REVIEW: McDonald’s Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich

McDonald’s Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Do you like plain things? Is average your goal in life? Do you adorn your car with rejected foodeism bumper stickers such as, “Bacon Makes Only a Select Few Things Better,” or “Please Pass the Crackers But Not the Cheese.” Are you frequently drawn to buzz words that are three years out of style? If so, then the new McDonald’s Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich might be for you.

It didn’t have to be this way. Contrary to popular belief, a grilled chicken sandwich isn’t predestined to damnation on fast food menu boards.

Often mocked as a dry alternative to beef for those watching their waistline, its real problem, if you ask me, is more the off-putting chewy texture and brothy taste fast food companies use to guard against the dry and insipid stereotype. That and the five worst words in the history of the English language: Chicken Breast with Rib Meat.

McDonald’s Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich 2

The new “Artisan” chicken sandwich supposedly leverages a fresher take on the traditional chicken breast, one “free of preservatives and artificial flavors“ and including a seasoning blend of “salt, garlic and parsley.” A vinaigrette, Brioche-style bun, and the proverbial tomato and leaf lettuce round out the party, which is one of the calorically lighter offerings on McDonald’s menu. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the least flavorful.

Having enjoyed McDonald’s Bacon Clubhouse Grilled Chicken Sandwich for some time now, I had high hopes for the synergy of the new buns and the new chicken. It certainly looks like a better product than previous McDonald’s grilled chicken sandwiches, although pegging it as “Artisan” is about as accurate as labeling McDonald’s “fine-dining.”

McDonald’s Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich 3

Not surprisingly, the sandwich really misses the bacon, cheese, and grilled onions that the Bacon Clubhouse version of the grilled chicken has. Mostly, the Artisan Chicken tastes boring and plain. The chicken isn’t dry, but it has a stringy interior and still suffers from a somewhat chewy texture, perhaps accentuated by an overly basted coating of the olive oil mixture McDonald’s prepares it with. Worse yet, there’s a fake butter flavor which predominates the toasted bun, which in my case was slightly burnt on both sides.

The vinaigrette is somewhere between gloopy and runny. It has a flat garlic and oil taste with very weak hints of citrus, but it really doesn’t carry a connotation of light or fresh. It was just kind of there, and if anything it’s more an annoyance because it sogs up the bottom bun, which causes it to squirt out from the sandwich and onto my pants when I take a bite from it. The bun’s taste was okay aside from the fake buttery flavor, but it felt small in containing the chicken breast, and wasn’t sweet or rich enough to balance out the sandwich’s other components.

McDonald’s Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich 4

If there’s one overwhelmingly positive aspect about the sandwich, it’s that its lower-calorie status makes one feel less guilty when downing it with a large combo meal. Otherwise, there’s not a whole lot to get excited about, and nothing comparatively “artisan” about it. It’s good to see McDonald’s revving up menu developments again after slashing a number of items earlier in 2015 (RIP: Southern Style Chicken) but in this case it’s going to take more than overused buzzwords to win my approval.

(Nutrition Facts – 360 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 930 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 11 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, and 32 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Purchased Price: $4.69
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Decently fresh produce. Not dry. Good source of protein. Less guilt when eaten as part of a large combo meal.
Cons: Fake butter flavor. Doesn’t actually taste grilled. Stringy chicken. Kinda slimy, actually. No wow factor.

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REVIEW: McDonald’s CBO (Canada)

McDonalds CBO (Canada)

McDonald’s Canada is pushing the CBO pretty hard. Where I live, at least, there are billboards all over town proudly proclaiming this sandwich to be “the next legend.” Obviously, McDonald’s has high hopes.

I should probably note that the Canadian CBO is, oddly enough, different than the CBO introduced in the States a couple of years ago. This one is a chicken sandwich, topped with CBO sauce, lettuce, bacon, and crispy onions, served on an onion bun.

The most noteworthy thing about this sandwich is probably the weirdly hard time I had ordering one.

At the first McDonald’s I visited (yes, there was more than one), I ordered it, sat down, opened the box, and found that a few of the crispy onions had fallen out of the sandwich. They were green, which I found odd; even odder was how spicy they were. Clearly, these were not crispy onions at all, but crispy jalapeños.

I brought this to the attention of the confused-looking girl behind the register. A manager emerged from the back. Eventually, he told me that they ran out of crispy onions and decided to sub in the jalapeños instead.

That strikes me as an odd decision, since crispy onions and jalapeños taste completely different, but hey, I don’t run a McDonald’s. What do I know?

He offered to make me another sandwich without the jalapeños. I told him no, I needed to try the sandwich as it’s supposed to be. He stared at me plaintively. “Man, I’m going to have to throw it out!” Though I was tempted to ask him how, exactly, that was my problem, I instead politely apologized and eventually wound up with some cash in my pocket, on my way to a second McDonald’s.

McDonalds CBO (Canada) 2

Thankfully, there were no jalapeño shenanigans to be found at the second location, so I was able to try the real, non-adulterated CBO. The End.

Oh wait, I guess not The End, this is a review, isn’t it? I still have to tell you about the actual sandwich.

It’s fine, if a bit boring. Honestly, my jalapeño-related mishaps were probably more interesting than the sandwich itself.

I’m not sure if the chicken patty is the same one they use in the McChicken; I suspect that it isn’t (it looks a little different, at least), but it tastes very similar. As far as reconstituted chicken sandwiches go, I’ve certainly had worse, but there really isn’t much that pops out about it. It’s pretty bland.

I will say, however, that chicken in my sandwich was piping hot, and clearly freshly cooked. That’s basically the McDonald’s equivalent of finding a four-leaf clover, so that was fun.

McDonalds CBO (Canada) 3

McDonald’s describes the CBO sauce as a “creamy pepper sauce,” and it basically just tastes like regular mayo with flecks of pepper in it. If you told me it was McChicken sauce, I’d have no reason not to believe you.

As for the bacon, it’s actually bacon pieces instead of actual slices of bacon, which was probably not a great idea — the soft little bits get lost among the other elements of the CBO, and add almost nothing to the sandwich, other than a vague saltiness.

Happily, the crispy onions that I worked so hard to try suited the sandwich pretty well, and were probably the CBO’s most assertive flavour. Between that and the onion bun, this sandwich definitely earns the O in CBO.

McDonalds CBO (Canada) 4

That pretty much sums this sandwich up, in fact — it tastes like an oniony McChicken. But I guess Oniony McChicken doesn’t quite have the same ring as CBO, so here we are.

I’m honestly a little bit baffled that McDonald’s is giving a sandwich as boring as the CBO such a strong marketing push. It isn’t bad, but there’s just nothing about it that’s particularly memorable.

(Nutrition Facts – 680 calories, 36 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0.4 grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 1160 milligrams of sodium, 62 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fibre, 10 grams of sugar, and 27 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s CBO (Canada)
Purchased Price: $5.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Tasty crispy onions. Decent quality chicken.
Cons: Boring sandwich. Soft, pointless bacon bits. Plain sauce. McDonald’s running out of ingredients and making random substitutions.

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REVIEW: McDonald’s Mozzarella Sticks

McDonald’s Mozzarella Sticks 1

McRibs, McNuggets, McFlurries — I love ‘em all. Want to know the truth? Just slap a “Mc-” prefix in front of any remotely edible substance and I’ll gladly give it a taste. McPossum, anyone?

And that’s why I’m slightly upset that these McDonald’s Mozzarella Sticks aren’t actually called “McMozzSticks” or a similar clumsily-formed name. According to The Wire, these breaded, fried strips of cheese are currently being test-marketed at select McDonald’s restaurants in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.

Because I happen to live in the state that gave the world Bruce Springsteen, Tony Soprano, and Teresa Giudice, I’ve been granted the privilege of trying these mozzarella sticks. By the way, do you guys want Teresa Giudice? We’ve had enough of her.

McDonald’s Mozzarella Sticks 2

For only a single dollar, I received three tiny mozzarella sticks and a packet of marinara dipping sauce. According to the accompanying cardboard box, the mozzarella sticks are made with “real mozzarella.” I’m glad to see McDonald’s chose to forego using fake mozzarella in their product. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a fake. That’s why I threw out all of my Milli Vanilli CDs, refuse to buy Chanel handbags in Chinatown, and will only look Pamela Anderson straight in the eyes.

McDonald’s Mozzarella Sticks 3

Lucky for me, McDonald’s Mozzarella Sticks were nothing but the real deal. The breading was well-seasoned and evident in each bite, but stopped short of overwhelming the mozzarella flavor. Although the mozzarella sticks weren’t hot enough for the cheese inside to ooze, they were still warm enough to be satisfying. The exterior was slightly crisp from the fryer, and each mozzarella stick maintained its shape when handled. Let’s face it — nobody wants a soggy, flaccid cheese stick. (Ladies?)

Though smaller in size than I had anticipated, the mozzarella sticks had exceeded my expectations, rivaling more expensive versions of the same product sold at other chain restaurants. I was ecstatic, floating in a state of cheesy bliss…

Then, I made a mistake.

I dipped my second mozzarella stick into the marinara sauce.

There are no words to describe the pain.

McDonald’s Mozzarella Sticks 4

I’ve eaten a lot of McDonald’s products over the years. Many of them were delicious, many of them were tolerable, but very few were truly awful. Alas, this single packet of marinara sauce is the undisputed worst-tasting item I’ve ever experienced at a McDonald’s restaurant. (As a disclaimer, I’ve never tried that strange-looking black hamburger McDonald’s Japan recently launched.)

Each taste of McDonald’s marinara sauce brings to mind overcooked tomato sauce saturated with excessive amounts of oregano in an attempt to cover up the flawed flavor. As opposed to the smooth, tomato essence of a slow-cooked red sauce, McDonald’s marinara is slightly bitter, producing a mild burning sensation at the back of the throat. In short, McDonald’s has failed to replicate any positive aspect of an Italian marinara sauce. Their bastardization would make your little Italian grandmother cry for an hour, beat Ronald McDonald with a rolling pin, and then beat you with a rolling pin — just for good measure.

Disregarding the botched marinara sauce, these McDonald’s mozzarella sticks are worth a try. Sure, they might be small, but their low price makes the temptation of buying twenty-five boxes hard to resist. If these become a regular item on the McDonald’s menu, I will definitely order them again.

But take heed of my warning: if you ever purchase these mozzarella sticks, please, for the love of God, just throw out the sauce.

(Nutrition Facts – No nutritional info available on McDonald’s USA website.)

Item: McDonald’s Mozzarella Sticks
Purchased Price: $1.00
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Mozzarella and seasoned breading evident in each bite. Not limp and flaccid. Only one dollar for three. None of that fake mozzarella nonsense.
Cons: Cheese doesn’t ooze. Marinara sauce is indescribably awful. Rolling pin beatings.

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REVIEW: McDonald’s Purple Sweet Potato McShake (Japan)

McDonald's Purple Sweet Potato McShake (Japan)

When I dream I often come across magical dream items I wish existed in real life. If only I could Inception myself or have a dream thief Inception me (That thought makes me all warm and tingly) so these mystic items could be extracted into reality.

I mean, imagine if you could have a guitar that doubles as a television remote. Then you wouldn’t have to stop playing for a moment to turn the channel! Or a toothbrush that simultaneously flosses your teeth and then rinses your mouth with Listerine. Sure it sounds dangerous, and it probably is, but you’d still want one. I know I would.

So when I encountered McDonald’s Purple Sweet Potato McShake on a walk through Osaka, I bit myself as hard as I could on the hand to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Pinching yourself is so outdated. Get with the dream times, people! The milkshake was real (as was the blood running down my hand and arm) so I wasted no time in going in and getting one.

Irasshaimase!!!” said the workers.

Expect to hear this whenever you walk into just about anywhere in Japan. One time I swear I heard a toilet say it to me as I entered a restroom.

After using my pathetic routine of pointing at the item I want and saying “this one, please” in Japanese and the magic dream item extraction began. Now I know purple sweet potatoes are a real thing, but come on, when do you ever see one of them? I’m close to 30 and I have yet to encounter one, so to me this is as magical a milkshake as there is.

McDonald's Purple Sweet Potato McShake (Japan) 2

The color was very off-putting. It is a vibrant purple, which is really confusing because you think it will taste like black raspberry, or grape, or just something that is purple, yet the shake is similar to a traditional sweet potato with the orange center. It not only tastes like one, it tastes like one that has been buttered. I shit you not.

McDonald’s was able to replicate this Thanksgiving staple without being overly rich. A welcome surprise. The shake is not triple-thick like the ones in America, so you don’t have to worry about any “God Damn It All The Shake Won’t Come Through the Straw” frustrations. It’s a tad thinner than I usually like my milkshakes but the flavor more than made up for it.

Now I personally love buttered sweet potatoes, so for me this shake was amazing but I could see some people not liking it just because it doesn’t seem like a milkshake flavor that is meant to be.

The one real obstacle you have with this milkshake is the psychological game it plays with you. Imagine if you were given a milkshake that appeared to be vanilla but in fact it tasted like strawberry, or a chocolate-seeming milkshake that in fact tasted like butter pecan. Can you say, “mind fuck?” I can! It’s actually fun to say, rolls off the tongue really well. Give it a try!

So to amplify the MF experience, I drank the milkshake while walking through the famous Dotonbori area in Osaka, which is filled with all sorts of crazy mechanical crabs, electronic signs, and numerous oddities, not to mention the thousands of people walking about trying to decide which delicacy to try.

If you had told me, “Hey, Trev, you’re tripping balls right now,” I wouldn’t have disagreed with you. I would’ve been angry at you for slipping me something, but only for a minute, because what’s the point in getting angry?

Now I can’t tell you to hop on a flight, go to Japan and get this McShake because…wait, no, I can tell you whatever I want. So go book a flight, preferably leaving tomorrow, fly into Tokyo or Osaka, get the McShake and then do whatever else you want.

If you don’t speak Japanese, no worries! A combination of pointing, the words, “I don’t understand,” and crying will get you through most situations.

Ganbatte!

(Nutrition Facts – (Editor’s Note: I’d like to put the nutrition facts here, but I don’t know where it is on the McDonald’s Japan website.))

Item: McDonald’s Purple Sweet Potato McShake (Japan)
Purchased Price: 195 yen
Size: Medkum
Purchased at: McDonald’s Japan
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Actually tastes like a sweet potato. Buttery flavor is delicious and a minor miracle. Being in Japan. Being incepted.
Cons: Milkshake is a tad thin. Dollar to yen confusion. Irasshaimase gets old fast. Shake is a real mind fuck.

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REVIEW: McDonald’s Jalapeño Double

McDonald's Jalapeno Double

If you’re looking for a hot, cheap date, I recommend sitting under a phoenix dactylifera during an African summer. But if you’re looking for a hot, cheap burger, I’d recommend McDonald’s Jalapeno Double.

For two dollars, you get two beef patties, a slice of white cheddar cheese, pickled jalapeno slices, jalapeno crisps, buttermilk ranch sauce, a regular bun, a paper bag, and napkins. Although, through my experience, there’s a 10 percent chance you won’t get napkins.

My McDonald’s Jalapeno Double was topped with seven pickled jalapeno slices. I took that as a sign that I was going to get lucky and taste something good or Ray Kroc was smiling down at me…hoping I burn my mouth for all the negative McDonald’s reviews I’ve written.

Fortunately for me, it was the former.

While my burger had a nacho’s worth of pickled jalapenos, I can’t say there were a lot of jalapeno crisps. What are jalapeno crisps? That’s a good question. You should be a journalist. Looking at their appearance and ingredients (jalapeno peppers, enriched flour, sunflower oil and/or safflower oil and/or canola oil, and salt), which I didn’t include to increase this review’s word count, I assume they’re jalapeno bits that have been coated with flour and then deep fried to near oblivion.

McDonald's Jalapeno Double Topless

The jalapeno crisps provide very little jalapeno flavor. I think they’re really there to give the burger a bit of crunchiness, which they also don’t go a good job of because there’s so few of them. However, the pickled jalapeno slices completely make up for jalapeño crisps’ lack of flavor and crunch.

As for the burger’s heat, the pickled peppers made my burger hole warm, but not uncomfortably so. Or, if you want to use a scale of heat that uses McDonald’s products as references, then it’s spicier than their Hot Mustard Sauce, but not as hot as their habanero sauces.

Perhaps the reason why, with seven jalapeño slices, the burger isn’t burning my mouth is the buttermilk ranch sauce. It has that familiar ranch salad dressing flavor many of us use to make vegetables tolerable, but the flavor goes in and out like a radio signal through a series of tunnels. I found that weird because there’s enough ranch sauce on the burger to make a McNugget jealous.

Speaking of the McNugget’s Creamy Ranch Sauce, it’s not the same sauce on this burger. To prove it and to definitely inflate this review’s word count, I’ve listed the ingredients below.

The McNugget’s Creamy Ranch Sauce is made up of soybean oil, water, cultured lowfat buttermilk, distilled vinegar, sugar, egg yolks, sea salt, garlic juice, xanthan gum, salt, lactic acid, spices, modified guar gum, onion powder, natural flavor, potassium sorbate, autolyzed torula yeast extract, parsley, and calcium disodium EDTA.

The burger’s buttermilk ranch sauce has soybean oil, cultured buttermilk, water, sour cream, egg yolks, distilled vinegar, maltodextrin, salt, dextrose, modified food starch, soy sauce, dried onion, garlic powder, lactic acid, natural and artificial flavors, shallots, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, calcium disodium EDTA, xanthan gum, spice, phosphoric acid, sodium acid sulfate, propylene glycol alginate, and autolyzed yeast extract.

Like the ranch sauce, the cheese shows itself every so often and seems to help temper the jalapeños. I wish McDonald’s offered a pepper jack cheese, because that would’ve been a nice addition here.

McDonald's Jalapeno Double Wrapper

The McDonald’s Jalapeno Double tastes like a McDouble with jalapenos, and that’s fine and disappointing at the same time. It’s fine because it’s a tasty combination and it’s only two bucks. It’s disappointing because they added ranch sauce and jalapeño crisps to make it more than just a McDouble with jalapeños, but those ingredients don’t do a good job at it. They seem unnecessary, like listing the ingredients for the jalapeño crisps and the two ranch sauces in this review.

(Nutrition Facts – 430 calories, 23 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 1030 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of sugar, 2 grams of fiber, and 22 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Jalapeño Double
Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: A spicy McDouble. Worth the two dollars. Strong jalapeño flavor with a warm heat. Crunchy jalapeño slices. Cheese is a great glue that keeps the beef patties together.
Cons: Listing ingredients to add to a review’s word count. Ranch sauce doesn’t stick out. Jalapeño crisps didn’t add much flavor or crunch. Ray Kroc haunting me.

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