REVIEW: Carl’s Jr. Hardee’s Bacon Beast Burger

Hardee s Bacon Beast Burger Top

When I was very young, one of my favorite fast food sandwiches was the simple, yet respectable Hardee’s roast beef. Later, in my early 20s, and with an accordantly sufficient metabolism, I would occasionally go to town on a Monster Thickburger. You know, the one with two 1/3 pound beef patties, four strips of bacon, three slices of American cheese, and a slathering of mayo. (I always appreciated how they didn’t put on airs by adding anything that came from a garden.)

I’m older now, and as such, I wouldn’t feel responsible ordering one of those if Hardee’s still made them. (There’s a smaller, tamer version, but it just isn’t the same.) Couple the lack-of-a-sideshow-aspect with the fact that the nearest Hardee’s just isn’t very near, and the bottom line is, I don’t get there all that often. So, when I heard about its rollout of the new “Bacon Beast” menu featuring a Bacon Beast burger, breakfast burrito, and biscuit, I wondered, will this be enough to work Hardee’s into my regular fast food rotation?

The answer, simply put, is no.

You see, the thing is, I’ve got three Burger Kings closer to me, and Burger King has a Whopper, and to that Whopper, one may add bacon and cheese. And that is, from a taste standpoint, a 98% match for this burger.

Hardee s Bacon Beast Burger Sides

The Bacon Beast consists of “a 3.5 oz patty, tomato, lettuce, pickle, yellow onion, mayonnaise, American cheese, and four strips of Applewood-smoked bacon complete with a special sauce on a seeded bun.” (You can also get it with two or three patties; I ordered a single and was given a double.) A Whopper has a 1/4th pound patty, white onions instead of yellow, and ketchup instead of “special sauce.”

The thing is, for the life of me, I couldn’t tell how this special sauce WASN’T just ketchup. It was a little sweeter, maybe? But whatever it was supposed to be, it was nearly indistinguishable from ketchup.

The other thing, obviously, is that BK flame-grills its meat while Hardee’s charbroils it. Is it different enough to be noticeable? Not to me. Hardee’s patty seemed a bit saltier than BK’s, but it was tasty. Everything else was totally standard, and totally reminiscent of a Whopper. The vegetation was unremarkable but fine, the bacon was decently thick, the bun was bland, and the American cheese was waxy and what one would expect from fast food.

Hardee s Bacon Beast Burger Split

I had no complaints about this thing, but I didn’t come away with any compliments, either. It was a bacon cheeseburger from a top-10 fast food hamburger place. Better than a prepackaged one from a hospital vending machine, but much less desirable than one from Five Guys. And while I get that a place like Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. isn’t in direct competition with a place like Five Guys or Shake Shack or Your Favorite Local Hamburger Place, if they’re asking me to pay close to that same amount, they’ve gotta give me something fun or unique. A Whopper clone with sad special sauce and a different kind of onion just won’t cut it.

Purchased Price: $6.79
Size: Single Patty
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 900 calories is the only nutritional fact available on Hardee’s website at this time.

REVIEW: Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s Hand-Breaded Chicken and Waffle Sandwich

Carl s Jr Hand Breaded Chicken and Waffle Sandwich Full

The origin of fried chicken and waffles has been hotly contested as the dish has seen a surge in popularity over the past decade. I’m inclined to believe the Well’s Supper Club story, a restaurant started in 1930s Harlem that hosted hungry jazz musicians after their late night sets. Having leftover fried chicken from the night before and waffle batter ready for the impending breakfast service, the cooks would throw together the now iconic dish out of necessity. It quickly became popular around the clock.

Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. has now introduced a sandwich version, placing their hand breaded chicken breast between a Belgian waffle and adding a drizzle of maple butter sauce. The inviting maple syrup smell wafts out of the fast food bag, while the less inviting $5.99 price tag for a breakfast sandwich sets the expectations high.

Carl s Jr Hand Breaded Chicken and Waffle Sandwich Top

The hand breaded chicken breast has a light crispy coating that is fried to perfection. While it could benefit from a stronger punch of spices in the breading, they are well balanced with one another. The brined chicken is extremely juicy and flavorful with the one drawback of being just on the verge of too salty.

Carl s Jr Hand Breaded Chicken and Waffle Sandwich Split

The waffle walks the line admirably of being durable enough to not make a mess yet still tender enough to be pleasant to eat. It is slightly dense for a Belgian waffle but has the right subtle hint of sweetness. The main issue is that it is a small waffle that was then split in half to make the sandwich as opposed to utilizing two small waffles together. This leaves the waffle bun very thin and easily overpowered in flavor and texture by the chicken.

The maple butter sauce glazes the top of the chicken perfectly but predictably seems to be butter-flavored pancake syrup or maple-flavored corn syrup. It adds a necessary sweetness and maple flavor that ties the sandwich together. Not using real whipped maple butter seems like a missed opportunity that would have easily elevated the offering. Regardless, there was just the right amount of sauce without turning the waffle soggy and making the whole sandwich a sticky mess.

In my opinion, a plate of chicken and waffles is not complete without hot sauce, so I requested some at the drive-thru window. But despite assurances, I drove off with none in my bag. After evaluating the sandwich on its own merits, I used a cayenne hot sauce I had at home to see how it would fair with the addition. The heat and vinegar paired perfectly with the chicken and waffle sandwich, making me instantly regret already giving the second sandwich to my wife.

Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. has made the Chicken and Waffle sandwich available all day. It makes a good pairing with your morning coffee or a late night snack to satisfy your sweet and salty cravings. Just be sure to bring a coupon and have your own hot sauce ready.

Purchased Price: 2 for $6 with coupon (regularly $5.99)
Purchased at: Carl’s Jr.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 560 calories (other nutritional numbers weren’t available at time of publication)

REVIEW: Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s Prime Rib & Cheddar Angus Thickburger

Carl s Jr Prime Rib  Cheddar Angus Thickburger Box

Hearing the words “prime rib” brings thoughts of a thick slice of premium beef, served medium rare with au jus. For me, those thoughts are even accompanied by memories of special occasions with family during the holidays. But thinking realistically, I set those lofty expectations aside and ventured to the Carl’s Jr. drive-thru to try its new Prime Rib & Cheddar Angus Thickburger.

Carl s Jr Prime Rib  Cheddar Angus Thickburger Clothed

At first glance, the burger looks a little on the sparse side with only the 1/3 lb. Angus beef patty peeking out of the toasted bun. The cheddar cheese sauce clings to the thin slices of prime rib on top of the burger patty with the caramelized onions hiding underneath.

Carl s Jr Prime Rib  Cheddar Angus Thickburger Alone

From the initial bite, you know that it will deliver on a strong beef flavor just as any burger topped with steak pieces should. The thin prime rib slices are tender while still providing a little extra chew to give the burger a nice texture while eating.

Carl s Jr Prime Rib  Cheddar Angus Thickburger Peek

It takes trying a piece of the prime rib on its own to appreciate the nice pepper notes that it contains. While appearing medium rare in advertising, there is no surprise that the prime rib is medium well at best. It is, however, neither dry nor tough and meets my tempered expectations of a fast food restaurant ambitiously taking on the fine cut of meat.

Carl s Jr Prime Rib  Cheddar Angus Thickburger Split

The warm cheese sauce does not have the strongest cheddar flavor but is just the right consistency, thick enough to not cause a mess while showing no sign of clumps or graininess. The predominant flavor of the whole burger is the caramelized onions, bringing with them an accompanying hint of sweetness. The onions were cooked properly, providing just the slightest crunch and offering the taste that will linger in your mouth the longest.

A notable aspect of the Prime Rib burger is just how clean it is to eat. Between the less than generous portions and the cheese sauce keeping the prime rib pieces in line, only a few small onions ever escaped the otherwise tidy burger. The days of the “if it doesn’t get all over the place, it doesn’t belong in your face” Carl’s Jr. seem to be long gone.

Overall, the burger brings a satisfying onion and beef flavor, with a gentle whisper of cheddar cheese. However, while the prime rib is juicy on its own, the burger as a whole is on the dry side. It also is missing a dynamic flavor that would make me crave another one. This might be remedied with the addition of a horseradish sauce or by improving the flavor of the cheese sauce.

Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s also offer their sliced prime rib in both a breakfast burrito and a buttermilk biscuit paired with Swiss cheese and a fried egg.

Purchased Price: $7.59
Size: Single Patty
Purchased at: Carl’s Jr.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 740 calories (Editor’s Note: Yup, that’s the only nutrition info we could find. If someone knows where to find the rest, let us know in the comments.)

REVIEW: Carl’s Jr. Beyond Famous Star

Carl s Jr Beyond Famous Star

I realize it may not look like much, but the Carl’s Jr. Beyond Famous Star is probably the fast food burger of the year.

Yes, it may be only January, but God bless Carl’s Jr. for unleashing this wonderfully unknowing beef-substitute on their many meat-weary fans and, even more so, those just looking for something not only a bit healthier, but deliciously different in the new year.

Beyond Meat has been making a bit of a wave lately in fast food, making different partnerships with places like Del Taco — if you can find them — to live out its wholly utopian dream of replacing meat with a fully plant-based foodstuff. If its faux-beef patties taste this good — better even than the real thing, if you ask me — don’t ever wake me up. Allow me to forever slumber in this world.

The basic skeleton of the Carl’s Jr. burger is all here: the buns, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup, secret sauce, and so on, with the option of cheese or no cheese to make it a bit more tangibly vegan. And while the smell is different than a usual slab of burger beef on the grill — think of it more like a wafting scent of Sunday morning on the busy farm, if you will — the Beyond Meat taste is quite like anything I know I’ve had, at the very least inside a Carl’s Jr.

Carl s Jr Beyond Famous Star Patty

You may expect something like this Beyond Meat to be remarkably dry, but it is actually the perfect balance between perfectly juicy and properly flambéed, the signature Carl’s Jr. mess running down the front of your shirt. Is it actually grilled? Who knows? But, like so many other things in this world, does it really matter when it tastes this good?

You’d really think that more fast food joints would offer the Beyond Meat as an option — or at least bring it to my town, won’t you Del Taco? — easing the usual vegetarian-phobics, at the very least, into a solvable Meatless Monday solution, like Paul McCartney and PETA routinely says.

I gotta say, this burger worked for me.

However, while the calorie count is not as terrible as the chain’s standard burger, the sodium is well over 1500 milligrams, giving people trying to cut that back a small pause for concern. Still, if you’re only eating one a week — that seems about fair, eh? — you should probably be fine. Just don’t substitute these for an everyday meal, usually on your lunch break, especially when detrimentally paired with fries and a Coke.

I’m thoroughly surprised with Carl’s Jr. latest endeavor for the vegetarian community — and the wannabe one — applauding its decision to go above and, yes, Beyond, with this latest call to a most tasty form of positively edible action. Cómpralo ya!

Purchased Price: $6.29
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 710 calories, 40 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 1550 milligrams of sodium, 61 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 30 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Carl’s Jr. Froot Loops Mini Donuts

Carl s Jr Froot Loops Mini Donuts

I love hip-hop.

And I love junk food.

Those may seem like unrelated interests, but truth be told, they have a lot more in common than you think. They both have very high highs – Travis Scott’s Astroworld and Krispy Kreme’s Reese’s Outrageous Doughnut, and very low lows – Hostess’ Cotton Candy Twinkies and the general existence of Lil Pump. They both simultaneously flourish and hurt themselves with excessive output.

Like Nabisco’s continual push to release more Oreo flavors than the year before with only a few true gems, or when E-40 released “The Block Brochure,” with nearly 60 songs and only a handful worthy of repeat listens. But the shining light of commonality between these two separate things is their ability to thrive in collaboration. Hip-hop tracks that bring together three or four of the hottest MC’s in the game are almost always bangers, and when junk food titans join forces to create a cohesive product, it isn’t always great, but at the very least it’s fun.

Welcome to the world, Carl’s Jr’s Froot Loops Mini Donuts!

First things first, the packaging is fantastic. So much of the allure of limited time junk and fast food lies in the bag or box that it comes in, and this Froot Loops-branded carton that looks like it could house mozzarella sticks or jalapeno poppers sets the stage for a wonderful fulfilling experience before the eating even begins.

Carl s Jr Froot Loops Mini Donuts 2

Opening the box is a sight and smell to behold, with five different colored donuts that mimic Froot Loops’ signature rings perfectly and carries the bold, strong scent of the cereal with absolute precision. It’s a sensory symphony of artificial fruit flavor and sugar. Some of the donuts have a thicker coating like a layer of frosting, and some have a thinner, more dissolved look like a traditional glaze.

Carl s Jr Froot Loops Mini Donuts 4

My hypothetical rule of collaborative truth continues to thrive as these donuts taste as good as they look and smell. Super soft and slightly crispy, the donuts burst with a perfect fruity citrus-forward flavor that tastes EXACTLY like the love child of Little Debbie and Toucan Sam. This revelation leaves me with some pretty haunting visuals, but it’s the absolute realest description possible.

The rings with a thicker, more visible layer of icing unsurprisingly pack a heftier taste bud punch, but the lighter glazed ones still get the point across, just a bit less convincingly. Like the actual cereal pieces, despite the glaringly different colors schemes, they all taste the same, like “froot.”

Carl s Jr Froot Loops Mini Donuts 3

In the vast land of junk and fast food collabs I can safely declare Froot Loops’ appearance at Carl’s Jr. a super hot feature. It’s such a natural and well-done pairing that I can’t believe one of the bigger companies like Dunkin’ or Krispy Kreme didn’t get to it first, but as a company known for welcoming bigger brands into their home with open arms, Carl’s Jr. just earned themselves another gold star.

(Nutrition Facts – 5 donuts – 320 calories, 15 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 360 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 24 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 5 donuts
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Perfect Froot Loops flavor packed into a soft mini donut. Great box art. Awesome vivid colors
Cons: Slight inconsistency in the glaze/coating that leaves some donuts a little less spectacular than others. $2.99 is a bit high for 5 donuts, but I saw in other markets it’s $1.99, which seems perfect