The Good:Tastes good, Relatively inexpensive
The Bad:Not as many locations as many fast food chains, Low nutritional value, Nothing superlative.
The Basics: Mediocre fast food, Burger King is all right for the occasional breakfast, but not much more.
As I find myself contemplating restaurants for review, I often find myself thinking, “There’s never a Burger King around when I actually want one.” I usually think this moments after I pass a McDonald’s and decide I’m not quite hungry enough to dine there. It’s a fine line that separates the two giant burger chains, but the truth is, when given the choice, I tend to go for Burger King over McDonald’s. Of course, this is roughly the choice of the lesser of two generally poor dining options, but in general, I have found my experiences at Burger King to be better than the few I’ve had at McDonald’s, despite the fact that McDonald’s has the Shamrock Shake drinks that I love.
Burger King, on the other hand, is a place I tend to reserve only for breakfasts when on the road these days. And for that, it is hard for me to complain. For sure, there are more nutritious breakfasts, but there are few that are less expensive and wake me up while traveling the way a Burger King breakfast would. That said, given that I wouldn’t touch anything on the lunch and dinner menu, it became pretty much impossible for me to recommend Burger King as a place to eat.
Burger King is a chain restaurant and they have achieved fair penetration of the United States, though I have noticed large sections of the Midwest and West that do not have them. Burger King tends to be found as freestanding restaurants which I’ve noticed tend to have a very transparent look to them; the freestanding locations tend to trade on customers being able to look in through their mostly-glass walls to see people inside (presumably enjoying themselves). In addition to freestanding Burger King restaurants, Burger King’s may occasionally be found in mall food courts around the country.
Burger King locations tend to set themselves apart from most areas they are in by having blue and orange as its color scheme. Virtually every Burger King restaurant is equipped with hard plastic booths and a few tables which are purposely uncomfortable. Burger King, like most fast food restaurants, is a chain hoping to do business in volume and thus, they do not want customers getting too comfortable and lingering at the restaurant.
The blue and orange ball symbol of Burger King restaurants is nowhere near as ubiquitous as the golden arches of McDonald’s or the red hat symbol of Pizza Hut, arguably because every few years Burger King tries to shake up their symbol .
Like most fast food chain restaurants, Burger King does not have traditional waitstaff. Instead, one places an order at a main counter, above which hangs the menu and their order is assembled by a team and the customer picks their food up further down the counter. Many of the Burger King restaurants I’ve gone to of late tend to have an older staff, though that may be because I tend to go there for breakfast and teens are still in school at that time. I’ve never had a bad customer service experience at a Burger King, though, and I think that is a mark in the chain’s favor.
When it comes to food, I tend to go for what tastes good, mostly because I don’t care much about nutrition and I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m going to die someday and I’d like to enjoy the time I do have. So, when it comes to Burger King the primary reason I do not eat there often is that there are very few things, outside their breakfast menu, that I enjoy eating.
As for the breakfast menu, it is a simple pleasure for me to eat one of Burger King’s Croissan’wich sandwiches. And because the chain usually has a deal on these, I often get more than one at a time. The Croissan’wich is a sandwich made on a croissant as opposed to bread. As a result, the split croissant is loaded up with egg, cheese and a choice of ham, bacon or a sausage patty. The sausage patty one is usually the best because one feels like they are getting the best value. The bacon is invariably too little or overcooked and the ham is similarly flaccid. On the flip side, the egg patty, sausage patty and melted American cheese that make up the sausage, egg and cheese Croissan’wich makes for a pretty delicious and fairly substantial sandwich. Even so, I am biased and I know it; this was a treat I used to get on weekend visits with my mother and I think it stuck from then. To be honest, the croissants these are made on are pathetically small, greasy and often limp.
The solution to this is the Double Croissan’wich, which expands the traditional sandwich by adding an extra layer of meat and cheese. To be fair, these are pretty awesome and the Ham and Bacon and Sausage and Bacon Double Croissan’wiches make for a pretty tasty salty breakfast sandwich.
I tend to wash my Burger King breakfasts down with the prepackaged Minute Maid Orange Juice boxes that the restaurant sells and that cuts through the salt well. I did try a regular coffee at Burger King last week and it was nothing to write home about (Dunkin’ Donuts pretty much has the market cornered on that in my book!).
One of the reasons to actually hit Burger King at breakfast is for the Cini-Minis. Growing up in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I enjoyed the Cinnamon Bun Phase, which pretty much went bust when chains like T.J. Cinnamons and Cinnabon started shuddering. But Burger King keeps the trend alive with fresh baked Cini-Minis, which are a four-pack of miniature cinnamon buns which are absolutely delightful. They are served hot, they are delightfully sugary and they remind one that there are other flavors outside salt to be had at Burger King.
I also go for the hash browns. The hash browns are little fried potatoes at Burger King which are reminiscent of tater tots, save these are a little flatter. They range – depending on the location – from salty and hot to cold and unsalted and lately for me it has been hit or miss as to whether or not I order any.
And because my partner was feeling generous the other day, we hit Burger King twice and for breakfast, she picked me up one of the new Cheesy Bacon BK Wrappers, which actually sounded intriguing to me. Truth be told, this weird little breakfast burrito-type wrap is not bad. Burger King has taken two strips of bacon, an egg patty, and cheese sauce and plopped them onto a tortilla shell, then wound it up so it resembles a burrito or a wrap sandwich. It’s a little messy, but it turns out it is delicious in a very basic “everything is hot, salty and cheesy” type way. It is hard to argue with that, especially for $1.39.
Unfortunately, the culinary experiments thereafter were not as successful. For lunch, I tried a chocolate shake, which was cold but not terribly chocolately at all. Instead, it tasted like severely diluted and frozen chocolate milk.
I also tried a Whopper – because that is the chain’s trademark sandwich – and fries. The Whopper is a hamburger which alleges to be ¼ pound of beef before cooking and one is lucky to get 3/16 of a pound after this little patty is nuked. The meat is buried between pickles, onions, lettuce and tomatoes on a bun and this had to have been one of the worst hamburgers I have ever tasted. The vegetables – tomatoes and lettuce – were limp, lukewarm and disgusting – the other vegetables (pickles and onions) were cold, hard and pretty vile to the tastebuds. The vegetables and mayonnaise dominated the meat of the burger and this made me pretty much swear off trying any of the other burgers there.
As for the fries, they were well-salted, but cold. This left me unimpressed.
Finally, my partner had an order of chicken tenders (essentially a chicken nugget) and the one I had was hot, well-seasoned and average for a chicken nugget.
Burger King falls into my rather large file of “life’s too short.” The food is affordable, but average-at-best, truly horrible at worst. I tend not to go there except for breakfast when I’m traveling and have passed outside the spheres of influence of Dunkin’ Donuts or am traveling cheap. As such, it is tough to recommend this chain at all.
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© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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