The Whopperito at Burger King: “Que Onda Guero?”

BK Whopperito/Whopper

I’m trying to take this seriously, but this entry pretty much writes itself.

When I was in college, my friends and I would look at the website This is Why You’re Fat, which post pictures of all things bacon-wrapped and cheese-stuffed; excessively decadent food monstrosities that people would make and submit pictures. While being interviewed on the podcast Lea and the Internet, I recalled the website and we noted that most of its current posts are no longer homemade concoctions, but readily available for purchase, which demonstrates a general shift in our culture toward over-the-top Instagrammable food excesses.

Burger King has been embracing this food trend, producing the Mac ‘n Cheetos, the Cheetos Chicken Fries they introduced just this week, and the Whopperito: a hybrid between their Whopper cheeseburger and a burrito. As an established fan of the Whopper, I optimistically anticipated the Whopperito to simply be a Whopper in a tortilla.

Which would have been good. If that’s what they’d done.

BK Whopperito

Who taught them how to wrap burritos?

I want to tell you it was simply disgusting, but it mostly just doesn’t work. To their credit, there’s plenty of beef in it, but it’s beef that’s been ruined. They start with their chargrilled burger patties, which is a very good place to start, because they’re central to the BK taste. They hack ’em into chunks and then immediately take a nosedive by adding some kind of Tex-Mex sauce. It makes it taste like Wendy’s chili — which I should note I also really like — but WHY DID THEY DO THAT? They cover up most of that Flame Grilled™ flavor. Is the Whopper not good enough? They have a good thing going here, and they’re using the Whopper name in vain because they clearly don’t have faith in their own top-selling product. BK Whopperito cross sectionThey wrap it up — poorly — in a tortilla with sliced tomatoes, diced onions, pickles, and iceberg lettuce. It’s all clearly pulled directly from the same bins they use to make burgers so they wouldn’t need, like, twenty ingredients on the line for one stupid hype beast, but they all just taste fucking bizarre, texturally. Diced tomatoes in a burrito, people. Standard burger pickles are out of place in this Tex-Mex wasteland. Jalapeños are an obvious choice in the bastardization they’ve created, but I’d probably be bitching about them, too, in this heathenistic abomination. And then there’s some kind of queso sauce that tastes more of the plasticine movie theater nacho cheese than the American cheese that’s a burger’s best friend, just in case you thought all processed cheeses were created equal. And it was painfully missing the mayo and ketchup that round out the Whopper flavor. But I guess that’s what the Tex-Mex sauce and plastic cheese are there for: to make you wish there was mayo and ketchup on it. And American cheese. And a bun. And it was an actual Whopper.

In the end, it’s much more a product of our culture than a strong attempt at making a tasty burrito. They either should have directly translated the Whopper to a burrito, literally swapping out the bun for a tortilla, or gone all the way making a Tex-Mex burger-burrito, with sour cream, jalapeños, and all the Tex-Mex sauce and queso their little hearts desire. They appear to have been going for the easiest way to execute a zany food item without interrupting their usual operation. At $2.99, I’d rather pay $4.99 for the Whopper with cheese that I also ate for unneeded comparison, and to wash the taste out of my mouth as the King intended.

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The McGangbang at McDonald’s: “Control yourself, take only what you need from it”

McGangbang cross sectionUp until this point, the concept of “Burger Porn” has rested cheekily in the realm of tasteful erotica, presenting images of oozy cheese and juicy patties, but easily staying PG-13. Titillating? Sure. Mouth-watering? Obviously. Tongue-in-cheek, grain-of-salt guiltless fun. But I haven’t reached full-on smut.

I need to do something about that.

Immediately after eating the Big Mac-inspired cheeseburger at Scena Tavern, the only obvious place to go was literally across the street to the McDonalds for a Big Mac. On my way in, however, I came across the “McPick 2” deal, and remembered something bigger, and bolder than a Big Mac for half the price, and a vile grin spread across my face.

“Fuck the Big Mac,” I told my companions. “I’m getting a McGangbang*.”

This is the post I don’t want my mother to see. Hi, Mom.

Secret menus are a simple way to get the most out of your favorite fast food restaurant by taking ingredients they already have to turn their regular menu items into unique masterpieces. Some are so ubiquitous they get their own names. The “Quesarito“, for instance, is a Chipotle burrito on a quesadilla in stead of a boring tortilla. The secret menu is so well known at In-N-Out Burger, that they list some of the most popular menu variations on their website. Did you know you can swap in grilled onions on any McDonald’s sandwich at no extra charge? Now you do.

Its origin is unclear, but the McGangbang first appeared on the internet in 2006 and gained popularity in 2008. The premise is simple: you take one McChicken and put it in the middle of a McDouble. I’d never had one before. Feeling extra frisky, I ordered both sandwiches with extra Special Sauce. I meant in stead of the ketchup and mustard on the McDouble and the mayo on the McChicken but didn’t make this clear and got charged for the sauce, but this was fine. Very, very fine.

I pulled up to a table and unwrapped both sandwiches. The McDouble I peeled apart at the cheese, right between the two patties, and laid the McChicken–in full–on the bottom half, and replaced the top half of the burger on top. Voila.

McDonald's McGangbang

The sear’s weak, the seasoning’s good, not enough cheese, essential bun-squish, nice crunch on the chicken, kind of a fantastic amount of total sauce, to be honest, a bit of crisp from the lettuce, nice acid from the pickles, zip from the special sauce, but mostly it tasted like McDonald’s, which is exactly what it needed to taste like. This sandwich is so elemental it’s ridiculous. It’s a literal mashup of two of the most iconic sandwiches in the world, and that’s exactly what it fucking tastes like, and I’m totally extremely happily “Loving It” for all of the chemicals, additives, preservatives, GMOs, and passive voice that go along with that trademarked phrase.

Nostalgia-wise, McDonalds is my ultimate platonic ideal of a cheeseburger, for the simple fact that I can walk into any McDonalds in the entire world and it’ll taste exactly how it’s supposed to, every single time. You cannot fake that. It’s what they do best. They drilled the concept into me via shitty toys, and I shall continue to drink that Kool-Aid so long as I shall live. I’ve eaten far superior burgers than McDonalds, but when I get that specific itch, there’s only one scratch for it.

Right now, Mom’s regretting every Happy Meal she ever bought me.

Each sandwich was $1 and the extra sauce was $.25 each, for a total of $2.50. A Big Mac is $3.99. Math.

I don’t think I’ve eaten at McDonald’s since Burger Fetish started, but I really liked this carnival sideshow act because I really like McDonalds. I’m not going to recommend it–you either want one or you don’t–and while reading this might be fun, I don’t think I’ve swayed anyone in either direction. No one’s taking another chance on McDonald’s after reading this either; you’ve made your mind up on the restaurant before you started reading this. So what am I doing here? Why’d I write this? Why’d I eat a McGangbang?

Because I eat fucking burgers and talk about them. This is my life.


*A word on the awkward name, just in case. A “gangbang” is a group performing sex acts on one consenting person, simultaneously or in turn. Not to be confused with an orgy in which a group of participants engages freely in sexual acts with one another. My consumption of a sandwich named after this act is neither endorsement nor disapproval; what consenting adults do with a group of other consenting adults is their business. “Gang rape” is a nonconsensual act that’s absolutely wrong, should never be done, is never funny, and I’d never eat a sandwich named after it. Clear? Good.

 

The Halloween Whopper at Burger King: “The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors”

Burger King Halloween WhopperBecause I fucking had to, that’s why.

In September 2014, pictures surfaced online of a Japanese Burger King Whopper variation with a black bun, black cheese and a black sauce, called Kuro, which is Japanese for — no shit! — black. The bun and cheese are tinted with bamboo charcoal, and the sauce is made from squid ink. To add to the blackness, the patty apparently had a ludicrous amount of black pepper mixed into it. Everyone stateside had a good laugh about silly Asians and what’ll-they-come-up-with-next?! until late September 2015 when Burger King announced they’d be selling a black bun Whopper in the US for Halloween season, and America shared a collective gasp.

Of course, Americans wouldn’t dare to stomach a sauce made with squid ink, so they went with an Uncle Sam-approved alternative: A1 Sauce. It’s baked into the bun and sauces the burger in lieu of ketchup (the mayo’s still there, too), but the whopper is otherwise unchanged: lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, standard Whopper patty, and American cheese — the usual yellow kind.

I had to have one. So I went and got one.

It was…a Whopper. [shrug].

The A1 sauce added a hint of extra tanginess, and was unnoticeable in the piece of bun I tore off to taste; it just tasted like bun. Otherwise, it was a Whopper. [shrug].

Which is not to say it’s without its merits, most notably the “Flame Broiled” process, or “Fire Grilled” as they’ve rebranded their cooking method to highlight the fact that they don’t griddle their burgers like damn near everyone else. To date, I haven’t eaten a grilled burger for Burger Fetish. Flat tops have an advantage of creating that sear I can’t stop talking about, and they keep a patty juicier, but grilling creates a unique taste at the sacrifice of moisture. When your patty heats up, its fat melts and drips out. When the fat hits the heat source (whether charcoal or gas, the effect is the same), it causes a small flare-up to jump up and lick the patty, giving a tiny char. You don’t want too much fat to drip out at once, causing too much flare and too much char, giving it an overcooked bitter burnt taste. But a tiny amount of fat dripping at irregular intervals causes just the proper amount of char, and a smoky flavor that cannot be achieved on a griddle. Fat loss, of course, is an integral part of this phenomenon, but that’s your trade-off.

These are the things I think about. [shrug]. Welcome to Burger Fetish.

One of the cold comforts of fast food is that you can walk into any Burger King anywhere in the world and a Whopper’s going to taste exactly the same. Besides some minor A1 flavor notes, this remains true of the Halloween Whopper, which is good, but not noteworthy. Perhaps this was intentional; the visual interference of a black-colored bun is disorienting enough without the Whopper tasting vastly different. I love Whoppers. I always have, and I loved this one, too, but for the same reasons I’ve always loved Whoppers. It’s good, it’s weird-looking, but at the end of the day, it’s pretty much a Whopper.

And, because you asked*, it turned my poop green.

___

*no, of course you didn’t ask, but I really wanted you to know.

Two Cheeseburgers from Five Guys: “Love, Peace, and Grease”

Five guys, wideI don’t know what you believe in, but I know you believe that sometimes things just work out. Call it fate, coincidence, kismet, the stars aligning, the hand of God making His presence known to the Universe, call it dumb luck. Whatever it is, sometimes things happen with absolutely no reason, and you get exactly what you want. What I wanted was a greasy fucking cheeseburger.

And, naturally, not just any greasy fucking cheeseburger, but a Five Guys burger.

Five Guys Burgers & Fries opened in 1986 in my home town of Arlington, VA, but I didn’t have one until years later after they moved their first store to the neighboring Alexandria, VA. It’s a company focused on quality and not cutting corners, and making greasy fucking burgers that embody the pinnacle of desirable nastiness. In 2002, they began franchising, which I wouldn’t discover until 2009 when a franchise opened in Edina, MN. I was driving down France Avenue when I saw the name on the side of a strip mall and I pulled over immediately, went in and was asked “have you been here before?” GOOD ONE, YOU DUMB IDIOT, I’LL HAVE A CHEESEBURGER WITH PICKLES, TOMATO, GRILLED ONION, MAYO, KETCHUP, MUSTARD, AND JALAPEÑOS. AND FRIES.

It tasted like home.

And it’s exactly what I wanted this past Friday night. But they closed at 10, and I work at a restaurant. I’m “first cut” on Fridays which means I get to leave first. I don’t get to leave at a predetermined time, just as soon as it’s slow enough that they don’t need me anymore. This means I could go at 8 or I could go when we close — midnight on Fridays –but usually means I leave around 10. And I wanted a greasy fucking cheeseburger.

At around 6, my dream seemed out of reach. We were busy as fuck and would be for the next three hours, but around 9, the clouds parted and sunshine peeked through, and it looked like I would be getting out of there after I got a few things ready for the next day. I got everything in the bag around 9:30, realizing I now had 30 minutes to bike to a place that took 20 minutes to bike to, and checked the Five Guys website to discover a most blessed boon: online ordering. At 9:35 I was out the door with an order placed to be ready before I got there. Straining muscles that hadn’t sat for 12 hours that day, I pedaled like the Devil was at my back and made it to Five Guys in 15 minutes.

But I didn’t get a greasy fucking cheeseburger that day; I got two. One with almost nothing, and one with nearly everything.

Five guys, bagFirst of all, this is what a bag carrying two greasy fucking cheeseburgers should look like. I biked home with it in my bag — because yes, I’ll make you cook my sandwiches 15 minutes before you close, but I’m not gonna be that lollygagger in the dining room that you have to passive-aggress out the door — which may have contributed to the bag’s sexiness. Regardless, the burgers contained sufficient grease to squeeze out into the bag, and I didn’t even get any fries this time. I want a juicy burger, and good fat content is the be-all-end-all, but a there’s a certain amount of straight nastiness that tastes like sweet sin. All together now: greasy fucking cheeseburger.

Five Guys, almost nothingFor the first one I went simple: pickles, mustard, ketchup. Five Guys makes their own sesame seed buns, which are nice and squishy — perfect for holding a greasy fucking cheeseburger. The sear’s surprisingly great here for a fast food burger. It’s well-seasoned, and wonderfully greasy for a medium-well. And American cheese, obviously.

Five guys, almost everythingThe second one I went all-out: mayo, ketchup, mustard, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, jalapeños, hot sauce. Honestly, I went too far. There was too much going on, and I should have been going for some kind of specific flavor profile. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great. To be completely honest, the first burger would have been better with some onions. It’s all about balance.

Five Guys’ focus on quality shows. They’re picky about ingredients, but it doesn’t mean everything goes super well together. You gotta have a plan, you gotta think about crafting something, and you might fuck it up, but for $6.99 a pop you can afford a little trial and error. The Five Guys empire is built on quality and consistency, so I’m confident that anyone in the country can walk into any of their literally hundreds of locations and get a nasty fucking greasy fucking cheeseburger, and love every sinful second of it.