REVIEW: Arby’s Bourbon Bacon & Brisket Sandwich

Arby’s Bourbon Bacon & Brisket Sandwich

Bacon, like alliteration, needs to be applied carefully.

Try to get avant garde and add it to stuff, like canned vodka drinks, and you might just inspire someone to go vegan. Likewise, start stringing together sounds and letters with too much frequency and you’ll leave somebody more tongue-tied than a 12-year-old beholding his first pair of boobies.

But apply them strategically and they’ll make every sandwich or sentence better.

That’s the case with the Arby’s new Bourbon Bacon & Brisket Sandwich, or, as I told the cashier, “the brisket one.”

Arby’s actually debuted its brown sugar bacon last year to mixed reviews. This year they’ve brought it back and given it the benefit of new bun, premium meats, and an exotic-sounding Kentucky bourbon sauce.

Now, when I hear the term “Kentucky bourbon sauce,” I want to think of some grizzled backwoods old man chewing on leftover mutton barbecue and checking the taps of a warehouse filled with cave-aged barrels. The reality is a lot less romantic but still pretty tasty. The whole-grain Dijon mustard with sweet and complex notes doesn’t really have a distinctive bourbon taste so much as it just makes you recall the “beer mustard” you stole from your neighbor’s Oktoberfest party.

Arby’s Bourbon Bacon & Brisket Sandwich 2

You’ll forgive the lack of distinctive bourbon flavor as soon as you bite into the sandwich. Four or five different taste and texture sensations converge with a single chomp, producing one of the most satisfying sandwich bites I’ve ever had from any fast food restaurant. There’s the smoky, moist brisket; milky and creamy smoked cheddar cheese; sweet and crunchy bacon; salty and crisp onion straws; and that tangy, complex mustard that makes me want to say something hokey like “please pass the Grey Poupon, ya’ll.”

Even the bun is top-notch. Squishy yet firm, with a sort of pretzel bun malt sweetness aftertaste, it’s the perfect vehicle to suck up the viscous sauce and meaty juices from the biscuit. When Wendy’s and McDonald’s upgraded to “artisan” buns, this is what they should have adopted.

What comes together is a complete and balanced sandwich in which neither sweet nor salty wins out, and where those looking to get an authentic smoked meat smorgasbord will find plenty of indulgence in strong notes of hickory and oak.

Look, I’ll admit it: Arby’s brown sugar bacon is Candyland sweet on its own and the Kentucky bourbon sauce is more whole grain Dijon beer mustard than anything else, but neither detail seems to obscure the fact that the Bourbon Bacon & Brisket Sandwich is really damn good (also a bit tough to say, but that’s beside the point.) While the $5.99 price may scare some customers away, Arby’s has proved that the sum of its sandwich components are well worth it, making the new Bacon Brown Sugar Bourbon Sandwiches some of the best I’ve ever had from the chain.

(Nutrition Facts – 710 calories, 360 calories from fat, 40 grams of fat, 15 grams of sat fat, 1 grams of trans fat, 125 milligrams of cholesterol, 1610 milligrams of sodium, 48 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 43 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $5.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Arby’s
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Hearty and meaty sandwich with layers of smoky and beefy flavor. Brisket good enough to eat even in Texas*. Bourbon sauce is the best tasting mustard you’ve ever had. Great melted and creamy texture from the smoked cheddar cheese. Hands down the best bun in premium fast food sandwiches.
Cons: Glazed texture of bacon lacks chewy fatty goodness. “Bourbon” taste may not be as authentic or prominent as some would like. Frankly, one of the worst tongue twisters in fast food history.

*I live here. I can say this.

REVIEW: Dairy Queen Royal Oreo Blizzard

Dairy Queen Royal Oreo Blizzard 2

The concept of a “core” of filling is nothing new. Think of Earth, the planet which most of you who read this live on. Its core is filled with lava. Then there’s the Drumstick Ice Cream Cones that have a core of fudge or caramel among other things.

I’ve done some dabbling in this core business myself, like when I was in high school and I would pray to the green goddess, and while my lungs were still filled up with holy smoke I’d take a shot of whiskey, which would act as the core. Then I’d run to the bathroom and fill the toilet with a core of vomit.

Dairy Queen jumped on the core bandwagon with the Royal Blizzard, which is the famous Blizzard treat filled with a core of topping. There’s only three flavors currently (Rocky Road Brownie and New York Strawberry Cheesecake) but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see more drop.

Being in a cookie mood as opposed to a cheesecake or brownie mood, the Oreo Royal was the easy choice.

Dairy Queen Royal Oreo Blizzard

I didn’t watch them make the Blizzard and I wish I had to see how the core is injected into it, but there was a Bugs Bunny cartoon on a TV and I was drawn like a moth to a box of old clothes.

The Blizzard looks just like the normal Oreo version for the first few bites, since the core doesn’t start at the top. You have to dig a little before you strike fudge. When you do see the gooey chocolaty goodness you will feel like a miner from the California Gold Rush, only you’ll probably be better dressed and much cooler because you have an iPhone and they didn’t.

The fudge core was actually wide, which I was not expecting. All the cores in ice cream products seem to be light in total area and some really get slim at the bottom. The fudge area actually got wider as I went further into the Blizzard.

Dairy Queen Royal Oreo Blizzard 3

Now I wasn’t totally sure if the fudge was supposed to be hot or not but since it is surrounded by ice cream it gets cool and congeals, meaning you’ll have to put a little more effort when you want to spoon out a nice bite of it. Kind of reminds me of McDonald’s hot fudge sundae. If you’ve had one of those, the fudge at the bottom is what you can expect in the Blizzard. Still tastes great but would be better if it was hot.

The fudge really adds a lot more punch and richness, blends exceptionally well with the crunchy Oreo cookies, and, honestly, it made the thought of a regular Oreo Blizzard just seem kind of average. It’s like taking a shot of really good tequila and then taking a shot of well tequila right after. You would never want to touch the well tequila again. Now I’m not a regular consumer of Blizzard treats, but if I were to go back and get something with Oreo, it’s most definitely going to be the Royal variety.

(Nutrition Facts – 760 calories, 270 calories from fat, 30 grams of fat, 21 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 430 milligrams of sodium, 111 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 85 grams of sugars, 14 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.09
Size: Small
Purchased at: Dairy Queen
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Fudge core is good sized. Blends well with Oreo cookies. Being better dressed than a California Gold Rush miner.
Cons: Would’ve been better if fudge was hot. Shots of well tequila.

REVIEW: Burger King Chicken Fries Rings

Burger King Chicken Fries Rings

Chicken Rings.

Doesn’t that have a logical ring to it.

Sorry.

But Burger King didn’t follow my logic, they went with the convoluted name Chicken Fries Rings. I can understand their logic. These rings of chicken fall under the Chicken Fries banner, but I imagine when most folks order them they’ll call them Chicken Rings, which is what I did and the cashier knew exactly what I wanted.

So Burger King’s Chicken Fries Rings are what’s next in fast food chicken finger food technology.

Cue up Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra.”

Oh, it’s not?

Cue up “Yakety Sax” to take us back to 2011 when White Castle introduced their Chicken Rings.

Burger King’s version looks exactly like White Castle’s — flat rings with a seasoned golden brown coating. They’re aerodynamic enough that if you wanted to fling them they’d probably get more airtime than a Burger King onion ring. So let the food fights begin!

Burger King Chicken Fries Rings 2

A serving has six pieces and comes with your choice of dipping sauce. I went with BK’s Zesty Sauce. I’m sure the breading and spices are the same ones used on their straight Chicken Fries, but these rings taste better. They have a stronger flavor and the spices stand out a bit more. Maybe it’s because there’s more surface area touching my tongue with each bite. I don’t know. I’m no food physicist. But I do know they have enough peppery flavor that I’d be fine eating these without a dipping sauce, which is something I can’t say about McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets.

Their exterior is not what I would consider crispy, but it’s also not soggy. When I bit into them there was a little noise, but not enough to rattle my brain with every chew. I wish these came out crispier. The white meat chicken was on the dry side, but the dipping sauce hides that.

Burger King Chicken Fries Rings 3

One issue I’ve always had with Burger King’s Chicken Fries is their lack of chicken meat. Of course, being the shape of fries makes it hard to fit a decent amount of chicken into one. But I don’t feel the same about these Chicken Rings. Their flat and round shape allows them to have about twice the amount of chicken.

Overall, I enjoyed Burger King’s Chicken Fries Rings and I do think taste-wise they’re a step above their Chicken Fries and miles above their regular chicken nuggets. But for those looking for value will probably prefer BK’s regular Chicken Nuggets, which currently are available for $1.49 for 10-pieces.

(Nutrition Facts – 310 calories, 18 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 1020 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 17 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $6.99 (value meal)*
Size: 6-pieces
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: They have more flavor than BK’s Chicken Fries, even though they’re made with the same breading. I’m fine with eating them without a dipping sauce. Zesty Sauce. More aerodynamic than a BK Onion Ring.
Cons: Its name. Looks like White Castle’s version. Breading isn’t very crispy. Chicken meat was on the dry side. BK’s Chicken Nuggets.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay less than I did.

REVIEW: Little Caesars Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza

Little Caesars Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza

Over the years, competitors have come out swinging – stuffing crusts with hot dogs, creating delivery cars with pizza ovens, and paying Peyton Manning.

Last year, Little Caesars tried to play ball with the Bacon Wrapped Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza. Dialing it back, Little Caesars’ latest contribution to realm of ridiculous pizza innovation is their new Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP!DEEP! Dish Pizza. I’ve learned from my day job that if you throw the adjective “premium” in front of your product or offering, it’s a sure win!

Continuing to sip on my haterade, I conclude from the rectangular box that my pizza isn’t round. What! Choquée! The box does proudly tout that Little Caesars is America’s Favorite Detroit-Style Deep Dish Pizza. Detroit is home to a lot of great things like the Detroit Lions, so what could go wrong here? Kidding.

Because Little Caesars is carry-out only, the eau d’pizza had about 20 minutes to permeate my car. I’ll give Little Caesars this – if they bottled the tantalizing pepperoni aroma, I’d buy it. When I got home, I expect it to look as glorious as it smells but the squares look really plain, small, and sad. Product description reads: “Four corners of perfection weren’t enough, so we gave you eight!” Honestly Little Caesars, I would’ve been fine with one, good round pizza.

Little Caesars Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza 3

While I can look past size, the pepperoni pieces were clearly just haphazardly thrown on. It looks like the one time I tried to play ring toss inebriated. I do appreciate that the pepperoni wasn’t marinating in a puddle of oil like competitors’ pepperoni pizzas.

While the overall pizza is hardly as ooey-gooey as it is in the ads, two slices down and I’m heavy breathing. I find myself feeling relieved that the cheese isn’t molten lava because it’s as if an entire cheese wheel was melted down and stuffed into the contents of this square dough. It’s like the dough and cheese have fused into one; I’m not quite sure where one begins and the other ends – there’s cheese on top, cheese in the middle, cheese in the crust. Alls I know is that my stomach is stuffed like this pizza.

Little Caesars Premium Stuffed Crust DEEP! DEEP! Dish Pizza 4

I’m amazed that a single square slice somehow holds everything with such grace – no collapsing soggy crust whatsoever like other competitors’ stuffed crusts and not dry and hard like some Sicilian-style pizza I’ve had. Conclusion: Stuffed Crust DEEP!DEEP! Dish Pizza is the Spanx of pizzas. Like Spanx, it’s somehow containing and holding in all the cheese. The little muffin top forming over my jeans is a stark contrast to the pizza’s remarkable composure. Damn, I knew I should’ve worn my stretchy pants.  

This really does remind me of elementary school cafeteria pizza. But, this conjures fond memories for me like a square pizza patronus (where my Gryffindors at?!). Like all elementary school meals, it looks unappetizing and has way too much sodium; but if you count the pepperoni as your daily serving protein and tomato sauce as your daily serving of vegetables, you have a square meal. Get it? *buh dum tss*

Square pizza = square meal. Ha! No? Okay, fine. Fair.

Dad jokes aside, I will admit it’s not the best pizza I’ve ever had, but it’s definitely one of the better fast food chain pizzas. I still think that pizza shouldn’t be square but the this one can be the exception.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website.)

Purchased Price: $10
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Little Caesars
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Eau d’pizza could be bottled and sold. Spanx of pizzas – will induce heavy breathing. Square pizza patronus.
Cons: Deceptive – doesn’t look as good as it smells and cheese isn’t ooey-gooey as advertised. Square.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Crispy Chicken BLT

Wendy's Crispy Chicken BLT

“What if I want to buy it by itself?” I asked.

She responded, “You can buy it by itself but it’s from over here and doesn’t have bacon on it.” The cashier gestured at the value menu, at their value chicken sandwich. At least at this Wendy’s, they do not sell the Crispy Chicken BLT alone. I was being railroaded into buying a meal.

In a true “Mom, don’t tell me what to do” moment, I grimaced. Yes, Wendy’s is offering a “4 for $4” deal that is basically Frankenstein-ed value menu options, and is kicking it off with a new item, the Crispy Chicken BLT.

Here’s the thing: I have piecemealed together feasts from Wendy’s in the past. This is one of my favorite places to do it. But if you’re saying I have to buy a soda and I have to buy some fries, I’m going to push back a bit. No Frosty? No baked potato? As the combinations dwindle, it feels like Dave Thomas’ ghost hand is holding my head under a vat of Wendy’s chili as he mumbles something about how ground beef should have right-angled corners.

The meal comes with a sandwich, four nuggets, a soda and fries. And once the sandwich is unwrapped, it’s clear why it comes with friends. It’s pretty tiny. Turns out, it’s a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger but with a fried white chicken patty replacing the beef.

Wendy's Crispy Chicken BLT 2

The Crispy Chicken BLT boasts a two slices of bacon, a slice of American cheese, mayo, lettuce, and tomato on top of the patty. The bacon is crispier than I’m used to on other Wendy’s items, but it and the lettuce add a nice texture to the entire bite. The bun is soft but dry, and combined with the mild hum of the American cheese and mayonnaise, can get a little overbearing at times.

The chicken itself is fine—the white meat is free of soft bones (unlike a McChicken, sometimes) and contrasts nicely to the sodium boost the pork adds. The patty is nothing particularly special, similar to most other sandwiches on the value menu, but this seems to complement the other ingredients a tad better than the beef counterpart.

How was the rest of the meal? I would have liked a Frosty, to be honest. The fries seemed like overkill, but were fine. And surprisingly, I did not get sick of chicken, as I gulped down four nuggets no problem (didn’t they use to have five nuggets?).

I’m not a fan of the “4 for $4” promotion. It looks too much like 4-4-4, which gives off Illuminati vibes, and the entire situation definitely feels like paying for a cable package when all I need is Warriors basketball, the Property Brothers and the People v. OJ Simpson. “Kar-dash-i-an! Kar-dash-i-an!”

The sandwich is a decent value menu item, and four bucks is a pretty good price for a meal. Just lemme pick my own stuff, Wendy’s.

(Nutrition Facts – 440 calories, 24 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 950 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of sugar, 1 gram of fiber, and 20 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4 (includes meal)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Wendy’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Serviceable value menu item. Better than the Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. Chicken and bacon go together well, lettuce adds a nice crisp.
Cons: Cheese and bread can overwhelm. You need to buy four things at once.

REVIEW: Red Robin Red Ramen Burger

Red Robin Red Ramen Burger

Much like how all the Brits are stealing all the good lead acting gigs (Rick Grimes, Daredevil/Matt Murdock, Norman Bates… yes, they’re all Brits!) chain restaurants are taking food crazes and making their own versions. Dunkin’ Donuts did it with the Cronut, and Red Robin is doing it with the Ramen Burger.

People seem to get upset about the so called “food plagiarism,” but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so people should chill out. These foods typically come from big cities like New York or Los Angeles, and seeing as not all of us live in those cities, we deserve to try it too. We have food rights! Pretty sure that’s what Patrick Swayze died fighting for in “Red Dawn.”

Red Robin’s version of the ramen burger, dubbed the “Red Ramen Burger,” features the ramen noodle bun, is topped with teriyaki and chiu chow aioli, fried jalapeño coins, chili-infused shredded cabbage, carrot and onion, and is garnished with basil.

Red Robin Red Ramen Burger 2

The first thing you will notice with the burger is it is going to be a messy affair. I’m talking three to five napkins, minimum. Maybe a wet-nap. The ramen bun falls apart faster than a millionaire’s marriage to a stripper he fell in love with after seeing her on stage. You typically don’t eat burgers with a knife and fork but this is one you’ll want to deploy the silverware for.

They did a good job with the bun. The ramen was crispy on the outside, and when you bite into it there is soft ramen on the inside. That seems really tough to pull off. The bun is apparently seasoned but there wasn’t any noticeable taste, just tasted like normal ramen.

The teriyaki and chiu chow aioli dominates the burger and is easily the strongest flavor. Teriyaki is, er, teriyaki, and chiu chow is God knows what. The first four Google search returns didn’t give me a clear answer so I gave up. But the sweet teriyaki most definitely runs the show.

Red Robin Red Ramen Burger 3

Next you have the ginger-infused cabbage, carrot, and onion mix. This did not belong on the burger. The taste did not stand out at all because the teriyaki covered it up, so there’s just this shredded vegetable nuisance you have to deal with throughout the course of the burger. Honestly if you order it you should hold the veggies. They just get in the way, kind of like me in a pickup basketball game.

The fried jalapeño coins are insanity. They weren’t spicy but they just melt in your mouth. You still get that jalapeño flavor but without the sweating, coughing, eye watering, and the pointing and laughter of your fellow diners. The coating on the peppers was buttery and delicious. If these coins were a real currency, they’d be, like, the golden dollar of fried coins.

Red Robin Red Ramen Burger 4

My burger was cooked perfectly and overall was a unique treat that you don’t typically see anywhere. The ceramic cat in the burger promo suggested I eat the burger with a Not Your Father’s Ginger Ale, so I gave in like a sad sheep and listened. They did pair really well together, and I got a good chuckle when the bartender handed me the bottle and I exclaimed, “This isn’t my father’s ginger ale!” Oh man, it gets me every time! It doesn’t seem to get anyone else though. The bartender didn’t acknowledge the joke, he just asked if I needed anything else. Yes, I do. I need you to laugh at my joke so I don’t feel like a King Goober.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website.)

Purchased Price: $11.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Red Robin
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Ramen bun is neat. Nice teriyaki flavor. Fried jalapeño coins are heaven. Making jokes about your father’s ginger ale.
Cons: Teriyaki flavor takes over at times. Burger is rather messy. Veggies just get in the way. Having your father’s ginger ale joke fall flat.