Reality Check

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

Reality Check: Hot Pepper, Garlic, and Nacho Cheese Shooters from Steak 'N Shake

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[Photographs: top: Steak 'N Shake, all others, Erin Jackson]

Steak 'N Shake has some screaming deals on their 4 Dollar Menu, including everything from a triple Steakburger and fries, to footlong hot dogs, to spaghetti topped with chili, but what caught my eye was the new Hot Pepper, Garlic, and Nacho Cheese "Shooters" (Steak 'N Shake's term for mini burgers). You can get one of each with fries for $4.99.

The Nacho Cheese Shooter is similar to the Santa Fe Steakburger that popped up as a special last year. It's topped with jalapeño slices, nacho cheese sauce (which tastes like melted American cheese), and tortilla chip strips.

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For such a small burger, there were enough jalapeño slices to have two per bite. Even after removing half of them, the burger was so spicy, I wished I had ordered a shake to temper the heat. The only misstep was the tortilla chips, which, judging by the beauty shot, were probably not supposed to be there in the first place. Crisp and crunchy elements are great, but the sharp edges of the chips were too harsh. The shooter would be better off without them.

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My favorite was the Garlic Shooter. With its soft, squishy bun dripping with garlic butter and sprinkled with garlic salt, it reminded me of the all-you-can-eat breadsticks at the Olive Garden. Between the top bun and the American cheese, there's also a smear of warm and creamy sauce that tastes like Alfredo sauce. Delicious.

Despite asking for no chili-ketchup three times while placing my order, the Hot Pepper Shooter came with it anyway. The good news: it's not ketchup, it's hot sauce. The better news: it is legitimately (a.k.a. nose-drippingly) hot. Combined with the tangy banana peppers, it was a fun and tasty burger presentation.

That's really the main upside to the new shooters: they're fun to eat because they're unusual. The downside is because they're loaded with such strong toppings, the flavor of the beef disappears. Maybe the larger, double Steakburger versions are better, but even though I'm glad I gave them a whirl, I don't think I'd order them twice. If I lived close enough to make regular visits to Steak 'N Shake, I'd stick with a double cheese Steakburger. Simple is what Steak 'N Shake does best.

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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