REVIEW: McDonald’s Donut Sticks

McDonald s Donut Sticks

After the employee handed me the bag that contained my six-piece order of McDonald’s Donut Sticks (it’s also available with 12 pieces), I wondered if there were cameras around and I was being pranked. Because it was so light, it felt as if it contained only the obligatory napkins.

But after opening the bag, getting a sweet whiff of cinnamon sugar and not so sweet whiff of oil, and seeing six sticks staring back at me, my Punk’d fears subsided. I don’t know why I thought they’d be more substantial than they are.

McDonald s Donut Sticks Airy

The Donut Sticks are sweet golden-brown dough, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and made fresh every morning. They’re also a little disappointing. The cinnamon sugar is everywhere, but there’s no cinna-plosion in my mouth. Because I can taste a bit of the oil used, I thought its flavor dulled the sweet seasoning. However, even licking off whatever cinnamon sugar clung to my fingers didn’t have a strong taste.

No dipping sauce comes with them, although I imagine hot fudge or soft serve would pair well. Unfortunately, I read Donut Sticks are only available in the morning so it might be hard to get them with either, but they really should be an all-day thing.

McDonald s Donut Sticks Innards

If I had to compare these with Dunkin’s Donut Fries, these are better, but not by a whole lot. They’re thicker because they’re fluffier and airer. They also taste a little bit better, even though I wish the cinnamon sugar stood out more. Although, they do look freaky.

If you order these, don’t let them sit around. Eat them fresh because, just like McDonald’s World Famous Fries, they taste better when they are and have a bit of crispiness that fades if not eaten quickly. If you pick some up via the drive-thru, eat them while you drive, even though there is a 100 percent chance the Donut Sticks are the nimbus clouds that will rain cinnamon sugar onto your crotch.

Although, like most donuts, you could stick them in the microwave for about 10 seconds, to get some of that fresh-from-the-fryer quality back.

Overall, McDonald’s Donut Sticks are decent, if eaten fresh, and slightly less so, if not. They are not at the luscious level as my sorely missed Cinnamon Melts, but if you believe your breakfasts should end with dessert, which they should, this will do an adequate job.

Purchased Price: $2.29*
Size: 6 pieces
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 280 calories, 13 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 260 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein.

*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: Wendy’s Barbecue Cheeseburger

Wendy s Barbecue Cheeseburger

The act of adding any type of barbecue, from the sauce to the meat, is the quickest way to screw up an otherwise decent cheeseburger. Either the sauce is too sweet, the meat bone dry, or everything is delivered to you sopping in pickle juice because they added too many damn BBQ-related toppings underneath the toasty bun.

Our girl Wendy’s, God bless her, has thankfully gotten the barbecue cheeseburger right this time.

Settling in to my neighborhood restaurant on a cold evening, unwrapping the meaty mound, a proud steam rises high like a smokehouse smokestack, gently giving off a true barbeque aroma that you don’t get with too many of these fast food concoctions. As the barbecue sauce runs wantonly down the sides, crispy fried onions try desperately to escape, but I push them back in with one hand as I lick the sauce off my other one.

Holding the single snugly (it is also available in double and triple denominations if you’re so inclined, natch) as I take a bigger first bite than I usually would, I get an immediately dream-like taste of that manufactured barbecue flavor that only Wendy’s can accomplish, with daring singularity. The sauce is the best in the fast-food biz (and it always has been) while the addition of the fried onions is a tangy treat that is immediately welcomed overkill.

Wendy s Barbecue Cheeseburger 2

With a mixture of sweet brown sugar and tart vinegar, the barbecue sauce that Wendy’s uses isn’t an additive meant to take your mind off what you’re actually eating, but instead it’s used to thoroughly enhance the flavor, letting it mix deftly with the meat and cheese and, even better, the fried onions. Sure, perhaps there was a few too many on my cheeseburger, but I’d rather take too many than not enough and at Wendy’s they do like to pile them high.

As usual, the rest of the Wendy’s Barbecue Cheeseburger – the never-frozen meat, the fresh bun and of course, American cheese — are all tops, but what really impressed me were the inclusion of these fat slices of pickles. I know it seems weird for me to point out, but I love how they weren’t soaking in juice. Instead, they were firm discs that added a true snarl to the burger, instead of being immediately discarded off to the side, as they usually are.

Wendy s Barbecue Cheeseburger 3

Wendy’s has had quite a few successes over the past couple of years and it is safe to say that we can add the tempting Barbecue Cheeseburger to the list. A slight caveat however: even though the single has around 630 calories, once again, the sodium at 1360 takes a few points off. If this is the type of thing you watch, like I do, get one, but go easy on it, will ya? Cómpralo ya!

Purchased Price: $5.49
Size: Single (1/4th pound; also available as Double and Triple)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 630 calories, 34 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 1360 milligrams of sodium, 53 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 14 grams of sugar, and 30 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Peppercorn Mushroom Melt

Wendy s Peppercorn Mushroom Melt

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.

Wendy s Peppercorn Mushroom Melt Innards 1

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.

Wendy s Peppercorn Mushroom Melt Innards 2

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.

Wendy s Peppercorn Mushroom Melt Side View

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.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Big Mac Bacon

McDonald s Big Mac Bacon

Does bacon make everything better?

That is a question many companies have tried to answer with various bacon-flavored products that I’d list, but it’s so long that if you’re reading this on a smartphone, your finger will cramp from all the scrolling.

For some of those products, like bacon soda, the answer is definitely HELLLLLL NO. And for products like the new McDonald’s Big Mac Bacon, the answer is, “Well, you should read the rest of this review.”

If you’re a person who’s unfamiliar with the Big Mac, it’s (everyone say it with me) two all-beef patties, Special Sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun. This pork-infused version has all that, plus three strips of thick-cut Applewood-smoked bacon and it’s available for a limited time.

But here’s the thing regarding the limited time availability: You can get the Big Mac Bacon long after it’s taken off the menu and you could’ve had it all this time. After all, it’s just bacon with a Big Mac, which you can custom order. It’s like requesting no salt fries, tartar sauce on a McChicken, or getting plain soft serve in a McFlurry cup so that you can make an Apple Pie McFlurry. Of course, there’s an upcharge for the three slices. My local McDonald’s asks $1.50 for them.

How do I know this?

Well, because I ordered a Big Mac with bacon this way before the Big Mac Bacon was officially available.

So does bacon make the iconic Big Mac better?

Let me put it this way: If you were to offer me a regular Big Mac and a Big Mac Bacon, I’d choose the regular one.

McDonald s Big Mac Bacon Closeup

The three surprisingly crispy bacon slices add smoky, salty, and porky flavors, but perhaps too much of them. They cause the burger to lose a lot of its Big Mac-ness. The Special Sauce gets less special because the bacon flavors drown it out along with the pickles and onions. It loses a lot of its tanginess, which is what makes the Big Mac so appealing to me. If this had a better balance between the bacon and the Big Mac, I’d probably like it more than I do.

McDonald s Big Mac Bacon Center

With all that said, I enjoyed the Big Mac Bacon, and it’s worth trying. It’s a long overdue twist on a classic that doesn’t get many twists, but this twist doesn’t make it a better Big Mac to me.

Purchased Price: Not sure
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 610 calories, 33 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 1210 milligrams of sodium, 47 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 30 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Arby’s Cajun Fish Sandwich

Arby s Cajun Fish Sandwich

When I think of things that scream Americana, I think regional flavors, wholesome activities I never learned to do like fishing, and chicly decorated fast food restaurants that blare Kacey Musgraves music from their dining room halls. It makes sense, then, that Arby’s decided to welcome in 2019 with a regional take on its seasonal fish sandwich.

Now, I’m not from Louisiana, but I did once rack up a $103.67 bill at a John Besh restaurant. So, I have some experience with the stereotypical (and delicious) Cajun flavors, including the bayou’s take on aioli, remoulade.

Nominally, the remoulade makes Arby’s newest variation of its fish sandwich “Cajun.” I say nominally because Arby’s could have gone the extra mile and stacked shrimp, crawfish, and andouille sausage on top of the triangular fish stick that constitutes the (not-meat) of the sandwich. Overkill? Maybe, but we are talking Arby’s. If venison and pork belly can make it into the fast food world, then shellfish can’t immediately be ruled out.

Arby s Cajun Fish Sandwich Fish

The lack of gumbo-on-a-bun notwithstanding, the sandwich has some Cajun flavor. Emphasis on the some. The remoulade is zesty, with a slight back-heat and just enough sweetness to give that iceberg lettuce a bit of extra flavor, and a composition somewhere between creamy and bumpy (yes, bumpy). But, much like the fish itself, it’s relatively plain, like a slightly spicier version of tartar sauce (which, coincidentally, has nothing to do with steak tartare.)

Arby s Cajun Fish Sandwich Toppiings

Even with the double-sided application, the remoulade fails to achieve optimal bun-protein-sauce ratio, mostly due to the oblong state of the fish and the circumference of the bun. This result is different tasting bites—some more prominent with the fish, others more bun, still others the whole fish and caboodle. And while the fish is executed perfectly — crispy, mild, flaky — it begs for a more assertive guiding flavor.

I get it: Each year, fast food chains attempt to position themselves in the fish sandwich wars with a “new” and updated take on what is actually a very boring sandwich blueprint. And, sometimes, something as simple as adding a sauce makes all the difference. But in the case of Arby’s Cajun Fish Sandwich, the remoulade is a little too mild, and a little too sparse to do the bayou justice.

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: N/A
Rating: 4 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 590 calories, 260 calories from fat, 29 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 1060 milligrams of sodium, 63 grams of total carbohydrates, 43grams of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, 20 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Burger King Big King XL

Burger King Big King XL

What is the Burger King Big King XL?

Well, as the name implies, the newfangled BIG King XL from Burger King is pretty much a jumbo-sized variation of its Big King burger — which, itself, is basically Burger King’s rebuttal to the Big Mac.

For the uninitiated, we’re talking more than 1/2 lb. of flame-grilled 100 percent beef, a double serving of gooey American cheese, a smattering of sliced onions, a crown of lettuce, a deluge of pickles, and a heaping helping of the proprietary Stacker sauce underneath the topmost sesame seed bun.

How is it?

In a word? Heavy. Literally, metaphorically, figuratively and phonetically. I’m not quite sure how much the sandwich weighs, but this thing has to be at least a solid pound with all the accoutrements included. Indeed, it’s so big that it might prove a challenge to eaters with smaller mouths, so keep that in mind before you shell out the moolah for this one.

Burger King Big King XL Top

As for the overall taste and texture, it’s pretty much exactly what’s advertised — a humongous, sumo-wrestler-sized version of the tried and true Big Mac imitator, which is definitely more than enough to fill up just about anybody who doesn’t have the metabolism of a hummingbird.

Burger King Big King XL Patties and Toppings

Burger King Big King XL Lettuce

Is there anything else I need to know?

I thoroughly enjoyed the Big King XL, even though as a limited-time-only offering it’s rather staid. Personally, I would’ve enjoyed having some bacon in there, or it would’ve been cool to see the King give the plus-sized burger a more unique hook — perhaps one of the more esoteric toppings, like jalapeno rings or mushrooms, or even an all-new sauce. But as is it’s still a perfectly fine, flavorful and filling hamburger that ought to satiate anybody with a craving for high-calorie mega-fast-food.

Conclusion:

You know exactly what you’re getting into with the Big King XL, and that’s mostly a good thing. There’s no denying it’s a tasty burger, and if you’re on the prowl for a fast food offering that will stick to your ribs, look no further.

Purchased Price: $5.29
Size: XL… what else?
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 980 calories, 63 grams of fat, 27 grams of saturated fat, 3.5 gram of trans fat, 215 milligrams of cholesterol, 1660 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 56 grams of protein..