REVIEW: Carl’s Jr. Hostess Ding Dong Ice Cream Sandwich

Carl’s Jr. Hostess Ding Dong Ice Cream Sandwich

Implementing the mechanics of a sandwich to hold ice cream in your grubby hands and shoving it into your body at the rate of an intravenous drip is something like harnessing sugary fusion.

This makes the ice cream sandwich something of a king in the category of “desserts inspired by other foods.” Personally, it ranks above the Choco Taco, the Pizookie, Twizzlers (dessert spaghetti), and the churro (dessert hot dog). Carl’s Jr. has trotted out the Hostess Ding Dong Ice Cream Sandwich for a try and it proves to be a pleasant if not slightly sticky experience.

What’s interesting is that straight up ice cream is sort of a rarity in fast food. There are shakes and soft serve and Frostys and Blizzards (oh my), but as far as a straight up scoop, I’m hard pressed to think of that many options. Carl’s Jr. had that Pop-Tart Ice Cream Sandwich I never tried. Baskin-Robbins and Carvel are only for freaks on first dates that need a place to walk to and families with unbearable children. This ice cream sandwich itches that scratch of a dense, slightly-chewy scoop of frozen goodness.

The Ding Dong Ice Cream Sandwich is smaller than you might think. Two Hostess Ding Dongs—actual size Ding Dongs, which are tiny—flank a relatively thick scoop of vanilla ice cream. The entire affair could probably squeeze inside a tennis ball. Then Serena Williams could serve them right into my mouth at 100 mph! Mmm, vanilla, chocolate and… sprinkles? Nope, those are broken teeth.

Ding Dongs, for those previously unacquainted, are chocolate cake pucks enveloped in a thin layer of chocolate. They do a gracious job of housing the ice cream, though the chocolate is a bit sticky. Maybe that’s something that’s insurmountable. We could have had unsticky chocolate by now but haters protested pink slime and the stuff that goes in yoga mats. Those were my favorite foods. Wednesday night is pot roast night and Thursday night was yoga mat and pink slime night. The hardened chocolate on the Ding Dong also offers a slight textural diversity to the sandwich, which is delightfully squishy on the whole.

Carl’s Jr. Hostess Ding Dong Ice Cream Sandwich 2

The ice cream is fairly regular. It’s inoffensive and tastes a little bit like a typical supermarket variety. The vanilla flavor is minor and dissipates quickly—this is not Carl’s Jr. staging an ice cream revolution. The dense ice cream pairs well with the (also pretty dense) chocolate cake, yet both together are so sweet that, about halfway through, there is a bit of sugar fatigue. However, I believe this happens with most ice cream things anyway, and speaks to the benefit of the smaller size of the product. There also isn’t much interplay between the flavors—the Ding Dongs are just there to get the ice cream in yo’ mouf.

The construction is a bit awkward, as the Ding Dongs are smaller than the scoop of ice cream. It took a bit of maneuvering to finish the sandwich without getting ice cream everywhere, especially when applying a small amount of pressure while eating it causes the ice cream to spill out a bit. It’s not a too bad of an inconvenience, though, and it’s worth it, like taking a girl taller than you to prom.

The Ding Dong ice cream sandwich is a nice changeup from the soupy shakes and air-filled soft serve cones on the fast food market. It’s not that different from any other ice cream sandwich that you might find in the frozen food aisle, but even a mediocre king is still a king.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 sandwich – 290 calories, 140 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 grams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Carl’s Jr. Hostess Ding Dong Ice Cream Sandwich
Purchased Price: $1.89
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Carl’s Jr.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Actual ice cream fix. Pleasant all-around experience.
Cons: Ice cream is fairly regular. Ding Dongs seems supplementary, not integral to product. Still sticky.

REVIEW: Carl’s Jr. Charbroiled Turkey Burger

Carl's Jr. Charbroiled Turkey Burger

There used to be a Carl’s Jr. in my neighborhood that was the definition of foul. You know what I’m talking about – that fluorescent-bulb buzzing, greasy-smelling, un-swept trash on the floor, poorly-lit parking-lot-mugging sort of joint. Not being a big fast food eater, I didn’t have a reason to go there very often, but despite this, I ate there exactly twice. Both times, it was after midnight, I was starving after a cross-country plane trip where there had been no meals, and I had refused to pay the inflated airport price for sub-par food. (I’m looking at YOU, LAX McDonald’s!!!) The burgers I consumed from Carl’s Jr. were greasy, bloated and messy — pretty typical fare, and not the worst thing if you’re famished, but I always felt like I was doing a real disservice to my arteries, waistline, lymph nodes, etc.

That being said, I really wanted to like Carl’s Jr.’s recent foray into “healthy food.” I thought it would help me overcome my deeply-ingrained mistrust of this particular fast food chain and expand my list of low-fat fast food options. (A girl can only order a 6-inch turkey sub from not-so-skinny Jared so many times). So when the new TV ads hit, proclaiming that Carl’s Jr. had enlisted the renowned nutrition experts of “Eat This, Not That” and Men’s Health to develop a trio of leaner burgers for the menu (the Teriyaki Turkey Burger and the Guacamole Turkey Burger are the other two), I was down to try it, despite the fact that I lack the Y chromosome. I thought to myself, Hey, Self, if the “Eat This, Not That” folks can endorse this product, I figure I can help them out a little, maybe satisfy my burger jones while avoiding the unhealthier items on the menu. I figured that a burger under 500 calories would be okay to eat, even if it’s still about 200 more calories than what I would normally ingest in one sitting.

They weren’t lying when they said each burger was under 500 calories, but they just barely squeaked by with that count – the Charbroiled Turkey Burger, the plainest of the three has 490 calories. Really, Carl’s Jr.? You boast about making sandwiches under 500 calories when the caloric difference is two sticks of sugar-free gum. Yes, most of your burgers are in the 700-1100 calorie range, and this burger is much less than that, but that’s kind of like being the air traffic controller who snores the most quietly while on duty. I wouldn’t call slapping together a sandwich that barely meets the “healthy” criteria an awesome accomplishment. Even the turkey burger you doused in sugary teriyaki sauce has fewer calories than your regular one! Do you see how strange that is, Carl’s Jr.? And don’t get me started on the 1,000+ milligrams of sodium.

Carl's Jr. Charbroiled Turkey Burger Halves

Let’s start with the patty. It is ground turkey, and we all know that turkey is the most dignified of all poultry. It’s the only bird that gets its own holiday, and the only bird we dress up in jaunty Pilgrim hats and shiny black shoes with buckles. However, the Charbroiled Turkey Burger patty is supremely unseemly. It looks like something straight out of an elementary school cafeteria or a maximum security prison mess hall. Pale and stiff on the outside, chewy and flavorless on the inside. They probably serve this turkey burger in Hell. How could something so bland contain so much salt? The fixins are standard – I counted two pieces of lettuce, one tomato slice, and a couple teensy pickles. The pile of sliced red onion was a nice touch, but it didn’t make up for the overall lack of flavor. Lastly, there was a glob of mayonnaise on the bottom bun and a slathering of “special sauce” with chopped onion on the top. The special sauce was clearly mayo mixed with ketchup. NOT SPECIAL. Thankfully, the burger wasn’t too messy, but that was probably because the decently-toasted, whole-grain bun soaked up all the spread.

Carl’s Jr. and their partners were really trying to make something healthy here, and I commend them for their efforts. It’s just too bad that the end result tastes like a half-hearted attempt. I expected something meaty and tasty with fewer calories than their usual burgers, and I got school district leftovers. Carl’s Jr. understands that people want better choices for their quick-service meals, but I think they could’ve done a lot better with this burger, especially with the assistance they received from “Eat This, Not That.” They got so preoccupied with looking out for our expanding guts that they left our taste buds out in the cold.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Charbroiled Turkey Burger (268g) – 490 calories, 200 calories from fat, 23 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 1010 milligrams of sodium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugar, 29 grams of protein.)

Other Carl’s Jr. Turkey Burger reviews:
An Immovable Feast
Grub Grade

Item: Carl’s Jr. Charbroiled Turkey Burger
Price: $3.61
Size: 1 turkey burger
Purchased at: Carl’s Jr.
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: Burger Jones. Under 500 calories. Two X Chromosomes. Red onions. Eat This, Not That. Turkeys in doublets, breeches, and tall, black hats with buckles.
Cons: Bland, school-lunch-grade meat. Really, really close to 500 calories. Enough sodium to blast your blood pressure into the stratosphere. Buying fast food at the airport. Maximum security prison.

REVIEW: Carl’s Jr. Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders

Carl's Jr. Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders

Doesn’t seem like chicken tenders would be such a big deal. Lots of fast food places have them. I’m actually surprised Carl’s Jr. has waited so long to introduce them to the menu.

You’d think such an addition would go gentle into that good night, but no. According to Carl’s, these are not just any chicken tenders. These are hand-breaded chicken tenders, and that is a big deal. There have been an onslaught of commercials: one going the fear route, with nothing but video of “Box 1457 B partially cooked frozen chicken strips” slowly panning out while the ominous voice-over informs you that they’ve been sitting there for 12 days, trying to convince you that even though you’ve been eating these crappy chicken strips for years, if you do it just one more time YOU WILL DIE. Okay, maybe not that bad, but close.

Another takes quite a different spin. Two receptionists stuff their faces with the hand-breaded chicken tenders; one asks the other why she stopped working at Carl’s, and she says it was too much work, with all the dipping and the hand-breading and the frying and the hey lady! Then the phone rings, and the first girl says, “That phone is soooo annoying.” Continue with face-stuffing.

As a female and a former career receptionist/secretary/office bitch, I should be offended, if I was the type of person to be offended by such things. But hey, if it gets the point across and Carl’s Jr.’s marketing department doesn’t mind being accosted by angry feminists and secretaries for portraying all of them as completely vapid bitches, have at it.

The Spanish-speaking contingent gets the best commercial. Isn’t that always the way? Obviously meant as a parody of telenovelas, some dude ogles the hot Latina maid dressed up in a “Sexy French Maid” Halloween outfit. Another hot Latina chick, presumably his wife, catches him in the act and starts screaming, wiping the table clean with a dramatic sweep of her arm and the breakage of several pieces of delicate flatware. The maid then sexily brings the man a tray of chicken tenders, the wife and the man sexily eat the chicken tenders, and the maid looks at them both sexily. I have no idea what is going on, but it is obviously the best of the bunch.

Carl's Jr. Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders Inside

Carl’s description of the chicken tenders is “Freshly prepared hand-breaded chicken tenders. Premium, all-white meat chicken hand dipped in buttermilk, lightly breaded and fried to a golden brown. Served with a choice of honey mustard, buttermilk ranch or sweet & bold BBQ dipping sauces.”

Some of these things are true. Some of them are indeterminate. I have to say, I thought the chicken definitely tasted fresher, or perhaps more chicken-like, than I’ve experienced with other fast food chicken strips. It both looks and tastes like an authentic piece of chicken breast. The meat is juicy and fairly tender.

As for the breading, I wouldn’t call it “lightly breaded,” but I also wouldn’t call it “smothered in two inches of crunchy breading,” which is how I would describe KFC’s chicken. Not that that’s a bad thing. Unfortunately, my tenders were fried to a little more than golden brown. I might go so far as to say they were over-fried. They didn’t taste burnt, but they could have been a little more on the golden side. That’s just the vagaries of fast food though; the next order could have been fried perfectly. The breading was crunchy and a little greasy, and didn’t really seem to contain any special spices.

I enjoyed Carl’s Jr.’s Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders, but they didn’t exactly blow my mind. Yeah, the chicken tastes fresh, and the breading is pretty good, but to be honest, if I hadn’t been beaten over the head by Carl’s with the idea that these were “freshly prepared” and “hand-breaded,” I wouldn’t have known the difference. The breading is a little bit of a different texture, but doesn’t scream groundbreaking. The Chicken Tenders came with some buttermilk ranch dip, but it too didn’t blow my mind. It would really help if a hot Latina served them to me in a French Maid outfit, though.

(Nutrition Facts – 5 chicken tenders (246 grams) – 560 calories, 280 calories from fat, 31 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 120 milligrams of cholesterol, 1,930 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugars and 47 grams of protein.)

Other Carl’s Jr. Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders reviews:
An Immovable Feast
Grub Grade

Item: Carl’s Jr. Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders

Price: $4.69

Size: 5 tenders (246 grams)

Purchased at: Carl’s Jr.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Pros: Chicken was juicy. Hot Latina chicks. Meat seemed like real breast meat. Breading had a good texture. “Box 1457 B.”

Cons: Tenders were over-fried, but that could just be bad luck. Stereotypes that receptionists are dumb and lazy. Breading had no spices or special flavoring. Fear of ever eating pre-breaded chicken strips again. Couldn’t tell if they were hand-breaded or not anyway.

REVIEW: Carl’s Jr. Big Carl

Carl’s Jr. and McDonald’s need to stop the bickering. Okay, mostly Carl’s Jr.

So what if McDonald’s came out with burgers that uses Angus beef and Carl’s Jr. came out with their version of the Big Mac, called the Big Carl. Can’t they just get along because I’d hate to see this turn violent? I believe we lost Biggie and Tupac this way.

I love McDonald’s french fries and I love Carl’s Jr. burgers, so if I lost them both, I would have less places to get huge doses of calories, saturated fat and sodium from. I don’t want to have to eat at Quiznos! Also, I don’t want them to be killed and release new stuff from the grave, because as Biggie, Tupac and Dave Thomas have proven with their posthumous stuff, it won’t be as good.

Much like the McDonald’s Big Mac, the Big Carl is made of two beef patties, a Thousand Island dressing-eque sauce, American cheese and lettuce in between a sesame seed bun. For those of you keeping score at home, the Carl’s Jr. burger does lack the Big Mac’s middle bun, along with pickles and onions. The Big Carl is also supposed to be cheaper than the Big Mac, except here on this island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, where it is one dollar more than a Big Mac and two dollars more than the advertised price of $2.49.

Size-wise, the Big Mac weighs in at 214 grams, while the Big Carl is significantly meatier at 315 grams. (Insert your favorite small penis/big penis joke here.) Flavor-wise, I do find the Carl’s Jr. burger to taste better because of the beef patties, which are of a higher quality than the Big Mac’s, and the Thousand Island dressing-ish sauce. But I wonder if my taste buds approve of the Big Carl because they’re bored with the Big Mac, which I’ve had so many times that I’m surprised I haven’t grown a third bun.

The Big Carl has almost twice the calories and saturated fat than the Big Mac, so it’s not something you should eat on a regular basis and I don’t think that will lure Big Mac enthusiast, Don Gorske, who has eaten over 20,000 Big Macs, to switch over to the Big Carl.

However, even though I just did so, I don’t know if one can truly compare the two burgers, since the Big Carl lacks pickles and onions, both of which helps give the Big Mac its unique taste.

While I believe it’s better tasting than a Big Mac, what I really like about the Carl’s Jr. Big Carl is the fact that it helps complete a rare kinky circle. A dude named Carl can go to Carl’s Jr., order a Big Carl and then perform a Hot Carl on someone.

Don’t know what a Hot Carl is? Look it up on Wikipedia or Urban Dictionary.

WAIT!!!

Don’t do that unless you want to upchuck the chuck you just ate at Chuck E. Cheese while listening to some Chuck Berry.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 burger – 920 calories, 59 grams of fat, 23 grams of saturated fat, 145 milligrams of cholesterol, 1370 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber and 45 grams of protein.)

Item: Carl’s Jr. Big Carl
Price: $4.59
Size: 315 grams
Purchased at: Carl’s Jr
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Better tasting than the Big Mac. Tastier patties than the Big Mac. Heavier than the Big Mac. Being able to complete a kinky circle. Wikipedia. Inserting your own penis jokes into a vagina of text.
Cons: Lacks pickles and onions (and third bun). Has twice the calories and saturated fat than the Big Mac. Hot Carls. Pricey on this island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Posthumous stuff from Biggie, Tupac and Dave Thomas.

REVIEW: Carl’s Jr. Charbroiled Steak Sandwich

Carl’s Jr. has been promoting their new Charbroiled Steak Sandwich by saying it’s a cheap way for guys to get a steak dinner on a date, but I don’t think it’s the best strategy.

The cheapest way for some dude to get a steak dinner on date night is by going to an expensive steak place (Tip #1: Morton’s or Ruth Chris), ordering the most expensive steak on the menu, and when the bill comes, patting the pocket he usually keeps his wallet in and then frantically patting all of the pockets on his body (Tip #2: Wear cargo pants on the date because there will more pockets to pat). The dude should then deeply sigh, grimace, apologize, say he forgot his wallet at home, and ask his date if she could pay. After she does, he should tell her that he’s worried about identity theft so he needs to go home to find his wallet and he’ll call her later. When he gets home, he should call his date, tell her that he found his wallet, and then say he never wants to see her again because she is ugly and needs better personal hygiene, like flossing better or not putting on perfume that makes her smell like old fart.

(Tip #3: Get a new phone number after doing this. Actually, get a new phone number, move to a new city, and grow/shave off facial hair, because hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.)

The attack on her self-consciousness will help her forget she just spent $100 on him and the only payment he’ll have to make is guilt, which goes away with a lot of alcohol.

(Tip #4: This freeloading has no gender bias. Women can also use these techniques on men.)

The Carl’s Jr. Charbroiled Steak Sandwich is probably the next cheapest way to get a steak dinner on a date. It’s significantly more compassionate than the best way, but it’s also significantly less tasty because it’s quite unexciting. The sandwich is made up of a 100% sirloin steak, topped with breaded onion rings, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise in a toasted roll.

The steak that comes with it is an actual piece of steak and not any of that ground Angus stuff that Burger King tries to push as a steak in their Steakhouse burgers. The steak was a little tough and didn’t really taste like steak, instead I thought it tasted more like pork chops. Being that there’s an actual piece of steak and the onion rings hardly added any flavor to it, I was hoping Carl’s Jr. would’ve added a steak sauce to it, like A1 Steak Sauce, Heinz 57, or maybe Worcestershire sauce.

The Carl’s Jr. Charbroiled Steak Sandwich is hearty like an steak, but unfortunately its flavor doesn’t match. It maybe a cheap way to get a steak dinner on date night, but I wouldn’t try it because hell hath no fury like a woman who is expecting a real steak dinner.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 sandwich – 700 calories, 38 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 85 milligrams of cholesterol, 1080 milligrams of sodium, 58 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 32 grams of protein, and 0 grams of self-consciousness destruction.)

(Editor’s Note: See the Carl’s Jr. commercial for their Charbroiled Steak Sandwich below.)

Item: Carl’s Jr. Charbroiled Steak Sandwich
Price: $5.99 (sandwich only – $4.69 in the rest of the country)
Purchased at: Carl’s Jr.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Hearty sandwich. Has an actual piece of steak. Lot of protein. Onion rings added a slight crunch. Getting a free steak dinner though deception.
Cons: Unexciting taste. Sirloin steak tasted like pork chops. Onion rings didn’t add much flavor. No steak sauce. High in sodium. The fury of scorn women. Guilt.