In the year 49 B.C., Gaius Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River with Legio XXX in the first dice throw of the Roman Civil War. During the next year and a half, he and his soldiers would march all over Italy, Spain, and Greece in pursuit of his rival, Pompey. It was an arduous campaign, but eventually Caesar and his legion won out, long credited by historians at having maintained their stamina through nothing more than anchovies pulled from the Rubicon, greens picked from the fields, and stale bread donated by sympathetic but frugal bakers throughout the continent. To this day, we commemorate these events with a salad in Caesar’s honor.
Okay, so that’s not exactly how the Caesar salad first went down, but it’s a lot more interesting than the crap I read on Wikipedia. I guess it’s fitting. The Caesar salad has never been the most compelling thing on the menu, especially at fast food restaurants. It’s that ubiquitous item that’s always just there, although nobody exactly knows why. Who knows? Maybe there’s some kind of law to make sure Italian flavors are given a spot on the menu board, but the point is that the Caesar salad has been in need of a makeover for a while now.
And just short of Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, who does the best makeovers? That’s right, Ronald McDonald himself.
You won’t find the Chicken Caesar Premium McWrap on the McDonald’s website, but the new flavor variation joins the Sweet Chili Chicken, Chicken and Bacon, and Chicken and Ranch Premium McWraps. Among other things, this means it comes in a convenient lightsaber-like receptacle, which may or may not interest you for Halloween costume purposes.
Anyways, the new McWrap apparently hasn’t gone nationwide yet, but I picked mine up in the Baltimore metro region. Encased in a tomato-basil wrap and featuring Caesar dressing and parmesan cheese shavings, it’s available with either grilled or crispy chicken and, of course, contains more varieties of greens than a Whole Foods salad bar.
The tomato-basil wrap really adds a nice touch that sets it above the other McWrap flavors. True, tomato-basil isn’t very traditional for a Caesar salad, but I have to think it’s still preferable to eating a stale, oversized crouton that’s been unnaturally contorted into a wrap. In any event, the wrap has a subtle and earthy sweetness about it, with an exceptionally moist texture that does a superb job of binding all the flavors together.
Actually, it does a little too good of a job binding ingredients together, with my one complaint being that the wrap has a tendency to get stuck on the roof of your mouth. I can imagine this being quite the more obnoxious if you also happen to be eating French fries, but thankfully a large soda helped my tongue lasso the sticky wrap chunks away from the roof of my mouth. Yes, I did just write, “sticky wrap chunks.”
The interior of the wrap was for the most part enjoyable. A single tomato added some crunch and brightness, while I was able to pick up on the black pepper, garlic, and unmistakably umami undertones of the Caesar dressing. I also liked the sharp and pungent aftertaste of the parmesan cheese, which was slightly melted in the radiant heat of the chicken. No, this is not the authentically nutty and meaty-sweet Parmigiano-Reggiano that’s ideally grated over a Caesar salad like the winter’s first snow, but it’s a nice break from the proverbial strings of waxy cheddar cheese thrown into most fast food wraps.
Sounds like a real winner, right? Well, not quite. While good, the dressing and cheese just aren’t plentiful enough, and specifically they aren’t plentiful enough in proportion to the amount of foliage within the wrap. Speaking of foliage, the greens didn’t pack the crunch a usual Caesar salad gets from the interior leaves of romaine. Already down croutons, a more than token tomato was necessary for some textural contrast.
Another problem I experienced was that the flavors of the dressing and cheese failed to permeate the meat. So even though the chicken was juicy, it tasted of a generic grill flavor. Because of this, eating through the center portion of my wrap tasted too much of lettuce and slightly bland chicken.
Is the Caesar Chicken Premium McWrap the makeover that fast food Caesar salads have long needed? It’s a good start, but it’s not quite hitting it out of the park. While the new flavor wins with the tomato-basil wrap, the strength of its starring ingredients (the dressing and the parmesan cheese) don’t stand out enough and aren’t applied liberally enough to make up for several bland bites. Like the true story behind the Caesar salad’s origins, the McWrap’s taste isn’t as interesting as you’d really like it to be, and not quite befitting of the real Caesar.
(Nutrition Facts – 440 calories in the grilled version, according to the McDonald’s menu board. Full nutritional information unavailable.)
Item: McDonald’s Chicken Caesar Premium McWrap (Grilled)
Purchased Price: $4.49
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Moist and yummy tomato-basil wrap. Juicy grilled chicken. Surprisingly sophisticated Caesar dressing. Not having to buy a lightsaber holder for my Halloween costume.
Cons: Revisionist history. Parmesan cheese lacks the sophistication of true Parmigiano-Reggiano. Chicken has a somewhat slimy coating. Not enough dressing in the interior of the wrap. Greens dilute overall taste.