Vegan burgers from Czech-based producer Mana are now on the menu at Belzepub in Prague’s Žižkov district, the first eatery to serve them.
The pub, with a strong local following, began offering vegetarian and vegan food options for all its dishes eight years ago and slowly dropped meat from the menu. It has been fully vegan since the start of 2020.
Belzepub now serves ManaBurgers with four different sets of toppings: Belze burger, ManaBurger, chili burger, and US burger. The buns and toppings, including the cheese substitute, are also vegan. The main differences in the burgers are in the sauces, while all include pickles or cucumber, tomatoes, and lettuce. Vegan fries are also available.
Customers will be able to have Belzepub’s cooked ManaBurgers both at the restaurant and at home via Wolt food delivery service.
Over the years, the pub has evolved from a punk club into a more health-conscious restaurant, as its following was growing older and looking for something different.
The menu already included plant-based burgers and hot dogs, and it draws people from across the city, while still retaining its local feel. Other vegan dishes are still on the menu, in addition to the ManaBurgers.
“Running a vegan business was never our original plan. We didn’t want to limit ourselves or be divisive. But thanks to the development of new alternatives like the burger from Mana, we realized that we could serve exclusively vegan burgers without sacrificing on taste. And since we, the owners, are ourselves vegan, having a plant-only menu seemed to make sense,” says Belzepub co-owner Daniela Michalová.
According to Mana creator and co-founder Jakub Krejčík, exclusive cooperation with Belzepub arose naturally. “We always liked that the owners themselves cooked and baked their own buns,” Krejčík said adding that together they hope to elevate the concept of “junk food” to a healthier, greener level.
The burger itself took three years for Mana to develop. “We sought the highest-quality ingredients and created a unique manufacturing process, thanks to which we can now introduce the world’s first nutritionally balanced, plant-based alternative to meat,” Krejčík said.
“After loads of trial and error, we successfully arrived at a taste and texture that is indistinguishable from that of real meat, yet the production of one Mana Burger uses half the energy and 1% of the water required to produce its beefy counterpart. Plus, it contains all the nutrients your body needs to live. We don’t believe there’s a healthier plant burger out there,” he said.
ManaBurger and other products under the Mana name such as a vegan nutritional drink are made by Heaven Labs, which has had its headquarters in Prague’s Uhříněves district since 2014.
The ManaBurger was developed by the company’s food scientists and biochemists, and its ingredients are tested in state-certified laboratories. The 130-gram burger provides 20 g of high-quality protein from peas, rice, hemp, mung beans, and algae.
The color comes from natural dyes from beetroot and red pepper, while the darker tones after cooking comes from caramel. The burger has no added glutamate, no animal products, no gluten, and no GMO products.
Krejčík hopes to expand the reach of the ManaBurgers in the near future by encouraging the addition of plant-based foods on menus of meat-focused restaurants.
The ManaBurger was introduced at the end of 2019 when the company launched pre-sales. In total, it received pre-orders for nearly 100,000 frozen burger patties, which it began delivering at the end of May after the coronavirus pandemic subsided. In the coming weeks, it will launch direct, online sales through its website, though at first only in Prague for logistical reasons.
The patty is also available through online supermarket Košík.cz in packages of four. According to Jan Škrabánek, Košík’s marketing director, the demand for plant-based meat has quadrupled year on year. “The reason for this is obvious — people are thinking more and more about their own health, as well as the health of the environment,” he said.
Currently, there are about 60 purely vegan restaurants in Prague, putting it in 10th place among European cities.