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: Wendy’s Bacon Maple Chicken Sandwich

Wendy's Bacon Maple Chicken Sandwich

Why don’t more fast food chains utilize the croissant?

I mean, everyone loves croissants. From the buttery, flaky layers to that rich aftertaste and the feeling of international sophistication you get when rolling the “oi” to create what might pass as a French word, croissants are hard to hate on.

There is, it turns out, a lot of good reasons why croissants get shafted in fast food development. They smoosh easily, they’re incompatible with burgers, and their lineage is much more developed in the deli spectrum.

Perhaps that’s what makes Wendy’s new Bacon Maple Chicken Sandwich so intriguing. Not only does it capitalize on the popularity of the sweet and salty fried chicken applications – pairing a maple glaze with Wendy’s homestyle chicken breast and Applewood smoked bacon – but it also uses a “flaky croissant bun” as the anchor.

Wendy's Bacon Maple Chicken Sandwich 2

Forgetting for a second that the artistic representation of Wendy’s croissant bun looks like the emoji for dog poop (SORRY BUT IT’S TRUE), the bun fails to make the sandwich. More like a spongy brioche than a flaky croissant, it lacks the rich croissant aftertaste or light, airy texture. Perhaps most telling, it doesn’t stand out when paired with the heavy ingredients.

And yeah, those other ingredients are heavy. It’s not that Wendy’s homestyle chicken breast is terrible, it’s that its spice blend, extra crispy texture, and saltiness dominate the sandwich. The bacon and swiss cheese are, as they usually are at Wendy’s, on point as individual ingredients, but as a whole sandwich, they come together in a salty, somewhat meaty, and weirdly sweet way that gives new meaning to ambivalence.

Wendy's Bacon Maple Chicken Sandwich 3

Weirdly sweet is, I think, an apt description for the maple glaze. The sweetness is muted, cut by a bit of butter and a dissatisfying bite of apple cider vinegar. What you’re left with is a viscous fluid that doesn’t know if it wants to be a salad dressing, a baste, or drizzle-on-pancake maple syrup. If a sweet and salty sensation is supposed to awaken your taste buds, this is more like hitting the snooze 4 or 5 times before stumbling out of bed.

Wendy's Bacon Maple Chicken Sandwich 4

Ultimately, Wendy’s misses the mark when it comes to the Bacon Maple Chicken Sandwich. Heavy, salty, and without any relief, it’s not so much a guilty pleasure as it is a slightly underwhelming representation of chicken and waffles. And, let’s be real — a fast food croissant “bun” ain’t no waffle.

Purchased Price: $5.69
Size: N/A
Rating: 4 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 680 calories, 34 grams of fat, 14 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 125 milligrams of cholesterol, 1450 milligrams of sodium, 57 grams of carbohydrates, 41grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 38 grams of protein.

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QUICK REVIEW: Wendy’s S’Awesome Bacon Classic

Wendy's S'Awesome Bacon Classic

What is Wendy’s S’Awesome Bacon Classic?

I guess I’m out of the Wendy’s loop because I wasn’t even aware of its S’Awesome sauce that was introduced a year or so ago. Either way, the chain has slathered it on one of its classic burgers, thrown on some bacon slices, and released it to the public as the S’Awesome Bacon Classic.

How is it?

Wendy's S'Awesome Bacon Classic 2

Eager to try what the advertising calls a “sweet, smoky, tangy sauce” on my single-size burger, I couldn’t really taste it over the heavy saltiness of the bacon. I peeked under the bun and saw a very thin, practically non-existent spread of S’Awesome across the bread. At this point, to me, it tasted like a bacon burger that cost a bit too much at $5.19.

However, I got brave and went to the counter and requested a small cup of S’Awesome sauce which they generous acquiesced to. I used it as a dipping sauce for my burger, which made all the difference in the world. A little dab won’t do. You need a deluge of sauce to get the full power of S’Awesome, which I’m all for.

Is there anything else I need to know?

In addition to the single variety that I purchased, there’s also a double and triple if you need that much Wendy’s meat in your life. There’s also the calorically dangerous S’Awesome Bacon Fries, covered in chunky bacon and S’Awesome sauce. (I’d love to see the S’Awesome sauce as a goopy baked potato topping. That would be truly S’Awesome.)

Conclusion:

Wendy's S'Awesome Bacon Classic 3

What I’m slowly learning is that, when it comes to these sauce-heavy sandwiches, it’s completely up to the sandwich-maker how much they’re going to put on it. In this case, surprisingly any. But, by requesting a cup of S’Awesome sauce and remedying a small manufacturing error, it made Wendy’s S’Awesome Bacon Classic a tasty little burger. However, next time I might get a free cup of S’Awesome sauce and Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger and call it a day.

Purchased Price: $5.19
Size: Single
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 640 calories, 40 grams of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 115 milligrams of cholesterol, 1390 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 34 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Harvest Chicken Salad

Wendy s Harvest Chicken Salad

You know that meme that says “name a more iconic duo” and then hits you with a pic of anything from Keenan and Kel to a guy jumping off a bridge with another guy watching the Cleveland Browns?

I tend to think apples and walnuts fall into that category of stuff that belongs together.

Apples, walnuts, feta, bacon, chicken, and cranberries? Now we’re complicating things. Perhaps that’s why I’m ambivalent towards Wendy’s new Harvest Chicken Salad, which not only attempts to Noah’s Ark-it out of pretty much every Wendy’s salad ingredient but also skates a little too close to the regular-menu Apple Pecan Chicken Salad.

Wendy s Harvest Chicken Salad Fruits

I don’t mean to imply Wendy’s homage to autumn-in-salad-form isn’t good. Like most of Wendy’s salads, the ingredients push into fast casual territory. Skin-on red and green apples are crispy and mildly sweet; the chicken juicy and slightly smoky; the vinaigrette tangy and a tad bit tart. Add in crunchy, meaty glazed pecans (which were left off the first full-sized salad I ordered, unfortunately), and you’re looking at a filling meal.

Wendy s Harvest Chicken Salad Bacon

But then there’s the bacon, complicating things. It’s not bad in and of itself since, duh, it’s a scientific impossibility that bacon detracts from anything and because Wendy’s makes really good bacon -— thick cut, substantial, with a great balance of fat and smoke. But I have no idea why it’s on this salad. Not only did it arrive on my full-size salad (I bought another half-sized one later since Wendy’s forgot my walnuts) in strips meant for sandwiches, but it took away the spotlight from the apples and walnuts.

Much like the bacon, the feta cheese feels out of place, like me when I show up to a wine and cheese party with a six pack of Shinerbock. Perhaps Wendy’s didn’t want to infringe on the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, but the salty, mostly flavorless feta lacks the tang and funk of blue cheese that helps complement the apples. Even goat cheese would have been a better option than feta, especially since it’s tangy and has a slight sweetness that would have played well with the oddly-included dried cranberries.

Wendy s Harvest Chicken Salad Closeup

I’m usually a big fan of Wendy’s salads, and while I loved the quality of the ingredients featured in the Harvest Chicken Salad, I can’t deny there’s a genuine lack of cohesion binding the salad together. Is it jump off a bridge because the Browns still haven’t won since 2016 dysfunctional? Goodness no. But when your iconic duo gets lost amidst even well executed extra ingredients, it’s time to get back to your bread and butter — or apples and walnuts.

(Nutrition Facts – Full Size – 570 calories, 23 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 115 milligrams of cholesterol, 1300 milligrams of sodium, 47 grams of carbohydrates, 37 grams of sugar, 5 grams of fiber, and 23 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $6.79
Size: Full
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Apples are surprisingly crisp and flavorful for a prepackaged salad. Great execution on individual ingredients, especially the juicy chargrilled chicken. Meme potential in the apple and walnut combination.
Cons: Too many ingredients crowding up that apple and walnut synergy. Feta cheese is a real disappointment. Why are their cranberries in this salad? Botched salad construction.

QUICK REVIEW: Wendy’s Buffalo Ranch Crispy Chicken Sandwich

Wendy s Buffalo Ranch Crispy Chicken Sandwich

What is it?

Wendy’s latest budget sandwich fix. The Buffalo Ranch Crispy Chicken Sandwich is a lightly breaded chicken patty smothered in Buffalo ranch sauce, topped with lettuce and a slice of Monterey Jack cheese, and served on a warm bun.

How is it?

My initial reaction when picking it up was that it felt very substantial for a buck, and indeed, it delivers. Wendy’s didn’t skimp on the sauce, which has a balanced creamy and spicy presence to it that comes through on every single bite.

Wendy s Buffalo Ranch Crispy Chicken Sandwich 3

The chicken tastes more “real” and authentic than the coveted McChicken, and while the sauce does most of the driving on the overall flavor, the patty is moist and crisp and does everything it should to bring the protein foundation for this spiced up cheap thrill.

Is there anything else I need to know?

Wendy s Buffalo Ranch Crispy Chicken Sandwich 2

As is the case with a lot of fast food sandwiches, the cheese didn’t add much and wasn’t fully melted sitting against the cold crisp lettuce. Initially, I was stoked to get a sandwich with cheese for such a cheap price, but I couldn’t really taste it and, in the absence of melty texture, it’s pretty unnecessary.

Conclusion:

While it’s a far cry from Wendy’s fantastic Homestyle Chicken Sandwich, that deep fries a whole chicken breast, the Buffalo Ranch Crispy Chicken Sandwich is a terrific chicken sandwich for the price.

It’s salty and creamy with enough spice to be satisfying without needing ample cups of water to survive. Wendy’s continues its tradition of offering some of the best chicken in fast food land and have a solid soldier to put forth in the budget battle of value menu supremacy.

Purchased Price: $1.00
Size: N/A
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 360 calories, 19 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 1020 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 17 grams of protein.