Archives for posts with tag: Burger

In honor of Chinese New Year, we’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled posts to review another fast food item from China! I’ve spent far too much time in my life in Shanghai Pudong Airport, but one advantage to flying from that location is that it contains one of the few Burger Kings I’ve seen in China. Since I’m usually flying back to the United States from Pudong, it’s a tradition of mine to fill up at the local BK before hopping on a 10-15 hour flight, and this past week was no different.

Looking over the menu, there were two items which are not currently available at U.S. locations: a Spicy Whopper and an Italian Stacker. Since I guessed the Spicy Whopper was just a burger with some hot sauce, I though the Italian Stacker would make for a better post, so that was my choice.

The Italian Stacker is offered with up to four patties on the burger. I opted for the single version, which only had one burger patty. The sandwich was 23 RMB alone or 40 RMB for a meal, which came with a medium fries and medium soda. The meal price increased 8 RMB for each additional beef patty, which seemed reasonable enough.

Upon ordering the sandwich, I had literally no idea what to expect. I couldn’t access wifi in the airport, so I couldn’t do any research on the sandwich beforehand. In fact, I still don’t actually have an official description of the sandwich. A cursory Google search returned no results, and not even Wikipedia includes a mention of the Italian Stacker in its article on the BK Stacker (someone should edit that- is this blog credible enough to serve as a source?).

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Anyway, the picture on the menu looked like there was some sauce and bacon and cheese. I noticed that this location offered chili fries (which were called spicy meat sauce fries) and I hoped that this chili was not going to serve as Italian tomato sauce. I … was wrong.

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Upon opening the wrapper, the burger looked a little small, but I did order the single, which is the equivalent of a regular cheeseburger. It had the regular sesame bun and the patty looked like a regular American burger. It smelled like bacon, which gave me some hope for a good experience. I lifted the top bun, and the insides looked kinda gross. The sauce definitely looked like the chili, and the bacon was not typical American style crispy bacon: it was wide cut and soggy.

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I picked up the burger and it was a tad messy and soggy from the sauce. My first bite had an overwhelming bacon taste. I wish it had been crispy though. On the second bite, I realized the sauce was definitely chili, but it had a slightly off taste. It was a thin tomato sauce with chunks of ground beef. It could have used some more seasoning, especially salt, and maybe some spice. I thought I taste a hint of oregano, but that may have been wish casting. Instead, the main seasoning seemed to be diced onions. Perhaps it’s my personal taste in not liking onions, but the sauce seemed to get more oniony as I continued eating.

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Other than the bacon, cheese and chili, nothing else was on the burger. Luckily the bacon carried most of the taste when it was in a bite, because I was not a big fan of that chili. The burger itself had that same flame-grilled (TM!) taste you’re used to, but it was smaller than the bun. There was a good amount of bacon on the burger, and it did start to overwhelm the patty at times. I think if I’d gotten at least a double, the beef would have stood up better

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The best bites of the burger were where the sauce ended up melting the cheese, so they combined into a gooey, cheesy sauce. It helped to hide the strong onion flavor, and it paired really well with the burger and bacon. Towards the end, I tried to create as many of those bites as possible, but there was only a single slice of cheese to work with.

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As a novelty item, this was fine. I probably shouldn’t; have expected a semi-authentic tomato sauce, and I’m guessing I, and other foreigners, would be more receptive to the taste if it was marketed as a chili cheese burger, and not something with Italian flavor. I’d also prefer crispy bacon, but that’s probably asking too much. I would be interested in an actual Italian burger (free idea Burger King!), having tomato sauce paired with provolone. But until that’s a reality, I’ll probably stick to a safer choice next time I’m in China.

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When I was putting together my thoughts back before I started this blog, I was drawn to choosing new items because fast food chains, as well as stadiums, seemed to revel in outdoing themselves in creating imaginative items that sound repulsive, but when given a second thought, intriguing in the sense that they may have stumbled across a new combination of items from their kitchen that could be refashioned into a new, and tastier treat. I’ve been writing off and on (mostly off) for the past 2.5 years, but I believe Burger King has recently released a food item that is the platonic ideal of this blog. Without further ado, I give you the first new food I’ve eaten since the restart a few weeks ago: Burger King’s Whopperito.

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Burger King frequently plays around with the Whopper, its signature sandwich, but that usually involves some BBQ sauce, bacon, special cheese, or hot sauce. This is the first time they’ve changed the actual concept of the burger, turning into a “burrito”. Per the official description, the Whopperito is “savory flame-grilled 100% beef and seasoned with a special blend of spices […] with a creamy Queso, pickles, diced onions, juicy tomatoes, and crisp lettuce all wrapped in a warm flour tortilla.” At the location I visited, the sandwich cost $3.29 on its own and $5.49 as a meal with a small soda and fries. I opted for the meal, which may have been a mistake because I’d just visited Taco Bell for some research on future blog posts. Don’t ever think I’m not dedicated to this… or have a slight disregard for my health.

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Anyway, the sandwich took a long time to put together considering no one was in front of me in line. It’s still a new item and it’s completely out of line with all other Burger King offerings, so slack can be cut, but we’re talking five or so minutes for a fast food sandwich. I originally sat down in a booth to eat this delicacy… then immediately had to move to a table with a harder chair. The sinking feeling did not sit well with the Taco Bell and the thought of eating this monstrosity. I’m saying Burger King needs firmer booths.

To get to the actual food (finally!), the Whopperito comes wrapped in sandwich paper. With the way it was wrapped, you couldn’t quite unfold it and keep it wrapped as a regular burrito, so I took it completely out, which of course imperils the integrity of the bottom of any good burrito. Upon first glance, the Whopperito looked thin for a burrito, but it was, uh, quite lengthy. The tortilla also was slightly frayed at the edges and didn’t look fresh. I tore off the top because the first bite was only going to be that old tortilla, which would be a terrible first impression.

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My first bite was beef and tomatoes. Not gonna lie, it was weird. It wasn’t bad, but my head was having a hard time wrapping itself around the idea of this being a burrito. After that bite, there was some spice that crept up on me. I realized that it came from the raw onion, which is a taste I usually hate, except for Mexican food. And it pains me to say it, but it really worked here. I liked the taste of raw onion in a Burger King burrito. Words I never thought I’d say.

The burrito was really beefy, because there was no rice or beans filler. Think of it like a legit carne asada burrito, San Diego style. Except instead of carne asada, it’s a Burger King burger… with Whopper toppings. So just like the concept of a carne asada burrito. Of course that simplicity also meant that the Whopperito lives and dies with the burger meat. The beef was a typical Burger King burger, just chopped up. The pieces were inconsistently spiced, but when the special blend of spices showed up, the sandwich was really good.

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Around halfway through, as I was pondering the sandwich as well as my own existence, I came to the realization that if I thought of the Whopperito as a cheeseburger wrap, and not a burrito, the concept makes sense and is easier to accept. If you go into the experience thinking you’re eating a burrito, you’ll likely be disoriented and disappointed.

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In that vein, the pickles really shone though. While they’d be unwelcome on a burrito, they provided a good burst of flavor and contrast with the other ingredients. Since there’s no pico de gallo or hot sauce, the pickles were the only acid represented and my favorite bites of the sandwich always had a pickle. The tomatoes were good for the juiciness, but were cut way too big. I think instead of chunks, they should have diced. This would have been helpful on two fronts: 1) I think they’d be distributed better inside the tortilla and 2) more of the juice would be released, so the sandwich would be moister. The lettuce was filler. I don’t usually get lettuce in my burritos and I wasn’t a fan, but it makes sense with the sandwich as presented.

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Now onto more of the actual problems and not my quibbles with the Whopperito. The creamy Queso was there, but it was flavorless. Cheese would have been a big addition. I think a melted piece of cheese would have served this better than the flavorless sauce, or a cheesier queso. It also had the consistency of a sauce, and wasn’t as thick as a decent queso. In addition, the sandwich, particularly the meat, was extremely oily. I don’t think regular burgers at Burger King are like that and I don’t know where it came from here. The leaking also produced a giant oil slick on my tray as I was eating. Lastly, the tortilla added nothing. The best that could be said is that it held the ingredients and didn’t fall apart, though it could not contain the meat oil.

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So where do we end? Burger King took a giant swing on this one and came up with a surprisingly bland sandwich. The queso didn’t work, which is probably the real failing. Without that cheesy flavor, the Whopperito lived and died on the meat and pickles. In what was already an unorthodox sandwich, maybe adding bacon would work. I understand calling this a burrito produces intrigue and marketing #buzz, but embracing this as a wrap could allow Burger King to be more creative. Or, if they want to follow the burrito route, get some guacamole in there. This isn’t a complete loss, but it was disappointing. The Whopperito just needs one more flavorful ingredient to shine through and make this a win.

Finishing up Classic Connoisseur before I dive into some new eats, we’re going to talk about Checkers’ Bacon Roadhouse Burger.

The Bacon Roadhouse Burger fits the current trend of jamming a lot of ingredients into a burger to make it stand out. While I tried this shortly after it had been released, it is still a regular part of the Checkers menu today. Checkers describes it as “double seasoned beef and cheese, crispy onion tanglers, BBQ sauce, and crispy bacon. Going in, I knew this thing was going to be fully loaded.

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Upon first glance, the burger actually looked like it’d be manageable. For all of its ingredients, it was packed well together. However, looking more closely, I realize that I’m going to be handling Texas Toast, which was not in the description! I understand the appeal of adding grilled buttery bread, but it makes the sandwich almost impossible to handle. It’s going to be slippery, hands are going to be extremely greasy, and I’m going to need a mountain of napkins to get through this thing.

I also noticed mayo. There is no need for mayonnaise on this monstrosity. As mentioned before, I’m not rational when it comes to mayo, I actively dislike it. The Bacon Roadhouse already has BBQ sauce, and mayo doesn’t even fit the flavor profile of the burger. It’s just there to add calories.

Digging in to the burger, the first bite tastes like the Rodeo Cheeseburger from Burger King, which makes sense since they share many of the same ingredients. Except Burger King doesn’t add mayo. The first ingredient to stand out was the onion tanglers. They were not fresh and tasted like they’d been under a heat lamp for a while. No real crunch, and they tasted overwhelmingly of onion, without any breading or seasoning.

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Luckily, the BBQ sauce was more of a dominant flavor. It was tangy and luckily not too sweet. It would have been fine to use this on its own to dress the burger, and not use any mayo. The burger itself was also pretty good! It actually tasted like beef and wasn’t just a filler to deliver the toppings. Between the good burger and not gross cheese, I’d be fine eating a regular cheeseburger at Checkers. I also really liked their bacon. It was crispy and salty and smoky and really added to the burger.

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At this point, I should note that the burger itself was sloppily put together, so I was having a hard time getting a bite with all the ingredients. I should also mention that the burger was incredibly greasy, almost to the point of being a turn off. Eating outside in humid weather was not helping. The burger was also falling out of the Texas Toast, which I felt detracted from the sandwich. I didn’t think it added enough flavor to make up for its slipperiness and likely addition of several hundred calories. A regular bun would have been fine and made the burger easier to handle. When I finally got a bite with everything, onion tanglers aside, it was quite good! The problem was I got too few bites like that.

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Overall, the Bacon Roadhouse Burger has some serious potential and is something I’d consider ordering again. Topping a cheeseburger with bacon, BBQ sauce, and onion rings/tanglers is hard to screw up, and Checkers did a pretty good job here. I’d prefer this with a regular bun and no mayo, and would probably specialize my order in the future to make the eating experience better. Also, better execution from the kitchen in properly putting it together and using fresh onion rings would bump this up a few notches.

After a looooooooooooong hiatus, I’ve decided to restart posting. While I catch myself up to speed with some new eats in fast food, I’m going to post some things that I’ve eaten over the past two years and intended to add to the blog, but never actually wrote them up. While most of these items are likely discontinued at this point, they will never be forgotten.

We lead off with the McDonald’s German Sausage Double Beef Burger. In a first for the blog, this was an international exclusive item. I ate it in Shanghai in November 2015 and it was advertised as a limited time item. Some internet sleuthing (i.e. Googling) shows that the burger has also been available in Germany and appeared in China in 2013.

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While the combination of a pork product to a burger is not a particularly new phenomenon, usually we’re talking about bacon, or maybe even pulled pork. This was my first experience seeing sausage added to a regular burger. I’m guessing the general German theme and time of the year meant this was a leftover from Oktoberfest, but the window advertisement did not reflect those assumptions (or I just couldn’t translate them properly).

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Anyway, onto the actual burger experience! The burger itself was 19 RMB (around $3 USD) and a meal was 26 RMB. Note that meals in China do come with a soda and fries, but the soda is a small and the fries don’t seem to be same size as a U.S. medium. The price for the meal and sandwich fell in line with the regular menu items.

As with all McDonald’s sandwiches in China, the burger comes wrapped in paper. No box. Upon first glance, the burger looked a little flimsy. Even without looking at the window poster, when I think of a double burger with sausage and a pretzel bun, I’m expecting some heft. Instead, it looked and felt small. The bun was tiny and compressed and it just looked like a regular bun. Peeling off the top bun to get a look inside, sitting on the top the burger were two sausages placed on the burger patty. The mustard or mustard sauce looked a little sparse/not evenly distributed, and of course the burger patty itself looked dry. This did not look good.

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Tasting the components all together, it wasn’t that bad! There was a little spice to the experience, probably from a combination of the sausage and mustard. The burger acted more as a filler, providing bulk but not much in terms of taste, and the bun was just there. If the sandwich had been properly sauced and the burger itself seasoned, this would have been pretty good. Unfortunately, that minimum standard wasn’t met and it didn’t live up to the sum of its parts.

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Running through the ingredients individually, if the bun hadn’t been made to look like a pretzel bun, then I wouldn’t have known it wasn’t just regular bread. It had no particular taste. That could have been saved it there had been more of the mustard/mustard sauce. It looked and tasted like a golden brown mustard, my favorite kind. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough, and the little that was there was not evenly distributed. While a mustard bomb would have overwhelmed the sandwich, considering the dryness of everything, more was needed.

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Moving onto the German sausages, I was surprised there were two. I expected one sausage split in half. The sausages had a decent char on them. They were bigger than a breakfast link, but not quite large. They fit comfortably over the burger patties and didn’t make the sandwich unwieldy. I don’t know what exactly a German sausage is supposed to taste like, but these had a nice flavor. Once again, there was some spice, and they had a little smokiness. Unfortunately, I didn’t taste the char. Lastly, as I mentioned, the two burger patties were dry and didn’t have any flavor. The dryness did take over the sandwich when I didn’t get any mustard in my bite because the two patties were so large. Even some salt and pepper, which is standard on McDonald’s burgers in the U.S. would have helped a lot.

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Overall, the German Sausage Double Beef Burger was a disappointment, though with some tweaks, it could have been pretty good. I was dubious of the sausage, which wound up being the best part. The mustard was good, it just needed more. Add some burger seasoning and maybe a slice of cheese, and this would have been a winner. If the bun hadn’t been made to look like a pretzel bun, it would have been fine, as opposed to underwhelming. Aside from the taste, one surprising thing was that the burger didn’t actually fill me up. There’s a chance this is because I was eating a late dinner (after 8:30), but one would imagine two burgers plus two sausages on bread should be filling. So this falls into the mediocre category, but it has unrealized potential.

Note: I have now started and stopped this post three times (as you can tell by the lack of updates here). Not sure why this sandwich was so uninspiring, but I apologize for this post and it’s disjointed nature.

This box looks a little busy

This box looks a little busy

I originally ate McDonald’s Bacon Clubhouse before Taco Bell’s breakfast menu had been revealed. However, due to reasons, the post got pushed back. Luckily, McDonald’s is still advertising this as a new sandwich. This would be strange for most places, but considering that most new McDonald’s items consist of slapping together existing ingredients and adding one flourish to make it unique, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. This is not to say that I don’t like McDonald’s; it’s just that as the market leader, they aren’t innovative (except in areas where they’re making drinks), but their interest to challenge Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t particularly interest me.

Enough of my McDonald’s thoughts, let’s actually discuss the sandwich and the experience, alright? This was a new McDonald’s, as the company seems to be trying to move away from their bright red and yellow past into something more modern and apt to attract people who don’t want to eat in a place that looks like a clown show. This is good, I guess? I like free wifi. Anyway, I ordered a medium meal and it cost $7.19 pre tax. A little on the expensive side, or at least it seems like it was expensive. (As a quick diversion, I used to work at McDonald’s, so paying for anything there is still a shock to the system, even though I stopped working there around 10 years ago). The food took around 5 minutes to come out.

The sandwich was presented in a nice box, which a paper wrap around the sandwich to help with lifting. The paper was actually a nice touch here since the sandwich took up most of the box, so there was no way to pick it up without getting my hands messy and shuffling ingredients in the burger. Since it was big compared to the box, my first view was of the bun, which looked fancy. Or at least nicer than the usual sesame seed bun. It also smelled damn good, but that’s because all I smelled was bacon. Quick tip for fast food restaurants: regardless of the quality of your bacon, it always smells good. Make your establishments smell like that.

Wasn't kidding when I said the burger took up the whole box (alternate: they made the boxes smaller)

Wasn’t kidding when I said the burger took up the whole box (alternate: they made the boxes smaller)

The Bacon Clubhouse Burger is “[t]hick-cut Applewood smoked bacon, carmelized grilled onions, white cheddar, crisp leaf lettuce and fresh tomato, all lovingly layered on a quarter pound of 100% pure beef, then topped with Big Mac special sauce. Served on [an] artisan roll.” So what we have here is flowery language for a fancy Quarter Pounder with some Big Mac sauce. An updated Big N Tasty, if you will.

I tried to pick this up and, once again, I thanked them for that paper wrap around the burger, because it was already slipping and sliding. This is going to be messy. My first bite was dominated by bacon. I got a good chunk in there, plus the smell. After I got beyond the bacon though, this was dry. The artisan bun was not doing it’s job as it was actually detracting from the experience with its dryness. It looked nice, but that’s the nicest thing I can say about it. When sampled alone it was buttery and reminded me of potato bread, but it didn’t work here.

Flat

Flat

Going beyond the bun, I got a bit of the grilled carmelized onions. I generally hate onions, and this is really the only preparation where I find them tolerable. I have to say, they weren’t too bad. The onion flavor was a bit strong for my liking, but they did a good job with these.

Fresh ingredients!

Fresh ingredients!

My second bite was salty, as the bacon overtook the dry bun and asserted its dominance in the sandwich. I got a taste of the cheddar here, and it seemed to be a strong American cheese. It did its job in providing an accent, without overpowering anything. The Big Mac sauce was a welcome addition. I like McDonald’s utilizing it on more sandwiches. It tastes good, and sometimes I want it, but don’t feel like fighting through all the bread on the Big Mac, nor do I want to make a special order. Having another sandwich with the option is great.

The burger looks really dark

The burger looks really dark

As I continued eating, the burger became really salty. Not sure if that was just because of the bacon, but I found myself repeatedly going to my soda to alleviate the salty taste. When I finally got all the sandwich components in one bite, the bacon and Big Mac Sauce saved the day. They are the two standouts here, and if you’re ordering this sandwich, those are the flavors that you really want to shine anyway. The onions added a good crunch, but the flavor was lost in this bite.

Oozing sauce

Oozing sauce

The problem with the sauce is how they slathered it on the sandwich. It’s on both the top and bottom buns, which is why the sandwich is so slippery and I was having a hard time holding it. In addition, because I had to guard against sauce squirting out at two different spots, this was messy.

Sandwich guts!

Sandwich guts!

The burger was a letdown. While McDonald’s doesn’t have the juiciest or best tasting burgers, they’re generally well seasoned and taste like beef. I did not get that here. It was just a dry wad in the middle of my sandwich. The bacon itself smelled like heaven. It was a little overdone for my taste, but that’s generally how McDonald’s makes its bacon.

The lettuce at least looked fresh, but there was way too much of it. It was falling out of the sandwich, and of course sauce was in all the crevices. I had to take some off so I could continue eating. I have no notes on the tomato, which at least means it wasn’t terrible and needed to be taken off.

Bread is slipping

Bread is slipping

So what do we really have here? A salty, over sauced sandwich that serves as a delivery vehicle for bacon and Big Mac sauce, and is really messy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing… but it’s also not making me run out to McDonald’s to eat this again. And with the luxury of eating this when it first came out, and writing this in December, I can say that I’ve been to McDonald’s probably an average of once a month since then, and have never thought of eating this again. That’s the problem with McDonald’s: the new items, at least in the traditional fast food category aren’t particularly exciting. They’re #1 and don’t need to take any chances, so instead we sandwiches that have small tweaks on the margins (New sauce! Bacon!), but don’t really change anything. This is a perfectly cromulent burger, but that’s all I can honestly say about it.

Who doesn’t like bacon? Nobody, that’s who! Or at least no one will admit it unless they’re willing to become a pariah on the internet. Jack in the Box saw everyone’s obsession with bacon, and  created a burger that works solely as a vessel to deliver more bacon into everyone’s pie holes. That Jack in the Box made this burger is not surprising; they seem to have looked at the fast food landscape and seen most places move towards healthier options and decided to move in the opposite direction (see: the munchies meals).

What would constitute a burger emergency?

What would constitute a burger emergency?

I dined in for this meal, and holy crap this Jack in the Box location was cold. I normally don’t like to eat in sweatshirts, but I couldn’t take mine off without shivering. However, the guy behind the register complimented my hat, so I’ll consider each of those a wash, and conclude that the ambience was good. I got a medium meal, which came out to $7.70. Not bad for fast food, but actually kind of expensive for Jack in the Box. I guess the price of bacon has gone up.

Good lookin' buns

Good lookin’ buns

This was another boxed sandwich. At this point I wonder how much material is being wasted by everyplace putting sandwiches in boxes. I don’t quite see the point of them if the sandwich is well wrapped, and this sandwich was wrapped. Maybe it helps them retain heat? Anyway, at first glance, this looks like a good burger. It’s well constructed; I can see all of the ingredients. The bun appears not to be burnt. And it smells really good. Because it smells like bacon. Just so much bacon.

Profile shot

Profile shot 

The folks at Jack in the Box call this “a bacon triple threat. A juicy beef patty mixed with savory pieces of bacon. This new bacon and beef patty is sandwiched between hickory smoked bacon and topped with creamy bacon mayo, lettuce, tomato, and American cheese… on [their] new soft warm brioche bun.” As I said: so much bacon. On my first bite, I actually got all of the components at once! This tastes pretty amazing! My first impression: so much bacon. This is really bacony. Like I get that there are other things on this sandwich because there are different textures here, but everything tastes like bacon.

Not the healthiest looking tomatoes...

Not the healthiest looking tomatoes…

So. Much. Bacon.

So. Much. Bacon.

I was intrigued by the bacon mayo. I know it exists, but it seemed like an exotic ingredient for a fast food burger. I isolated it and it had a tangy taste. I honestly thought it was ranch until I realized there was only one spread on the sandwich. You can see the little bacon flecks in it, though it didn’t taste overwhelmingly like bacon. Maybe it was because they didn’t put a lot of the mayo on there. The sandwich was a bit dry.

Still holding together well

Still holding together well

There was so much bacon that I thought there were two layers of it in there. The bacon itself had a nice crisp and smoky flavor. As for the patty with bacon bits in it, it was a bit dry. In addition, I wasn’t sure if the patty had actual chopped up bacon in it, or just bacon bits. Regardless, it did have a strong bacon taste and little bacon pieces were chewy. There wasn’t much of a beef taste to the patty, but maybe that’s a good thing; it may have overshadowed the bacon.

Tomatoes spilling out

Tomatoes spilling out

As for the non-bacon items here, they play a good supporting role. I believe I’ve been disappointed with Jack in the Box’s bun in past, but they’ve improved on their formula. It was nice and soft and absorbed some of the bacon mayo. The lettuce and tomato also were big additions because they helped to offset the bacon overload. The coolness and texture complemented the meatiness of everything else. Without some good lettuce and tomato in here, this would have been difficult to finish. As you can tell from the pictures, these weren’t the best tomatoes ever, but they did their job. I feel like I  shortchange the cheese every week. All I can say here is that it didn’t get in the way of anything that was more important (re: bacon).

Sandwich guts

Sandwich guts

At the end, this sandwich did get a bit messy and it was falling apart. Luckily, the paper wrap around the burger helped keep things together, which is a lesson more places seem to be learning. Eating is a more enjoyable experience if my hands aren’t covered with grease and sauce at the end, with me struggling to keep everything in the bread.

A little sloppy and uneven

A little sloppy and uneven

I have now written 700 words, yet anyone’s opinion of the Bacon Insider comes down to one question: how much do you really like bacon? I enjoyed the sandwich. There was definitely a strong bacon flavor in every bite (mission accomplished!) but it never overwhelmed me or made me sick, which was a worry going in. If you really like eating lots of bacon, I think you’ll enjoy this. If not, then stay away, because this will not be a pleasant experience. I don’t have any real suggestions to improve things here, because Jack in the Box accomplished what they set out to do. So congratulations to them, and I need a goddamn vegetable. Bacon.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Wendy’s burgers. On the one hand, they are damn tasty. Dave Thomas certainly didn’t cut any corners when he designed them (get it?!), and he left a lasting legacy of an underrated burger. On the other hand, they are really messy. Messy to the point where I could probably count on one hand the times I’ve eaten one without it either falling apart or getting all over my hands.

Wendy’s also has been at the forefront of the bacon craze, or at least more so than the fast food giants at McDonald’s and Burger King. They introduced their applewood-smoked bacon a few years ago, and they seem to make more of an effort to feature their bacon and make it more than an afterthought. Putting those thoughts out there, let’s just say I was looking forward to the Ciabatta Bacon Cheeseburger with cautious optimism that Wendy’s would not let me down.

She doesn't look like the girl in the commercial...

She doesn’t look like the girl in the commercial…

As I mentioned in my last post on the Spicy Chipotle Crispy Chicken Sandwich, I dined in for this meal. At this point, eating at the restaurant is probably the only way to ensure the best possible experience, and from now on, I’ll only note this if I get drive-thru or something extraordinary (good or bad) happens. And in this case, I stayed for a bit after I finished eating, and the server took my tray! That was quite nice and unexpected! Anyway, I got the meal, medium size, which was $7.48 before tax, and my whole meal (including the Chipotle Chicken Sandwich) was $9.54. Not too bad considering the massive amount of food I consumed. Let’s just say I earned my salad dinner that night.

I really like the colors here

I really like the colors here

The sandwich came in a box, but with no paper wrapping around it, which made me a little nervous. At first glance, this is a pretty sandwich. With the contrast in colors between the ciabatta, lettuce, burger and cheese this actually looked fake, like it was a plastic model used for the commercial. The burger was easily the most attractive sandwich I’ve had so far. It also smelled damn delicious. While this is probably entirely due to the bacon, I couldn’t wait to tear into this thing.

The bread isn't real!

The bread isn’t real!

Neat

Neat

The Wendy’s marketing department says the Ciabatta Bacon Cheeseburger is “a quarter-pound of hot ‘n juicy beef topped with roasted, chopped tomatoes, creamy, rosemary garlic aioli, fresh spring mix, natural Asiago cheese and applewood-smoked bacon between a toasted Ciabatta bun.” I took a quick bite of the bacon before I dug in. It was nice and crispy, with a good smoky flavor. I knew this already, I just wanted a piece of bacon before I began. Upon first bite, the first thing I notice is the Ciabatta bun, and not in a good way. It tasted stale. I can’t believe it had gone bad already since this promotion just started, but this bread was not good. Bread is the easiest part of the burger, why do we keep screwing this up?! This is especially egregious when you make your bread part of the marketing of the sandwich. And of course, the aioli also starts seeping out of the sandwich after that first bite, so my expectations have gone downhill pretty fast.

Sandwich guts!

Sandwich guts!

However, after I got over the bread, and the aioli didn’t turn into a flood, this was a really good burger. Aside from the taste of stale bread, everything was really well balanced, and nothing outshined the bacon, which was the obvious star here. I’d have liked the burger to not be as dry as it was, but I understand I may not get the freshest food when I eat lunch at 2:30PM. I also want to point out the tomatoes. Normally, fast food tomatoes are barely tolerable. They provide a contrast to the burger, but they’re generally mushy and not ripe. Half the time I wind up taking it off because it’s too gross. Here, the tomatoes  added to the experience. They were chopped up, actually red, and had some flavor. What a concept! Also, the spring mix is better than the usual limp piece of lettuce. The color was fantastic and it added a nice bite.

Spillage

Spillage

The aioli was like a creamy Italian dressing. I really liked it, and it was noticeable when I took a bite without it. Between the stale bread and the dry patty, bites without sauce were not good. The patty also could have used some seasoning, even if it was just salt. No reason for the burger patty to taste so plain.

Luckily I didn't gnaw my fingers off while taking this

Luckily I didn’t gnaw my fingers off while taking this

There were some drawbacks here, but a fresh piece of bread and some salt could fix them, so it’s not like they ruined the experience. This was a fantastic burger. It was filling, had a great taste and wasn’t messy. While eating, I was enjoying it so much that several times I had to stop myself to make sure I was writing notes and taking photos. If you like bacon burgers, get to Wendy’s before they take this away. It’s worth the trip.

Before, I end, two more two quick notes. First off, just like last week, somehow there was also a hair on this burger. Luckily it was a small strand on a piece of bacon that was outside the bun, so I could just rip off that piece and continue eating. But seriously, two burgers and a hair on each? That was disgusting and all the good service in the world can’t overcome that. Use those hairnets.

The happier note: I hated when Wendy’s changed their fries a few years ago. Their old fries were wildly inconsistent (ranging from excellent when fresh to borderline inedible when not), but the new ones tasted like frozen fries (which they are, but still shouldn’t taste like it). They traded uniformity for potential. I’m happy to note that eating them during this trip for the first time in over a year, they were decent. Still way too much salt, but they aren’t something to be avoided in favor of chicken nuggets anymore.