In 30 years of eating food, I’ve experienced the following:
- Certain foods look amazing to eat and are amazing
- Certain foods look disgusting to eat and are disgusting
- Certain foods look amazing to eat and are disgusting
- Certain foods look disgusting to eat and are amazing
Wendy’s new Peppercorn Mushroom Melt falls into the lattermost category. A beautiful cheeseburger, this is not. However, what it lacks in Instagram quality food pornage it more than makes up for in the umami-bomb-dot-com sphere.
Essentially a regular menu item that combines the chain’s attempts at on-again-off-again mushroom cheeseburger concepts, the melt nails the drool-worthy steakhouse burger taste thanks to layers of meaty flavors.
I don’t say this lightly. I trend towards the less-is-more category when it comes to toppings, and with asiago cheese, sautéed and roasted mushrooms, peppercorn aioli, and crispy fried onions, there’s a natural hesitance to ask what exactly Wendy’s is covering up.
In this case, the doubt is unfounded; the quarter pound cheeseburger patty anchors the flavors, remaining beefy and juicy beneath all the toppings. The asiago cheese is a great compliment. Full-bodied and a tad nutty, it pairs wonderfully with both the beef and the peppercorn aioli, creating enough of a gooey cheesesteak effect to leave you with a familiar taste that also manages to surprise.
But it was, surprisingly, the two ingredients that I had the least hope for that took the burger to another level. The mushrooms and crispy fried onions introduce contrasting textures that up the seasoning level in the burger and just work. The mushrooms, in particular, have a deeper and fire-grilled flavor that tastes a step above most fast food sautéed mushrooms, while the crispy onions have a cravable haystack onion tone.
Complaints are minor, but worth noting. The first is that construction is an issue: both the onions and mushrooms jumped ship with even the slightest bit of handling. It’s a problem exacerbated by a tendency to stick to the bun and threaten the integrity of the burger.
The second is the lack of a sweet contrast to the otherwise rich flavors. Undoubtedly, the decision to go with crispy haystack onions will leave some people happy and others (myself included) slightly wishing Wendy’s would have gone with caramelized onions like the bygone McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound burger.
Still, we can’t have everything, and McDonald’s caramelized onions notwithstanding, the Peppercorn Mushroom Melt is a welcome addition to Wendy’s permanent menu, even if it does sorta look like a dog threw up between a hamburger bun.
Purchased Price: $5.49
Size: Single (1/4th pound; also available as Double and Triple)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 690 calories, 42 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 1110 milligrams of sodium, 47 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and 31 gram of protein.