Why does being eco-conscious have to be so hard?

In the fierce battle of burgers in Japan, a new contender has entered the field: the American burger shop Wayback Burgers. This New England-based, fast-casual burger shop just opened its first-ever branch in Japan in the Omotesando neighborhood of Tokyo in March of this year.

Wayback Burgers may be based out of Connecticut, but it’s a popular burger chain all across the world. With restaurants in 38 countries and a history of over 30 years, it’s no surprise that they managed to open their first Japanese branch in the upscale shopping neighborhood of Omotesando Hills. If you’re familiar with the area, you might recognize the location as the former site of a Mos Burger (a branch that unfortunately became a casualty of the burger war).

The main draw of the menu is, of course, burgers, but they also sell milkshakes and smoothies.

Our burger-loving Japanese-language reporter Mr. Sato didn’t wait too long to visit the new burger shop, but the prices, in his humble (but experienced) opinion, were a little on the high side. The classic burger, for example, was 1,200 yen (US$9.38) on its own, and a set meal (with medium-size fries and a small or medium drink) was 1,700 yen. The cheapest burger was the Buffalo Chicken Burger, which was 850 yen. Those prices put these burgers among the ranks of gourmet burgers, being too expensive for the usual fast-casual fare in Japan.

Though a major meat fan, Mr. Sato has been trying to eat less meat these days, so he was grateful to see that the restaurant offered a Vegan Set, which included the Grilled Mushroom Next Burger, made of a meat substitute made by Next Meats. The slogan accompanying the burger’s listing on the menu said, “We won’t let the world end.” Mr. Sato supposed that meant helping to reduce the restaurant’s impact on the environment.

This is what he received in his Vegan Set:

The drink was Next Milk, made from oats, and the salad was topped with Next Tuna, a vegan tuna made from soybeans. Of course, the burger, too, was made of meat substitute.

Mr. Sato was most surprised by how tasty the salad was. The vegetables were crisp and fresh, and the tomatoes were some of the best he’d eaten in a long time. The Next Tuna was almost identical to real tuna in both taste and texture; you would never think it was made from soy.

The hamburger, too, was all plant-based, even the bun, which had spinach kneaded into the dough. It was faintly green (though it’s hard to tell from the picture).

The texture of the burger itself was much firmer than Mr. Sato expected. This type of vegan meat is often somewhat bland and has a terrible texture, but this burger was completely different. It was full of flavor and completely cravable. He could really tell how far they’ve come in vegan food development, with meat substitutes and fish substitutes this good.

So Mr. Sato had no complaints about the food whatsoever. However, what he did have complaints about was the price.

The hamburger on its own sells for 1,100 yen, but together with the Vegan Set came out to a whopping 2,300 yen. That’s a price that would make Mr. Sato hesitate to order it again in the future. That made him think: even with all this improvement in vegan food, if it doesn’t come at an affordable price, not many people will be able to eat it, so it won’t make much difference to the environment. Mr. Sato believes that without doing something to lower the price of vegan foodstuffs, they won’t ever be as popular as they could be.

Luckily, more and more Japanese restaurants like CoCo Ichibanya, Komeda Coffee, and Mos Burger are offering vegan options, and many of them at more affordable prices, so maybe it’s just that the baseline prices at Wayback Burgers are higher in general. In any case, if you can afford it, Wayback Burgers’ Vegan Set is a delicious and nutritious meal, so definitely stop by and give it a taste if you have the chance!

Restaurant Information
Wayback Burgers Omotesando Branch / ウェイバックバーガー表参道店
Tokyo-to Shibuya-ku Jingu-mae 4-11-6 Omotesando Chiyoda Building 2F
Open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. (last order at 10 p.m.)

Source: PR Times
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