Flavour feud: Burgers
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. August 4, 2016
When it comes to food, I find the burger to be the consistent favourite, one that seldom disappoints. Pick the burger on the menu and you know what you are going to get. It might never blow you away, but it’s also hard to mess up.
In this Flavour Feud, we’ll look at four players in the fast food game, and see which burger stacks up best against the competitors.
A&W’s Teen Burger: The initial bite had a generous serving of bread, crisp in my mouth, soft between my hands. As I made my way through the flavour landscape of the Teen Burger, I was filled with fluctuating emotions. Like a song that had a good beat but awful lyrics, the Teen Burger was great one bite and mediocre the next. This is because of the ingredients.
Nobody takes centre stage on the Teen Burger, all the ingredients share a unique spot and that is its downfall. One bite I’ll get the bacon, one bite I’ll get the lettuce, and one bite I’ll get the mustard.
While there is no spotlight on any individual ingredient, it’s not surprising that the bacon is the saviour, the hero. Sometimes I find that bacon can overwhelm a burger, but here it is perfect. It’s subtle, doing its thing in the background.
However, the lettuce is lackluster and the mustard—whenever put into a burger—is a lame attempt. It’s not a hotdog, after all. A bad supporting line-up of ingredients let the Teen Burger down.
McDonald’s Big Mac: Long have I been a fan of the Big Mac. When I talk about consistency, I’m thinking of the Big Mac. On this occasion, it was ready to impress. There is always a wild card when ordering fast food. One thing that can spoil the burger is the freshness. Feeling the warmth of the burger bun assured me that this experience would not be affected by the timeliness of the bite.
The Big Mac is a marshmallow of a burger. It is never “big,” but as you eat it, it slowly compresses within your grip. Smaller and smaller, it gets. That’s not the only pattern that the Big Mac has: the flavour crescendos one bite after the next, until you reach the creamy middle. There is a lot of bun in the beginning, but as you reach the core, you cannot ignore the savoury goodness.
The sauce is what separates the Big Mac from any other burger in the world. It relies so heavily on it that I wonder what a Big Mac without the sauce would taste like. Probably very bland. The thing is, the sauce can elevate every burger on the menu, but it is reserved solely for the Big Mac. And that is why the Big Mac is still one of the most popular options on the menu. One criticism: Get rid of the middle slice of bread.
Burger King’s Whopper with Cheese: The Whopper with Cheese comes wrapped like a gift. And, like most gifts, there is sweetness to it. Warm and soft, the Whopper is so much more with the cheese. It’s definitely worth it to have the premium.
Where the Whopper falters is with the construction of the burger. Take a bite and you’ll notice the big crunch of the veggies, but the patty and the sauce are lost. The Whopper does not melt, it requires you to chew, chew, and chew. With the sauce at the top and the thick layer of ingredients in the way, you never truly taste the soul of the burger. Try eating it upside down.
The burger patty itself doesn’t get a lot of love, which is ironic considering it is the Burger “King.” Where it redeems itself is with the vegetables. They taste fresh, like actual vegetables in a market, which is high praise for a fast food restaurant. The onion, however, was a bit overwhelming.
Overall, the Whopper is filled with missed opportunities to highlight the key tastes you would expect from a burger.
Wendy’s Dave’s Single with Cheese: Held tightly within the trashy looking wrapper is the not-so-famous Dave’s Single with Cheese. Yes, even the name is less than impressive. I’ve driven 30 minutes to order a Baconator from Wendy’s, but I would not go out of my way for the Dave’s Single with Cheese.
While the Baconator is in another league, the Dave’s Single with Cheese is barely even playing the same sport when compared with the other burgers on this list. It is cafeteria food at worst and a McDonald’s hamburger at best. While eating this burger, I can’t help feel that we have overpaid for it—the same feeling I get when buying food at a movie theatre.
So what qualities harmed the Dave’s Single with Cheese the most? First, let’s talk about the bun. It’s uninspiring and almost insulting. Without any sesame, the bun feels fake in my hand, as if I’m holding a prop. Secondly, the sauce is boring. What is it? Ketchup. Lastly, the square burger patty is gimmicky and tasted as though it might have past its prime.
Good thing Wendy’s is not relying on the Dave’s Single with Cheese as its sole attraction. It’s a lazy burger, one that I can make at home with a frying pan—and I’m not a good cook.
Whopper with cheese
Dave’s Single with Cheese
By Eric Wilkins, Editor-in-Chief
A&W’s Teen Burger: This was the burger of my childhood. I’m not sure I even set foot in a Burger King or Wendy’s until high school, and my mother had a bad experience with McDonald’s meat growing up…amusingly meaning the rest of us were restricted to their chicken and fish offerings as well. Clearly a bullet dodged.
This was probably my first Teen Burger since I was actually a teen, and it’s still fantastic. “Good” fast food is a bit of a crapshoot—it takes a bit of luck. If you get stuck with a smaller tomato slice or onion, the cheese isn’t centred to melt properly on the patty, or the employee was generally a little sloppy in creating your solidified grease, it’s quite possible to go from a good burger to a disappointing one. I got lucky in this case. First bite had it all. Tomato, lettuce, bacon, onion, pickles, cheese, ketchup, mustard, and teen sauce. Scrumptious goodness.
McDonald’s Big Mac: The Big Mac is the definition of a flagship burger and it’s so wonderfully iconic that most everyone immediately knows what it is. You can hold up any other burger and have some confusion, but not the Big Mac. You know it’s the Big Mac. Two buns, two patties, lettuce, pickles, onion, special sauce, and the all-important bread in the middle. Thing of beauty.
The day I had a Big Mac for the first time was the moment I realized there was more to life than five value picks for under $10. It didn’t disappoint then and it never has. The key here is, of course, the bread in the middle. Part of the problem with burgers is that it’s very difficult to get every part of the burger in every bite; the Big Mac solves this. Whether partially as a placebo or actually backed up by heavily funded and biased fast-food science, the middle serves to soak up all the flavours and present them in one delicious mouthful after another. I’d probably be more than happy to just eat a bunch of middles with nothing else. Probably.
Burger King’s Whopper with Cheese: My first experience with the Whopper came last year when I was working at a Starbucks right beside a Burger King. It was love at first bite then and it hasn’t changed since. Easily one of the heftiest burgers around; it sits so solidly in your hand that you could swear there’s some invisible ingredient in there weighing it down. But there isn’t. It’s just a real burger. Giant juicy patty, adequate support ingredients, and quality thick wrapping. And while you can eat more than one, there’s no need to unless you really want to. It’s like the Gatorade of burgers: hunger quencher. Get it on Whopper Wednesday for $3 ($3.50 with cheese) and it’s the best value out there.
Wendy’s Dave’s Single with Cheese: When I first picked up the burger I assumed the apostrophe following “Dave” was to show ownership. Whose single with cheese is that? Dave’s. However, halfway through my first bite I realized my mistake. The apostrophe is for a contraction. This offering is so bad that it’s resulted in the bachelorhood of poor Dave. Dave is single with cheese. What an absolutely garbage excuse for a burger. One of the precious few times I’ve been unwilling to finish.
Starting with the presentation, things were already going downhill: an overbearingly shiny foil wrap with metallic red print—food attire so offensive to the eye it even looks like it’d get kicked out of even the most desperate of nightclubs. The bun was tasteless and thick, the patty had a weird taste to it, and the rest of the ingredients—while mediocre enough to pass in any other burger—sure weren’t even remotely good enough to salvage the barely edible performance. The meat at Wendy’s, and thus, in a Dave’s Single with Cheese, may be fresh, never frozen, but if this were a prizefight, that burger would be out cold.
Whopper with cheese
Dave’s Single with Cheese