Thursday, March 17, 2016

Burger King Bonanza (Winter 2016 Edition!)

Dr. Pepper milkshakes, jalapeno chicken fries, greasy garlicky burgers and two varieties of grilled hot dog ... is it fast food heaven, or fast food hell?

By: Jimbo X

Say what you will about Burger King - and whatever it is, it's probably going to be something negative - you at least have to give the other long-running fast food burger joint some credit. When it comes to weird-ass, gimmicky limited-time-only menu offerings, they usually bring the goods in spades. I mean, this is the same chain that gave us spooky steak sauce burgers that turned our turds chartreuse last Halloween, after all

Not merely content with tossing out one or two limited time only, novelty foodstuffs, Burger King rolled out a good half dozen specialty items over the 2016 Q1 season, running the gamut from esoteric, co-branded milkshakes to a double dose of grilled wieners to seasoned chicken tenders with packaging that's yay close to being racist. So in short, yeah, they had one HELL of a quarter, I believe it is safe to say. 

So, what all did you miss out on January and February 2016? Here's a quick rundown of a couple of BK gimmicks that - odds are - you are likely to NEVER wrap your lips, tongue and bicuspids around ever again. Hey, you should have waddled your ass on over to the King when you had your chance, amigo...


What on the surface sounds like an utterly disgusting item is actually one of the more surprisingly enjoyable LTO products to come down the BK pipes in quite some time. Granted, the concept of the beverage is hardly anything new - forgive me if I am mistaken, but I am pretty sure people used to call ice cream with soda poured on top of it "floats" - but I really didn't expect America's favorite non-Coke/non-Pepsi carbonated cola to taste as good as it is in congealed dairy form. 

OK, ok, so it does look like a big old swirling puddle of mud (or the surface of Jupiter, depending on how high you are at the time of ingesting it), but flavor-wise, it is actually quite yummy. You get a full, chunky and saccharine (but not too saccharine) kick from the vanilla ice cream and the fizzy, tingly Dr. Pepper addendum gels astonishingly well with it. It's not quite the best way to describe its taste, but imagine a really thick, rich dark cherry ice cream, and that's essentially what you are getting here in liquefied form. Suffice to say, Dr. Pepper clearly works better as a slushy ice cream than it does as a bubble gum flavor


Chicken Fries - a longtime seasonal BK product that became a full-time menu offering last summer - have gone through a few variations over the years. The latest is a super spicy mixture, but really, the most important thing here is the packaging ... which, frankly, is about as culturally sensitive as greeting the prime minister of Singapore while stretching your eyelids vertically and making "ching chong ding dong" sounds under your breath. 

Beyond the gloriously stereotypical depiction of a Mexican chicken (complete with a sombrero and maracas), the package is just littered with terrible ethnic puns. Oh, the "I'd Mariachi this flavor" joke above is bad, but I assure you the ones on the other four sides of the packaging are just as groan-inducing, if not worse. How bad are we talking here? "These jalapeño chicken fries are la bomba" - that's how fuckin' bad. 

Alas, while the marketing of the products are, well, dubious, to say the least, you really can't argue with the gustatory quality of the fries themselves (which, to those who aren't in the know, aren't actually fries ... they are really teeny, tiny slivers of breaded chicken, i.e., nuggets shaped like a lower case "l.") They are comparatively spicy, but seeing as how even faux Mexican fast food juggernauts like Taco Bell and Del Taco can't produce a hot sauce worth a darn, it really shouldn't come as a surprise that these items are probably a four, maybe a five on the adjusted, American consumer heat index. And if you are using the actual Scoville scale? Eh, it might break into the third tier from the bottom. If you are feeling particularly generous that evening. 


Burger King has been all about the burger\sub hybrid sandwiches for a while now, and the "extra long buttery cheeseburger" takes the gimmick to its next logical step - that being, a sammich that is pretty much the exact same thing as a normal Whopper, only with the patties decked out side by side inside an Italian roll - but with a shit ton of garlic sauce on top of everything!

Yeah, it is not the most inventive menu addendum they've ever trot out, but on the whole, it is pretty good. As a huge garlicky burger fan, though, I can safely say I have had far better burgers of the like at other establishments - Steak 'n Shake's Garlic Double Steakburger immediately springs to mind - and the melted cheddar cheese tasted a little too plastic. Then again, I did order it from a franchisee that once took 15 minutes to get my two Whopper order correct before, so maybe that's something we can blame on that particular establishment as opposed to the national brand itself. But hey - as long-time IIIA readers can attest to, at least they didn't forget to put a goddamn patty in the bun, as some other BK franchisees are oft prone. 


Not since Taco Bell announced its breakfast menu has their been a fast food gamble as big as Burger King's grilled hot dogs. While some elitist dickwad at the New York Post deemed the item "a disgusting disgrace" (although judging from the critic's erroneous description of the dog's toppings, it seems quite likely said dickwad never actually tried the item), the little doggies have proven themselves to be BK's fastest selling menu newcomer in years. How successful, you may be wondering? According to some reports, the aggregate Burger King restaurant is selling between 80 to 120 of the newfangled hot dogs per day.

To be fair, the "classic" hot dog ain't exactly a beauty. Alas, alike many a Bruce Springsteen sexual conquest, "that's all right," though, because as unsightly as the product may be, it doesn't really taste all that bad. You get ketchup, you get mustard, you get onions and you get relish, and yes, the wieners themselves are indeed grilled (or, in this case, a bit on the scorched side.) Yeah, it doesn't come close to the hot dogs offered by Sonic and Checkers/Rally's, but it is certainly better than most gas station hot dogs. And yes, I know that's a really backhanded compliment, but coming from a guy who actually kind of likes gas station food, that's nowhere near as big a slight as it sounds. 


Next to Sonic the Hedgehog, there probably isn't a bigger fan of chili dogs than me. This is apparent by all of the re-pins my recipe for veggie chili dogs has gotten on Pinterest - which, presumably, means the masses really like my taste when it comes to good old fashioned, artery-clogging white trash cuisine. Which, naturally, makes Burger King's take on the time-tested county carnival/trailer park favorite all the more disappointing. 

First off, it isn't a terrible item. It is certainly edible, and if you are half-starved, it will certainly fix you right up. That said, nothing about the dog really felt authentic; the cheese tasted like it was imitation-brand and the chili was like, ALDI-quality and shit. If you are looking for a chili cheese dog fix, there are certainly far better fast food options at your disposal - like, any of them

To summarize? The Dr. Pepper milkshake was surprisingly good, the jalapeño fries were fairly decent despite offending everyone of Hispanic origin, the extra long buttery cheeseburger was just sort of meh, the classic hot dog is certainly serviceable and the chili cheese dog is a huge letdown. So, yeah, in terms of gustatory quality, it is a real mixed bag, but you know what? Sometimes, you just get a hankering for slightly above mediocre different over well above average normal. Can you get far better food at other restaurants? Without question. But as far as lower-class, unhealthy, edible ephemerality goes, it is hard to beat the uncultured, saturated fat-soaked fast food fugaciousness the fine folks at the King have given us over the last three months. 

And for that dedication to novelty consumer experience, I gently tip my paper crown to them. 

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