Reality Check

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

Reality Check: Hardee's Turkey Burgers

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[Photographs: Above, hardees.com; all others, Carey Jones]

Hardee's has teamed up with Men's Health and the editors of "Eat This, Not That!" to create three delicious Charbroiled Turkey Burgers. They're just as indulgent as our other burgers, but all under 500 calories. Each sandwich is prepared with a thick, juicy turkey patty and is available in Original, BBQ Ranch or Mushroom & Swiss."

Liars.

Hardee's, the sister company of western chain Carl's Jr (who's also offering a selection of turkey burgers), has a footprint that expands mostly over the South and Midwest; though some parts of the nation won't know either chain, the combined company, CKE Restaurants, is the fourth largest fast food chain in the country (after McDonald's, Wendy's, and Burger King). Hardee's lured me in to their restaurant last week with the promise of new turkey burgers. The promise: delicious burgers under 500 calories.

You know what? They might actually be an effective diet food. Because they're so unappetizing it's hard to imagine eating a whole one.

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The Mushroom and Swiss Turkey Burger has all of its contents in its title, and comes, like the others, on a whole wheat bun. It's the turkey that's the point of these burgers, but it's absolutely flavorless—a patty of ground nothing—with a strange, almost rubbery texture that bounces back a bit when you bite into it. The mushrooms also lack flavor, and the whole wheat bun tasted a little too sweet to be truly healthier than a regular bun.

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The BBQ Ranch was slightly better; the barbecue sauce isn't anything special, but at least does something to disguise the turkey. I couldn't taste any ranch sauce, and frankly didn't know it was there.

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Little surprise that the regular turkey burger was another dud, given that there was less to hide that patty. Not much flavor to be found anywhere, whether the turkey or the lettuce and tomato; all you end up tasting are mustard and ketchup on that oversweet bun.

The verdict? A total pass. They may have fewer calories than Hardee's burgers, but that comes at expense of any flavor whatsoever. It reminded me of the gruel in The Matrix: food that doesn't taste like anything because it has been engineered to be healthy.

If you're at Hardee's and don't want to eat more than 500 calories, get a Little Thick Cheeseburger. It's a little smaller than the inedible turkey burgers, but with the same number of calories. Hell, get a bacon cheeseburger and leave a few bites behind. Just don't fall for the turkey burger trap. They're not worth eating.

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