Reality Check: Burger King's Anniversary Whoppers and Sweet Potato Curly Fries

Reality Check

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


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

I sincerely hope that when I turn 55, the celebration includes something more substantially meaningful than Angry Sauce.

To mark the 55th anniversary of the iconic Whopper, Burger King has rolled out a trio of limited-time offers: two adaptations of their flagship sandwich and a sweet-and-savory side. The first of the celebratory burgers is the Angry Whopper. Pictured above in its professionally-primped photo-shoot glory, it features the usual quarter-pound fire-grilled beef patty, topped with smoked bacon, habanero cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes. Taking the place of the Whopper's standard pickles, ketchup, and raw onions are jalapeño slices, Angry Sauce, and spicy fried onion petals respectively.

Sound familiar? It should. The Angry Whopper was introduced in late 2008, the year the Whopper turned 51. What this has to do with the 55th birthday of its less-fiery cousin, I don't know. In fact, the only thing "angry" about it was me—for getting suckered into buying one.


Most of those aforementioned accoutrements were hiding on my real-life Angry Whopper ($4.59). They may as well not been there at all from a taste standpoint, either, because the chain's Angry Sauce dominates every bite of this baby. The weirdly-colored orange goo is a mustard-based condiment, with habaneros, garlic, two kinds of vinegar, and onion thrown in for good measure.


The sauce wasn't capital-H hot; more mildly peeved than truly angry. It was just barely spicy enough to lightly numb my tongue, perhaps so that I wouldn't fully pick up on how nondescript everything else about this burger was. I could hear a slight crunch from the lettuce and onion petals, but tasted only more sauce. Blecch.

The Angry Whopper seems out of sync with the new direction BK is seemingly trying to take itself. Clearly, they're shooting for a more upscale vibe these days, but doesn't the Angry Whopper smack of the creepy-King reign, when the chain reveled in its extreme-dude wackiness? (Just five years ago, for the Whopper's 50th, they shot viral videos of PO'd customers being told the Whopper had been discontinued.) The original TV ad for the Angry Whopper showed a screaming farmer taking a bullwhip to a field of onions and spelled out the name of the sandwich in flames; the new propaganda uses a soft-focus backdrop of twinkly Christmas lights. And the Angry sure doesn't have much to do with this particular anniversary of the Whopper. "Come celebrate the birthday of this 55-year-old sandwich by eating that four-year-old sandwich!"


For my money, a real celebration of the Whopper's 55th would have been retro pricing. (37 cents when it first debuted, by the way.) Or even better...making it actually good. Instead, we get retro packaging, with harlequin-clad bags, sandwich boxes, and drink cups depicting logos from 1957 (Colonial Powdered Wig King—love the pointed shoes) and 1971 (Saturday-Morning Cartoon King, possibly related to Heat Miser). Oh, and for four days, if you bought one Whopper, they'd sell you a second for 55 cents. Whoo. Frickin'. Hoo.


[Photograph: Burger King]

What about the second new burger? The Wisconsin White Cheddar Whopper ($4.59) is a brand new, um...derivative, adding bacon and two slices of white cheddar cheese, and swapping out white onion slices for red. I know, try to contain yourself.


In reality, though, it didn't look bad at all. BK's industrial meat disc remains the bland cornerstone, but my bacon was nice, and the lettuce/tomato/onion was in decent proportion. The cheese exhibited little to no melt, but that's no surprise when you're talking cheddar.


That said, Wisconsin white cheddar—while a fine state (shout out to Lacey!) and a perfectly passable cheese—doesn't add much of anything to the party. It doesn't stand out from a taste perspective, so is this appreciably better than a regular Whopper with cheese? Not in my book. Six of one, a half dozen of the other.


[Photograph: Burger King]

That's exactly the mindset I had about the limited-time side BK is adding to the menu, Seasoned Sweet Potato Curly Fries ($2.49 for a large order). Yes, sweet potato fries are the hot thing, and I love that they're becoming mainstream enough for the fast-food giants to jump in. But I assumed these would be nothing special: a tasty starch cut into cutesy-pie twisty spirals just to be quirky.


I was wrong. They're liberally dusted with what the chain calls "maple seasoning," which provides a noticeable grit and a severe shot of sugar (and perhaps some cinnamon?). I recommend eating them as quickly as humanly possible. All fries go downhill in a hurry as they cool, and sweet potato fries in particular tend to take on an unpleasant gummy texture. These are no exception. But ripping hot and right out of the bag, they're a welcome alternative to regular spud sticks...assuming you're ready for heavy-duty sweetness.

Happy Anniversary, Whopper. I recognize that you helped change the fast-food burger biz, but I wish your big celebration had done more to change my mind about the current state of fast food burgers. Instead of honoring what once made you great, I saw a half-assed effort at camouflaging the same old lameness under fancy- and fun-sounding accessories and some gaudy old-school fashion.

Here's praying they don't say the same about me when I turn 55.