Reality Check

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

Reality Check: McDonald's New Quarter Pounders

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[Photographs: above, McDonald's; others, Dennis Lee]

It looks like the Angus burger selection at McDonald's took a huge dump, because McDonald's recently voted them off the island and changed up their menu. They've been replaced by a new "premium" version of the ol' standby favorite, the Quarter Pounder. As a glutton for punishment, I volunteered to review these newfangled ground-cow-rounds as a reflection of my low self worth. And, of course, out of genuine curiosity.

There's three types: The Bacon Habanero Ranch, Bacon and Cheese, and Deluxe Quarter Pounder. They'll all hit you in the wallet for $3.99 each, and they all ring in at approximately 600 calories (the Deluxe is less at 540). I'm letting you know, in case you were closely monitoring your calorie intake. At a fast food restaurant.

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You know what? All three are actually pretty handsome right out of the box. I feel like McDonald's is getting better at giving their fancier food a face-lift in terms of actual execution. Well, minus that extraordinarily gray meat thing in the middle, you know, the beef. The Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder is topped with white processed cheddar (the same as the Grilled Onion Cheddar Burger), bacon, a swipe of habanero ranch, lettuce, and tomato.

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Out of the three, this is the more interesting option, but by a very marginal amount. The orange-colored habanero ranch doesn't have much flavor aside from vinegar, but it does have a creeping kick, which is kind of nice. The bacon is chewy and a little strong, and the white cheddar does almost nothing for the burger that I can tell. But man, there is no getting over that lousy beef. Please believe me, I don't harp on fast-food restaurants because it's a cool thing to do; I go into each of these reviews with a positive attitude like Vanilla Ice. There is just no way to rescue the meat. It's bone-dry, rubbery, chewy, and a little spongy, with tiny bits of gristle in it. The sandwich might actually be better without the patty.

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The Bacon and Cheese Quarter Pounder says f*ck it and forgoes the garnishing veggies altogether. It's just regular American cheese on this one, and there's nothing remarkable about the whole package—each bite tastes like bacon, red onion, processed cheese, and occasionally, crunchy pickle. Again, on absurdly dry, grainy, beef.

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I've noticed that when McDonald's calls a menu item "deluxe," that means they just add lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Because nothing says class like mayonnaise.

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In theory, the Deluxe Quarter Pounder is a pretty decent idea. The lettuce is appealingly green, and while the tomatoes aren't particularly delicious or ripe, they come in big slices. Red onion is nice on burgers now and then, and of course, so are pickles. But look at that picture. Just look at it. That is the most mayo I've ever seen on a sandwich. There's so much on there that even Paula Deen would gag (or I'd hope, at least). Yes, I know I can scrape it off, but if that's the default amount, then we're all in trouble.

I'm not sure what kind of image McDonald's is going after; it seems like the corporation is trying to pull a Cher by constantly changing face these days, but under the hood, it's still, well, McDonald's. Despite the nice makeup job, that sad, tired beef is still showing through. Cher, though, I think you're still pretty cool. At least you know who you are.

About the author: After a failed attempt at starting a chain of theme restaurants called "Smellen Keller," Dennis Lee traveled the world to discover his true passion. Sadly, midwifery didn't pan out. Now he works in a cubicle, and screws around as much as possible. Follow his shenanigans on Twitter.

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