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REVIEW: McDonald’s Jalapeño Kicker Quarter Pounder

Written by | December 3, 2013

Topics: 8 Rating, Fast Food, McDonald's

McDonald’s Jalapen?o Kicker Quarter Pounder

Having lived in test markets for both Wendy’s (Salt Lake City) and McDonald’s (Baltimore), I’ve come to develop something of an ambivalent attitude towards newly developed menu items. On one hand, the intrepid explorer within me loves the idea of being one of the first people to experience what might be the next great innovation in fast food. On the other hand, there’s nothing worse than falling in love with a new burger or sandwich concept, only to see it disappear and never go national.

Whoever said, “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” clearly didn’t eat fast food.

With that being the case, I’ve let my heart and stomach fall for the newest McDonald’s sandwich concept, the Jalapeño Kicker. With pickled jalapeño slices, crunchy jalapeño strips, and pepper jack cheese, the Jalapeño Kicker packs a triple threat of the piquant pepper, relying on a new cream cheese sauce for cooling relief. The toppings are currently being tested on Quarter Pounder and Premium Chicken sandwiches in Baltimore and Colorado, but if McDonald’s website is any indicator, they will be going national real soon. At least I hope so, because canceling the roll out of these now would push my jaded fast food love for test menu items into Taylor Swift album territory.

That’s a pretty significant statement coming from a guy who doesn’t exactly consider himself a heat-seeker. I think that’s why I like the new concept so much. For those of you worrying about this sandwich wimping out and providing the kind of kick from, say, your three year old sister, be not afraid. This thing kicks you like Adam Vinatieri from 52 yards out, but rather than being some mindless atomic heat without flavor or texture, the kick comes in multiple layers.

McDonald’s Jalapen?o Kicker Quarter Pounder Topless

The dominant heat comes from the pickled jalapeños, which build in intensity and leave a lasting but flavorful burn after each bite. The crispy jalapeños provide an initial crunch and zesty French fry like flavor right off the bat, while the pepper jack cheese gives a slightly milky note and additional spice before getting to the meat.

I realize there are some people who hate the taste of McDonald’s burgers, and while I’ll concede that they’re far from juicy, I find their seasoning and ‘meaty’ taste to be more enjoyable than Wendy’s and even Burger King’s burgers. It’s that meaty and slightly sweet taste which provides a good counterpoint to the acidic heat of the jalapeño, benefitting in turn from the cream cheese sauce.

McDonald’s Jalapen?o Kicker Quarter Pounder Crispy Jalapeno

Speaking of which, let me just say it’s about damn time a fast food chain put cream cheese on a burger. With a subtle sweetness and milky freshness that just tastes right on a burger, the sauce transforms the prerequisite tomato and lettuce into tasteful components, and helps to bind all the flavors of the burger together. The sauce is a bit looser than regular cream cheese but not nearly as gloopy as mayo, and amazingly, it doesn’t drown the crispy jalapeños.

The jalapeños have this zesty and fried corn flavor that reminded me a lot of one of my favorite snacks, Corn Nut Chips, while also having a strong aftertaste of French fries. I don’t know how they’re made or why it’s taken McDonald’s so long to develop them, but if you’re not adding them to every McDonald’s sandwich you buy from now on, there is something seriously wrong with your brain.

McDonald’s Jalapen?o Kicker Quarter Pounder Side shot

Unless you absolutely hate jalapeño, it should be apparent that this is a pretty good fast food burger. I can’t quite give it the ultimate score, however, mostly on account of the lack of baconage. Likewise, I found myself wanting something beneath to burger patty to distribute some of the flavor and heat. Already top-heavy, I have to wonder if moving the cream cheese and crispy jalapeños beneath the patty wouldn’t be a better construct. Finally, McDonald’s two main burger flaws, a dense bun and cheese that takes upwards of a century to melt, bring it back down to Earth and reminds you of the main differences between fast food and fast casual burgers.

These quips aside, this is my favorite Quarter Pounder. The crispy jalapeño strips and cream cheese sauce are great new additions and give the burger just the right combination of texture and flavor contrast to make it something work seeking out. I’m just hoping that the research and development powers that be see it the same way, and don’t take away another great test menu item from my grasp.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on McDonald’s website. Menu board lists 550 calories.)

Item: McDonald’s Jalapeño Kicker Quarter Pounder
Purchased Price: $4.19
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Crispy jalapeño strips might just be the best add-on McDonald’s has ever developed for a sandwich. Strong, but not kill-you-strong triple jalapeño kick. Cream cheese sauce has smooth and creamy taste which helps to cool the heat. New Quarter Pounder variety that’s not just repackaging other ingredients.
Cons: Burger is top-heavy. McDonald’s premium burger buns suck. Cheese that doesn’t melt unless you stick it against the heater in your car for an hour. Could seriously use bacon. Risking test menu item disillusionment.

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REVIEW: McDonald’s Buffalo Ranch McChicken

Written by | November 18, 2013

Topics: 7 Rating, Fast Food, McDonald's

McDonald's Buffalo Ranch McChicken 1

It’s about time McDonald’s started using some high quality meats in their products. The people have yet to see a Big Mac made with Kobe beef and we’re still waiting for a McRib made from Berkshire pork.

But there’s hope. McDonald’s has recently begun producing sandwiches using the finest buffalo ranch McChicken. The McChickens are raised from a young age in the illustrious buffalo ranches of McDonaldland, where they are fed a steady diet of hotcakes, hash browns, and last season’s unsold Fish McBites. The free-range McChickens wander the fields alongside the McBuffalo herd. The gentle grunts of the neighboring bison help soothe the McChickens and subsequently make their meat delicious. (Don’t ask for more details, the system just works.)

New to McDonald’s “Dollar Menu & More” is the Buffalo Ranch McChicken sandwich. For a single dollar, the hungry customer can receive a McChicken patty smothered in Buffalo sauce and ranch sauce, topped with lettuce, and wedged between two buns. (The last time I had chicken wedged between my buns, I had to go to the hospital.)

For a whole dollar more, the customer can upgrade their sandwich with the addition of Applewood smoked bacon. I’m a cheapskate, so I chose to forego the bacon.

Unfortunately, the slack-jawed, acne-stricken teenagers running my local McDonald’s drive-thru are completely incompetent. Although I ordered a “Buffalo Ranch McChicken,” they gave me a “Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken” and charged me the additional dollar. They were probably too busy watching Saved By The Bell and playing with their Super Nintendos to notice. (That’s what kids do these days, right?)

Thus, I was forced to leave the comfort of my car to place my order inside the restaurant. I informed the adolescent at the counter that 1. I wanted to eat a Buffalo Ranch McChicken sandwich, not a Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken, and 2. It’s false advertising to call the sandwich a “Buffalo Ranch” McChicken when the chickens aren’t actually raised on a buffalo ranch in McDonaldland.

McDonald's Buffalo Ranch McChicken 2

When I finally received my Buffalo Ranch McChicken, I unwrapped the packaging to find a quite miserable looking sandwich. The buns looked particularly pathetic. And I’m always sensitive about my pathetic buns.

Fortunately, the sandwich’s flavor was far from miserable. The Buffalo sauce provided a medium heat which fully complemented the taste of the McChicken patty. The spice was nowhere near overwhelming. However, the ranch sauce failed to contribute much flavor, only serving to smother a bit of the heat from the Buffalo sauce. Neither sauce was too abundant nor too scarce, but balanced in proportion.

McDonald's Buffalo Ranch McChicken 3

The inclusion of lettuce seemed completely pointless, much like reading the nutrition facts on a McDonald’s menu. (Face it, people. If you’re at a McDonald’s, you’re not calorie conscious.) It provided little flavor and textural improvement to the sandwich. I feel that the lettuce was purely for show, and could have been excluded altogether.

For just a dollar, the Buffalo Ranch McChicken is worth it. The ranch sauce and lettuce might seem mediocre, but the balanced heat of the Buffalo sauce with the McChicken patty make for one heck of a bargain sandwich.

But I must be honest. After tasting both the Buffalo Ranch McChicken and the Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken, it’s clear that the addition of bacon really improves the sandwich. The crisp texture in combination with the smokiness of the pork really works well with the sandwich’s Buffalo chicken flavor. Sadly, paying double the price of the sandwich solely for the inclusion of cured meat doesn’t seem worth it.

For those interested parties, I am putting together a petition to bring before Mayor McCheese of McDonaldland that would require McDonald’s to use authentic buffalo ranch McChicken meat in their products. I already have the endorsements of the Hamburglar and the four-armed Grimace. Ronald wants nothing to do with it.

(Nutrition Facts – 350 calories, 130 calories from fat, 15 grams of total fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 980 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 5 grams of sugars, and 14 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Buffalo Ranch McChicken
Purchased Price: $1.00
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: McChickens raised on buffalo ranches. Only one dollar. Balanced heat.
Cons: Pathetic buns. Ranch provides little flavor. Lettuce is useless.

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REVIEW: McDonald’s Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken

Written by | November 12, 2013

Topics: 7 Rating, Fast Food, McDonald's

McDonald's Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken Wrapper

Do you remember where you were the day the McDonald’s Dollar Menu died?

I do. Alone and confused, nostalgic yet worried for the future, I staggered into my local McDonald’s on that bleak November 3rd, 2013 for one last look at the dollar signs next to the familiar menu items. What would become of each, I wondered; pondering if this was really the end of the McDouble as we know it, or the Grilled Onion Cheddar Burger I had grown to love.

I had heard rumors, of course, that some items would still be just a buck, but the sheer uncertainty of a future scrambling for extra pennies and nickels taunted me. Knowing the scene would soon fall back into the prosaic of bygone classics like the dollar Double Cheeseburger, I nevertheless approached the counter, uncertain of how I should best spend that last, fateful dollar on the Dollar Menu.

Check that.

While my mind debated whether the McDouble, McNuggets, or the Grilled Onion Cheddar Burger should deserve the honor of my last Dollar Menu purchase*, there was one thing I was certain of — I wasn’t getting the McChicken.

Seriously, there’s pretty much nothing the majority of any of us can agree on in society these days, but thankfully, most sane people concur the McChicken might as well be called the McBland. How iceberg lettuce and mayonnaise are suppose to entice one to buy what often amounts to a thin and dry oversized Chicken McNugget is beyond me, but in my many years of surviving off the Dollar Menu, I really can’t say I’ve ever craved the McChicken.

McDonald's Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken

Maybe that’s why the Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken is so intriguing. McDonald’s has done what any food purveyor looking to justify increased cost and make a bland item more desirable would do; they added bacon. Why the hell not? Bacon obviously makes everything better, including, but not limited to, sandwiches, donuts, and deodorant (yes, deodorant). Likewise, they nixed the mayonnaise and added Spicy Buffalo Sauce and Buttermilk Ranch Sauce, because life deserves more than just gloopy white stuff if you want to make it taste good.

If you’re screaming about how blue cheese should be the only condiment paired with fried chicken and buffalo sauce, relax. The Buttermilk Ranch Sauce actually tastes really good in tandem with the Spicy Buffalo Sauce. I’ve always liked McDonald’s Spicy Buffalo Sauce, finding its moderate cayenne heat and strong garlic flavor to be balanced by enough (albeit fake) butter flavor to create a tasty combination. But I’ve seldom given the slightly tangy and sweet, surprisingly complex Buttermilk Ranch Sauce enough credit, and together the two sauces give the McChicken patty plenty of flavor and some real umami.

McDonald's Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken Innards

The McChicken patty I’m used to—you know, the dry oversized McNugget—actually came out surprisingly moist and even retained some exterior crispiness. Go figure. The black pepper and garlic flavor dominates, but aided by the excellent smoky taste of McDonald’s much improved and meatier bacon, you might even say the McChicken tasted, well, good. While I’m of the distinct impression that life could always use more bacon, the two half strips seemed sufficient in this case. Even the bun serves its place, lending a squishy-malty-sweetness that serves to bind all the flavors together.

McDonald's Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken Topless

While it’s a tasty little sandwich, it does have its flaws. For starters, the layering of all the sauces and toppings on the top of the chicken patty creates a tendency for said sauces and toppings to slide to one side due to the lack of surface area. Likewise, they weigh down the crispiness of the McChicken, making on-the-go eating not the smartest choice. If it were up to me, I would move the combination of Spicy Buffalo and Buttermilk Ranch sauces beneath the patty and keep the bacon above, all while nixing the iceberg lettuce.

While the Buffalo Sauce adds a nice but not overpowering cayenne heat, it’s inherently balanced by the cooling Buttermilk Ranch, and doesn’t need the bulky iceberg to act as an additional cooling agent. Finally, while the sandwich tastes good and meaty, it doesn’t feel substantial despite its 420 calories. If I want something with a little more heft, I’m still more likely to spend my two dollars on the Bacon McDouble than even an upgraded McChicken.

Is the Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken worth it? To be honest, it all depends on your level of emotional attachment to McDonald’s new Applewood Smoked Bacon. If you’re like me and must order something from McDonald’s with bacon, then yes, it’s worth it. But if you’re just looking for a more flavorful variation of the regular, and admittedly, bland McChicken, then the one dollar Buffalo Ranch McChicken is probably the choice for you. Either way, the combination of Spicy Buffalo and Buttermilk Ranch make the McChicken more than just an afterthought, which is something the old Dollar Menu could never claim.

(Nutrition Facts – 420 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1250 milligrams of sodium, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 41 grams of carbohydrates, 2 gram of dietary fiber, 6 grams of sugars, and 20 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken
Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Not bland like the regular McChicken. Spicy Buffalo and Buttermilk Ranch sauces create a really good taste together. Chicken was surprisingly moist. Bacon adds much needed smoky flavor and meaty bite. McDonald’s small sandwich buns, which for some reason I find oddly addictive.
Cons: Not really spicy enough for spicy sandwich lovers. Bacon loses crispiness due to two sauces. Iceberg lettuce is a waste of space. Top-heavy value sandwiches are an eating while driving hazard. Doesn’t feel like 420 calories. Over 50% of your daily sodium, which means if you have a “buy one get one free” coupon you are totally screwed health wise.

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QUICK REVIEW: McDonald’s Bacon Cheddar McChicken

Written by | November 11, 2013

Topics: 6 Rating, Fast Food, McDonald's

McDonald's Bacon Cheddar McChicken

Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: If you enjoy bacon, its smoky, meaty flavor is the most noticeable. White cheddar goes well with this sandwich. Parts of the bacon were crispy. Only two dollars.
Cons: Maybe it’s just me, but this sandwich was particularly salty. As with all other McChicken sandwiches, the shredded lettuce falls out as quickly as loose change in a pocket riddled with holes. White cheddar isn’t very melty. The usual McChicken spice isn’t detectable among the other ingredients. Not as tasty as the Bacon McDouble.

McDonald's Bacon Cheddar McChicken Closeup

Nutrition Facts: 480 calories, 220 calories from fat, 24 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 1260 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 22 grams of protein.

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REVIEW: McDonald’s BBQ Ranch Burger

Written by | November 7, 2013

Topics: 8 Rating, Fast Food, McDonald's

McDonald's BBQ Ranch Burger

The McDonald’s McDouble is now more than a dollar.

This price hike makes me as angry as a child whose parent got them the wrong Happy Meal toy. And this anger causes my blood pressure to rise, much like how eating a McDonald’s McDouble does. It’s only 29 cents more, but this is the second time McDonald’s has taken something on their Dollar Menu that I love and increased its price (first one being their Double Cheeseburger).

However, with both cases, McDonald’s replaced the pricer sandwiches with another dollar burger. The McDouble replaced the Double Cheeseburger, and now the BBQ Ranch Burger replaces the McDouble.

The new burger is one of several new additions to McDonald’s revamped Dollar Menu & More…um, Menu. It’s made up of a beef patty topped with a slice of white cheddar, BBQ ranch sauce, and chili lime tortilla strips.

This year, McDonald’s has used that white cheddar as many times as I’ve used a puppy’s tongue to plant wet, warm licks on my neck. It been in their Grilled Onion Cheddar Burger, Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder, and Egg White Delight McMuffin. As for the chili lime tortilla strips, they’re also used in their Southwest Salad and Southwest McWrap. The BBQ ranch sauce is something we haven’t seen before from McDonald’s.

Before trying it, I thought there’s no way this burger with less meat would be as satisfying as the up-down-up-down-left-right-left-right-meat-cheese-bread combo of a McDouble. However…

McDonald's BBQ Ranch Burger Closeup

Holy sweet mother of cellulite!

The McDonald’s BBQ Ranch Burger is a delectable little sandwich that makes me want to dive into a wishing well and collect all those pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters so that I can buy more of this cheap burger. The creamy BBQ ranch sauce is a little sweet, slightly tangy, and a smidge spicy, but a whole lot of delicious. However, it’s the chili lime tortilla strips that make this burger special. They not only add an extra saltiness and tanginess, but they also give the BBQ Ranch Burger a wonderful crunchy texture.

McDonald's BBQ Ranch Burger Super Closeup

To be honest, I was surprised the tortilla strips didn’t end up soggy by the time I got around to eating the burger. I was sure the sauce and heat from beef patty would turn those strips into limps. However, the slice of white cheddar, which doesn’t provide much flavor, isn’t as melty as McDonald’s American cheese so I believe it shielded the tortilla strips from certain soggy doom.

As yummy as it is, I have to say it has a too familiar flavor. The combination of the BBQ ranch sauce and chili lime tortilla strips make it taste somewhat like the McDonald’s Southwest Salad, which I’m quite familiar with because it’s the only salad I buy from the Golden Arches. I also said the same thing about the recent Southwest McWrap.

But overall, I will love this burger with all my heart…until McDonald’s raises its price to $1.29.

(Nutrition Facts – 350 calories, 140 calories from fat, 16 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 680 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, 16 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s BBQ Ranch Burger
Purchased Price: $1.00
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: A delectable little burger. Creamy BBQ ranch sauce is sweet, tangy, and a little spicy. Chili lime tortilla strips give the burger a little tanginess and a whole lotta crunch. White cheddar helps prevent the tortilla strips from getting soggy. It’s only a dollar.
Cons: White cheddar doesn’t add flavor. Tastes like a McDonald’s Southwest Salad, which is probably fine, you don’t regularly eat the salad. Raising the price of a McDouble. Getting the wrong Happy Meal toy.

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