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[Photographs: Above, TGI Friday's, all others, Erin Jackson]

After nearly two years of development, TGI Friday's revealed their new line-up of double-patty Stacked Burgers on Tuesday. They're made with two fresh, 3.6-ounce, 75/25 grilled USDA Choice beef patties with toppings on top, below, and in between. About 80 percent of locations will be serving the burgers on fresh-baked, brioche-style buns delivered by local bakery partners, while the remaining 20 percent of locations will have par-baked buns, according to an in-depth interview with Dan Dillon, TGI Friday's senior director of menu development, about the new burgers on burgerbusiness.com.

Here's a run-down of the three burgers with their menu descriptions:

  • All-American Stacked Burger: Melted sharp cheddar cheese, onion bacon jam and Asiago and Parmesan spread between two fresh burgers with Thousand Island dressing and peppered bacon, 1460 calories
  • Philly Stacked Burger: Braised shredded beef, mozzarella, Asiago and Parmesan spread, roasted cremini mushrooms, spicy giardiniera and green onion between two fresh burgers with Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, horseradish spread, onion bacon jam and peppered bacon, 1470 calories
  • Bleu Cheese Stacked Burger: Melted bleu cheese, roasted cremini mushrooms, balsamic and green onions between two fresh burgers crusted with bleu cheese, and roasted garlic rosemary aioli and peppered bacon, 1490 calories

When I dropped by my local Friday's to test-drive the new burgers, it was apparent that there's still a learning curve going on in the kitchen. Two out of the three burgers were delivered with multiple toppings missing, and one was put together with one large beef patty instead of two smaller ones. The one burger the kitchen got right on my first visit was the All-American Stacked Burger ($11.79).

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From the beef to the bacon to the cheese, plus three different condiment spreads (Asiago-Parmesan, onion bacon jam, and Thousand Island) there is a lot going on with this burger—too much, to be specific. With so many toppings, it's inevitable that most of them will mush together or just get totally lost in the fray, which is exactly what happened. I could only really taste the bacon onion jam, the bacon, and the bun. When I picked off a piece of beef to taste solo, it was greasy, a bit rubbery, and tasted like a mass-produced patty that was cooked in advance and had been hanging around in a warming tray.

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Taken as a whole, the burger might have looked like an upgrade, but in terms of flavor, it tasted like an over-dressed fast food burger on an eggy brioche bun.

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Things got worse with the Philly Stacked Burger ($11.79), which has the misfortune of being stacked up with a dozen different toppings. Between the shredded beef, the horseradish spread, and the bacon and onion jam, the beef was rendered completely invisible. The only purpose it served was to increase the height of the burger. Flavor-wise, it didn't taste like a burger at all, but like an extra salty and oily roast beef sandwich. I managed only a few bites.

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If you like blue cheese and absolutely have to order a burger at TGI Friday's, go with the Bleu Cheese Stacked Burger ($11.79). The beef wasn't any better, but the blue cheese had a nice tangy bite to it, and it paired well with the roasted garlic rosemary aioli and bacon. Skip the roasted cremini mushrooms, though. They're covered in a slick of oil and make no improvement on the flavor of the burger.

My overall impression of TGI Friday's new burgers wasn't good. Piling on all of those toppings only serves one purpose: disguising the beef. If a great burger is what the chain was going for with this launch, they still haven't achieved it. Fresh, not frozen, beef was a step in the right direction, but not if the patties are pre-formed, mass-produced, and cooked without any care. So, unless what you're looking for in a burger is a kitchen sink's worth of toppings on a patty on par with a fast food joint, I'd steer clear of the new burgers TGI Friday's. Their plain 'ol standard cheeseburger is much better.

About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her San Diego food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax

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