Reality Check

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

The Grilled Turkey Burger at The Cheesecake Factory, a Low Calorie Salt Bomb

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[Photographs: Erin Jackson]

I haven't been back to The Cheesecake Factory since I sampled three burgers for a Chain Reaction, but when I heard their turkey burger is made with a mix of ground turkey and mushrooms, I was intrigued.

Turkey burgers come in two sizes: full-size, and "SkinnyLicious" ($9.75), which is smaller, comes with a tasty mixed green salad, and has fewer than 590 calories in the complete meal. I went with the latter, because Thanksgiving.

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No matter which size you opt for, you'll get the same toppings: caramelized onions, mayo, shredded lettuce, and a slice of tomato. The Cheesecake Factory doesn't publish nutritional information on their website, but if this data is accurate, by itself, the smaller burger has 520 calories and 8 grams of fat, which is much better than the regular size, which, according to Men's Health, packs 1,331 calories.

My patty was juicy, with some great charring, plenty of pepper, and a crisp, uniform crust covering both sides. When I cut it in half, I could see some visible mushroom bits poking out. I'm guessing the dark-to-light turkey ratio skews heavily to dark, since the patty looked almost identical to beef. Toppings were fresh and tasty, and the wheat bun was lightly toasted, squishy, and provided the ideal bread-to-meat ratio.

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The first bite was promising. With its garlic-heavy seasoning and mixed-in mushrooms, the patty is quite savory (and not at all bland), but one thing immediately became clear: there was too much salt. Waaay too much salt. I got through most of the burger before the full effects became known, but half way through my walk home, the 900 milligrams of sodium hit me so fast and hard, I felt like I was about to have a Shamanic vision, a seizure, or both. Three glasses of water and a 20-minute nap later, I'm starting to feel more human, and less like a parched iguana.

In terms of after-effects and physical repercussions, I'd probably have been better off with a slice of cheesecake. Opportunity: squandered.

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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