Archives for posts with tag: Cheeseburger

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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Oh boy, this is exciting. Usually, fast food restaurants use Columbus, Ohio and other middle America locations as test markets for new concepts. I don’t quite understand why, but I’m sure the marketing department says the demographics are favorable, or something like that. Sometimes that changes to California or New York if it’s more upmarket. But Boston never gets new products before they’re available to the general public, which is unfortunate because it would really help this blog (and pique my own personal interest) if we got to try products before they were available to the general public. Well, today the fast food gods have smiled upon your humble author and Wendy’s is using Massachusetts and Tennessee as the test market for their Truffle Bacon Cheeseburger.

I originally went to Wendy’s to try the new Grilled Chicken Sandwich, but as soon as I saw the large placard advertising the Truffle Bacon Cheeseburger, as well as Bacon Truffle Fries, I knew my true dinner destiny. I don’t have an official description of the burger since it is not listed on the Wendy’s site, but this article mentions the limited release as well the as the ingredients which are “a beef patty topped with mixed greens, Applewood smoked bacon, truffle aioli, Parmesan cheese sauce, tomato, and cheese” on “a buttery croissant bun.” A meal cost $7.09 and the burger alone was $4.99, so this isn’t cheap. The Bacon Truffle Fries were $2.29 as a side and were offered as an upgrade to a meal for an extra $0.75, which I thought was a great idea, and almost led to me ordering just the fries and getting that Grilled Chicken Sandwich, but of course I didn’t.

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The food came out pretty quickly and my first impression was that Wendy’s now puts burgers in boxes! Usually they come in that weird foil that always gets greasy (and I like Wendy’s burgers but they’re insanely greasy and come with mayo so I rarely eat them), but the box is a nice touch to keep it neat. The only problem with the box is that this sandwich is so big that I had a hard time picking it up because there wasn’t enough space for my fingers. I don’t have tiny hands, folks!

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After I figured out how to pick up the sandwich, I could examine it. The croissant looked flaky and smelled like butter, but wasn’t greasy or slippery, a huge bonus for someone who needs to use his phone to type notes as he eats. Thanks to Wendy’s for looking out for us fast food bloggers. Anyway, the croissant also had enough heft to it to stand up to the burger and not fall apart as I ate, which was a distinct fear of mine before I ordered.

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My first bite was weird. I don’t usually eat croissants and I definitely have never had a croissant burger, so the croissant taste/texture combined with beef was unfamiliar. My second bite was better as I got used to the beef and croissant combo, and I seemed to get all the ingredients. It tasted like a fancy bacon cheeseburger, and everything seemed to come together well.

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On its own, the Parmesan cheese sauce tasted like a Caesar dressing, which I can’t believe I’ve never had on a burger before. I’m guessing the truffle aioli was also represented in that taste, since I couldn’t see two distinct sauces, so I assume they were the same color. I don’t know what specific leaves actually composed the mixed greens, but I know they seemed like things I would normally put into a sandwich. They looked and tasted fresh and made the burger feel fancier. Usually fast food places don’t pay much attention to the lettuce, putting a crappy piece of Iceberg which doesn’t belong and tastes terrible, if it has a taste, on a sandwich. But the inclusion of these greens was a great choice especially if, as the linked article above mentions, Wendy’s is going for an upscale bistro burgerish vibe. The tomato also didn’t fall apart and added heft to the sandwich. I’ve now written more words on vegetables here than on every post on this site combined.

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Going back to the croissant, as mentioned before, it did not fall apart as I ate. I’m not usually a big fan of croissants, but it worked for me here. It was light enough that I didn’t feel gross eating which is essentially butter bread with a bacon cheeseburger. I’m not sure how people who like croissants would feel, but it worked for me.

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The beef patty itself is a generic Wendy’s burger. The beef is fine and well seasoned. The Applewood smoked bacon is also a standard Wendy’s feature at this point. The put a good amount of bacon on the burger, so almost every bite had some bacon. It had a good smoky taste and was cooked perfectly for me: it wasn’t burnt to a crisp, but also wasn’t floppy. The few bites without bacon definitely suffered from a lack of bacon.

This is a limited item which may never see a wider release, but I hope it does. If the aim here was for an upscale pub style burger at a fast food price, I think they hit a home run. If you swapped out a Wendy’s patty for some high quality beef, I would absolutely pay $10+ for this burger. Every ingredient complemented each other and added to the experience. The burger just felt fresh and good.

There are only two downsides that I saw. First, it was sloppy. Wendy’s burgers just can’t stay composed and by the end it was definitely messy and I was working to keep everything together. Second, this is a bacon cheeseburger on a damn croissant. It may as well come with a defibrillator. Adding on a small box of fries (plus some spicy chicken nuggets…), and I definitely needed to walk most of the way home after finishing my meal. But if you grab some extra napkins and plan a workout session, the Truffle Bacon Cheeseburger is definitely worth your time and stomach space if it appears near you.

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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.

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.

A fully composed shot!

A fully composed shot!

Carl’s Jr. takes great pride in its burgers. They advertise their $6 Thickburgers as a cut above the usual fast food fare, and they’re not shy about adding premium toppings to the burgers (these commercials would also be the ones that feature scantily clad women umm… thoroughly enjoying their food). The Thickburgers even now feature fresh baked buns. However, these features come at a cost, since the sandwiches are given a heftier price tag than the usual fast food fare. This week, I went to Carl’s Jr. to try their new Philly Cheesesteak Six Dollar Thickburger. I love burgers, I love cheesesteaks, and Terrell Owens replaced the scantily clad woman du jour in the commercials. What could possibly go wrong?

Once again, I got the meal, medium size, which cost $9.87. That’s quite a premium for fast food. At that price, I could go to another fast food place and get more food or even dine at a chain sit down restaurant.

If only this were as good as Smile Like You Mean It

If only this were as good as Smile Like You Mean It

The bun looks like a pretzel

The bun looks like a pretzel

The sandwich came in a box, which it appears is becoming standard for these deluxe type burgers. Once opened, my eyes were met by … what looked like an over baked bun wrapped in paper. Not going to lie, this did not look very appetizing upon first glance. But that doesn’t matter! Sometimes unattractive/sloppy burgers can be even better than one that merely looks good. I definitely needed that mindset here because this thing looked gross. As I mentioned before, the bun (freshly baked!) looked like it had been baked too long. It was a dark brown. This is also the last time I’ll mention the bun. It was nothing special and didn’t really add to the proceedings. Memo to all fast food places: unless you’re going to make some great bread that adds something to the overall experience, just stop tinkering and give us the sesame seed bun.

This looks ugly at first appearance

This looks ugly at first appearance

Sandwich guts!

Sandwich guts!

Onto the burger! It looked wet and cheesy. It was difficult to get photos because my hands were damp and filled with grease every time I touched the burger (theory: the cheesesteak topping is in a holding bin with some water/juices at the bottom- I can’t think of another reason why this was so damp). Carl’s Jr. describes the Philly Cheesesteak Thickburger as “thinly sliced steak with melted Swiss and grilled Peppers n’ Onions all on top of our Six Dollar Thickburger with cheese, served on a fresh baked bun.” There’s a lot to unpack here, so here we go. My first bite was just burger, bun and cheese. And it wasn’t bad! The burger had a decent char, and I liked the seasoning. It was a little peppery, but this seemed like a good base for the rest of the burger. Unfortunately, it went downhill from here. The burger itself was well done. I understand that fast food places are not going to make a burger medium, but when you’re dealing with a large patty, well done is just too dry. Especially here since a lot of bites were just burger, bun, and cheese. Chewing got really tiresome.

Dry first bites

Dry first bites

Perhaps some more mayonnaise would have balanced the dryness

Perhaps some more mayonnaise would have balanced the dryness

It wasn’t until I’d finished half the burger that I first tasted some of the peppers and onions. They add some much needed texture to the burger, and I liked the crunch. Howevere, they weren’t much in the taste department. I ate a pepper that fell out of the burger, and it was tasteless and limp. The steak tasted like steak ums, which is either good or bad, depending on your particular palate. It was a little chewy and peppery. It was a overkill since there was already a burger underneath it.

There's that cheesesteak mix!

There’s that cheesesteak mix!

The cheese, caused serious problems for the burger, contributing to the dryness and lack of peppers and onions in most of my bites. I’ll admit then I’m partial to Swiss cheese, and here it had a nice taste and definitely added some great flavor to the burger. However, the American cheese was just a gooey mess. It made the burger slippery and caused toppings to fall out the backside of the bun, creating a disgusting looking deposit of yellow cheese, peppers, and onions. Even with the paper around the burger, this was a mess by the end of the meal.

My mess at the end

My mess at the end

Well, I feel kinda bad here. I started this blog, proclaimed myself a lover of fast food, and this is the third straight item I didn’t like. There wasn’t enough of the cheesesteak mix, and what little made it onto the burger was too concentrated in one area. Too many bites were dry burger, dry bun, and some cheese. That’s unacceptable for a burger this expensive. Maybe turning this into a cheesesteak hoagie burger and adding some lettuce and tomatoes would help out. At least there’d be some variety. If you find yourself at Carl’s Jr. in the future, go for the Guacamole Bacon Burger. It’s just as messy, but the ingredients mesh well and it just tastes better.