One thing I try to do for Sandwichtalk is keep things somewhat interesting and novel. I focus mainly on either new and limited time sandwiches from large chains, or I review small local places that readers may not have heard of. I don’t usually review the basic menu at most fast food restaurants because I assume most people already have a solid understanding of what they taste like, and various opinions on them. The maxim I always used to explain this was “It’s not like I’m going to post a review of a Big Mac or something.”

 

UNTIL NOW.

 

Burger King’s Big King, an absolutely shameless knockoff of the famous Big Mac, gives me the perfect opportunity to do just that. Let’s start with a quick overview of the Big Mac, for comparison. I like it. I don’t love it, and I much prefer the tried and true McDoubles if we’re going with McDonald’s, but the layers patties and bun set-up is interesting, and the combination of the sauce and pickles and onions is a cool alternative to the basic lettuce and tomato plan of most deluxe burgers. In short, I like the concept. But is Burger King’s execution an improvement on the original?

You come at the king, you better not miss.

You come at the king Mac, you better not miss.

Not really. The patties are a little higher quality, probably, as are the buns. It is Burger King, after all. And actually, so is the lettuce. It’s sort of the intangibles that get me on this one. It doesn’t taste like a Big Mac, exactly, but that’s not for lack of trying. If it was a little closer in taste, to the point that they were indistinguishable, I might rate it higher. I’d also like the other option, adding an extra element or something to rise above. But as it is, it’s just kind of a curio.

Excited for Dairy Queen's entry into the race, with two Dilly Bars swapped out for the patties.

Excited for Dairy Queen’s entry into the race, with two Dilly Bars swapped out for the patties.

I also tried the Chicken Big King, which does set itself apart by swapping out burgers for chicken. This isn’t too bad in theory, except that two processed chicken patties is way too many for one sandwich. The reason the Double Down worked (outside of wretched excess) is that KFC chicken is good. Burger King chicken is not that good, and this is too much of it. A chicken sandwich with lettuce, pickles, onion and sauce would probably work better.

All in all, I can’t fault BK for trying, but the Big King is more familiar than impressive. If you want two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese onions pickles on a sesame seed bun, just go with a Big Mac.

We need to talk about the recent changes to McDonald’s Dollar Menu. The rising cost of beef has hit the fast food industry pretty hard, with recent focuses on chicken sandwiches and slowly creeping prices on various value menus. The hard times have even hit McDonald’s, who recently recalibrated their dollar menu with some new options and shifted price points. First let’s start out with the nightmare bad news: the McDouble has been raised to $1.19. While this isn’t a huge price increase, there’s just something about America’s favorite dollar burger (or at least, my favorite dollar burger) breaking that threshold that’s kind of sad. There are some new, cheaper burger options, but both of them only include one patty. The other additions are McChicken variations, used to pad out the 99 cent section of the menu. Let’s look at some of these freshman offerings.

*slide whistle*

*slide whistle*

The Grilled Onion Cheddar Burger is pretty simple. It’s a patty with a heaping helping of grilled onions and a slice of White Cheddar cheese, similar to a White Castle hamburger. It’s not bad by any means, but again, compared to the lean, balance recipe of the McDouble, it’s just kinda lacking. Stranger still is the BBQ Ranch Burger, another single patty burger that shares the White Cheddar but adds barbecue ranch sauce and genericized Fritos corn chips. It’s interesting, and I’ll give them points for originality, but it still doesn’t really come together very well. They can’t afford tomatoes on a dollar burger, but even some onion or something might give it a little more of an identity. The last one I sampled was the Bacon Cheddar McChicken, which as you’d expect was a McChicken with bacon and Cheddar cheese on top. It was an improvement over the regular McChicken, but the McChicken patty is still substandard, so if you really want chicken, their premium chicken sandwiches are worth the extra price.

No bad ideas in brainstorming. Actually producing and selling this, though...

No bad ideas in brainstorming. Actually producing and selling this, though…

All in all, the new Dollar Menu sandwiches do little to soften the blow of the McDouble price hike. I appreciate the effort, but none of them are remarkably good, and it’s still probably a better bet to go with the McDouble, even with the markup. It’s took bad they didn’t take a page out of Burger King’s book and try a French Fry Burger, I think that might actually be worth having on their menu.

Last week was my birthday, so I decided to treat myself to a nice dinner out. We went to burger restaurant/bar Red Robin, where I got my meal for free. If you know anything about Red Robin, you know that’s a really good deal, but more on that later. I selected the Bleu Ribbon Burger, one of their Gourmet Burgers.

Happy Birthday to ME!!

The Bleu Ribbon Burger consists of a patty marinated in steak sauce topped with crumbled Bleu cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, crispy onions, and Chipotle mayo. It is, in a word, exquisite. The steak sauce isn’t quite as strong as I expected, and works more nicely with the bleu cheese than a strong sauce would’ve. Crispy onion straws have become a bit played out in the past couple of years, but they really worked well here, and it’s nice having them without their usual partner in crime, barbeque sauce. All of the ingredients were fresh and flavorful, and the burger was enormous, as Red Robin burgers are wont to be. Like all their burgers, the Bleu Ribbon comes with bottomless steak fries, which is a nice side, although I can’t imagine eating more than about an order and a half.

The other nice thing about this burger is that it was free. Red Robin is somewhat sticklerish about their birthday club, and you’re supposed to be a member of the email club, print off a coupon, and bring it in, in addition to presenting photo ID with your birthdate. However, when you’re giving away ten-dollar burgers for free, I guess you have to protect your investment. I’d definitely recommend this burger on your birthday, and furthermore I’d even recommend it at full price. It was that good.

P.S. I added a couple of “Share” buttons to the entries, so if you like what you see, feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter by clicking the buttons below. Thanks!!

Open to Suggestions

July 3, 2009

I’d be happy to hear any suggestions you have for upcoming reviews.  It can be a specific sandwich, a sandwich from a given restaurant, or something as open-ended as “I’d like you to review a Philly Cheesesteak”.  Input from you guys lets me know that you enjoy my posts and tells me what you’d like to read about.  Please leave comments regarding your suggestions.  Thanks!!!

What is a Sandwich?

June 16, 2009

While I’m getting started, I figured I should post the definition of a sandwich, at least in the terms this blog will use.  Obviously, my definition of a sandwich won’t necessarily be the same as someone else’s, nor will it be set in stone.  The is a framework to help guide the beginning of the blog.

A sandwich, generally speaking, is a food item made from two pieces of bread placed together with some contents in between.  A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a hamburger, and a hoagie are all sandwiches by this definition.  Open-faced sandwiches, such as a hot turkey sandwich or Welsh rarebit, do not generally fit this definition, but will still be allowed.  Ice cream sandwiches, consisting of two cookies and ice cream, are not sandwiches by this definition either, but will be included anyway because they are delicious.

The jury is still out regarding wrap sandwiches, sandwiches consisting of one slice of bread (generally a tortilla) wrapped around the contents.  For the moment, I’m inclined to exclude them for two reasons.  One is a slippery slope.  A tuna salad wrap may be a sandwich, but a breakfast crepe and a burrito are similar in composition and differ mainly in ingredients.  I want a relatively clear line of what is and isn’t a sandwich.  The other is in terms of scope.  There are plenty of sandwiches for me to work through before we start on wraps (or gyros, or calzones, or anything else).

Sorry if that got a little wordy.  Of course, I welcome your comments.  If everyone feels I should include wraps or pitas or anything else right away, I’m more than willing to do so (Within reason.  Breakfast cereal is never a sandwich.).  I hope this helps for future sandwich endeavours.

Welcome to Sandwichtalk

June 12, 2009

As the title says, welcome to Sandwichtalk!!  Sandwichtalk is a blog in which I (and potentially others) discuss sandwiches.  This includes reviews of sandwiches, as well as recipes, news, pics, and other sandwich-related content.  This whole idea grew out of some recurring tweets on my Twitter feed (which I plan on continuing, never fear) and my long-standing love for sandwiches.  I hope you’ll enjoy it, feel free to comment or email me with feedback.

Yours,

—Joe