It’s likely that some of you have heard about all the buzz surrounding White Castle’s new “Impossible” Sliders, which are 100% plant-based patties as a vegetarian alternative to the original meat-based ones. Casey Neistat took a rare journey into Brooklyn to see what all the fuss was about, so I decided that (since there is a White Castle within walking distance of my apartment) I would, too.
To start, I’ll give you a brief synopsis of my (fairly nonexistent) history with White Castle. Before this taste test, I had never actually eaten a White Castle burger. There was, however, a time in high school where I was working a retail job, and one of my coworkers named Rhonda would only ever eat White Castle sliders during her break on every single shift. (People seemed pretty devoted to their repetitive poor eating patterns there – one guy would only ever eat cinnamon crunch bagels from Panera, while I usually went for Cinnabon.) So aside from the box office smash that was Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, I have been aware of (if unimpressed by) the franchise since at least 2004.
Fast-forward nearly 15 years later, and I finally found myself inside of a White Castle. I went to the same one Señor Neistat did (1545 Myrtle Avenue) as it’s the closest to my house, and it was just about as bustling as it was on the day he went, which is to say NOT VERY. I also went at 10am in the rain. I can’t imagine there are too many more depressing scenes than that.
The menu is much more extensive than I had previously imagined – there are chicken sliders, cheese curd bites, cheesecake slices on sticks…the list goes on and on. But fortunately I was there on a specific mission to try the Impossible vs. Original Sliders, and I remained strong while relaying my desired order of one each.
The Original Slider cost just $0.83, although I suppose that’s deceptive since it’s quite small, and many other chains offer a regular sized single-stack for just $0.17 more. Meanwhile, the Impossible Slider cost $1.99, which (to me) felt expensive, even factoring the plant-based novelty aspect. I did end up getting cheese on both, even though you can apparently “veganize” the Impossible Slider by abstaining from le fromage. I didn’t see where each one was cooked, but I highly doubt that White Castle is designating a separate grill just for the Impossibles, and so if you’re a strict vegan, it’s worth noting there might be some cross contamination re: meat juices happening. (Although I feel like a lot of strict vegans probably have lost that urge to eat very convincing meat substitutes that “bleed”, and this product is probably more geared towards omnivores anyhow.)
Impossible on the left, Original on the right. (The latter is comparatively v. sad.)
I waited until I got back home to consume, because even though this series is called Sad Girl Taste Test, I have yet to subject myself the the full-on tragedy that is eating fast food alone in a booth at 10am. They were admittedly a bit soggy by the time I actually sat down, so if you’re interested in trying these out for yourself, either DO depressingly eat them there, or tear into them soon after you leave the restaurant. Sogginess aside, both sliders looked pretty sad, although the Original (the meat one) was like, a whole extra level of tragic – the meat was just a weird, thin, grayish-looking slab on a bun, and it was probably only about half of the weight (if that) of the Impossible (plant-based) one.
Since I’d not had the Original before, I figured that was important to start with. It’s like a weird hybrid between a burger and a roast beef sandwich, and it wasn’t good or bad, it was just kind of like the most generic version of a fast food menu item imaginable.
The Impossible, meanwhile, definitely had the mouth feel of a burger-burger, but there was this weird, out of place smokiness happening that was almost reminiscent of a smoked Gouda? It might have been the cheese, so maybe if you go, do order it without. That said, I think if the disembodied smokiness hadn’t been there (just because it was so weird and separate to the rest of the elements at play) then the Impossible would have knocked it out of the park.
Ye olde Impossible.
I can see where some people might say “YOU TOTALLY KNOW IT’S NOT MEAT WHEN YOU’RE EATING IT, MEGAN!”…but do you? I thought the meaty flavor was definitely there, and texturally it felt very similar to cooked ground meat. Funnily, I think the main giveaway that it’s a dupe is that the texture of the burger feels so much more high quality than the standard flat-ass processed patties we’ve come to associate with most cheap fast food. And the weight! Like I said, the volume of this thing feels insanely greater when compared with the Original, and I’d say shelling out $2 for the Impossible is indeed the better deal in this equation. I would probably have to eat like 4 of the $0.83 Originals to feel comparatively satisfied.
Would I go back to White Castle for this? If we’re being honest, probably not, mainly because it’s not located in a direction I usually walk, and so I rarely think of it. And while the Impossible was decidedly better (in my opinion) than the Original, I didn’t have any sort of particularly religious experience while eating it. (Although I did find myself semi-irrationally wanting to eat more of both // THANKS, CHEMICALS!) Maybe I should to a take two while intoxicated to see if I feel more strongly in the heat of the moment.
Now, I will say that if In-N-Out ever decides to make its own plant-based patties in this style, I am likely to move to the West Coast forever and never look back. And in general, I would like to see more chains in general playing around with plant-based alternatives. While I do think that White Castle’s first attempt was above average, and would be a good option in the event of a road trip pinch, there are just too many quality fast casual plant-based options readily available in NYC to justify going to White Castle in the name of slightly strange ‘n soggy sliders. I have hope that somebody will perfect the plant-based fast food burger soon (looking at you, McDonald’s // WHEN IS THE VEGAN BURGER COMING STATESIDE?!), but for now, I’d say the market is still wide-open.