Reality Check

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

Reality Check: We Try Burger King's Four New Burgers

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[This photo: Burger King; All others except where noted: Todd Brock]

Remember as a kid when there was a birthday or Christmas where your parents didn't have that one big-ticket gift you really wanted, so they tried to make up for it with a whole host of other smaller things? The shotgun approach? Well, Burger King seems to be following a similar strategy these days, having rolled out, like, a dozen new menu items all at once.

Loaded tater tots! Pina Colada Smoothie! Lattes in four flavors! Glazed doughnut holes! Please, for the love of God, just come in and order something!!

Among the new offerings are four new burgers aimed at some widely-dispersed demographics. The first is the Bacon Cheddar Stuffed Burger ($3.99), pictured above in all its professionally-primped glory. According to company literature, it's a "USDA-inspected (Really?! That's your lead selling point?) fire-grilled ground beef patty stuffed with hardwood smoked bacon and savory cheddar cheese, topped with fresh-cut lettuce, juicy tomatoes, ketchup, mayo, and crispy onion rings all on a warm, artisan-style bun." Sounds lovely, but the reality was slightly less picturesque.

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Ugh. Burnt edges are so not cool. Not at your neighborhood block party when they come from the doofus down the street with his "King of the Grill" apron, and certainly not from a global corporation that was actually founded on making hamburgers.

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This is the chain's second attempt at the "stuffed" burger, although like 2011's jalapeƱo-and-cheddar version, the extras are not so much "stuffed" into the burger in Jucy Lucy-esque fashion, but rather chopped up and folded into the meat itself. "Studded" is perhaps a better word.

From a taste standpoint, it offered nothing that a standard BK patty topped with bacon and cheese wouldn't. Once it all gets mashed around in your mouth, it's all the same. It was very hard to discern actual bits of bacon or cheese in the mix, but the flavors were kinda sorta present...if I really concentrated. Add to that some pretty lame toppings and onion rings that were steamed bland from the wrapped burger's residual heat rather than "crispy," and the King can stuff this one, for all I care.

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[Photograph: Burger King]

Next up, the Chipotle Whopper ($4.29), topped with thick-cut bacon, pepper jack cheese, spicy chipotle mayo, fresh-cut lettuce, ripe tomatoes, and sweet caramelized-style onions. This is the latest tweaking of the Whopper, following a few hit-or-miss variations over the past few months to celebrate the sandwich's 55th birthday.

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The real thing didn't look bad, and it was actually a decent burger. A fairly hefty sandwich, it had decent kick, some actual crunch, and a nice bit of tang from the "caramelized-style onions." (I chose not to think about what that really means too much.)

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Be warned that the very orange chipotle mayo is very runny, and there's lots of it. It will likely end up all over everything. It is tasty, however, and helped make this one my favorite of the King's new foursome.

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[Photograph: Burger King]

BK is going after the I-want-a-fast-food-burger-but-I-want-to-eat-healthy contingent with their next two offerings. Their new Turkey Burger ($3.99) is fire-grilled and topped with lettuce, tomato, red onions, and mayo. It's served on the same artisan-style bun as the stuffed burger.

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The actual burger looked darn close to the advertised model. Yes, that weird white-and-pale-orange color is something I will never get used to in a turkey burger, but I've come to just accept that that's part of the deal. At least there were grill marks on one side.

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This one is definitely helped out by the toppings. Sure, the turkey patty has that commercial/industrial blandness to it, and a weirdly fake texture to it when eaten by itself, but put it on a dense, squishy bun, give it a quick run though the garden, and help it along with some lubrication in the form of mayo and ketchup...and it's not too bad. I'm not sure how many people are flocking to BK for turkey burgers, but if that's where you happen to find yourself at mealtime and are looking for something different, it's an ok choice. I have no problem with this one.

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[Photograph: Burger King]

Burger King's new Veggie Burger ($2.29), on the other hand, I do have problems with. It starts with a MorningStarFarms Garden Veggie Patty and adds lettuce, tomato, red onion, ketchup, and mayo.

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The texture and color of the patty were off-putting to this die-hard carnivore. But I have been trying to broaden my horizons recently, and was willing to give it a fair shot. After all, a little mayo and crunch helped the turkey burger immensely.

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But that perfectly round, perfectly fake disc of visible vegetables and grains just looked wrong. And it tasted wrong, too. It had a tough, dense mouthfeel that no amount of mayo (and there was a good deal here) could fix. I still can't put my finger on what it tasted like, but it wasn't anything in the burger family. Fans of the store-bought MorningStar Farms patties may disagree, but I'm not sure how many of them I'll be running into at BK anyway.

All four of these burgers are limited-time offerings, and I have to say that for two of them, it can't be limited enough. I could see the Turkey Burger sticking around, as it's an option that few fast-food burger joints provide. And while the Chipotle Whopper was a pleasant surprise, I have no doubt that it'll get the heave-ho sooner rather than later to make room for baby back ribs or something...as the King reloads the shotgun for more menu meanderings.

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, pizzas for Slice, and desserts for Sweets, 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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