The Value Menu game is a competitive one. I discussed the best dollar burger options many years ago in Sandwichtalk’s youth, and there have only been more players getting in on the action since then. I don’t see anyone unseating the McDouble in terms of sheer value anytime soon, which makes the rest of them even more competitive. Chains need to use every tool at their disposal to get ahead, and for Burger King, this now means combining their two major standbys: burgers and fries.

Putting French Fries on hamburgers isn’t a new concept; my brothers have been doing it every time we go to Wendy’s for years. Neither is including potatoes in sandwiches, and as long-time readers will remember, I’m always a fan of adding taters to a wrap to make it a little more filling. What’s kind of interesting here though is that the $1 Fry Burger was clearly designed with the goal of being cheap and easy above all else. There aren’t any new sauces or anything, it’s literally just a value hamburger with a couple French Fries on it.

Five years ago news organizations would be freaking out about this. The Double Down really changed the game.

Five years ago news organizations would be freaking out about this. The Double Down really changed the game.

But it’s actually not too bad! Along with the burger and fries, it includes lettuce, mayo and ketchup. The texture isn’t too bad, and while it’s not the biggest patty Burger King has, it’ll do in a pinch. The combination of lettuce, mayo, and French Fries on a burger feels vaguely foreign, like something you’d get at a Burger King in Hong Kong. Again, this isn’t bad, it’s just kind of odd. One issue I can see with this burger, although it wasn’t a problem with the one I had, is uneven or scant distribution of fries. Ideally, it should have at least five or so fries on it.

Like the name says, the $1 Fry Burger is only one dollar. It’s definitely worth checking out, at that price. In the long term, I think Burger King has better chances of success if they continue with the higher-end, limited release sandwich concepts they’ve been rolling out for the last year or two, since this isn’t better than a McDouble by any stretch of the imagination. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s bad, and if you like it, you’ve discovered something new about yourself you can use anytime you get a combo at any other fast food joint too.

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I’ve got something to confess to you guys. I’m not really that discerning when it comes to barbeque. Oh, I enjoy the hell out of it. It’s one of my favorite sauces/preparations. But I’ve never been a strict partisan of one regional sauce and style of preparation over another. I know that in certain parts of the South and the West, them’s fighting words, but not having been brought up in a specific barbeque tradition, I’m pretty forgiving of liberal uses of the term. I’m far more picky about the preparation of certain deli-style sandwiches, such as a Reuben or Philly Cheesesteak. There we go. That’s my sandwich sin.

She said, "Tell me, are you a Christian?" and I said "Ma'am, I am tonight."

She said, “Tell me, are you a Christian?” and I said “Ma’am, I am tonight.”

I tell you this because I want it to be clear that while I really liked Burger King’s Memphis BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich, I liked it as a fast food pulled pork sandwich, not as an accurate representation of BBQ in Memphis. From what I know of Memphis BBQ, there are both dry rub and sauce variants. This pulled pork was a typical sauced style, with another tangy sauce and onions on top. Memphis BBQ is traditionally pork shoulders and hocks, but if you think it’s easy to tell what specific cuts of meat are in fast food sandwiches, or that the employees would tell you if you asked, or if they even know, you haven’t been eating Burger King very long. Again, overall, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Pulled pork doesn’t seem like it’d be too difficult to prepare on an industrial scale, and I’d be pleased as punch if more fast food joints started adding it to their menus. It’s a little smaller than I’d hoped, but that’s nothing some fries won’t take care of.

The Memphis BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich runs for around $6 in a combo. It also pairs well with other picks from BK’s summer menu, like their sweet potato fries or lemonade. If you’re an unencumbered barbeque fan like me, it’s definitely worth your while. And if you’re from Memphis, give it a shot, and let me know in the comments how faithful it is.

Pretzel buns are a relative newcomer to the fast food scene. Long established in smaller restaurants as a complement to ham and cheese sandwiches, they began to come into vogue last fall as an Oktoberfest ingredient. Both Steak ‘n’ Shake and Red Robin offered Oktoberfest burgers on pretzel, paired with sauteed onions and spicy brown mustard. It’s a traditional German thing, or maybe a Chicago thing too? I dunno. Anyway, the pretzel bun is making the move to more pure commercial restaurants with Wendy’s new Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger. It’s less ambitious than most Oktoberfest burgers, skewing closer to a basic bacon cheeseburger.

I didn't want to use a stock photo of it because they severely understate how much lettuce there is on it. Look at all that lettuce!! I'm not a rabbit.

I didn’t want to use a stock photo of it because they severely understate how much lettuce there is on it. Look at all that lettuce!! I’m not a rabbit.

The Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger adds a hearty honey mustard to the usual array of bacon, lettuce, tomato, and onion. The cheese used is Cheddar, which is a nice step up from the usual American and suits the pretzel bun well. My only complaint is that mine had a bit too much lettuce. It was good lettuce (I’ve never been a fan of the shredded stuff), but it would’ve overpowered the burger if I hadn’t pulled some off. The pretzel bun has a nice flavor and different texture, but isn’t overly chewy or tough. The burger seemed a little on the small side, but overall was tasty and satisfying.

The Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger runs for about $6-7 in a combo, which is a pretty good deal. If the current trends continue and pretzel burgers continue to expand, you won’t have much trouble finding some to try. So far, though, this is among the best of them, and doesn’t appear to be seasonal. Give it a shot.

I’ve been away from my duties as a sandwich blogger for a while now, and things have changed in my absence. McDonald’s once-lauded Angus burger line has been retired. As I’ve stated before, I’m not a fan of the campaign to convince (read: trick) people into thinking that “Angus” is some kind of marker of higher quality, rather than just a specific brand. The Angus burgers were a decent line, as specialty burgers go, but I felt that they lacked creativity and ingenuity to set them apart.

Of course, this doesn’t mean McDonald’s isn’t still going to offer deluxe burgers with various fixings. Empires rise and empires fall; the classic Big ‘n’ Tasty was axed just before the Angus invasion, and obviously the time is ripe for a new set of burgers. This time, McDonald’s is keeping it pretty simple. The new line is an expansion of their basic Quarter Pounder with Cheese, with the addition of bacon to most options as a theme. Not terribly daring, but one of them showed a little bit of promise: the Bacon Habanero Ranch QPC.

HAB

HAB

The Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder with Cheese is the most unique of the new line. Rather than American cheese, it uses a slice of White Cheddar atop a patty and a couple strips of bacon. It also includes lettuce and tomato, but the real draw is the eponymous sauce. It has a low, building heat, but enough of an actual Ranch and pepper flavor that it’s still enjoyable to taste. I kind of wouldn’t mind a little bit more from this sandwich, like actual peppers or crispy onions, but it also seems to have been designed on a budget, which I can respect.

Speaking of the budget, the BHRQPC is affordably priced at around $5 for a combo. The entire line is, which is clearly a reaction to the dip in the higher-priced Angus sales. All in all, it’s a decent deluxe burger. The McWrap is still a stronger bet for taste/quality, and you really can’t beat a couple of McDoubles for value, but if you’re looking for a bacon cheeseburger with a bit of a twist, the Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder with Cheese is a nice pick.

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.

Wait, did McDonald's just trick me into eating a salad by wrapping it in a tortilla?? (The Chicken and Bacon is on the right)

Wait, did McDonald’s just trick me into eating a salad by wrapping it in a tortilla?? (The Chicken and Bacon is on the right)

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!

I stole this promotional image off of Huffington Post, which makes me happy.

I stole this promotional image off of Huffington Post, which makes me happy.

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.

Did you guys see The Descendants? I liked it. I mean, not as much as Up In The Air, but it was still pretty good.

Did you guys see The Descendants? I liked it. I mean, not as much as Up In The Air, but it was still pretty good.

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.