right to be.  Is it particularly good?  No, not really.  Would I order it again?  Absolutely not.  But it’s perfectly acceptable.  It’s not gross.

Maybe that’s a low bar.  But Tim Hortons isn’t exactly known for having an appetizing lunch selection.  And their last foray into the fake meat game — the Beyond Sausage breakfast sandwich — featured an impressive emulation of actual meat, but was otherwise pretty lousy.

Beyond Burger at Tim Hortons

Beyond Meat has clearly been evolving their product since I tried the Beyond burger at A&W last summer.  I found that one to be off-puttingly mushy.  The texture of the burger I just had at Tim’s was much, much better.

If you compare it to a good quality burger, it’s pretty much garbage.  But!  It actually compares quite favourably to the frozen burgers that are served all over the city.  If I had eaten it blind, that’s what I would have assumed it was.  It’s impressive.

Beyond Burger at Tim Hortons

In fact, I think I might have liked this a bit better than that type of frozen burger; those ones sometimes have a gamy, off meat flavour that’s a bit off-putting.  This one, on the other hand, has a generic meaty flavour that’s not unpleasant.  Again, it’s not particularly good, but it’s not bad either.  It’s fine.

They top it with cheese (which isn’t melted, of course), lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and mustard, which successfully covers up the patty’s lack of a beefy flavour.   Between the assertive condiments and the impressively accurate cheap burger texture, you’d never know that you’re not eating a lousy (but real!) hamburger.  I know that’s not exactly high praise, but I’m actually really impressed.