For the last 7 months or so, I’ve written regularly for Serious Eats. I had been an avid reader of the column since being introduced to the site by my friend, Jon, and jumped at the opportunity to contribute. At the time, I was unemployed and living within spitting distance of no less than 8 Fast Food restaurants. (I actually listed both of these things on my cover letter.)
Writing a regular column was tough. I missed deadlines, took poor quality photos, got a full-time job, and moved to an area where Fast Food (at least stuff from the national chains) is surprisingly hard to come by. This week, Serious Eats and I parted ways amicably. I look forward to reading the reviews from subsequent contributors, and I will always value my time as a member of the Serious Eats family. Thank you to my editor, Niki, and to family, friends, and Internet commenters for the feedback and encouragement.
So without further ado, here is my last, un-published column for Serious Eats. I imagine that it would have likely carried a title like “Reality Check: We Try 5 New Items From McDonald’s Value Menu” and a tagline like “which new item takes the gold?”, and in a perfect world it would have been published during the Olympics. Given the current conflict in Russia/Crimea/Ukraine, I’ll forgo any easy puns. My most sincere wishes to the people of that region for a safe and swift end to the violence.
Reality Check: We Try 5 New Items From McDonald’s Value Menu
Which new item takes the gold?
I didn’t think of it until I had housed all five of McDonald’s New Value Menu Sandwiches, so you’ll have to settle for a mental image:
5 sandwiches laid out like the 5 Olympic rings.
Dang, that would have been a good one…
But ç’est la vie de l’Fast Food Writer. I’ll try again in Summer 2016.
If there’s a positive flip-side to missing that assuredly award-winning shot, it’s that I’m not bound to the Olympic metaphor for the reviews of the sandwiches themselves. I’m sure that I could have handled it, but why bother? 5 rehashes of tired chicken/burger/sauce/bacon combinations don’t merit Olympic comparison. But maybe I’ll do a number thing just to stay in the spirit. Oh hell:
Buffalo Ranch McChicken
Since I was in the mood for something spicy, I went for this one first. The classic spicy/cool combination delivered as expected, personal preference for blue cheese aside. It’s a safe, approachable sandwich with mass appeal.
Comparative Olympian: Shaun White (tough break this year, boss).
Judges say: 7/10
Bacon Cheddar McChicken
“Cheddar Cheese” always sets off my alarm bells when listed on fast food menus/product descriptions. This was no exception, as the cheese was appropriately Cheddar-ish: white and funkier than American, but could have easily been mistaken/replaced by fast food “Swiss” or whatever else they use that isn’t quite Cheddar but isn’t American either. The sweet mayonnaise drowned out most of the bacon salt and fat; sorry bacon fans, you’ll be disappointed.
Comparative Olympian: The Ice Dancers (You think they’re American, right? Maybe? They train in America? Or something? Whatever, when is hockey on?)
Judges say: 5.8/10
Barbeque Ranch Burger
THIS BURGER HAS CHIPS ON IT!!!… so naturally it was going to break my heart. Impressively, the mini-corn chips retained their crunch, but the pink-ish barbeque sauce was too reminiscent of smoke taco seasoning for my taste. Also, I would have loved to see McDonald’s use full-size corn chips, allowing diners the satisfaction of loudly crunching them in their sandwiches if so inclined, and/or providing the opportunity to eat them separately.
Comparative Olympian: US Soccer (Brazil 2014 is toooootally our year…)
Judges say: 4/10
Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken
I ordered this sandwich, but was given an additional Buffalo Ranch McChicken instead.
It’s a double cheeseburger with bacon, and it’s fantastic. Not because it’s a true culinary marvel, but because that combination of chopped onions, pickles, and more ketchup than you know what to do with is a McDonald’s hallmark. You know it’s better without bacon, it’s been that way for 20 years, but the rest is so comfortable and familiar that you don’t even care. We tried to figure it out once: (The Search function on SE isn’t working right now, but I’ll add in the link to the piece later).
Comparative Olympian: Your uncle that swears he was supposed to be on the “Miracle on Ice” team, and you love him for that, but c’mon Uncle Larry…
Judges say: 8.5/10 A Gold-medal Winner
Have you tried them all? Which one takes home the gold for you?