Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Burger King

802 Lee Ave.
Festus, Mo

Yeah, I know, Burger King. Meh.

But here’s the thing. New fries. A few weeks back BK splashed the news that they were revamping the ubiquitous side dish. This is HUGE! You think it’s easy to come up with a new process for dumping handfuls of sliced potatoes into a deep fryer?
Plus, last time we did BK we tried some of their newer burger offerings so we decided to stick to the flagships this time.
Usually when I go to BK I get the fish sandwich. I have nothing bad to say about that offering at all. I hadn’t been since the new-fries came out though.
The Place:
It’s a Burger King, look at the one nearest you, yeah it’s just like that.
The Food:
Fancy tea dispenser
Angel ordered a Whopper, Adam the ‘tender crisp’ chicken sandwich, I went off plan and asked for the “Chef’s Choice” burger (though it has more meat than a whopper, it’s a leaner meat and actually contains fewer calories.) We all opted for the fries, of course, and tea. Regular for Angel and me, sweet for Adam. The tea was offered up through an electro-mechanical machine that let you choose between three types.
While at the condiment/drink counter Angel filled up six little paper cups with ketchup.
Seating was easy, only a two or three groups of people were there. We sat and placed our plastic ‘55’ tag at one corner and waited.
Ketchup, right before Angel
swore at me for taking her picture

We were prepared for the wait. For Christmas I’d picked up a little card game for Angel’s stocking, a version of “Would You Rather”. The deal is that there are questions on the card and no right or wrong answers. The point is to start pointless conversations.
Would you rather have one slow child and one really-smart child, or two average children?
That one was fun considering we were playing the game with one of our children.
Would you rather live next door to a landfill or a cemetery?
We split on this one. Obviously I like cemeteries and attach no superstition to them, Angel though, hates them. She’d actually live next door to, or in a landfill rather than go anywhere near a cemetery. I knew this already. It’s one of the reasons I picked up the hobby of going to cemeteries and finding/photographing tombstones. I never have to worry about her wanting to tag along.
Chef's Choice and New fries
The food came pretty quickly. I tried the fries first. They were indeed thicker, which meant they retained their heat longer. CAUTION! They retain their heat longer! So I let them cool a bit before biting into the next one. As for taste, my initial reaction was they tasted just like burnt flesh.
The burger looked good. It, like Adam’s chicken, was served on an ‘artisan bun’ which I assumed to mean that it was shaped a little different than a regular bun, it didn’t taste any different, though it is rumored to be made with potatoes. Something did seem different though. The burger initially tasted a little smoky, then a little bitter. I couldn’t figure it out at first. The more of it I ate, the less I liked it. It was the sauce. Not like ‘special sauce’ at McDonald’s, which is really pretty much Thousand Island dressing, this stuff was not at all sweet, it was smoky, faux-smoky. It was also a sickly gray-brown in color, which didn’t help. I researched this sauce later and found that whatever it is, BK’s not giving out the recipe, or even listing the ingredients, other than mayo, onion and garlic. I didn’t even sense those flavors. At the table I asked Angel and Adam to taste it, they couldn’t put a finger on it either. I never finished my burger because of it. In fact I couldn’t get the taste out of my system enough to want to eat anything else. Fortunately I’d consumed most of my fries by this point and can report to you that the new fries are indeed different. They’re definitely thicker, and seem to be crispier than the forgettable old style. I also detected a sweetness to them, probably from whatever exotic oil they cook them in. They had too much taste. Fries are great even if you just cut up a potato and deep fry them in Canola or vegetable oil at home. Whatever this new technique is distorts the flavor further than a basic side dish needs to be messed with. They weren’t bad at all, they just seemed fake.  Angel’s response to them was: “They went for texture over taste, they don’t taste potato-ey”
Tender Crisp Chicken Sandwich
Angel also said her Whopper was disappointing. “It wasn’t as messy and drippy as they used to be.”  She added:  “Nor was it as flame-broiled tasting as I remember them.”
I asked Adam about his chicken sandwich. “It’s fast food.” Was all I got, delivered with a shrug of his shoulders.
Oh and the tea? It had flavor, not bitter or flat, but not a great flavor. Acceptable.
I opened this missive using the neo-word ‘meh’. It’s a word popularized by the cultural phenomenon “The Simpsons” and defined by the online ‘Urban Dictionary’ as: Indifference; to be used when one simply does not care.
And that non-word pretty much sums up the entire BK experience. Which is sad. I’ve always liked BK, Angel and I had our first date at one, many, many, many years ago. I always thought of them as being somehow better than McDonald's, but now I’m not so sure. It is possible to fine-tune something into complete disrepair, and I think this may be the case at BK. Whatever new moves they’re making, for whatever reasons, this reporter is simply not impressed.
The price? Well the Chef’s Choice is a pricier burger than a whopper, so our meal came in at twenty four dollars and change. Not too bad, but a bit higher than most fast-food expectations, and nearly the price of a really good burger almost anywhere else. Jack-in-the-Box and Steak and Shake come to mind, and there’s installations of those shops in the same block as this particular Burger King. So unless my only other choice happens to be McD’s, I’m probably going to be fast-fooding elsewhere in the future.

On a sad note: Kim’s Café in Desoto, is officially closed. Kim notified me the last week of December that it was being shuttered. I knew she’d had the place up for sale, and she reported that since she put up the signs, that an already slow stream of customers had dropped by another seventy-five percent. This is too bad.  I have mentioned on many occasions that I really liked the place except for the tea. I’m wondering now if that was the crux of the problem.

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