May 9, 2013
I have to tell you guys, I was a little skeptical of the McWrap. I’ve long been annoyed with the popularity of the Snackwrap, McBites, and other new menu items McDonald’s has introduced over the past couple of years. I think that for the most part, these are just ways to reuse existing items with smaller portions. Every time they push one of these, or a new coffee drink, it means we’re gonna have to wait that much longer for a new bonafide sandwich to review. At first glance, I figured the McWrap was more of the same: existing stuff mixed around and packaged as something new. Strangely enough, that’s exactly what it is, and I actually love it for it.
Let me explain. First of all, the McWrap is much bigger than I expected. While Snackwraps are a single chicken finger wrapped in some lettuce and tortilla, the McWrap includes a full-sized chicken breast filet sliced up. It’s actually much bigger than the commercials suggest, which is surprising. I also didn’t realize from the ads that there are three different flavors: Chicken and Bacon, Chicken and Ranch, and Sweet Chili Chicken. There’s a lot of overlap in the ingredients, but I decided to start out with the Chicken and Bacon.
Now, how was the sandwich itself? Really good, as it turns out! The weirdest part about it is that it repurposes a lot of salad ingredients, like the salad lettuce and tomatoes and shredded Cheddar cheese. This is actually a big perk, because the salad lettuce and tomato are much nicer than the stuff they usually put on sandwiches. The lettuce isn’t shredded, and the tomatoes are sliced thicker. There’s also a garlic sauce, which is sort of like a fancy mayo with some subtle spice to it. All in all, it’s impressively high-quality for a McDonald’s sandwich, especially in this era of various “bites.”
The McWraps go for around $6 in a combo, and are definitely one of the best options for chicken on the menu right now. I’m looking forward to trying the other two varieties, but if you’re a fan of actual quality vegetables (or at least, higher quality than usual McDonald’s fare), this is not a sandwich to miss.
Burger King has been moving through new burgers and sandwiches at a fast clip this year. This is good, for me, in that it gives me more to write about. It’s also become something of a double-edged sword, as I haven’t been able to review everything I’ve wanted to. Their Chicken Philly sandwich in particular is one I’m sad to have missed. It’s also something I need to make sure to stay on top of, to maximize the usefulness of these reviews. So without further ado, here’s the Bacon Cheddar Stuffed Burger!
This is actually Burger King’s second attempt at a stuffed hamburger patty. Like the Stuffed Steakhouse XT, the patty has chopped bits of ingredients mixed in, as opposed to a central pocket of cheese or something. This patty includes bacon bits and nuggets of cheddar cheese. It’s not terrible, per se, but there’s not quite enough of a flavor from the cooked-in ingredients to make it worthwhile. I don’t really think this is Burger King’s fault. The best stuffed burgers I’ve ever had have either been home-cooked or made to order at a steakhouse or burger joint. It’s a conceit that doesn’t translate well to machine-pressed patties, and Burger King isn’t really equipped to cook any other way. The rest of it (lettuce, tomatoes, onion rings, ketchup and mayo) is all fine, but nothing special.
Being as it’s Burger King, the Bacon Cheddar Stuffed Burger runs $7-8 in a combo. While it’s not inedible, the execution doesn’t nearly live up to the concept. I’d avoid this one. There are plenty of other interesting options at BK right now, including a turkey burger and veggie burger, and I can’t imagine they’re going to slow down over there this summer. Save your money and try next month’s special.
Arby’s isn’t the first chain to partner up with King’s Hawaiian, a small baking company known for their thick, sweet Hawaiian rolls. KFC pulled a similar trick a few years ago with the Doublicious, which itself was (my theory) a way to salvage the good parts of the shock value-based Double Down. I’ve been a fan of King’s Hawaiian even longer than that, ever since a friend and roommate brought a batch of rolls back from home after Christmas one year. When I saw that Arby’s added it to the menu, I figured it’d be right up my alley.
And it was, for the most part. The biggest issue I had with it couldn’t really be helped, which was that roast beef wouldn’t be my first choice as a meat pairing with this type of bread. I usually make ham sandwiches with it, and it went slightly better with chicken and bacon. Still, Arby’s roast beef is some of the best you can get around, and it certainly didn’t taste bad. The sandwich also includes Swiss cheese, a Dijon sauce, and pickles, which was kind of a new and interesting addition for an Arby’s sandwich. It was also much more filling than I expected, owning in part to the thicker, fuller bun, as well as the larger portion of roast beef.
The King’s Hawaiian Roast Beef and Swiss runs for around $6 in a combo. It’s a pretty great deal, given that it’s tasty, filling, and different from most other offerings. Still, if you can’t afford all that, Arby’s also has a basic roast beef on King’s Hawaiian. I’d highly recommend trying this sandwich while it’s still around. Everyone should learn the truth that is King’s Hawaiian, and this is a relatively low-risk introduction.
February 14, 2013
I’ve posted before about the noticeable shift in focus and price hike Taco Bell has undergone recently. Actually, on a recent T-Bell trip, the Loaded Grillers themselves had been hiked to about $1.19, making them all but worthless. But the flip side of Taco Bell’s gentrification is a new classier menu by celebrity chef Lorena Garcia, the Cantina line. These new offerings include a couple of burritos and salads, as well as a new guacamole, made with Hass avocados (a distinction that sounds fancy but means nothing to me. Hass avocados could very well be the lowest quality avocados that can legally be sold, for all I know).
I’ve had both the steak and the chicken Cantina burritos, and I’m of two minds about them. On the one hand, it’s nice to see Taco Bell branching out a little bit. In addition to the meats, the burritos contain black beans and rice, guacamole, pico de gallo, roasted corn and pepper salsa, and a cilantro dressing. There are a lot of comparatively new items here, and both the ingredients (corn and cilantro especially) and the combinations (it’s basically all sauces and medleys working together) show the clear involvement of a master chef. It’s a tasty burrito set apart from normal Taco Bell fare. But at the same time, it’s very similar to the kind of thing you can get a Chipotle or Qdoba, not to mention any number of local places. It’s a big step for Taco Bell because the bar is set comparatively low, but what’s remarkable here is only kind of average elsewhere.
The Cantina Burrito goes for about $7.50 in a combo, and is a dollar or so cheaper a la carte. It’s on the pricier end of the menu, and it’s kind of a hard sell compared to other stuff both here and elsewhere. But if Taco Bell wants to refine and rebrand a little bit, as it seems they do, it’s a good start, and I’d recommend checking it out if for no other reason than to see where things may be going.
February 12, 2013
Red Robin can be a little pricey, but they deliver tasty burgers and sandwiches with neat concepts behind them on a fairly regular basis. It’s usually more a question of if I can budget going to Red Robin than if I’m interested. But I had a birthday recently and wanted to celebrate a little, so I headed out to Red Robin and tried their new Onion Onion Burger. I’ve got my thoughts below, but really, it all comes down to your answer to one question:
How much do you like onions?
There are a LOT of onions on this burger. There are sauteed onions by the boatload. There are crispy fried onion straws mixed in. There’s also a garlic Parmesan spread, but that’s the only non onion-based topping. It even comes on an onion bun. I liked this burger quite a bit. I think the combination of onions and steak is a great one, and I’m always a fan of an interesting bun deployed well. But even as a moderate onion fan, it was a little bit much for me. It’s not the kind of burger you should order every day.
The Onion Onion Burger is actually a little less expensive than most Red Robin burgers at $7.99, probably owing to the relative simplicity and availability of the ingredients. Do not order this burger on a date. Do not order this burger on a business luncheon. Don’t order this burger any time you have to talk to anyone for a prolonged period of time during of after eating it. But if you’re an onion fan like me, and you want to celebrate your love of the onion, then by all means, order this burger.
Growing up in Ann Arbor, I’ve walked past the Red Hawk Grill countless times. I actually get my hair cut around the block, so I’ve spent literal years walking past it. But it wasn’t until a recent recommendation by a friend that I decided to actually head in and give it a shot. And boy, am I ever glad I did. The Red Hawk Grill serves most bar & grill standards (burger, steaks, some seafood and pasta), but with a modern, inventive twist. A number of their offerings include Asian or Southwestern elements, and while I wouldn’t quite call it “fusion cuisine” (the atmosphere isn’t nearly austere enough for that moniker, for one thing), they have a number of clever, clearly carefully planned sandwiches and burgers. While I’d normally start with a basic hamburger of chicken club sandwich, the Peanut-Crusted Shrimp Burger caught my eye. A burger made of shrimp!! Could it be?
I wasn’t disappointed. My key concern, the amount and quality of the shrimp, was perfect. The core of the burger was a large patty made of shrimp meat, with a thin, subtle crust of chopped peanuts. The meat was high-quality, not scrapped together from cocktail shrimps as I had feared. It also had a nice, full texture, and was firm enough to hold together as I ate it. It came topped with a chile mayonnaise and a sweet and sour cucumber relish, which were tangy and flavorful, but still toned down enough for the shrimp to shine. I’ll need to head back soon to see how they do with actual ground beef and chicken breasts, but this burger pulled off something I previously would’ve called impossible.
Burgers and sandwiches at Red Hawk generally go for $8-9, with an extra $2 for fries. This burger, at least, is a steal at that price. Next time you’re on State Street near Liberty, I’d definitely recommend checking it out. I can’t wait until I’m there again to try something else new, this was a first impression that did not disappoint.
February 5, 2013
Anyone who’s stopped by Taco Bell recently has noticed something upsetting. There’s been some rather insidious price-gauging going on, and nearly everything’s been moved a price-point. That’s an increase of about 20-50 cents, depending on the item. This has thrown my usual meal (Crispy Potato Soft Taco, Beefy 5-Layer Burrito, and Chicken Burrito) into disarray. As a partial solution to the problem, Taco Bell introduced their Loaded Grillers line, a series of small, grilled wraps for 99 cents apiece. Are they enough to fill the hole in my heart?
Yes and no. The Grillers are up and down, depending on their content, but overall they’re not super satisfying or filling. Let’s move into specifics.
- The Spicy Buffalo Chicken Griller was my least favorite. My disdain for buffalo sauce is well known at this point, but more than that, I felt that the combination of chicken, Lava sauce, and sour cream was missing an essential third element, like cheese or tomatoes or something. I wanted more from it, and I didn’t like what I did get out of it.
- The Beefy Nacho Griller fared a bit better. It combined ground beef, nacho cheese, and slightly spicy Fritos-style red corn chips into something akin to a Volcano burrito. It comes together nicely, but again, the smaller size leaves me wanting a bit more.
- My favorite, surprisingly enough, was the Loaded Potato Griller. I’ve said before that adding potatoes to a wrap is a great way to round out the flavor and make it more filling, and indeed, this sandwich reminded me a lot of a Menna’s Dub. The Griller combines potatoes, bacon, nacho cheese, and sour cream into a filling, flavorful meal. This is the only one of the bunch I can see making it into my regular rotation.
All in all, the Loaded Grillers were pretty disappointing. While I enjoyed the Loaded Potato, the other two felt like smaller versions of other items, or at worst things thrown together from scraps, like the ill-fated Chicken Flatbread. Check them out if you want, but you’d be better off resigning yourself to paying a little more at the register.