MINNETONKA — Vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, reducetarian — there are a million words to describe a plant-based lifestyle. Today, more and more people embrace reducing their meat and animal byproduct consumption. Grocery store shelves are filled not only with beef, chicken, cheese and eggs but meat and dairy alternatives like the Beyond Burger or Chao cheese.

Restaurants across the nation are embracing the change — fast-food restaurants like Burger King and White Castle are entering partnerships with the Impossible Burger, another plant-based alternative praised for its beef-like taste and texture.

Minnetonka-based Famous Dave’s is the latest business entering the plant-based sphere. Last month, Famous Dave’s rolled out four new menu items — a tropical burger, BBQ street tacos, Fritos BBQ nachos and a BBQ bowl — at its Minnesota and Denver locations as part of a pilot program.

Famous Dave’s is the first nationwide barbecue chain to offer a plant-based option, according to Culinary Director Sylvia Matzke-Hill.

The meals are made with Beyond Burger, which is primarily made of pea protein. This was a conscious choice, according to Matzke-Hill. When the restaurant was designing the new plant-based line, they chose to use Beyond Burger because it wasn’t made with soy — many people have soy allergies, she said.

All of the pilot plant-based meals at Famous Dave’s are vegan to be as inclusive as possible, according to Matzke-Hill. For those looking for something cheesy — there is a build-your-own-burger option where the Beyond Burger can be subbed in and patrons can add cheese and other toppings.

“We really wanted to allow people some choices,” Matzke-Hill said. “We have a bowl section, we have tacos, we have burgers so you can kind of feel more part of the group.”

Matzke-Hill said Famous Dave’s is known for being “barbecue for everyone” and they want to continue that tradition and provide barbecue for meat eaters and non-meat eaters alike.

There are more than 100 Famous Dave’s across the United States. After the pilot program, assuming good results, the plant-based options will roll out to the 34 company stores across the U.S. The franchise stores will have the option to adopt the new menu items.


Burger shortage

Plant-based options that resemble actual meat have skyrocketed in popularity as of late, and Famous Dave’s is just one national restaurant chain catering its menu toward plant-based eaters and meat eaters who are turning to more plant-based options.

An example of this is Impossible Foods’ Impossible Burger. The launch of the Impossible Burger was an exciting development in plant-based food. Local restaurants across the country and large chains such as White Castle and Burger King created partnerships with the company to bring the plant-based burger to consumers. According to the Impossible Foods website, the burger is now sold in 15,000 restaurants across the U.S.

The Impossible Burger aimed to give meat-eaters a suitable alternative to a beef burger. People who eat meat and those who stick to a plant-based diet embraced the burger, selling the company out of the burger, according to an article from the Cooking Network. The popularity of the burger created problems for distribution. The company has resolved the issue, as of July of 2019.

Frances Stevenson is a reporter for the Lakeshore Weekly News, covering the communities around Lake Minnetonka.


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