[Photograph: GrubGrade]

Oh, Your Highness. Your Bacon Double Cheeseburger used to be my fast-food burg of choice—when you flaunted your juvenile irreverence, when your big-headed mascot was creepy but entertaining, when Darius Rucker was crooning about a chicken sandwich with Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders amidst "tumbleweeds of bacon" (still one of my all-time favorite ads). These days, I don't recognize you or your bland, generic food.


[Photographs: Todd Brock]

Unveiled in October, BK Toppers were positioned by Burger King brass as "savory, fire-grilled" burgers "freshly prepared with premium ingredients" that would "pack an intensely flavorful punch" at "a great value." Well, they got the value part right, I suppose.


At $1.99 each, these burgs won't set you back much—or fill you up, either. They're almost absurdly small—under three inches across and just a fifth of a pound of meat—and actually seem even more pathetic sitting on BK's standard-size buns. I was struck by the shape—a clear attempt at a hand-pattied look, but disturbingly symmetrical. Two of my Toppers were blackened to the point of tasting burnt, and one even had a hollow pocket in the center. Like a Jucy Lucy, only someone forgot the Jucy.


The Deluxe Cheeseburger comes with American cheese, lettuce, onions, pickles, and Stacker sauce. Stacker is a Thousand Island variant, and, like most "secret sauces," it completely overwhelms everything else, even the heavy dose of raw onion. I can't figure out what's supposed to be "deluxe" about this one; it's a pretty basic combo, done pretty lamely.


The Western BBQ Cheeseburger features American, onion rings, and Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce. I'm not a fan of onion rings as a burger topping; it didn't offend here only because the rings were so undersized, mild, and limp. I've never found a BBQ sauce-topped burger that works; this was no exception. While a good mopping of red elevates a rack of ribs or a pile of pulled pork, it drowns out a beef burger. This 3.2-ounce patty of leather never had a chance.


Thanks to a liberal slathering of the chain's Griller sauce, the Mushroom and Swiss Burger was the only one of my three Toppers that wasn't disgustingly dry. Griller sauce seems to be a garlic mayo spread that's also being used on the new Chef's Choice. Here, it helped the overall moisture content of the burger, but still couldn't completely camouflage the overcooked beef.

Burnt edges on a burger or two may be an anomaly, but I think my issues with the BK Toppers point to a more systemic problem. In an effort to offer $2 premium-sounding burgers, the King has short-changed us on the beef and tried to hide it under a razzle-dazzle of toppings. If I had just two bucks in my pocket, with no other options than a Burger King, maybe I'd order the Mushroom and Swiss version again. But only if there's nobody in back who remembers how to rustle up one of those chicken sammies that Hootie sang about.

About the Author: Todd Brock lives the glamorous life of a stay-at-home freelance writer in the suburbs of Atlanta. Besides being paid to eat cheeseburgers for AHT and pizzas for Slice, he's written and produced over 1,000 hours of television and penned Building Chicken Coops for Dummies. When he grows up, he wants to be either the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the drummer for Hootie & the Blowfish. Or both.

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