The first entry on Tela’s menu under “Bread & Buns” is the Royale, with a Wagyu beef patty, house-smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, house dill pickles, and beer mustard aioli on Sixteen Bricks challah.
The second entry is a veggie burger, with lettuce, tomato, red onion, house dill pickles and sun-dried tomato ketchup on a Sixteen Bricks bun.
And guess what? You can’t tell the difference between them.
Okay, fine, you can. Different bread, different sauce, and of course there’s the matter of that bacon. But we’re talking patties here, and as seditious as it is to say, the difference between these two is so mouthwateringly small that, scruples aside, if you got one instead of the other you might not even care.
Actually it’s Impossible. As in, the Impossible Burger, from Impossible Foods, a Bill Gates-backed startup that has figured out how to craft a red, juicy burger from soy roots and lipid substitutes rather than, er, the side of a cow.
Why is Bill Gates putting his money into a veggie burger startup? Because (if we can get serious for just a moment) animal agriculture uses 30 percent of all cultivated land and 27 percent of all freshwater on Earth. Moreover it creates as much greenhouse gas emissions as all of the world’s cars, trucks, trains, sups, and airplanes combined. And those figures get even worse if you factor in the population curve.
Enter Impossible Foods—and, for our purposes, Tela Bar + Kitchen.
Tela is one of only five restaurants in the area—and one of only 500 nationwide—to carry said veggie burger. The others are Mockingbirds Cafe (Middletown), Unwind Wine Bar (Hyde Park), Molly Malone’s (Covington), and Bru Burger Bar (Downtown).
Why did we choose Tela? Because Tela is awesome. After all, the menu also contains such items as shrimp étouffée, chicken cacciatore, the Tela cheesesteak, tandoori chicken salad, and the best poutine in Cincinnati—it’s all about that house-made beer mustard.
And all of those menu items can be enjoyed in the high end (though still assuredly bar-ish) confines of this Wyoming restaurant that would likewise be at home in Covington, Northside, or indeed Over-the-Rhine.
But the Impossible Burger, which is great, is why we’re here today. The look, the smell, the texture, the fat it’s all there. The only thing missing is the threadiness of a beef patty (what might make you reach for a toothpick), and perhaps the insane depth of flavor. Yet in the world of middling simulacra that are “veggie burgers,” the Impossible Burger is a clear winner.
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Tela Bar + Kitchen is located at 1212 Springfield Pike (45215).