Monday, April 7, 2014

The Saga of the BK Veggie Burger!

Or, How it Took Me Nearly Four Goddamned Months To Get My Hands on a Stupid Sandwich

Poor Burger King. They will always be to the world of fast food what Patrick Ewing's Knicks were to the NBA Eastern Conference in the mid 1990s; always playing second fiddle to the industry's unstoppable top dog. Try as they might -- and let's give credit where credit is due, they do indeed try -- BK just can't seem to gets its collective act together these days, and nothing exemplifies the chain's "B-stature" quite like a recent expedition I took to one of their franchised eateries.

For starters, I don't think I've actually stepped foot in an actual Burger King restaurant in at least a decade. Every now and then, I would get interested by their signage (seriously, who isn't just a bit intrigued by the term "Angry Whopper" emblazoned upon a billboard?) and think about dropping in, but I never seemed to find the proper impetus to get me to actually amble inside of one. 

Which brings us to this thing called the "BK Veggie," which, to the best of my knowledge, is the only true vegetarian patty-containing burger being hawked by a mainstream, franchised fast food chain in these United States. I've literally had that thing on my to-do-list for a couple of years now, and one afternoon, I decided to FINALLY waltz into the local BK and give that MorningStar Farms-branded sumbitch a fine digestin'. 

The eatery I went into was fairly standard, I suppose. A giant video screen was positioned over the cash register, and a ton of "knock-off" sandwiches were being hawked all over the place. I mean, shit, they're actually selling their own version of the Big Mac now, so that pretty much tells you all you need to know about their business operations nowadays. The clerks and cashiers, as expected, seemed to not give half a shit about what they we're doing (not that I would expect anything less from my fast food adventures), and the wait for my foodstuffs, considering the sparsely populated restaurant, was unusually long. Once again, not that I would expect anything less from my fast food adventures, of course. The restaurant also had this really weird, post-post-modern look to it; the furniture all appeared cold and metallic, and I will be damned up the ass if the soda fountain wasn't stationed atop what appeared to be a gigantic, stainless steel tool cabinet.

The meal I ordered was quite straightforward; a small order of SATISfries (allegedly, they are healthier than the normal fries, not that such is a self-defeating marketing ploy in and of-itself), and a medium caramel iced coffee -- I ordered vanilla, but apparently, the vanilla-syrup machine was tapped completely out. And of course, there was the Veggie Whopper itself.

When I ordered my burger, the cashier asked me if I wanted a "Veggie Whopper." I asked for a BK Veggie Burger, and I assumed the "Veggie Whopper" was more or less the same thing, except bigger, so I told her sure. The item was wheeled out in a paper box, complete with the phrase "no meat" scrawled on it in black marker. It all looked so generic, yet so fitting at the same time.

So, I open up my box, and there she is: a big, fat, huge Whopper sandwich, sheathed in an additional paper blanket. It smelled really nice, and it felt quite heavy, too.

The "Veggie Whopper" appeared to have all the fix-ins. Tomato slices, iceberg lettuce, onions, and of course, so much goddamn ketchup that after one bite, your crimson-dyed fingers resembled those of an ice pick murderer. And then, I noticed something, well, more than a little peculiar about my order...

...chiefly, the fact that it was COMPLETELY DEVOID OF A PATTY OF ANY KIND.

I ordered a "Vegetarian Whopper," and instead of a veggie patty hamburger, they just gave me two buns with a few chunks of mayonnaise and lettuce wedged between them. It was like that one episode of "The Simpsons," come to goddamn life.

As you can no doubt see by my receipt, my order was not "A whopper with no patty in it," but indeed a "Veggie Whopper." I was promised a delicious, vegetarian-friendly sandwich, and BK gave me nothing buy a hamburger of broken dreams, with crinkle fries on the side.

The sad thing is, the burger itself wasn't bad. It was pretty delicious, and relatively filling, and at a pretty decent price point, too. Of course, that's also sort of overlooking the one major negative of the purchase, which was Burger King sold me a goddamn Whopper without a patty in it. Clearly, this called for some drastic consumer action, and I did so rapidly.

My receipt encouraged me to go online and vent my frustrations to Burger King via the World Wide Web. I spent a good half hour filling out a relatively fruitless customer survey, before I found an e-mail address that allowed me to go more in-depth with my consumer complaint. Below is my e-mail correspondence with Burger King, in its entirety:

Hello Burger King, 

On Jan. 31, 2014, I purchased what I was told was a "veggie Whopper,“ However, when I received my order, my hamburger consisted of nothing more than several chunks of lettuce, onion and tomato, with nary a vegetarian hamburger patty in sight. Due to my extreme social anxiety disorder and mounting anti-Vegetarian sentiments in the area, I did not inform the clerks at said establishment of the error. As I had been snowed in, this was my first meal in two days, and I was extremely looking forward to eating what I have been told is a delicious vegetarian sandwich. 

If it is possible, I would like Burger King to mail me a real "vegetarian Whopper," with a vegetarian hamburger patty in it. Also, I noticed that this franchise was handing out Pac-Man themed Burger King crowns. While a Pac-Man themed Burger King crown may not lessen my disappointment, it would be nice to have one, to go along with my mailed "vegetarian Whopper" with a vegetable hamburger patty in it. 

After a month of waiting, the suits at Burger King, Inc. had yet to respond to my polite and well-worded complaint. As such, I found myself ambling into another franchised eatery, and this time, I made my want of a vegetarian hamburger with a vegetarian hamburger patty in it insanely explicit. 

Indeed, I found myself ordering two BK Veggie Burgers, just on the off-chance that they decided to de-patty me on at least one of the comestibles. The first aesthetic difference I noted was the lack of one of those grandiloquent paper boxes, which the original "Veggie Whopper" was enclosed in. Apparently, these here normal veggie burgers weren't worthy of such treatment, it appears, as they were just wrapped in paper tissue like all of them other burger commoners. 

As for the burger itself, it was quite all right. There was certainly a lack of flora on this one, as there was nowhere near the amount of lettuce or tomato this time around. Of course, the inclusion of an honest-to-goodness vegetarian patty probably explains the absence, but still: it wouldn't have killed you mofos to slap on some more green, would it?

I really couldn't find myself complaining about any of the fixings, ultimately. While there was a comparative dearth of iceberg lettuce and mayonnaise compared to the "Veggie Whopper," there was an ample enough amount of the regulars -- especially the ketchup -- to prove an adequate burger-going experience, nonetheless. 

As for the Morningstar patty itself -- despite looking like a warmed-over slice of sausage -- it was pretty decent. It's one of those veggie patties that definitely has a nice bean taste texture to it, which will probably offend the sensibilities of anyone who isn't already familiar with faux-meat products of the like. It may not be a gourmet veggie patty or anything, but for a fast food offering priced at just three bucks, I really don't think you'd have any grounds for complaints, anyway. 

And so, that's how my quarter-year long fast food odyssey came to an end. I got a random hankering for some synthetic beef-like substance one day, got gypped hard by one of the nation's fast food leviathans (or, at least, one of their more lackluster franchised establishments), tried to obtain correspondence from their corporate headquarters, did some Internet customer complaining, and like all good Pavlovian consumers, found myself ambling right back into the same eatery that screwed me over, fueled partially by blind faith but much more an inquisitive, rumbling stomach.

So, at the end of the day, is the BK Veggie worth your time, dinero and digestive system investments? Well, if you are a vegetarian, probably, because its not like you have that many veggie-friendly options when it comes fast food scavenging time. But if you're not? Well, this probably ain't the menu offering that's going to steer your towards Vegan Central; it's all right grub for what it is, but don't expect anything world-changing, no matter your food sexuality at the present.

Oh, and if you're wondering? I'm still waiting for that UPS'ed Veggie Whopper and Pac-Man crown, Mr. Burger King...


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