REVIEW: Burger King Grilled Dogs (Classic and Chili Cheese)

Burger King Grilled Dogs 1

As far as I’m concerned there needs to be a law about the proper way to prepare a hot dog. None of this boiling or deep-frying nonsense, and unless you’re under the age of eight you should never even contemplate sticking that Oscar Meyer wiener in a microwave.

No, hot dogs were created for the grill. Whether beef or pork, skinless or natural casing, hardwood smoked or cheese stuffed; the only way I want to eat a tubular shaped piece of processed meat is hot off a grill.

Unfortunately I live far too distant from the world’s greatest char-grilled hot dog chain to get a regular taste of char-grilled dogs, and my own lack of hardware leaves me pathetically incapable of replicating the smokey, meaty, crackling taste and texture of one.

Thankfully—and I seriously never thought I’d say this—Burger King has come to the rescue in my little corner of suburbia. Currently testing in Maryland, Burger King’s Grilled Dogs were offered in two varieties at the location I stopped by — Classic and Chili Cheese.

Because I’m a complete glutton for punishment (actually just because I really like hot dogs and was really freaking hungry) I also decided to stop by my local Sonic to get their versions of the hot dogs to compare. Now, I realize Sonic may not exactly make any specialty magazine’s list of the greatest hot dog destinations in the country, but for a chain they do a solid dog which is both beefy and affordable. If Burger King wants to be the top dog when it comes to fast food hot dogs, then the chain is going to have to dethrone Sonic first. And yes, I did just drop two absolutely forced puns in the same sentence.

Burger King Grilled Dog Classic

First up is the Classic Dog. It comes with the assortment of ketchup, mustard, sweet relish, and chopped onions. The Burger King dog comes neatly dressed, a little heavy on the chopped onions, but thankfully not drowned in ketchup and mustard. Actually, when it comes to the toppings there is very good balance, so much so that none of the toppings overpower the others, and more importantly don’t overpower the hot dog itself.

Burger King Grilled Dog Grill Marks

The dog, which has grill marks and a split texture, has excellent snap for a fast food dog, with more blackening than Sonic’s All-American dog. The flavor is moderately smokey and definitely beefy, although to be honest it’s not as beefy as Sonic’s dog. I liked it…a lot. But it felt small and not quite substantial enough. The bun was a bit stale, but it did have a decent buttery-sweet flavor. The meat to bun ratio felt right; I tasted a combination of sharp and sweet toppings, the bun, and most importantly the meaty depth of the hot dog.

BK Left, Sonic right hot Dogs

Burger King (Left), Sonic (Right)

I probably favor Sonic’s dog a little more, mostly because theirs has beefier taste and the bun had a really enjoyable, pillowy quality that I happen to be a sucker for. But I’m splitting hairs here, because Burger King clearly wins for the hot dog’s texture.

Burger King Grilled Dogs Chili Cheese

The Burger King Chili Cheese Dog is definitely for you if you’re the kind person who doesn’t mind getting more chili cheese flavor than beef flavor in your dog. Here the toppings do somewhat obscure the grilled taste and the beefy dog, although it’s a tasty hot dog in its own right. Burger King actually does a nice job at presenting the perennial slobberfest, at least compared to Sonic, which just sort of steams a gooey hunk of processed cheddar over the hot dog. Here the extra support of the stiffer bun gives Burger King an edge.

Burger King Grilled Dogs Chili Cheese 2

The chili flavor is par for the course; a thick tomato paste and bean mixture fortified with beef fat, it has strong accents of garlic and cumin beneath a layer of nicely melted three cheeses. It’s the kind of stuff you’ll find out of a can, although a can that’s been doctored up by some B-List Food Network star like Sandra Lee who specializes in making you think it’s semi-homemade. I especially liked the three cheese blend, which had a milky flavor. I thought Burger King’s Chili Cheese dog was a winner over Sonic despite costing 39 cents more, if only because it’s much more presentable and a bit more complex in its use of the three cheeses.

Burger King Grilled Dogs 2

Burger King’s new Grilled Dogs aren’t exactly hot dog royalty, but they’re very good for a fast food restaurant and definitely captured that char-grilled taste and texture that comes with putting a wiener on an open flame. While they seem to lack some of the inherent beefiness that Sonic’s hot dogs have, their smokey taste and crisp texture are big step above the spinning wieners on heating trays at convenience stores, and definitely an approved substitute if your iconic hot dog dive isn’t on your daily commute.

(Nutrition Facts – Unavailable.)

Item: Burger King Grilled Dogs
Purchased Price: $1.99 (Classic)
Purchased Price: $2.39 (Chili Cheese)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Classic)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Chili Cheese)
Pros: Solid char-grilled taste and snappy texture. Beefy and meaty flavor of a premium hot dog. Well constructed with toppings evenly distributed, with none overpowering the others. Cheese has a nice milky note that plays well with the earthy flavors of the chili.
Cons: Not as beefy tasting as Sonic’s hot dogs. Small and not quite satisfying when compared to specialty hot dog restaurants. Slightly stale bun. Sandra Lee chili sauce.

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: 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: Burger King Red Velvet Oreo Shake

Burger King Red Velvet Shake

Red.

It’s the color of love.

It’s also the color of anger.

So I guess it’s fitting I loved the idea of Burger King’s new Red Velvet Oreo Shake, but I’m angry it didn’t have much of that cream cheese flavor that most of us know and love…or are completely sick of seeing after the blitz of red velvet-flavored candy, cookies, and ice cream during the Valentine’s season.

Burger King describes their Red Velvet Oreo Shake as a cream cheese and chocolate flavored shake with Oreo cookie crumbles. But what they didn’t mention is how increDYEble their shake is. It looks like a regular Burger King Oreo Shake with enough red food coloring to make the Kool-Aid Man say, “Whoa! Whoa! Why don’t you tone the red down a bit!”

The color of the shake makes it look like a Cherry ICEE, which is something Burger King also offers and it has the same clothing staining and tongue reddening ability as the Red Velvet Oreo Shake. But the red does make it look a bit romantic. Too bad Burger King missed out on it getting lost among the deluge of red velvet-flavored products during January and February.

According to the picture on Burger King’s website and a number of photos on Twitter, the shake is supposed to come with whipped cream topped with Oreo crumbles. Mine did not. But there were a lot of Oreo crumbs floating in the Red Velvet Sea in my cup.

Burger King Red Velvet Shake Closeup

I haven’t had a regular Burger King Oreo Shake in a very long time, so I don’t remember if the Oreo crumbles have always been small. The Oreo Shake at Jack in the Box has well-sized chunks that I can crunch with my molars, but the Oreo crumbles in this Burger King shake seem to be more like Oreo dust.

Oh, in case you were wondering, they do not use Red Velvet Oreo Cookies. But that definitely would’ve been a nice touch.

The Red Velvet Oreo Shake tastes like a regular Oreo Shake. The chocolate flavoring enhances the Oreo crumbs, but, as I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to notice the cream cheese flavor. Perhaps Burger King should’ve put as much cream cheese flavoring as they did red food coloring, because if the cream cheese popped more, this would’ve been a sugary winner.

Overall, Burger King’s Red Velvet Oreo Shake gets two out of the three things right when it comes to imitating Red Velvet Cake. A little bit of chocolate flavor…check. Lots of red food coloring…triple check. Tangy cream cheese flavor…not really.

(Nutrition Facts – 16 oz. – 630 calories, 17 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 520 milligrams of sodium, 108 grams of carbohydrates, 90 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King Red Velvet Oreo Shake
Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: Medium (16 oz.)
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: It tastes like a regular Oreo Shake. Looks pretty. Chocolate flavoring enhances Oreo crumbles.
Cons: It tastes like a regular Oreo Shake. Cream cheese flavor doesn’t stand out. Clothes staining. Oreo crumbles are small compared with other fast food Oreo shakes. Not a thick milkshake.