Chewing the faux fat 

Boulder’s Meati delivers a new mushroom-based steak that tastes and chews like the real thing


It’s like a scene from The Matrix films set in the produce aisle at Sprouts: A woman offers a sample of a new local meat alternative. My mind knows it isn’t steak, even though it smells like steak. I’m told it isn’t meat. But once I hear the sizzling and start chewing it no longer matters. My mouth says: “Mmmm, flank steak.” 

I expect to be underwhelmed by the “Classic Steak” from Boulder’s Meati Foods. As green apple Jolly Ranchers are to real Granny Smith apples, so are most plant-based burgers compared to fresh ground beef. 

I’m not vegan or vegetarian, but I’ve tasted generations of pulled jackfruit barbecue and plant-based burgers in the line of duty. Most of them taste like good-faith imitations, simulations of the flavor and texture of meat meant to remind you of flesh. But the nose and taste buds know faux.  

Meati’s steaks and chicken-like cutlets are different. They don’t crumble but tear into chewable muscle-like fibers, minus the fat and bone. They also lack the blast of fermented flavor that make meatless burgers decidedly not taste like ground beef.

“Everyone wants to eat a clean, healthy diet, but at the end of the day, flavor wins,” says Christina Ra, vice president of marketing communications at Meati Foods.

Fleshy Fungi

Meati’s co-founders, Tyler Huggins and Justin Whitely, met while pursuing Ph.D.s at the University of Colorado Boulder. 

“They realized they both had a profound interest in creating a more sustainable future,” Ra says. The duo decided to focus on meat alternatives.  

“They went through thousands of species and strains of mycelium to find the one fungi that grows fast, is naturally super nutritious and incapable of producing toxins. Flavorwise, the one they found is a blank canvas for foods,” she says. 

Meati launched in 2022 and its products are currently only available at Sprouts Markets. Grown rapidly in fermentation tanks at Meati’s new 100,000-square-foot Thornton facility, the fungi is harvested, seasoned and minimally processed into steaks or cutlets before being frozen. 

“Meati is a complete whole food protein with all the fiber and tons of vitamins and micronutrients intact,” Ra says. 

Making Meati Taste Meaty 

Right now, the Meati line includes Classic Steak, Carne Asada Steak, Classic Cutlet and Crispy Cutlet. Like preparing chicken, beef or pork, cooking Meati’s fungi flesh requires some attention to detail if you want it to taste great. 

The Classic Steak and Classic Cutlets, like plain steak or chicken breast, are bland. They need to be marinated or seasoned while sauteing or grilling. The cooking time depends on whether you start with the product frozen or thawed. 

The Crispy Cutlet with gluten-free breading is a textural dead ringer for the type of boneless fried chicken that launched the Sandwich Wars a few years ago. Just spray it with a little oil and bake in an air fryer until brown and crispy. 

Cooking Meati’s Carne Asada Steaks at home, I follow Ra’s advice, drying off the thawed “steaks,” frying them extra long in a little coconut oil and flipping them several times.  

It’s also important to let Meati, like roast turkey or beef, rest for a few minutes after cooking. The result is the caramelization, chew and crust that gives meat a lot of its appeal. Flavorwise, Meati manages to mimic the umami notes that make meat so craveable. The Carne Asada doesn’t need any additional seasoning. 

“[My kids will] use the Classic Cutlet in stir fries or with some barbecue sauce. The Carne Asada is spicier, so that’s for tacos for the adults,” Ra says. Because it holds its shape, Meati works well in a range of recipes. 

Nobody is pretending that Meati perfectly replicates an aged Wagyu ribeye or a farm-raised chicken, but with its huge environmental and health benefits, this “beef” and “chicken” just might shift the protein paradigm.



Where to dine like The Joker

Colorado is still basking in the glow of the Denver Nuggets’ recent crowning as NBA Champions. The triumph spotlighted the team’s down-to-earth MVP, Serbian-born Nikola “The Joker” Jokić. A reader wonders: “Where can I taste the Serbian cuisine The Joker loves?” 

The simple answer is that no Boulder or Denver eateries specialize in Serbian cuisine. However, it’s complicated once you realize how close Serbia is to Eastern European countries such as  Greece and Turkey. 

For instance, Serbia is only about 600 miles from Ukraine. By comparison, cities 600 or less miles from Boulder include Phoenix, Las Vegas and Oklahoma City. 

Serbia’s crossroads cuisine ranges from schnitzels, sarma (meat and rice filled cabbage rolls), and gibanica (egg and cheese filo pie), to paprika chile-spiced stews and grilled meats.  


There are plenty of local spots where you can taste dishes similar to those served in Serbia. In Boulder, you can sample the Mediterranean aspects of the cuisine at Kalita Greek Cafe (2426 Arapahoe Ave.) and the Mediterranean Market (2690 28th St.). Afghani flavors are on the menu at Silk Road Grill and Market (2607 Pearl St., Boulder). 

Westminster is home to Cracovia Restaurant (8121 W. 94th Ave.), which dishes Polish favorites like cabbage rolls. Closely related Russian fare is available in Denver at Masha and the Bear(12101 E. Iliff Ave.), and at Molotov Kitschen(3333 E. Colfax Ave.). Hard-to-find Armenian goodies are a delight at Denver’s family-owned House of Bread (2020 S. Parker Road).

Denver and Aurora also offer many Middle Eastern spots such as the delightful Istanbul Cafe & Bakery(850 S. Monaco Parkway, Unit 9) and its dozen baklava variations. 

To taste a wider variety of foods from the region, check out the blood sausages and beer at the Polish Food Festival, Aug. 26-27 in Denver, and the diverse fare at the Taste of The Middle East Festival, Sept. 9 in Aurora.


Local Food News: 40 Years of Loaves

Great Harvest Bread Co. (2525 Arapahoe Ave.) is celebrating 40 years of grinding wheat to make bread in Boulder. It opened a decade after the Village Coffee Shop (1605 Folsom St.) opened across the way on Folsom Street. 

Happy 13th birthday to Eats & Sweets (401 S. Public Road), the cute Lafayette dessert, ice cream and lunch spot. 

Fried soft-shell crab and beef wrapped in betel leaves are dished at Tu’s Kitchen (6500 W. 120th Ave., Broomfield), an offshoot of Boulder’s Chez Thuy (2655 28th St.).  

Coming soon: Rocks & Hops Brewing (2516 49th St., Boulder). 


Words to Chew On: Bacon Dangers

“Slicing a warm slab of bacon is a lot like giving a ferret a shave. No matter how careful you are, somebody’s going to get hurt.”  — Alton Brown

John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles Thursdays on KGNU. Podcasts:  


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