Archives for posts with tag: Wendy’s

After the Sriracha craze a few years ago, where it seemed like half the internet was composed of love letters to the sauce, things have calmed down. It has settled in as a good hot sauce, different than a Tabasco or Frank’s in taste and texture, but good in the right amounts on the right foods rather than slathered onto everything. Wendy’s, in their laudable quest to ensure I have new content as long as I continue to update this blog, decided to utilize Sriracha on their Spicy Chicken Sandwich (IMO, the GOAT of fast food chicken sandwiches). I originally wasn’t going to try this, but after a request from a loyal reader, I decided to eat the Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich.

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The Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich is priced at $5.49 (!) for the sandwich and $8.19 for a meal with a medium soda and fries. According to Wendy’s, the Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich is their “iconic Spicy Chicken, topped with one of kind Sriracha Jack Cheese, thick-cut Applewood Smoked Bacon, creamy Sriracha aioli, spring mix, and red onion … on a toasted Sriracha-infused bakery-style bun.” The sandwich was presented in a box, but it was so large that it was awkward to pick it up, which I remember happening before at Wendy’s. If these boxes are here to stay, they need to make them larger so one’s fingers can get around the sandwich.

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Upon opening the box, the sandwich smelled great; it was that spicy fried chicken aroma which I’ll never tire of. The bun looked bland. I originally thought it was a Brioche bun, but Fortune has corrected me. I would have preferred a regular seeded bun, but Wendy’s doesn’t actually serve those, so I’m tilting at windmills here.

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I lifted up the bun and saw the inevitable raw red onion. I did my best to take it all off, but I know I missed at least part of that mess. I also saw that the cheese hadn’t really melted yet. The sandwich, in particular the chicken, didn’t taste cold, so I don’t know why the cheese didn’t melt, but maybe Wendy’s needs to raise the temperature on their food holders.

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The bun was toasted and tasted like wheat…. with spice. It was a little weird and I wasn’t 100% certain that it was spicy until I confirmed it on the Wendy’s website. It was a nice touch to add Sriracha, but it didn’t stand out unless I was eating the bun without anything else. The chicken was a regular spicy chicken patty. No complaints, it was great. That Sriracha aioli was basically Sriracha sauce cut with some mayo. Since they couldn’t just spread Sriracha on the damn sandwich without scorching everyone’s taste buds, this was the way to go. It became easily spreadable while retaining its heat.

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I did manage to get one bite with every ingredient (including the onion). Of course, the onion overpowered everything. In the non-onion bites, the bacon was a standout in the sandwich. Wendy’s puts bacon on everything, and it worked really well here. It was smoky and crispy and helped balance every other ingredient which contained Sriracha. They were also good about putting enough bacon on the sandwich so that almost every bite had some. The Sriracha Jack Cheese, as mentioned before, wasn’t full melted. The cheese didn’t have a strong taste and if it hadn’t; been on the sandwich, I doubt I would have missed it.

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Through the first half of the sandwich, the Sriracha Spicy Chicken Sandwich tasted like a Spicy Chicken Sandwich turned to 11. Even though Sriracha was the star, the heat built steadily. My mouth wasn’t on fire from the first bite. I could see anyone who is sensitive to spice not liking this sandwich, because it is more intense than the Spicy Chicken sandwich. To help make this more palatable to more people, I think adding a tomato slice would have helped. I’m actually surprised the sandwich didn’t have a tomato, considering we got raw onion

 

While on the subject of vegetables, I do need to compliment the spring mix. Wendy’s has really stepped up their game in this area recently, and I do appreciate their effort. By giving better greens on the sandwich, it feels less like a fast food burger. I applaud the move away from pale, limp iceberg lettuce. When talking about a bacon spicy fried chicken sandwich, this is a minor point, but it’s the little things that add up to create a better whole.

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One of my usual Wendy’s complaints, and a distinct worry when I started eating this particular sandwich, was that it was going to be terribly messy. The sandwiches themselves don’t stay together, sauce leaks everywhere, and I need about twenty napkins to get through the experience, not including extra napkins if I plan on typing notes for this blog. I can say that the Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich did stay together with minimal leakage. The bread was strong enough to keep everything in one place and soak up the sauce to ensure it didn’t get on my hands.

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As mentioned above, the Sriracha Spicy Chicken Sandwich was hot, but not overwhelmingly so. It was a well put together sandwich where everything made sense (except the onion) and worked together to make a really good eating experience. Though the use of the Sriracha makes this a gimmick item that will never become a permanent staple of the menu, I do hope it’s brought back for return engagements in the future so anyone who likes the Spicy Chicken Sandwich but wants something a bit spicier can give this a try. If you’re in a Wendy’s and see this on the menu, it is definitely worth your time.

My earliest memories of Wendy’s was that it was different. Growing up in Massachusetts, we weren’t exactly blessed with a plethora of fast food options. While I could watch TV and see commercials of all these new and strange places, the local fare was fairly standard: McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and Wendy’s. I didn’t see a Taco Bell until I was teenager (so deprived, I know). While offering subtle differences, McDonald’s and Burger King basically sold the same thing, and KFC was the fried chicken place (when they started serving Crispy Chicken Strips, my mind was blown).

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Wendy’s, on the other hand, was always different: square burgers, the salad bar, chili. For whatever reason, I ate my first chili at Wendy’s, and then used that to experience my first chili and cheese fries. Before it became a new market to penetrate to make up for flagging sales as Americans tried to eat healthier, Wendy’s was already aboard the salad train. So when Wendy’s started airing commercial recently advertising the return of the Taco Salad, I was intrigued.

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Wendy’s Taco Salad is “topped with … chili, shredded cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, chunky salsa, and yellow corn tortilla rounds.” It looked delicious in the commercials… or at least as delicious as a fast food salad can look. When ordering, Wendy’s offers the Taco Salad in regular and half portions, which was fantastic for me, as I could sample the salad without letting my whole meal ride on liking it. The half portion is $4.29 and the full sized option is $6.29.

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I was confused when my order, which also included a grilled chicken sandwich meal (post coming soon!), came in four bags. It seemed (and was) wasteful, and I didn’t know why I needed two hands to grab my small order. Well, the Taco Salad is served disassembled. That’s right, the commercial is even more deceiving than usual! Sure, you can make a delicious taco salad, but to get it looking like the ad, it’ll take you about ten minutes, and you’re too hungry for that. I complain about this with Subway, and I’ll do it here too: serve what you’re advertising. If I want it custom made, then I’ll let you know, but I shouldn’t have to assemble my own salad.

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Anyway, the lettuce, tomatoes and cheese were in one bowl. I got a tub of salsa, a tube of sour cream, a small bag of tortilla chips, and a small portion of chili, filled halfway. I put all the ingredients in the bowl except the tortilla chips. Originally I wanted them to line the outside of the bowl, like the commercial, but I realized 1) that was going to take a lot of effort and 2) that was impractical for eating purposes. I wound up crushing them into small pieces and mixing them up with everything else.

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I’ll run through the items one by one, then go into how everything tasted together. First off, the chili was disappointing. It was extremely liquid without much meat or beans. It served as the de facto dressing of the salad… if a meat stew can do such a thing. It was a much better sauce than the salsa, which was thick and tasted really oniony. Fans of the blog already know that I generally despise onions, so the salsa was really off putting. The taste was strong enough that as soon as I tasted a bite, I immediately knew whether it contained salsa. The sour cream honestly didn’t have much of a taste, and I mainly used it to mix with the chili and salsa. The vegetables seemed fresh: lettuce was green and crunchy and tomatoes had real texture.

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Eating everything combined, the hot chili melted the cheese and made it nice and gooey. It went really well with the salad. Aside from the salsa bites, I really enjoyed this. With so many different ingredients, it was easy to switch up the flavor in each forkful so it didn’t get repetitive. Also, meat dressing is really good. I highly recommend it.

There were some issues though. It was extremely salty for a salad, which makes sense since everything in it was probably loaded with sodium. The tortilla chips were also an awkward addition. I mentioned before that I tried to crumble them into the salad, like a flat crouton, but getting pieces along with other elements of the salad was difficult, and the chip edges were sharp. They wound up being most useful when I just used them to scoop up parts of the salad, like a nacho.

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For a half a salad, the Taco Salad is a good portion. I don’t regret trying it, though to be honest, I’m not sure when I would actually order it again. If I’m eating fast food, I want fries, and I didn’t like this enough to order it as the main portion of a meal. I think if I wanted a Taco Salad, I’d go to a place that would make one for me, and not ask me to put it together. I really enjoyed this after I started using the tortilla chips as nachos, but again, if I wanted nachos, I’d go to a place that specializes in them. I also wouldn’t order chili salad nachos. So this definitely was not a fail, and if you’re curious, try it while they’re still serving it, but it does have limited appeal.

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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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.

 

Think of this post as an appetizer for the main course. I haven’t purposefully shied away from value menu items, they just haven’t been as pressing for me as premium offerings, since I’m more likely to order a combo meal, as opposed to building a meal from the value menu. However, those items deserve attention too. Value item posts may be a little briefer than regular items (notwithstanding this long-winded introduction), but I’ll try not to ignore them in the future. Onward, ho!

Wendy’s has been advertising their value menu chipotle sandwiches for some time now, so I’m happy I stopped in last week so I could finally try one.  Since my main meal was a burger, I decided to try the Spicy Chipotle Crispy Chicken Sandwich, so the taste would be completely fresh. From the outside, this isn’t a large sandwich, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s price is only $1.29, and it works as an addition to a combo meal or as a quick snack.

Looks unassuming, but it packs some bite

Looks unassuming, but it packs some bite

Wendy’s describes the sandwich as a “crispy chicken patty loaded up with pepper-Jack cheese, zesty jalapenos and spicy chipotle sauce.” As a big fan of their Spicy Chicken Sandwich, I knew they wouldn’t let me down and not bring some spice to the proceedings. The chicken itself was good. The breading has a nice crunch, and the patty was surprisingly juicy. I tried one of the jalapeños on its own and zesty wouldn’t be the word I’d use. They were pickled. Pickled jalapeños are good, so I don’t know why Wendy’s needed to obfuscate the actual flavor.  As for the heat, I could definitely taste it, but it wasn’t overwhelming. Perhaps that’s because the peppers are sliced very thin. The thinness made me worry they would get lost in the sandwich, but they held up well. Also (surprise, surprise!), the jalapeños were only on one side of the sandwich. I generally like pepper-jack cheese, but a full slice is probably too much for a sandwich that isn’t very large. Before I got a bite with everything, the cheese was taking over the taste of the sandwich.

Bright colors

Bright colors

When I finally got a bite with all of the elements, it was pretty good. Like I mentioned with the jalapeños, you could definitely taste the spice, but I wasn’t gasping for water. The spicy chipotle sauce was bright orange with some red flecks in it. The color was… uh, bright, and I understand that it may be off putting for some, but it didn’t taste disgusting. Also, and this is very key, the sandwich was not over sauced. I appreciated not needing to wipe my face after every bite.

Sandwich guts!

Sandwich guts!

I’d call this a successful sandwich. One minor tweak may be to give a half slice of cheese, like McDonald’s does with the Filet-O-Fish, just to prevent the cheese from being too prominent, but it isn’t a deal breaker. If I’m at Wendy’s and want something to add to my combo meal, I generally go for chili with cheese, but I’d consider this as a substitute in the future if I wanted something with chicken and not beef.

One last thing, and though I hate to end this on a down note, I feel like I should mention it. There was a hair on the burger, so I didn’t actually eat the whole thing, I wound up ripping about a 1/3 of it off. Normally I wouldn’t mention this, but as I’ll write in my next review, there was a hair on that burger too. That kinda ruined the experience of the lunch.