REVIEW: McDonald’s Red Velvet with Oreo McFlurry (Canada)

McDonald's Red Velvet McFlurry

Mike Myers. Justin Bieber. The McFlurry.

If your answer to this Jeopardy question is “What are things that came from Canada,” then you are correct (and no, we won’t take back Bieber — he’s yours now, America. Enjoy).

Yep, according to the cup (and from now on, I want all my information to come in McFlurry cup form, FYI), the McFlurry was “born in Canada. Loved around the world,” and is also celebrating its 20th anniversary. I very distinctly remember the introduction of the McFlurry — it certainly doesn’t feel like twenty years ago, but why would the cup lie to me? I feel old.

And what better way to celebrate a 20th anniversary than jumping on a years-old fad? I remember red velvet being a pretty big deal a few years ago, but is this still a thing that gets people hot and bothered? I was under the assumption that we, as a society, had reached our red velvet saturation point at least a couple of years ago, but apparently not.

And McDonald’s doesn’t even really seem to get what makes red velvet so appealing: when I think of a red velvet cake, aside from its eponymous dark-red hue, I think of abundant cream cheese frosting. It’s the combination of the mildly chocolatey cake and the sweet tang of the cream cheese frosting that makes red velvet such a comfort food classic.

McDonald's Red Velvet McFlurry 2

So it’s weird that McDonald’s has elected to not even try to replicate that particular flavour, sticking to the cake alone (and throwing in Oreo cookies for some reason). You’d think this would lead to so-so (at best) results, but this was surprisingly tasty.

Certainly, the cashier at the McDonald’s I went to liked it. Right after I ordered, she asked me if I had tried it before, and I told her I hadn’t. She leaned in closer, as if to tell me a secret: “it’s really good,” she said, adding almost comical emphasis to the word “really.”

It’s fairly rare that a cashier at a fast food joint even cares enough to offer their opinion on the food, so I took this as a good sign.

McDonald's Red Velvet McFlurry 3

And once I got over my disappointment that the cream cheese frosting was MIA, it actually was quite satisfying. It does a pretty decent job of recapturing the red velvet cake flavour — though I’m not sure how much of that is triggered by the fact that I knew what the flavour was, and by the colour. If I ate it blind, would I have been able to tell that it was red velvet? Or would I have just tasted chocolate? I’m honestly not sure, but either way, it tastes good.

It has a pretty good chocolatey taste without being overwhelmingly sweet, the Oreo bits add some crunch and flavour, and the soft serve is nice and creamy. It’s nothing too mind-blowing — it’s basically just an Oreo McFlurry with chocolate syrup and red food colouring — but sometimes the simplest things are the best.

So thanks, McDonald’s cashier, you were right. This was really good. Did the world really need its 976,874th red velvet flavoured dessert? No, probably not. But it’s here regardless, and it’s pretty tasty.

(Nutrition Facts – 530 calories, 17 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0.3 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 340 milligrams of sodium, 87 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fibre, 66 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Red Velvet with Oreo McFlurry
Purchased Price: $3.79 CAN
Size: Regular
Purchased at: McDonald’s Canada
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like red velvet cake. Crunchy Oreo and creamy soft serve is a tasty combo. Not too sweet. Cashier approved.
Cons: No cream cheese frosting. Red velvet flavour might be psychological. Cup factoids that make you feel old. Justin Bieber.

REVIEW: McDonald’s I’m Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken (Canada)

McDonald's I'm Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken 3

There’s something inherently wrong about a salad at McDonald’s, isn’t there? I mean, it’s McDonald’s — their whole M.O. is supposed to be serving burgers and fries and other tasty junk that might just kill you if you eat them too regularly.

If you told the ten-year-old version of me that McDonald’s would one day be serving salads with kale in them, I’m going to guess that he’d angrily call you a liar. He’d also probably wonder who you are and why you’re giving him useless factoids about 2015. Oh and also, while you’re there? Could you tell him to major in something a bit more useful than political science? What’s that? This is just a rhetorical device? You’re not actually a time-traveller out to blow the minds of ten-year-olds with news from the future? Darn.

Of course, salads aren’t anything particularly new at McDonald’s, but this Kale-fueled relaunch does have an air of desperation about it. This feeling is especially pronounced when combined with the recent high-profile launch of the 21st century take on the Hamburglar; the once-cute cartoon character has been transformed into a generically handsome fashion model (who was almost instantly dubbed the “hipster Hamburglar” by the media).

Clearly, McDonald’s has lost whatever cache they once had (along with loads and loads of money), and it’s easy to think that they’re just throwing random things at the wall to see what sticks.

All that being said? I loved this salad.

It feels weird to even type that. It’s a salad… at McDonald’s… and I loved it.

I know that even mentioning that I love a salad probably means I have to turn in my junk-food-lover’s gun and badge to the junk food angry captain, but hey, if it’s tasty it’s tasty.

McDonald's I'm Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken 2

There’s a lot going on in this salad. There’s the lettuce blend (a whopping eight different types of lettuce, as per their website), kale, sliced cucumber and red peppers, crumbled feta, a couscous blend (which has stuff like sun-dried tomato and olives), chicken, a packet of pita chips, and the creamy Greek feta dressing.

It seems like it should be too much stuff, but it all works together surprisingly well.

The kale is actually baby kale; this is a good thing, as regular kale is a bit impenetrably fibrous and can be tough to love. The lettuce mix otherwise tastes like any number of ready-to-eat mixes you’ll find in a plastic box or bag at the supermarket.

All the other stuff works together quite nicely: the creamy dressing, the fresh veggies, the salty pop of the cheese, the hearty quinoa…

Wait, I think I’m going to have to call a Zack Morris-style time out: I never in a million years thought I’d be applauding quinoa and “fresh veggies” when I signed on to write for this site. Seriously, what’s happening right now??

Okay, time in: the pita chips — essentially this salad’s take on croutons — are a little heavy on the garlic powder, but otherwise work pretty well.

McDonald's I'm Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken

The weak point is probably the chicken. You have the choice of grilled or crispy chicken, but since their promotional shots showed grilled, that’s what I went with. It’s not bad, and it does give the salad much of its substance, but it’s a little dry and stringy.

The salad costs seven bucks, which on the surface seems a bit pricey — but I could imagine paying double (at least) for this exact same salad at a restaurant with waiters and menus, so it’s not as bad as it seems.

When all is said and done, however, is this salad even that healthy? I mean, it’s got a bunch of healthy stuff in it, so yeah, probably?

But McDonald’s is sneaky with the way they present the nutritional information on their website; if you look up this salad, the info neglects to include the dressing. In fact, the dressing doesn’t even come up when you click on salads — you have to specifically search for it.

When you add up the creamy Greek dressing and the salad, you’re looking at 420 calories and 26 grams of fat, which is a 110 calories less than a Big Mac, and only three less grams of fat. It’s still much healthier than a burger, I’m sure, but more calorie and fat-laden than you might expect. So maybe I can keep my gun and badge?

(Nutrition Facts – Greek Salad with Grilled Chicken – 280 calories, 12 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0.2 grams of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 770 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fibre, 3 grams of sugar, and 27 grams of protein. Greek Feta Dressing – 40 grams – 140 calories, 14 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 310 milligrams of sodium, 3 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s I’m Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken
Purchased Price: $6.99 (CAN)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s Canada
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Fresh-tasting ingredients. Tasty combination of flavours. Good value for the quality of food. Healthy?
Cons: Stringy chicken. The embarrassment of praising a salad on a junk food site. Bastardization of beloved mascots. Scientific impossibility of time travel.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger

McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger

I distinctly remember the day McDonald’s Angus burgers were rolled out.

Actually, I don’t, but I vaguely recall the hoopla surrounding them. This was 2009, mind you, when doing something as simple as giving a cow a Scottish name was considered particularly epicurean in food culture. It was also a day and age when a good many people actually went to McDonald’s for hamburgers, which, in case you haven’t heard, is totally not cool anymore.

I had a few Angus burgers in my day and they were decent, but they never seemed to live up to the hype. So when the Angus burgers went out with a whimper and not a defiant mooooooo in 2013, I didn’t see reason to mourn.

Still, something has been missing. You can talk my ear off all you’d like about streamlined menus and classic sandwiches, but have you eaten a Big Mac lately? If I wanted to ingest three hamburger buns and a bunch of lettuce, I would have gone to a vegan cookout. No, every once and a while—ok, every day—a guy like me just wants to eat an oversized and juicy patty of dead and delicious cow. Something like the the new Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger.

There’s no use beating around the bush when it comes to the Steakhouse Sirloin Burger: I am shocked by how much I liked this cheeseburger. From McDonald’s. Wait, did I really just say that?

Yes, I did, and I don’t say this lightly. I’ve spent the better half of the last decade building burger connoisseur status amidst friends and family. In other words, I know that by admitting I not only tolerated, but enjoyed, a McDonald’s burger, I risk bringing my credibility down to a notch just above Tom Brady.

But like George Washington, I cannot tell a lie. So let me try to break this down. For starters, the sirloin burgers live up to the hype when it comes to size. Heck, I even received mine in one of those big brown bags and not the dopy white ones they use for Dollar Menu items. The five minute ride home from McDonald’s was unbearable; seriously, the aroma of the burger alone conjured primordial petroglyphs of scantly clad stick figures throwing spears at wild cattle. The carnivore in me knew something good was coming.

McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger 3

Dare I say it, the meat was juicy. Yes, juicy. I know because I squeezed the patty and juice ran out of it (and no, it wasn’t water.) The taste was beefy and meaty and cheesy and altogether very savory, with just the right sweet and sour relief from those incredible grilled onions to make each bite satisfying and complete. The surface of the patty wasn’t flabby and broken up by “tenderization” marks as I remember from the Angus burgers, and while the grind was very tightly packed, there was enough surface browning to lend a slightly sweet and complex flavor to the beef.

McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger 4

Every other component came together nicely. The two slices of cheese were positioned and melted for optimal gooeyness, but unlike the standard American cheese salt-bomb one expects (and sorta likes) from a fast food burger, there was a mellow but savory flavor from the cheese. Don’t get me wrong, this burger is still salty, but unless you’re oversensitive to those kinds of things I don’t think you’ll walk away from it with that sentiment.

Instead you’ll be trying to pin down the je ne sais quoi of whatever is in the creamy peppercorn sauce. Like an exceptionally thick steak sauce with a little black pepper kick and a fruity tang, it might just be my favorite sauce at McDoanld’s. No, really, as in, “Can I get this to dip McNuggets?”

McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger 2

Oh yes, and the mushrooms.

I’ve deliberately withheld comment on them to this point, but I have to say, they are not bad at all. Slightly overkill and a bit messy? Well yes, but I’m not exactly a sauteed mushroom on burger guy, but in this case they add just another level of umami flavor and help round out the toppings.

I’ve been hard on anything over a buck at McDonald’s in the past, but this is without a doubt a real step in the right direction and the best burger from the Golden Arches since, for me anyways, ever.

At $4.99 for the Steakhouse version it’s also an exceptional value for its hefty size. I’m not saying its going to surpass your favorite fast casual burger, but when it comes to the similarly sized fast food burgers, the new Sirloin Steakhouse Burger proves McDonald’s can still craft a very good and meaty cheeseburger at a price which isn’t going to break the bank.

(Nutrition Facts – 730 calories, 320 calories from fat, 36 grams of fat, 16 grams saturated fat, 2 grams trans fat, 135 milligrams of cholesterol, 1560 milligrams of sodium, 62 grams of carbohydrates, 05 grams of sugar, 4 grams of fiber, and 39 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger
Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Beefiest tasting burger yet from the Golden Arches. Pretty solid browning and juiciness from the sirloin patty. Cheese was nicely gooey and intermingled with other components. Sweet and sour grilled onions are outstanding. Sauce is complex and savory. Sesame seed bun has a pleasant and classic taste that’s just the right size.
Cons: Most expensive tasting burger yet from the Golden Arches. Pretty uniform and tightly packed grind. Awesome source of trans fat and sodium. Risking my burger expert credibility by declaring how much I enjoyed a McDonald’s hamburger.

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.

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.