The Hungover Gourmet


At Least They Didn't Put Cheese On It:
Burger King Summer Menu 2012

I have a love/hate relationship with most of the "limited time only" offerings from Burger King.

On the one hand I love that they push the envelope more than counterparts like McDonald's and Wendy's. While those places seem to be content recycling previous "hits" (McRib) or simply revamping existing items (Spicy McBites, chicken sandwich with hot sauce or cheese or cheesy hot sauce), you get the feeling that the folks at BK are at least trying when they trot out some superhero-flick-inspired sandwich or, in the case of this review, the 2012 BK Summer Menu.

On the other hand, I hate that 9 times out of 10 the execution is so wrong-headed and mind-boggling that I wonder why I fall for it again and again and again. (Oh, right, I'm highly suggestible.) At least when Taco Bell pushes the envelope, even when the execution falls on its face, I know what they were attempting to do. I may not have loved the Doritos Tacos but I've gone back and had them twice.

To be frank, I knew that the BK Summer Menu – especially the Memphis Pulled Pork Sandwich – was destined to be another letdown. The question was, would it be a Loaded Steakhouse Letdown or a Burger Shots Letdown?

And so, on my way home from a long trip – with a ferocious hunger burning in my belly – I decided to take the plunge and see what the menu offered. I pulled in and ordered the Memphis Pulled Pork Sandwich, the Carolina BBQ Whopper, a side of Sweet Potato Fries and the Bacon Sundae.

It didn't take long to realize that the Memphis Pulled Pork was wrong on just about every level. At first I thought the "pulled pork" was some type of "pork patty" along the lines of the McRib, but I realized it was probably just a byproduct of the precise portioning that comes with any fast food offering. This surely isn't the same pulled pork that I make at home or get from Andy Nelson's up the road, but is pretty close to the stuff you'll find in pre-sealed tubs in the meat section at your local supermarket. Processed and shredded to the point where it almost looks pre-chewed it's the perfect sandwich if you're really in the mood for something like Lloyd's but don't feel like using your microwave.

Adding insult to injury are the toppings and bun. Instead of making it a real Memphis-style pulled pork sandwich topped with tangy cole slaw on a soft bun that almost becomes one with the insides, BK chose to add sliced onions (WTF?!) and a cloying "sweet Southern dressing" before placing the whole thing between halves of a warm, toasted artisan-style bun.

As I said to my wife, "at least they didn't put cheese on it".

The Carolina BBQ Whopper fares slightly (and I mean slightly) better, but only because there's a Whopper lurking somewhere beneath all the faux-tasting bacon and that goddamn "sweet Southern dressing" which makes another unwanted, unwarranted appearance. Apparently the burger is topped with Bulls Eye Carolina Style BBQ Sauce (which boasts of mustard and BBQ spices) but I couldn't taste anything beyond that damn, damn dressing.

Not surprisingly, the Sweet Potato Fries and Bacon Sundae were the high points of the meal. The fries taste almost exactly like the frozen Alexia Sweet Potato Fries I buy in bulk at Costco and the Bacon Sundae featured just the right mix of sweet and savory thanks to a blend of vanilla soft serve (touted by many bloggers as the best fast food soft serve out there), chocolate fudge, caramel, bacon crumbles and a decadent piece of thick cut bacon as a garnish.

I'm tempted to swing by and try the Texas BBQ Whopper – the only offering that doesn't have that dressing – and grab another Bacon Sundae, but I might be better off to test out the Taco Bell Cantina Menu which appears to be an attempt to rebrand the chain rather than simply repackage existing menu offerings.

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