Or, 'Cheesy Date: I'll Melt With You'
In a week where I was trying hard to eat healthier, I supposedly mumbled "eat a cheesesteak" while napping. Fine, subconscious, you win. Well, you and the boy who's been clamoring to try some recent limited-time fast food. He's been hankering for one of those jalapeño cheddar melts that Wendy's is advertising. Coincidentally, Burger King seems to have a similar product, without jalapeños. I agreed to try both the Wendy's melt and Burger King's, but only if we split them in half and ate them within ten minutes of each other. And that, friends, is how I ended up having the cheesiest Wednesday night ever.
Sunnyside, Queens, is populated by an even balance of mom-and-pop establishments and megachains. My favorite burger in the hood manages to be on the same street as (and within sight of) McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, and White Castleand it still survives.
Our first stop was Burger King, as it's on the north side of Queens Boulevard and closer to where we started out. We're both highly efficient people, and he had very high hopes for the Wendy's sandwich, so BK was the natural choice for where to start. Along the walk, he asked if we'd be ordering fries. I thought about it for a second and determined onion rings at BK and fries at Wendy's was the way to go.
The plan was operating smoothly until we walked in the door. There, hanging from the ceiling and attached to every register, were invitations to make my meal cheesier by ordering Cheesy Tots.
I'm a complete fiend for all things "tot" (excepting actual children, of course), and I find them darn near irresistible. I knew right then there would be no onion rings that night.
From there, the plan proceeded as, well, planned; we ordered a single Bacon Double Homestyle Melt, an order of six Cheesy Tots, a small drink, and a plastic knife. The sandwich arrived looking rather unappealing in a shapeless, brown wrapper. The sandwich looked good, but as soon as I touched the knife to the surface, I was disappointed. Instead of toasty flat bun, it was a squishy substance.
"Shouldn't this be toasted?" I asked.
"It's toast colored," my date replied. Ew.
I finished cutting The Melt in half and we chowed down.
"Is this buttered?" I asked.
"Butter sauce," he replied.
I continued to be underwhelmed and grossed out by the squishiness and butteriness of the bun, but the burger itself wasn't so bad. There was a lot of cheese, and not much can't be improved with bacon. While not a completely disgusting creation, I was happy to only have to eat half. This is not a burger I will order a second time.
The Cheesy Tots showed promise and will be given a second chance.
Burger: Bacon Double Homestyle Melt
Purveyor: Burger King, locations worldwide
Want Fries with That? Evidently this was a bum batch of Cheesy Tots, and they deserve another chance. Can do.
The Short Order: Pass. The bun is disgusting, and the rest is just a cheesy mess. Get a Whopper if they still exist.
Our second (and more highly anticipated) stop was across the street and down three blocks at Wendy's for their Half-Pound Cheddar Jalapeño Melt. My date was practically skipping down Queens Boulevard, dragging me behind him.
Wendy's still has salt and pepper shakers on the tables, which I find endlessly endearing. Does anyone use them?
This Melt comes on a "Premium Bun," which appears to be a standard Wendy's bun with more facets and some yeast on top. Premium or not, however, it was a mighty leap over the toast-colored "Homestyle" squish of the previous burger.
By the time I finished photographing my half, his had disappeared. I set out to catch up and was surprised; it was good! Wendy's always has a fairly good patty, and I'm hardly ever going to argue about making something spicier. The bun was appropriate in both consistency and size, and overall this was a pretty good fast food burger. The pickled jalapeño slices packed a satisfying punch without overwhelming my mouth. I do take issue with this sandwich being specified as "cheddar," due to the nature of the cheese topping. The more discernible cheese was pepper-jack. The cheese sauce covering the burgers is ostensibly cheddar, but we all know cheddar doesn't melt so well. I may not like cheese sauce on a burger in the first place, but please don't look me in the eye and call that cheddar.
Well, a little research from the Wendy's website reveals there is actual cheddar in the cheese sauce, but it contains significantly more ingredients than the pepper-jack slice. Additionally, those include such unfamiliar things as monoglycerides, sodium silicoaluminate, and DATEM. DATEM? I don't want to eat that, do I? An ingredient that exists as an acronym probably doesn't sit well with my ideas of delicious, but I could be wrong. DATEM? You brought 'em. Ha ha ha.
Anyway, the Wendy's burger was the clear winner. The boy heartily preferred it and keeps clamoring to go back. In my opinion, neither was superior to the regular menu offerings of either establishment. There seems to be a scary trend of leaning toward more meat and cheese and away from vegetables, and both of these burgers were prime examples. I can't say that a slice of tomato and smattering of iceberg lettuce would have done much for either, but at the same time, I would have been happy to see it.
Burger: Half-Pound Cheddar Jalapeño Melt
Purveyor: Wendy's, locations nationwide
Want Fries with That? Wendy's has pretty reliable fries and there's salt and pepper on all the tables if you need it.
The Short Order: Worth trying once, why not?
All in all, it was a good night. We probably had way too much fun doing this. We're cheesy; what can I say?