Archives for the month of: April, 2018

McDonald’s has made some fairly large (for them) changes to their menu recently. Last spring they introduced several new Signature Crafted burgers in an attempt to offer fresher and more varied choices to diners as they face competition from fast casual burgers chains in all markets. This follows a failed attempt to induce customers to customize their burgers via kiosk, which never was fully implemented nationwide. The Signature Crafted burgers have some customization options (as I’ll detail below), but they’re primarily offered as set sandwiches, with your choice between Sweet BBQ Bacon and Pico Guacamole, with usually a third option that varies locally. It took me some time to make it to a McDonald’s to give the new selections a taste, but I’m sucker for a guacamole burger, so I always knew I’d make it in eventually.

McDonald’s Pico Guacamole Burger contains “freshly prepared Pico de Gallo, creamy guacamole, real buttermilk ranch, white cheddar, and lettuce … served with a fresh lime wedge.” I ordered it as a meal with a large fries and soda, which was $8.79 before tax.

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Before I go into how the food actually tasted, I think it makes sense to review the ordering procedure because it was confusing. As someone who used to work at a McDonald’s and has been eating there pretty much my whole life, the ordering process for the Signature Crafted sandwiches was unclear.

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For these sandwiches, there’s a three-step map which is laid out on a mat by the counter. It makes sense in hindsight, but confused me as a first time consumer. The first step is to choose your protein: a burger or piece of crispy/grilled chicken. Second step: choose your toppings (i.e. Pico Guacamole). Lastly, you must select your bun, which can be an artisan roll or sesame bun. Seems straightforward, right? However, I couldn’t just go up and order a Pico Guac burger. Their register is set up to do it step by step, and I got tripped up when I made my order, the needed to retrace my steps so the cashier could input all of the information.  I also was trying to order the Buttermilk Crispy Tenders, and the worker at the register misheard my order and almost gave me a different burger. It took us a minute to sort out what I actually wanted.

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Now that I’ve done the blogging equivalent of yelling at clouds for a few paragraphs, how about I discuss the burger?! The Pico Guacamole burger came boxed, wrapped in paper and served with a lime on the side. The box is standard now for “fancy” burgers, but I have never been served a piece of fruit with my order at any fast food restaurant. And in an industry which sometimes struggles to give good, fresh produce as sandwich toppings, the lime looked surprisingly healthy. I don’t think the burger necessarily needed the lime, but as a courtesy, I gave the inside of the burger a squirt before starting to eat.

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The paper worked to keep the burger in one piece. My first bite wasn’t too special; just like a regular cheeseburger. The toppings were inconsistently applied and I was eating on the barer side. While this is a general strategy of mine so the last bites are always the best, perhaps I should start giving myself better first impressions.

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When I got to taste everything together, I enjoyed the burger. This is a classic fancy burger combination, so the flavors combine well and my overall enjoyment came down to the individual components, which were fine to quote good. The pico de gallo and guacamole were the standouts, as they should have been considering the name of the burger.

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Tasting some of the pico alone, I was pleasantly surprised by how fresh it tasted, unlike most fast food vegetables. I also detected some salt and other seasoning (may have been the lime). While I’m not 100% certain I’d want to eat a whole bowl of this with some chips, I’d definitely champion it over the soupy flavorless concoctions most fast casual chains call salsa. Plus, as someone who despises raw onions, keeping the tomato:onion ratio tilted heavily in favor of tomatoes is a major plus for me. While not every burger can have pico, maybe this is a solution around mealy/limp fast food chain tomatoes. Just chop them up and season them to hide them!

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I also want to compliment the guacamole. It had chunks of actual avocado and some spice, maybe from some jalapeños. This was another quality condiment, and as someone who’s a sucker for guacamole burgers the toppings here are really top notch. Because it was actual guacamole and not too soupy or dense, the guacamole generally stayed in its place on the bun.

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Running through the other toppings here, the white cheddar was not good. Somehow it didn’t melt, which was off-putting. It was sandwiched between room temperature to slightly cool pico and guacamole on one side and adhered to what should have been a hot burger on the other side, yet it never melted into meat.

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The lettuce was also not really needed. The burger already had a veggie component and the pico de gallo added some crunch, so the lettuce was literally just filler. Lastly, the burger patty was typical McDonald’s. It served as a vehicle for everything else without detracting too much from the proceedings. The meat is always going to be on the dry side, but I like their burger seasoning.

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There was a buttermilk ranch added to the sandwich. I can’t say that it stood out in any way, but there’s always the chance that it provided some tang to the other ingredients and elevated their flavors. Or it added unnecessary calories.

The paper wrapper kept the burger together and generally in one piece until the very end, making it easier to eat (and take notes) without using 50 napkins. Not every chain can pull that off so it should be noted when it occurs.

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Overall, the burger is a solid win for McDonald’s. I can’t speak for the other new topping combinations, but I would 100% consider ordering the Pico Guacamole Burger again if it stays on the menu. The flavor profile was quite good. There was a lingering spice, I think from the guacamole, that was pleasant and not overpowering. The fresh vegetable toppings lifted the burger beyond a normal fast food experience, which is what McDonald’s was aiming for. I think if you’re a fan of guacamole burgers, this one is worth your time. Or, if you find yourself at a McDonald’s and want something that strays beyond their normal comfort zone, then this is also worth a shot.

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I’m not a huge breakfast eater, when I do decide to eat an actual meal before lunch, I’m always looking for savory, not sweet, options. Savory food at least starts to mimic the lunch experience, which I prefer. When I saw that Dunkin’ Donuts had introduced a Maple Sugar Bacon Breakfast Sandwich, I initially wasn’t interested in trying it. I’m not a huge fan of maple flavoring, and the name alone made it seem like the sandwich would veer too far into sweet territory. However, one morning I found myself at a Dunkin’ Donuts, hungry and with no prospect of lunch within the next few hours thanks to a fantasy hockey draft, so I decided to take the plunge and see if Dunkin’ could provide the maple sugar flavor without turning the sandwich into a sugar bomb.

The Maple Sugar Bacon Breakfast Sandwich is “a double portion of sweet caramelized Maple Sugar Bacon, Egg and Cheese … on a freshly baked Croissant.” The price for the sandwich is $3.99 before tax and without any accompaniments. As an insight into my process here, when I order something, I want it as close to the advertisement as possible. If a company has created a product, I want to try what they’ve decided the public will want to eat, rather than order it with my own modifications. This is why I get annoyed with Subway, where I go in to order their promoted product, but I have to remember what’s on it because they don’t provide a default option.

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With that being said… I did not order the sandwich on a croissant. First, instead of defaulting to the croissant, the employee behind the counter gave me the option to choose my bread, which threw me off guard and let me to ordering the sandwich on a ciabatta roll. Second, I have eaten one croissant in my life which I actually enjoyed, and it was not from Dunkin’ Donuts. By ordering the roll instead of the croissant, I had more of a chance of enjoying the sandwich. I’ll keep my roll comments to a minimum since they aren’t necessarily relevant to the advertised product.

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Taking the sandwich out of the bag, I was struck by how small it was. I thought the roll would be bigger. It smelled great through. It had a strong maple and bacon aroma, and I couldn’t wait to begin eating. While the sandwich had a good amount of bacon coverage, my first bite managed to only have egg and cheese. The egg and cheese are standard Dunkin’ fare. They’re supporting players to the bacon, there more for added heft plus the slight melted cheese taste.

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I also think getting the roll was a better choice than sticking with the croissant. Though the sandwich was small, the roll was more substantial than a croissant would have been. The crust added a more of a crunch to the sandwich than a soft croissant. Also, as a breakfast sandwich, eating a butter-soaked croissant on top of bacon, egg, and cheese seems way too heavy for an AM meal. I ate this on a Saturday morning, and could imagine feeling sluggish and staying on the couch through the afternoon if I got the croissant. Eating this at work is incomprehensible if you wanted to be productive.

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The Maple Sugar Bacon had some pluses and minuses. It was crunchier than I anticipated, which can be a problem with fast food sandwiches. The taste was a mix between smoke and maple, skewed heavily towards the maple flavor. It seemed as if the bacon was soaked in maple and removed right before it was added to the sandwich. When eating the bacon alone, it was almost too sweet.

As mentioned above, they didn’t skimp on the bacon. I sometimes hesitate ordering bacon breakfast sandwiches when compared with sausage, because a sausage patty is going to cover almost all of the sandwich, while a lot of places chose only give a few thin strips of bacon, making the sandwich feel light. Dunkin’ definitely chose to highlight the Maple Sugar Bacon and ensure it was a good portion.

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When eating all the components together, the sandwich was quite good. The smokiness of the bacon shone through and the sweet maple flavor was offset by the cheese. Even though I didn’t get much eggy taste, I think using it as another non-sweet element toned down the bacon to an acceptable level, keeping the sandwich as a nice balance between savory and sweet.

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Overall, the Maple Sugar Bacon Breakfast Sandwich was really good. I’m not a big breakfast sandwich guy, and I’m more likely to get a donut if I’m ordering food at Dunkin’, but for anyone in the mood for a breakfast sandwich, this is definitely worth a shot. It was filling, despite its size and just sweet enough to get that maple taste without tasting like candy. Of course, it’s worth noting that this was a seasonal offering, but I’m guessing it will return to the Dunkin’ menu sometime soon.