Reality Check »

Reviews of fast food burgers and a look at how the real life version compares to the advertised beauty shot.

Reality Check: Royale Steakburger and M&M Shake from Steak 'n Shake

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[Photographs: Above, Steak 'n Shake; others, Erin Jackson]

Steak 'n Shake's newest item, the Royale Steakburger, commands respect. The regal burger is topped with two steak patties (made from T-bone, sirloin, and round steak), American cheese, bacon, and a fried egg. For my first visit to Steak 'n Shake I was surprised by the shockingly low prices—the Royale Steakburger is just $4.99 including fries—and that the low prices come with table service and proper plates and cutlery.

An even better surprise than the cost was how exceptionally tasty the burger was. All of the ingredients, from the ruby red slice of tomato to the creamy American cheese and the thin slices of crisp, salty bacon, were spot-on. Every element could be tasted in each bite: The bacon wasn't so salty that it overpowered the burger nor was the medium-hard egg lost among the meat.

This burger was so good that eating it was challenging, particularly because my dining companion was my father and I was struggling to keep an "I'll have what she's having" moment at bay. The combination of bacon, beef, egg, and cheese makes it an ideal brunch burger, and ultimately, one of the best fast food burgers I've ever tasted.

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The best part about the burger was the two steak patties, which, despite being small, were full of rich, beefy flavor and juice. The loosely-packed patties were cooked through and featured a thin layer of char. A slice of American cheese between the patties was completely melted into the meat, which infused the beef with tanginess and creaminess.

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My only reservation about the burger from looking at the press photo was the bun, which looks a bit like the Pillsbury Doughboy's hat. In reality, it squishes down nicely and provides a good bread-to-meat-to-egg ratio. And because the bun is griddled in butter, it's both fluffy and crunchy.

The burger came with shoestring fries, which were hovering around room temperature when served. The fries had a light and crisp texture, but taste-wise, were closer to cardboard than potatoes. As a delivery mechanism for ketchup they would have been ok, but I ended up leaving more than half of them on the plate.

Steak 'n Shake's newest milkshake, an M&M's shake, was so thick that using a straw was practically impossible until about halfway through, when the thick, creamy slurry had somewhat melted. Crushed milk chocolate M&M's were scattered on top of the shake, as well as in the bottom of the glass, which added a satisfying crunch to what was essentially a plain vanilla shake with some candy mixed in. For a premium shake, it wasn't too exciting (and not much of an improvement over the standard vanilla option), but still an exceptional value for $3.49 (or half price during happy hour— 2 to 4 p.m. and 2 to 4 a.m.).

After my experience at Steak 'n Shake, I now understand the pain of those who are deprived of In-N-Out. Here's hoping they expand beyond the current 500 locations soon!

Related: Steak 'n Shake: The Quintessential American Cheeseburger

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