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 theĀ 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.

Arby’s has made a lot of money doing one thing very well: roast beef. Sure, they’ve branched out into other sandwiches, especially in recent years, and you’ll never find a more ardent defender of their Chicken Bacon Swiss sandwich than on this blog. But overall, it’s their thin-sliced roast beef that provides them with a reliable foothold in the fast food world. I was interested, then, to try the Smokehouse Brisket, It follows the usual Arby’s format pretty closely, but rather than roast beef, the beef here is smoked, and not only smoked, but smoked for “at least 13 hours,” as the website repeatedly assures us. Sounds interesting, but does it have the juice?

Absolutely, positively no less than 13 hours of smoking! This thing should come with a Surgeon General's warning!

Absolutely, positively no less than 13 hours of smoking! This thing should come with a Surgeon General’s warning!

…To some extent, yeah. The Smokehouse Brisket is piled pretty high with smoked beef, which actually turned out pretty good. It has a nice, distinct flavor, and a texture that’s chewier than roast beef while still remaining pleasing. It’s also loaded up with smoked Gouda cheese (an interesting, if somewhat bland choice), crispy onions, BBQ sauce and mayo. Everything pulls together pretty well, but not overpoweringly so. One odd bit to note is that while the sandwich is designed to be served on a toasted bun, mine came on a basic sesame seed roll, and after comparing the two, I actually prefer the mistake, I don’t know if it’s work a special order, but given the circumstances, I thought it was worth mentioning.

The Smokehouse Brisket is a little pricier than the average Arby’s sandwich, coming in around $7.50 for a combo. I wouldn’t call it a must-buy, but if you’re at Arby’s and feeling a little adventurous, I’d check it out.

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.