A celebration of all the artery-clogging, beef-loaded monstrosities that made this year's tornado season the awesomest spring ever for connoisseurs of gimmicky burgers.
By: Jimbo X
Unless you are a worthless, vegan, communist piece of shit, you probably love hamburgers. In a way - next to seven-layer burritos and deep dish pizza, of course - they are nature's perfect foodstuff. You get two hunks of grain, some veggies, a ton of sauces and, the biggie, so much fuckin' protein your colon will have to work triple-overtime just to make sure you don't sweat to death the next time you take a dump.
For whatever reason, the spring season seems to be the big boom period for limited-time-only, novelty fast food burgers (it may have something to do with the rush of big budget, Hollywood blockbusters hitting the cineplexes, I have surmised.) As was the case last year, the season of the birds and the bees and no Canadian teams making the Stanley Cup playoffs gave us quite the burger bounty as of late, and with summer right around the corner, I reckoned it was worth all of our collective whiles to revisit some of the more remarkable transitory products of the past couple of months.
Unloosen your belt buckle, tie on a bib or two and get ready to nom like there is no tomorrow, folks: it's time to pay homage to the ephemeral chain hamburgers that made spring 2016 one of the most memorable in the history of fast food promotions.
Burger King's Angriest Whopper!
Yeah, this isn't the first go at it for Burger King, who has released the product every other year or so (perhaps to capitalize on the appeal of a certain smartphone app that may or may not be a furtive allegory for conflict in Palestine) since its initial launch in 2009. Alas, this re-do isn't co-branded with the Angry Birds license (quite unusual, seeing as how a way-too-late big screen adaptation is hitting the cineplexes shortly), but it does come with an even more interesting hook...
Oh yes, BK is gave the Angriest Whopper the old "Maximum Carnage on the Super Nintendo" treatment. Lest your eyes deceive you, yes, this burger indeed utilizes a sesame-seed bun that is dyed a deep claret color. Obviously trying to imitate the success of last fall's HA1LLOWEEN Burger (you have to spell it in all caps to pick up the sly, co-branded endorsement of a certain steak sauce manufacturer), the product boasts of having the proprietary hot sauce baked inside the bun itself - which, of course, immediately got me wondering what color THIS dyed burger would turn your poo-poo.
As you likely surmised, the Angriest Whopper earns its namesake by being stuffed full of "white people" hot bric-a-brac, including but not limited to jalapeño rings, spicy chicken fries and a proprietary chipotle-esque dressing. I suppose it is one of the spicier menu items you will find at an American chain fast food joint, but it's nowhere near as bad as you'd imagine (meaning, essentially, that it won't turn your anus into a flamethrower after you are done digesting it.)
Of course, the sting is nullified considerably by all the lettuce and standard mayo, but I will give BK it's proper dap. If nothing else, you have to appreciate The King for trying something different, and all things taken into consideration (an aside: fuck NPR), it's a pretty solid burger, period-blood-hued gimmick or not. Oh, and for those wondering if the bun dye does anything funky to your stool like their Halloween burger from last fall? Eh ... outside of producing a slightly tinglier shat than normal, the after-effects of consumption are wholeheartedly unremarkable.
Burger King's Extra Long Philly Cheesburger!
Of course, it's not the only newfangled offering at BK. Joining the claret-colored Whopper is the franchise's take on the Philadelphia cheese-steak sandwich ... which, alike the already forgotten Yumbo, comes on a hoagie roll as opposed to your tried-and-true semi-oval buns.
Generally speaking, I'm not too big a fan of the "long burger" concept. Sure, you may visually think you are getting more product, but really, all it is is a ploy to get you pay more per square-ounce of bread. Having the two patties side-by-side kinda' tricks you into thinking you are getting more than you are paying for, even though you are essentially just ingesting the caloric equivalent of a standard double-patty cheeseburger, regardless.
But if you order this L-T-O burger, what all do you get? Well, you get a SHIT load of cheese and an even bigger shit load of grilled onion. For this, The King deserve a lot of credit; so many franchises out there would have just thrown a small pinch of onion on a slice or two of American cheese, but they definitely give you your money's worth here...
...you know, pending the you can overlook the fact that the innards of your 'sammich looks like a bunch of tapeworms roiling around in orange sputum, of course.
Checkers' Buttery Steak Burger and STEAKZILLA!
I've never really understood why Checkers is called Rally's in some places - or vice-versa, I suppose, depending on your own locality. Regardless, Checkers/Rally's is known for having some pretty interesting burger variations (and at a cheaper than market average price, too) - not to mention being home to the what I consider far and away the best goddamn barbecue-sauce-and-fried-onion-rings burger of any fast food franchise (which, after looking at the official restaurant website, appears to have sadly been discontinued for years now.) So, how does the chain fare when it comes to tackling both junior deluxe and, well, deluxe-deluxe steak burgers? Well, let's take a closer look, why don't we?
Up first, we've got the chain's newfangled "Buttery Steak Burger." As the name suggests, it's basically just a standard steak-burger, only coated in a thick, greasy glaze of liquefied Country Crock. Such is a pretty popular trend among fast food burger holes as of late - lest we forget Burger King's semi-decent shot at the menu offering earlier this year.
Content-wise, this thing is just a delightful mess. There are chunks of spiced-up steak - it's a little too chewy to be considered ground beef, but still too granular to be properly identified as "beef tip" - with slightly-less battered than usual onion rings, all topped in a thick, creamy, Swiss cheese sauce. Oh, and if you squint hard enough, you might even see some signs of an actual bun in there, somewhere.
So, yes, it's just a huge, OCD-nightmare of beef, cheese and greasy vegetables that have had all of the health benefits deep-fried out of them. I can see how such would be disgusting to some, but really, who ever voluntarily dines on fast food if he or she isn't in the mood for decadent, artery-clogging, adipose-tissue-connecting carnage? And hey, if this little bugger intimidates you, just wait until you get a load of its bigger brother...
Meet Steakzilla, everybody. No, it's not a hamburger brought back to life via atomic bomb testing (well, unless you reheat it in a microwave, I guess,) it's Checkers/Rally's super-sized version of the buttery steak sandwich thingy (uh, just without all of the butter, naturally.) And to call this product beastly would be an understatement.
Fundamentally, this is the same thing as the smaller steak burger, albeit with two noticeable differences: obviously, it is nowhere near as greasy, and unlike the junior deluxe iteration, it also comes with full-sized beef patty in addition to all of the chunky steak bits, Swiss cheese goop and fried onion ring shards.
Needless to say, if you are looking for something that will take the wind out of your lungs and make your pancreas crank into overdrive, digesting this sumbitch right here will probably do it. It's so massive, so salty and so - well, beefy - that I had to get up while I was eating it and walk around to process all of it without passing out at the table. That sounds hyperbolic, I know, but trust me - halfway through this one, and you, too, will feel the sudden need to expend calories to compensate for the truckload you just dumped inside your stomach.
And yes, in case you are wondering, it is indeed a pretty enjoyable burger - induced heart palpitations and meat sweats aside. The onion rings and cheese give it just the right amount of tart to complement that savory, saltiness of the protein - and rest assured, this is one of the few fast food burgers you will find anywhere that could legitimately fill you up after shredding open just one wrapper. The only question now, I suppose, is if the franchise re-releases the product next year, alongside it's fish and poultry-based analogues, the Barbecue Rodan and the Filet 'O Hedora?
Hardee's Midnight Moonshine Burger (and Bacon Cheddar Fries, just because!)
And here's yet ANOTHER fast food staple that, depending on which part of the country you live in, has a totally different namesake. Regardless of your ZIP code, I've got it on good authority that both Hardee's and Carl Jr.'s are serving something called the "Midnight Moonshine Burger," which for the title alone, is something I'd say is well worth investigating.
I know what you're thinking. "Old Jimbo, buddy, how in the hell is anybody supposed to mass market and manufacture a burger that tastes like untaxed and unregulated alcoholic beverages?" Well, you my friend, takes things way too literal. This here burger doesn't taste like cheap whiskey made out of antifreeze by hillbillies, it's actually a rather run-of-the-mill Hardee's cheeseburger, just topped with a glaze of the proprietary Midnight Moonshine BBQ sauce.
Yeah, I was expecting something crazier from the same franchise that gave us a hot dog-and-potato-chip-topped heart-attack in a box this time last-year, too. Granted, it's still a pretty enjoyable meal, and the sauce - which is stickier than a booger in a pickle jar - definitely has a nice, sweet taste to it that you really don't get out of other fast food BBQ burgers. Oh, and in case you are wondering? No, those aren't bloated maggots wallowing in ketchup on the northern bun. Those are little fried onion petal thingies, which apparently, are the big "in-thing" accouterments for big-chain burger outlets this season.
And just because I like having a photographic record of everything I eat, here are the franchise's bacon cheddar fries, too. Yeah ... I've had much better elsewhere, as well.
Red Robin's Red Ramen Burger!
Believe it or not, this was the first time I'e ever stepped foot inside a Red Robin restaurant (it's sort of a hybrid dine-in casual/fast food place ... think, Fuddruckers and Applebee's and all those other places you don't like going to.) Regardless, deviating from my usual route home was WELL worth it - I mean, how many people out there can say they've actually tasted a real-life Ramen burger?
No, your eyes aren't deceiving you. That is indeed a big old hamburger, only with a crunchy, golden yellow Ramen noodle patty serving as the bun substitute. The Ramen "buns" were unexpectedly chewy, which is surprising since just about every time I've ever eaten Ramen, the noodles were either soaking wet taffy or rock-hard crumbs. You still get a nice, satisfying crunch when you bite into it, though, and the patty wasn't ruined by a deluge of in-house seasonings. So, yes, they basically stirred up some Ramen - the very same stuff you can buy at the local grocery store for 19 cents a cup - grilled it up, threw some meat between it and resold it to you for $12 American. That, my friends, is capitalism done right.
Of course, a Ramen Burger is only as good as the contents underneath and between it, and thankfully, Red Robin's go-at-it definitely brings the goods. Not only do you get a thick and juicy all-beef patty topped with Asian slaw (it's mostly just carrots and iceberg lettuce, though), the Ramen buns themselves are held together with a really nice, spicy chipotle-esque cream. That's the spicy side of the dualistic, novelty burger, but wait! There's a nice, sugary side to make this whole she-bang a proverbial sweet and sour affair.
Yes, the burger itself comes doused in a nice, thick, sweet chili barbecue sauce. It's not really teriyaki, and it's definitely not your run of the mill Sriracha mix, either - it's just a really good, tangy, duck-sauce derivative that gels astonishingly well with the unorthodox mixture of noodle, beef, carrot and spicy mayonnaise. Much like the back alleys of Bangkok, there's all sorts of weird shit going on here; and also not unlike the capital city of Thailand, as long as you've got the money and you don't mind sticking things in your mouth you never considered before, this little dish right here is a whole hell of a lot of fun. Alas, if you think that's the only limited-time-only obscure-burger the chain is trotting out this spring ... think again.
Red Robin's Berserker X Burger!
Waltzing into the Red Robin, I had no idea this thing existed. I just saw it on a cardboard display, said "what the hell" and decided to pay the $14-something it cost to complement my Red Ramen burger (why, yes, I can eat an absurd amount of food in one sitting. What ever gave you that idea?) The best part was having the waitress ask me no less than three times if I "really" wanted to eat both this and the Ramen burger in one sitting. Those are the moments I know I've really made my life one well spent.
As the giant "X" sticking out of the hamburger bun (itself, marked with a smaller scarlet "x") would indicate, yes, this burger is meant to tie in with the all-new Apocalypse X-Movie coming out at month's end. From what the Internet has told me, the restaurant chain has actually wheeled out several permutations of the "Berserker X Burger" over the years, each time with the L-T-O foodstuff corresponding with a new mutant-themed motion picture. And hoo boy, let me tell you - not unlike the plotlines of the last five X-Men movies, there is a whole lot of shit going on in this sucker.
There is so much stuff loaded atop the burger that I actually had to pull up the Red Robin website to recall everything. Outside of the cheddar encrusted grilled patty, the brioche burger also comes loaded with lettuce, tomatoes (both the all-natural kind and the fired kind pictured above that kind of looks like chicken nuggets) AND approximately four million pounds of super-spicy onion straws ... which are made even spicier thanks to generous dollops of jalapeño aioli sauce every fucking where. Oh, and I think the sauce is augmented with some craft-beer energy drink combo marinade, too, if that matters to you.
The burger is no doubt an intimidating specimen - according to one online resource, it easily does 1,300 calories all by itself (with about two-thirds of them coming in the form of fat, no less.) I mean, yeah, you do get some pickles in there to fool you into thinking the "Dark Phoenix Saga"-esque clusterfuck of a sandwich is semi-healthy, but rest assured, this is 100 percent gluttony-fueled madness no matter how you slice it. As an "event" burger, so to speak, I don't think anyone's metabolism would allow them to put one down more than once every three or so years anyway, so unless you are aspiring to have a physique like The Blob, it's probably in your best interests to try only one of these ...ever. Oh, and the less said about what this thing does to your butthole, trust me, the better.
And that's that, folks! Over the course of three months, we put away pounds and pounds of dead cow, dozens of different cheeses and sauces and pushed so much bread and iceberg lettuce through our intestinal tracks that we will probably never be regular again. Alas, with so many fond memories formed - the waiting in line for dumbass teenagers to get our fries ready, all of the BBQ sauce stains on our nicest dress pants, the shortness of breath we've been experiencing since April - in hindsight, all of the negative aspects of the journey certainly came out as a wash.
This past spring, we came, we nommed, and we conquered. And Lord willing, we will be doing this each and every Spring from here on out. I mean, what could possibly be more than American than dropping $100 to go on a whirlwind tour of fast food eateries and trying out the finest (and most brazenly unhealthy) novelty products the nation's advertising executives can dream up?
That's right ... absolutely freakin' nothin', America. Absolutely freakin' nothin'.