“I Tried PLNT Burger at the NYC Opening and Here’s What I Thought”
When asked about my experience at PLNT Burger's NYC opening, a few words came to mind: "Two burgers are better than one."
Yesterday, I met my co-workers Lucy Danziger and Stephanie McClain at the first-ever brick and mortar PLNT Burger, which had its grand opening in our old neck of the woods, on 4th Avenue at 13th Street, one street south of Union Square where The Beet was born in a small conference room. If we were still working out of that location, PLNT would undoubtedly become a favorite lunch spot.
Here at The Beet, we've been big fans of PLNT Burger since we covered the original expansions in the Washington DC area of Silver Springs Maryland and watched as the company grew during the pandemic to eight locations within Whole Foods markets in that region. Then we were impressed again when husband and wife entrepreneurs and co-founders of PLNT Burger Seth Goldman and Julie Farkas, announced a $1 million grant program through their nonprofit, "Feed the Change" to support organizations working locally to make an impact on the planet and our health.
And now PLNT is working with another food nonprofit, called Feed Forward, which uses technology to help provide meals for food-insecure families and individuals, so when you check out at PLNT you can decide to give a burger or meal to a local family in need and PLNT will donate that meal, while Feed Forward manages fulfillment. So there were plenty of reasons to get excited about PLNT coming to New York and one of those reasons was the taste. Conceived by Chef Spike Mendelsohn, the burger is made with Beyond Meat and created to taste exactly like the fast-food burgers you crave, even on a plant-based diet.
Luckily, the three of us editors were in New York at the same time (a rare moment due to working remotely since 2020) and got to experience this new beginning alongside the PLNT Burger family and many hungry plant-based burger fans who lined up in the cold to try it.
Here's Exactly What Happened at the PLNT Opening
When we arrived at the restaurant, there was a line of eager burger fans stretching down the block waiting to get a taste of PLNT's famous vegan burgers and the round "chicken dippers" also made of Beyond Meat, but from their chicken nuggets. The ceremonial opening and speeches took place outside right in front of the restaurant at 139 4th Avenue and before they served the crowd, co-founder Chef Spike Mendelsohn thanked everyone for coming out and started the chant, "Eat the Change, Eat the Change," which is meant to remind consumers that eating plant-based is eating sustainably.
Co-founder Seth Goldman (who along with his wife Julie Farkas founded Honest Tea) and was the Executive Chair of Beyond Meat from 2015 until February 2020, took the mic and explained how he met Chef Spike: "We were in D.C at a food conference and I snuck Beyond Burgers under Spike's seat, and later found out his wife was vegan." The coincidence and chef's appreciation for the product inspired the two to get together and start a vegan concept store – which became PLNT Burger.
Before the burgers were handed out, a Rabbi and friend of the founders gave his blessing to the restaurant, declaring, "You are kosher!" Shortly after, vegan burgers in PLNT branded cardboard boxes were whisked through the door and served outside, passed around on platters by Chef Spike and the kitchen staff as everyone who waited in line cheered with joy. The countdown to a bite meant that everyone took their first bite in unison. It wouldn't be their last.
The crowd seemed pleased as they noshed on their burgers, and Meg Savage, co-founder of Feed Forward, a food impact consultancy that specializes in "utilizing technology and innovation for a better food future for all." Feed Forward runs a philanthropic program called "More Than a Meal" that connects restaurants like PLNT Burger with those in need. This was their first plant-based restaurant to add the "feed it forward" meal to their menu, which allows customers to donate one free meal to food-insecure individuals in the community when they check out.
Here's What the PLNT Vegan Burger Tasted Like
The best part of the day was my first bite of the burger because it felt like one of those moments as a plant-based eater when you appreciate how far the movement has come, including the quality of vegan meat alternatives.
To me, the burger itself tasted like a McDonald's burger, if not better, had the texture of a Shack Shake burger with its smashed, flat patty, and was served in a small white paper pocket, just like the presentation of an In-and-Out burger. The taste of the burger was so realistic to real meat that it almost makes you second guess the product. The edges of the patty are crisp and the middle is chewy yet flat. The burger came with all the classics: lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and a secret sauce that reminded me of the nostalgic memories of when I used to eat McDonald's burgers as a kid.
I ate the first burger and treated myself to a second burger because the taste was so good, oops. Before we left, we ordered burgers to bring across the street to our office for the partners of The Beet and they both ate two burgers too – this might just happen for everybody.
Lucy's Review of PLNT Burger
I rarely go to fast food, hardly ever eat burgers and remember loving the last one I had, when I taste-tested another chain's plant-based meat alternative when it first launched a few years ago. Here's the thing: These are addictive. I could not eat just one. On the way to burger number two, I tasted the dippers and found that they, too, were completely delicious, satisfying, and hard to stop eating. The burger's combo of pickle, lettuce, cheese, and the soft bun is everything you want in a fast-food burger. My only regret was not tasting the fries!
While they may not be the healthiest choice for a lunch (which for me is either a large salad with chickpeas and a mix of greens and veggies or a lentil soup) this particular burger was so delicious I plan to bring my husband and kids back here. They simply won't believe it's vegan.
Stephanie's Review of PLNT Burger
Admittedly, PLNT's patty was my first burger in nearly a year, and it was well worth the wait. As someone who gave up animal products a few years ago, I'm not sure that I am the best barometer for whether something tastes exactly like its animal product counterparts, but I will say that PLNT's cheeseburger was hands down the best vegan burger I have ever had and in a blind taste test, I would never guess that this isn't real meat.
Between the sauces, the griddled Beyond Meat patty, the soft potato bun, and the generous helping of pickles, I am certain that PLNT alone could convert some of the most staunch non-vegans into giving plant-based a real try.
I would recommend anyone who can visit a PLNT burger location try the DBL PLNT Burger - the Follow Your Heart vegan cheese is incredibly tasty and melts perfectly when sandwiched between patties, complemented by caramelized onions.
PLNT's Lil Dippers plant-based chicken morsels are equally as great, and the range of dairy-free sauces are all delicious and impressive.
I absolutely loved my first taste of PLNT Burger, and will definitely be returning shortly for more. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who loves a good burger, vegan or not, we can all "eat the change."