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[Photographs: above, Jack in the Box; others, Damon Gambuto]

I imagine you can predict any number of the puns that could be the title of this installment of Chain Reaction: "Jack in the Box's Outlaw Burger Should Be Outlawed," or "I Fought the Outlaw Burger and the Outlaw Burger Won." (The latter is about how I'm feeling after having just downed one of these burgers for lunch.)

Sadly, our fast food nation rarely steps up and offers a new burger that is worth more than a desultory drubbing here at AHT. Jack in the Box's new Outlaw Burger ($3.89 at my local JITB in Los Angeles) isn't the exception, it's the rule. A gleaming beauty shot of burger piled high with toppings is revealed to be a sloppy, over-stuffed mess in real life. Oh, and it tastes bad too.

In this case I'd venture to say that considering the source, not even the official description gets you too excited; a jumbo beef patty topped with onion rings, American cheese, hickory smoked bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, and bourbon BBQ sauce on a sesame seed bun. Don't get me wrong—coming from the right burger purveyor the above litany of ingredients could turn into a burger worth a damn, but coming from the fast food kitchen of JITB, the Outlaw Burger isn't worth your time, or a damn.

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Jack in the Box burgers are always a bit of a mystery to me in that they are so uneven. I don't so much mean in preparation from location to location, but rather there is a wild inconsistency in ingredients. The Outlaw Burger is another example of this phenomenon.

The veggies, while bland, certainly pack a crunch of relative freshness and the bun is genuinely good. In the case of their Outlaw Burger it's a departure from the JITB standard commercial. They call it simply a "sesame seed bun," but it had a heft and resiliency to come in under the "artisan" category (at least in the fast food world). I thought it was genuinely good and, as I've often pointed out when it comes to commercial grade buns, is actually better than you'll get at a lot of fancy-pants spots that are devoted to the brioche bun.

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Of course, veggies and a bun don't make a burger and in this case the stuff that does (the patty and its condiments) are its undoing. The patty is yet another wan, piece of shoe leather beef that makes an argument for the veggie patty. The transgressing condiment in this case is the "bourbon BBQ sauce." It's majestically cloying such that it has that patented fast food, corn syrup burn after a few bites.

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JITB goes through the trouble giving this burger a nice bit of packaging to protect its integrity (many a burger spot could use this as a model), but exactly what they were trying to protect I'm just not so sure. While it's true that my burger was the single version and the promotional rendering is of a double, what came out of the box was a messy pile of ingredients, not at all a composed burger.

I can't imagine JITB's Outlaw Burger will do little more for their business then the usual spike associated with a new menu item and ad campaign. You know, the kind associate with new business in the form of suckers like me to ruin his lunch on one of these things. I imagine the best thing I can say is that I ate it so you don't have to.

If burgers are outlawed, at least I won't have to eat the Outlaw Burger.

About the author: Damon is one of our roving burger reporters and food writers. When he's not eating more than is warranted or healthful (and then writing about it) he can be found writing and producing for television and film. You can contact him at seriouslydamon@gmail.com.

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