The Impulsive Buy

REVIEW: Hardee’s Carl’s Jr. Baby Back Rib Thickburger

When I was a kid, I thought Checkers’/Rally’s Wild West Bacon Cheeseburger was the alpha and omega of fast food sandwiches. With two big hunks of beef, a handful of bacon, melted cheddar, two huge fried onion rings, and a fine slatherin’ of barbecue sauce, how could it not be?

Well, much to my shock and horror, I recently found out that not only has the beloved burger of my youth gone AWOL from the menu, apparently it’s been discontinued for years and years. That makes the latest L-T-O gimmick-burger from Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. – the all new Baby Back Rib Thickburger – the closest thing you and I will likely ever get to tasting the second semester of my eighth grade year ever again.

Except this newfangled burger, in many ways, manages to OUTDO my nostalgic recollections of the fabled fast food that once was. For starters, the boneless baby back ribs are downright superb. You get two fairly large riblets atop your patty, and not only are they flavorful and smoky, they’re also plump, juicy and extremely chewy. Not only is the meat delicious for a fast food joint, it would be pretty dang terrific for an actual barbecue restaurant. (And as it turns out, it actually is on loan from a real BBQ place, the Ohio-based Bubba’s-Q Boneless Ribs.)

The sauce (courtesy of Cattleman’s) is also exquisite, representing a nice mixture of honey barbecue and mesquite flavoring. The fried onion straws are super crispy and – thankfully – neither salty or greasy. And the pickle slices are huge, crunchy and refreshingly tart; rest assured, the vinegary flavor gels incredibly well with the barbecue sauce.

Oddly enough, the thing that holds the burger back from being a five star fast food classic is the hamburger meat itself. Granted, the charbroiled patty is plumper and thicker than most burger chain fare, but it just doesn’t seem to complement any of the other elements of the sandwich all that well. How about this for a first; a special edition hamburger that would’ve been even better WITHOUT the actual hamburger!

The buns are pretty bland, too, but at least they do a pretty good job of soaking up the barbecue sauce and pickle juice. In hindsight, this is the kind of burger that really would’ve benefitted from anything other than a brioche bun. Man, it would’ve been awesome if it came with a pretzel roll or especially a potato roll instead?

Still, I’ve got no beef with these baby backs. When it comes to fast food barbecue sammiches, you’d be hard pressed to find a better offering out there – and yes, that definitely includes a certain seasonal McDonald’s product that shall remain nameless.

(Nutrition Facts – 980 calories, 450 calories from fat, 50 grams of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 110 milligrams of cholesterol, 1,910 milligrams of sodium, 94 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 34 grams of sugar, and 41 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $5.59
Size: 1/4 lb burger (1\3 and 2\3 lb versions also available)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: The ribs are succulent, chewy and smoky. The sauce is phenomenal. The onion straws and pickles definitely add a lot to the gustatory experience.
Cons: The patty itself is pretty unremarkable. The buns aren’t particularly flavorful. Trying to get through an entire review without making an “I Want My Baby Back” Austin Powers reference.