REVIEW: Wendy’s Breakfast Burrito

“It’s bigger than I thought it would be,” my girlfriend said, starting down at my lap. But before you get any weird ideas, we were leaving the Wendy’s drive thru, and she was referring to the new breakfast burrito I’d recently procured. And to be fair, she was right.

While Wendy’s entry into the crowded world of breakfast burritos isn’t necessarily akin to the infant-sized behemoth you might find on a working person’s local food truck, it is close to twice the size of a McDonald’s burrito, and maybe 25% larger than oh, say, Sonic’s. (I’ve never had a Burger King breakfast burrito, provided they sell one, and it’s been a decade or more since I had Hardee’s version, so I can’t speak to that one, either.)

Unlike its closest fast food competitors — and really, unlike most other breakfast burritos in general — Wendy’s sets itself apart in a few ways. First, it’s using two “fresh cracked eggs.” Think “fried” egg instead of the scrambled you typically find in most burritos. If you’re into that sort of thing, you’ll love this; personally, I found myself missing the consistent bite provided by the scrambled kind.

Second, it’s including its “seasoned breakfast potatoes” in the mix. If you haven’t had the chain’s answer to the standard hash brown, you might be pleasantly surprised. The right amount of seasoned, the right amount of externally crispy, and the right amount of internally fluffy, these wedge-like tubers fill up space within the burrito normally occupied by scrambled egg. Without them — due to the flat nature of the fried eggs — this burrito would be quite thin.

And finally, Wendy’s is setting itself apart by employing a “Swiss cheese sauce.” The idea of a Swiss cheese sauce is pretty intriguing, don’t get me wrong, but I was hard-pressed to notice it in the mix. All I really noticed from a cheese perspective was the American. It did what American cheese always does — it got melty and gooey and served its purpose well.

Same goes for the bacon. Wendy’s uses “Applewood smoked” bacon, which are oven-baked. Wendy’s bacon is pretty good, if you’ve never had it. It comes across as less genetically engineered than McDonald’s, and thicker than Burger King’s. Wendy’s claims there are six strips in the burrito, but that wasn’t my experience. Either their strips are an inch long or they’re fudging the numbers, but I don’t know that I believe mine had anything close to that number.

It’s also worth noting that Wendy’s is including a Cholula hot sauce packet with your burrito. I’m not normally a “hot/taco/picante sauce on my burrito” kinda guy, but I tried it for the sake of science, and predictably, it didn’t really do much to elevate my experience. If you’re a Cholula on your breakfast burrito person, though, this is a thoughtful inclusion.

While this burrito was fine, I’d only eat one again if I found myself requiring a fast-food breakfast and there was nary a McDonald’s in sight. It wasn’t good enough to make me seek out another one, and when it comes to a new product, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Purchased Price: $4.99
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 700 calories, 40 grams of fat, 16 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 2210 milligrams of sodium, 53 grams of total carbohydrates, 4 grams of sugar, 2 grams of fiber, and 32 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Pretzel Baconator

Over ten years ago, I was driving back to Tallahassee with my boyfriend, and we decided to stop and grab a bite. Wendy’s had just introduced a new burger with a pretzel bun, and I wanted to try it. I remember it being fine. The bun was a little tough, making biting through it hard. A decade later, that boyfriend is now my husband, and we, once again, shared a pretzel bun burger from Wendy’s.

Wendy’s has released various burgers and chicken sandwiches with the pretzel bun, but this is the first time pulling its wildly popular monster menu item, the Baconator, into the mix. Since its introduction in 2007, the Baconator has remained an in-demand item. For me, it shines in its simplicity. With so few ingredients (beef, cheese, bacon, mayo, and ketchup), the burger has to stand on its own and not hide behind special sauces or wild toppings.

In fact, there has only been one official variation of the Baconator (Spicy Baconator) in its 16 years of being on the menu. Before you grill me in the comments, I personally do not consider the Son of Baconator or Breakfast Baconator variations of THE Baconator. I consider them to be more in the “spin-offs of TV shows you know are spin-offs, but stand on their own,” like Frasier and Mork & Mindy. Also, some people list the Big Bacon Cheddar Cheeseburger as part of the Baconator Universe, but it doesn’t seem to be canonically accepted by Wendy’s.

The Pretzel Baconator simply swaps the standard bun for a pretzel one. As mentioned before, the bun was extremely tough when I tried it a decade ago. I would bite into it, and it was like bread taffy. Initially, I hesitated about trying the Pretzel Baconator, but it’s been a decade, and a lot can change.

The bun was soft but held firm. I was able to get a whole bite of burger without issue. The intense flavors of the savory beef and salty bacon, followed by the sweetness of the ketchup and tangy mayo, dominated the bite. I took a sip of Sprite to cleanse the palate and dove in for my second try. Again, the bun offered a great textural addition, but the pretzel flavor was non-existent. The familiar yeasty flavor was there when trying just the bun, but it was extremely subtle. What it lacked in taste, it made up for it with its structural integrity, as it did hold up to the sloppy fillings better than the standard bun.

If you want a strong pretzel flavor to accompany your Baconator, you will be disappointed. It’s still a solid menu item, and dare I say, the firmer bun serves the burger better than its standard bun. I enjoyed it, but it just doesn’t deliver the pretzel taste in the way I expected.

Purchased Price: $9.29
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 1050 calories, 71 grams of fat, 27 grams of saturated fat, 155 milligrams of cholesterol, 1630 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 61 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Pumpkin Spice Frosty

As someone who loves ice cream and novelty flavors but can’t eat chocolate, Wendy’s has really had my back this past year. Its classic vanilla Frosty has been on vacation and in its place we’ve been blessed with a different topical (but always still vanilla-based) flavor for each season, starting with strawberry last summer and peppermint in the winter and now leading us to the champion of fall, pumpkin spice.

New flavors like these often have one of two problems: they either taste too much like plain vanilla with just a sprinkle of the specialty flavor or go the opposite direction and overdo it with a flavor that’s too intense to enjoy. But pumpkin spice squad, rejoice — both of those pitfalls are avoided here!

I do have to start by mentioning that the color initially gave me a Halloween-level fright. I would typically associate pumpkin spice with a deep, bright orange or perhaps even a rusty brown. This light orange Frosty, on the other hand, is a hue that only reminded me of spicy mayo. Fortunately, if you can abstain from judging this book by its cover, you’ll soon notice that the flavor is just what it’s supposed to be.

Right off the bat, the aroma was pumpkin spice-y but not overpowering, which set the tone for the sophisticated subtlety that this flavor would bring. It was a wonderful blend of sweet and spiced, combining the simple creaminess of vanilla with a lively pumpkin spice flavor whose notes of cinnamon never felt syrupy or artificial. On the scale of autumnal sweets, its mild, balanced flavor reminded me more of pumpkin puree than of the sugar bombs that often occur with pumpkin spice desserts. I was afraid it’d be indulgent to the point of queasiness, but I didn’t feel that way at all.

I also need to shout out the consistency, which, in typical Frosty fashion, was soft enough to melt in your mouth but also held its form well enough to avoid dripping everywhere. This velvety, not-quite-liquid, not-quite-solid state was so intriguing to me that I dared to forego my spoon and try slurping it through a straw instead. Even as someone who loves thick shakes, I admit it was unfeasible right off the bat, but after five or so minutes, when my Frosty had softened a bit, I was able to sip it with ease and really enjoyed the experience.

Perhaps the thing that excited me most about this Frosty, though, is the seasonal potential it made me dream up. What if you dolloped some on top of a slice of pumpkin pie or whipped it into an apple cider float? Of course, it’s absolutely delicious on its own, but the flavor is so clean and well done that I imagine it’d be a perfect complement for any number of creative combos.

If you like pumpkin spice even a little, I’d strongly advise catching this flavor before it falls away like the leaves. Though if you do happen to miss it, you can always join me in making bets for the likely-inevitable spring Frosty… Peeps, anyone?

Purchased Price: $4.24
Size: Large
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 550 calories, 13 grams of fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 260 milligrams of sodium, 94 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 83 grams of sugar, and 14 grams of protein

REVIEW: Wendy’s Loaded Nacho Cheeseburger

Wendy’s is ready for Fall, and with gameday food in mind, they’ve decided to smother their cheeseburgers in nacho fixings. The Loaded Nacho Cheeseburger starts with classic elements – beef patty, American cheese, lettuce, tomato – tops them off with poblano queso, spicy chipotle sauce, tortilla strips, and crispy corn, and stuffs them all in a jalapeño cheddar bun. Anyone who’s ever ordered loaded nachos or a nacho helmet at a baseball game knows that these cheesy chips are a fickle mistress. The first few will be crunchy and satisfying, but things will eventually devolve into a soggy mess. Will a burger suffer the same fate? Will Wendy’s version of Corn Nuts save it?

Let’s start with the bun. Despite the obvious cheddar spots on top and jalapeño bits baked in, it doesn’t taste like much on its own. Notably, both times I tried this, there was a nicely browned-looking cheese crust along a third of the bottom bun, like the cheddar had been conveniently placed to spill over into a picture-perfect frico, but it isn’t actually as crispy as it seemed and lacks discernible flavor.

Atop that bun is a standard slice of American cheese (which you’d never notice unless you chose to pick it apart), a single patty of Wendy’s beef (which I consider to be pretty good quality for a fast food burger), a generous helping of poblano queso, tortilla strips, surprising corn kernels, lettuce, tomato, and the spicy sauce. There’s enough of the queso and sauce that the whole thing is a messy experience and definitely eats like what you’d find if you persevered to the bottom of your nacho plate and found everything had become a little too homogenous. The queso is tasty and more flavorful than I expected, while the chipotle sauce either got lost or I didn’t get as much of it. The sandwich has a slight kick, but it never crosses into truly spicy territory or tastes like chipotles. Lettuce would usually add a little crunch to a burger, but here, it forfeits its texture to the cheese/sauce mix, which brings us to the tortilla strips and crispy corn.

Before trying this, I couldn’t picture what the crispy corn would be and wondered if it was just a redundant explanation of the strips. It turns out they’re a unique entity: zestily seasoned jumbo corn kernels akin to Corn Nuts. The few that escaped my burger were nice on their own, but the ones that stayed on managed to either be startlingly crunchy amid the otherwise squishy situation or sogged by cheese into an unpleasant texture. The tortilla strips, not surprisingly, met a similar end, and most of them were left lifeless.

This sounds like a list of complaints, but I enjoyed this burger. Not all of the textures worked out as Wendy’s intended and I would have liked some more jalapeño flavor, but the cheesy-without-being-gloppy poblano queso makes it worth a try as a novelty item.

Purchased Price: $6.29
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 710 calories, 43 grams of total fat, 17 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 1390 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of total carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 11 grams of total sugars, and 33 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Queso Fries

Every 3-4 months, I try to dig through our freezer to ensure nothing gets lost to the dread “back of the freezer.” These ventures sometimes yield gems of forgotten food, but more often than not, it’s random stuff past me thought future me would want. Wendy’s newest offering, Queso Fries, feels like someone in its research & development team found a container labeled “QUESO-2017” in the back of the freezer and decided to bring it back to restaurants.

In 2017, Wendy’s released Bacon Queso Fries as a companion side to its Bacon Queso Burger. Six years later, we now have Queso Fries as a companion to the chain’s Loaded Nacho Cheeseburger. The fast food side is a simple item with three ingredients: fries, shredded cheddar cheese, and poblano queso.

As a fan of the Baconator Fries, I had extremely high hopes. Unfortunately, they started out “pretty good,” but by the end of eating them, they were a solid “eh.” The first bite was a perfect little bit of everything: crispy fries, gooey queso, and slightly melted shredded cheese. Thanks to the mild but flavorful poblano peppers, the queso had a balanced spiciness.

The topping is a blend of various cheeses (American, cheddar, Monterey jack) that offer that savory cheese flavor without being too strong. The shredded cheddar was virtually lost to the other flavors and textures. Wendy’s fries offer a good starch base, but I would have liked to have had something else to give more texture (maybe the crunchy strips on Wendy’s Loaded Nacho Cheeseburger?). But I enjoyed my initial few bites of the fries.

However, time doesn’t stand still for any food item, and within five minutes, the queso had cooled into a thick, paste-like texture. Normally, I don’t have many issues with food texture, but something about the globbiness of the cheesy topping made me extremely uninterested in finishing the item. It had such a good flavor that this metamorphosis into cold goo was a bummer. Thankfully, my husband had no issue with the oobleck queso, so he finished the fries.

Wendy’s isn’t afraid to bring flavorful items to its menu, and I appreciate that. The Queso Fries are flavorful without being overly spicy. While they were initially quite good, they cooled down into a textural nightmare item I couldn’t finish. If you try them, just make sure to have someone around who will eat the rest when the cheese sauce turns to gak.

Purchased Price: $3.49
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 390 calories, 20 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 940 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 1 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.