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.

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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.

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?

DC Comics has recently tried to apply the name "Red Robin" to a couple Batman-related superheroes. In the same vein, I'm proud to announce my new vigilante, T.G.I.Friday, the End of the Weak!!

DC Comics has recently tried to apply the name “Red Robin” to a couple Batman-related superheroes. In the same vein, I’m proud to announce my new vigilante, T.G.I.Friday, the End of the Weak!!

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.