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Impossible nuggets still nearly impossible to get, but how do they taste?

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CHICAGO - When Impossible Foods released its plant-based, chickenless nuggets in Chicago last month, they were as impossible to get as a pair of rare Air Jordans.

“Thank you for calling the Dog Haus, and we’re sold out of Impossible nuggets,” Roberto Samanamud would preemptively tell customers over the phone.

The fast-casual chain’s local director of operations answered the phone frantically on those early, frenzied days. Two of their three locations in the city remain the only restaurants in the area where you can find the coveted, deep-fried, vegan nuggets.

One morning, they sold out of their whole day’s supply with a 149-piece order placed minutes after opening at 8 a.m.

“The biggest order might have been 200,” Samanamud said.

They’re back in stock — for now.

20211014-AMX-FOOD-IMPOSSIBLE-NUGGETS-STILL-NEARLY-IMPOSSIBLE-2-TB.jpg

The plant-based Impossible nuggets at Dog Haus in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood on Sept. 14, 2021.

The 200-piece order was for a catering event, but he’s not sure why customers seem driven to order these nuggets in such big numbers. After all, they also offer Beyond tenders, the chickenless competitor released in July.

“I’m not comfortable asking people why they order so many,” he added, laughing.

Burger King launched a test run of Impossible nuggets Monday, but only in three cities: Des Moines, Iowa; Boston and Miami. After an unspecified limited time, BK will decide whether to expand testing or release them nationally, according to a spokesperson.

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Walmart and Heinen’s just started carrying bags of frozen Impossible nuggets. What’s interesting to note, though, is that the grocery store version recommends baking in a conventional oven. The back of the bags also show cooking instructions for air fryers, for which they’re surely destined, and, dubiously, by microwave.

Back at the Dog Haus, they deep fry, as God intended, in vegetable oil. You can order from the Lincoln Park or Loop locations by six ($6.99), 10 ($9.99) or 20 ($18.99) pieces, plus there’s a four-piece kids meal ($6.99 with fries or tater tots and a drink).

They’re available tossed in your choice of four sauces: barbecue, Buffalo, chipotle honey or Nashville hot.

But that’s not how most people are ordering them.

“Plain,” said Samanamud. “Out of every 10 orders, only one will be tossed with sauce.”

Ranch reigns as the most popular dipping sauce, but it’s not vegan. Dog Haus does make a vegan mayonnaise. They do indeed specialize in hot dogs, but they’ve got burgers and fried chicken too, plant-based and meat.

So how do Impossible nuggets taste to the one person who’s probably eaten more nuggets and tenders, chicken and chickenless, than anyone in the Chicago area?

“When I first bit into it, I was like, this tastes just like a chicken nugget,” Samanamud said. “You have to remember, I eat meat all the time. But I was like, wow, that’s crazy.”

Not that it was a rave review.

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“I wouldn’t say it tastes like the greatest chicken nugget, but it has that flavor profile.”

When I was finally able to try the Impossible nuggets, my first impression was that they’re small, compared to a McNugget standard. By comparison, the Beyond tenders weigh in at nearly three times the size.

Hot out of the fryer, both have breading that holds up, with a solid crust. Their texture inside, though, feels just a bit too soft, like a poultry pate.

I’d like to see a Chicago-style, plant-based fried chickenless chicken from Harold’s or Uncle Remus, tossed in mild sauce and seasoned liberally with lemon pepper.

Now those would be worth a wait in line.

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