REVIEW: Hardee’s Frisco Angus Burger

Hardee s Frisco Angus Burger Full

Hardee’s has reintroduced a classic from the ’90s: the Frisco Burger. It was a childhood favorite of mine, so I pulled up an old commercial on YouTube that slapped me in the face with nostalgia and reminded me how excited 7-year-old me was to try the sourdough bread. How exotic! I’d only had regular, non-sour bread before. Sourdough bread isn’t quite as novel these days, but Hardee’s has brought back its San Francisco-inspired burger as the Frisco Angus Burger. Will it live up to my fond childhood memories?

I order and receive my hamburger in under a minute. The cynical adult in me says that means it’s been sitting under a heat lamp for who knows how long, but the little kid in me is excited to have food so quickly.

Hardee s Frisco Angus Burger Split

As cynical adult me feared, the hamburger patty on my burger didn’t seem to be the freshest. The outer edges were attractively crisped, but when I cut the patty, it was a dull grey color. And once bitten, it was dry and unremarkable. The bacon was thin and unremarkable, as fast food bacon almost always is.

I’ve always been skeptical of the Angus branding of beef, and even more these days when I can get an Angus cheeseburger at my local gas station. Hardee’s Angus Thickburgers used to be a premium fast food offering, and it’s sad to see the quality dip.

Hardee s Frisco Angus Burger Top

As a child, I wouldn’t have noticed how much the two large tomato slices contribute to this meat-and-cheese-heavy sandwich. I was assiduous in removing every tomato from sandwiches until my early thirties. These days I can tell that the tomatoes here contribute some needed freshness and are better than the wet, flavorless discs on other fast food burgers.

The sourdough bread is plain white bread, just as it was in the past. The sliced round pieces were innovative in the ’90s and allowed a pleasantly toasted presentation, but no wild bacteria are flavoring the burger bun here. I don’t really expect that; good sourdough needs a mature starter that’s fed and cared for like it’s family. In my experience, great, really funky sourdough needs a starter that’s been burbling away for years (and occasionally forgotten) so that it’s surly, nearly sentient, and plotting its escape. And that’s a lot for a fast food company to deal with. My point is the bread is fine.

The 2022 Frisco Angus Burger is a decent sandwich, but it’s missing the crucial special sauce that made the ’90s sandwich a standout. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but years later, when the internet was finally a thing, I asked Jeeves (look it up, Zoomer), “What is the Frisco Burger Special Sauce?” and he responded, “Onion mayonnaise, sir.” My Frisco Angus burger had plain mayo that combined with the processed Swiss cheese into a white goopy mess. Just like the old days! But without the onion mayo, it’s just not the same congealed goo I loved as a kid.

Despite my disappointment, the Frisco Angus Burger is a perfectly serviceable sandwich. Perhaps it could have never lived up to my memories, and mine seemed particularly heat lamp-struck, but it gets the fundamental combination of toasted bread, meat, and cheese right.

Purchased Price: $7.49
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 760 calories, 50 grams of fat, 17 grams of saturated fat, 120 milligrams of cholesterol, 1550 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and 36 gram of protein.

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: Hardee’s Jalapeño Turkey Burger

Hardee’s Jalapeno Turkey Burger

I have to say, I’m quite disappointed after having eaten the new Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. Jalapeño Turkey Burger.

I’m not disappointed because it has more calories than a standard Hardee’s quarter-pound cheeseburger, which contradicts its own claims of healthiness.

Hardee’s Jalapeno Turkey Burger Patty Closeup

Nor am I bummed that the obviously pre-formed turkey patties are tenderized with more mazy grooves than a 2D Pac-Man screen. Hell, it doesn’t even boil my blood that the whole damn burger concept is basically a repackaged version of the on again/off again Santa Fe Turkey Burger from Carl’s Jr.

No, what really pisses me off is that Hardee’s finally made a decent tasting turkey burger, and they didn’t even bother to make a provocative commercial about it.

I know what you’re thinking. Turkey + Burger shape = Crap. In the interest of full disclosure, I will point out I don’t always agree with this equation — provided, of course, that I make and grill the burgers themselves.

The way I see it, if a lazy line cook at a fast food place can’t even nail a moderately juicy beef burger (and most can’t) then there’s no way they’re going to get turkey right. I didn’t need more than a 2011 visit to try the “Original” Carl’s Jr. Turkey Burger to confirm this suspicion, and thanks to the memory of that disgustingly dry and insipid excuse for a burger, I held out little hope for the latest variation from sister chain Hardee’s.

At best, I expected the new take to feature glooby mayonnaise, a stale bun, and decrepit produce working in perfect consort with a flavorless hockey-puck of poultry meat.  At worst, I expected to choke and die, but that’s another story completely.

Hardee’s Jalapeno Turkey Burger Bun

I was wrong. Well, for the most part I was wrong, that is. The bun, in perfect little-used wheat bun fast food fashion, was stale and falling apart. It lost any malted flavor it once had thanks to an over-toast, while the burnt tasting wheat base could hardly contain the innards of the burger from slipping out. A real shame because I was still burping up the aftertaste of that piquant and flavorful collaboration of southwesterly flavors hours later.

(Aside — Don’t act like you don’t do it, and don’t pretend like burping up the taste of a morning donut or afternoon burger isn’t on par with some of life’s simplest pleasures.)

Hardee’s Jalapeno Turkey Burger Side

Ironically enough, the burger actually wins on the taste of the turkey, which, despite a crusty and seared-looking exterior, was juicy and slightly sweet, coalescing in the kind of pleasing poultry flavor one might associate with Thanksgiving and all those Thanksgivng-ey herbs and spices.

Hardee’s Jalapeno Turkey Burger Jalapeno

The patty itself is adorned with a slice of Pepper Jack cheese, which, while not of the optimum goo capacity one often looks for with American cheese on a burger, was nevertheless tasty enough to impart more than just salt and fat. It added a mellow milky flavor that actually helped to cut the blow of the otherwise inferno provided by the Sante Fe Sauce and jalapeño coins.

Hardee’s Jalapeno Turkey Burger Top

Speaking of infernos, there’s definitely some heat with the triple threat of jalapeños, sauce, and cheese. I’ll admit my tolerance for spiciness or heat isn’t as high as others, but the good news for fire-eaters and non fire-eaters is that there’s enough flavor in the smoky-spicy sauce to bring either eater back for an additional bite. My only qualm was with the consistency of the soybean-oil based sauce, which was too loose and perhaps too liberally dispersed on only the top side of the burger.

Iceberg, tasteless tomatoes, and a meager portion of red onion didn’t add the kind of freshness that could really help dissipate the heat of a burger like this, but when it comes to a fast food burger, I unfortunately accept as much. At least the burger feels substantial, and outweighs (size-wise) most burgers in its calorie range.

I’ll stop short of calling this a very good burger and just call it a pleasantly surprising, if not reasonably priced, and substantial burger that heat-seekers should enjoy. Its limits and failings – a stale bun, meager produce, unmelted cheese – are nothing new to fast food, and they’re the kinds of shortcomings one takes into account when ordering a $3.49 sandwich as opposed to a $7.49 sandwich. The surprise, however, is the turkey. Whether it’s healthier or not is debatable, but in this case, Hardee’s/Carl Jr. seem to have created a tasty and juicy alternative to beef that someone doesn’t even need a New Year’s Resolution to seek out.

Now, if they could only get on that damn commercial, they might actually sell a few of these things.

(Nutrition Facts – 450 calories, 220 calories from fat, 24 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 1260 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 32 grams of protein.)

Item: Hardee’s Jalapeño Turkey Burger
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Hardee’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Hefty – one might say, “hearty” burger. Turkey is surprisingly juicy and flavorful. Triple threat of heat imparts good flavor. Under 500 calories. Affordable.
Cons: Classic case of fast food Wheat Bun fail. Sante Fe Sauce is loose and messy. Cheese would be better if it were fully melted. Produce sucks. Still more calories than a quarter-pound cheeseburger. Lack of provocative advertising campaign.