The burger: The biggest news to come out of McDonald’s since all-day breakfast is the recent advent of the fresh beef patty. Yes, there’s a reason why McD’s burgers have such grey-ish hockey pucks at their center – the patties are frozen when they hit the grill.
But thanks to a “Commitment to Quality” initiative at fast-food chain, there’s a new burger on the menu. Make that burgers: the fresh beef patty is available on all Quarter Pounder options, as well as the “Signature Crafted Recipes” burgers; versions include white Cheddar-bacon-barbecue sauce, and white Cheddar-gaucamole-pico de gallo-buttermilk ranch. (Note to self: now that it has been adapted by a corporate monolith that rang up nearly $23 billion in sales in 2017, “crafted” has been officially rendered meaningless as a culinary bellwether).
Who would have thought the word juicy would earn a place in the McDonald’s lexicon? But it’s true. Another welcome surprise is that the beef is well-seasoned. And because the 4-oz. patties are cooked to order (the wait was maybe three minutes, tops) to a no-nonsense, no-pink medium, the beef actually borders on sizzling, a descriptor that hasn’t been present, for ages, in the vocabulary at the House of Ronald McDonald.
Amid the praise, there’s a slight hitch: it’s still McDonald’s. Which means the rest of the burger has some serious catching up to do.
The vacuous, cottony bun is the biggest disappointment, serving little purpose other than as a beef-and-cheese delivery vehicle. It had been toasted, once upon a time, but the warmth had long dissipated; by the time it reached me, it radiated limpid sogginess. At least the beef-to-bun ratio is right on the money.
As for the condiments, kudos to the American cheese double-whammy, with slices on top of and below the patty, the patty's heat transforming both into a nicely gooey state; Mayor McCheese would be proud. The raw onions add requisite crunch and tangy bite.
But the pickles? They’re nearly flavorless, and lacking that pleasing sense of pickle-chip snap. And the beyond-bland mustard; is “yellow” now a recognized flavor? Come on McDonald’s, carry that Commitment to Quality all the way through.
Price: At the chain's Dinkytown outlet, the single Quarter Pounder with Cheese is $4.39 and the Double Quarter Pounder is $5.59.
Fries: I’ve long believed that McDonald’s serves the best fast-food french fry. Probably because it’s the fry I grew up eating, and those early experiences forge powerful, lasting impressions, don’t they? It has been a while since I’ve indulged in an order of McDonald’s fries, and while I wasn’t bowled over by this week's experience, they weren’t half bad. Overcooked, and underseasoned, sure. But they still managed to approach that ideal crisp-outside/fluffy-inside formula.
Don’t do it: The shake I ordered? Gross. In the You Get What You Pay For department, it was everything a person could hope for in 61-cent upcharge (I ordered the Extra Value meal, pictured, above, where $6.59 bought a cheeseburger, medium-size order of fries and a medium soft drink). Which is, not much. Creamy, yes, and thick-ish. But the barely-there chocolate flavor was the equivalent of Swiss Miss standing in for hot cocoa. Worse, it was overpoweringly sweet. Headache-inducing sweet. Big surprise: the “small” size, tipping the scales at 530 calories (and it’s reduced-fat soft serve!), represents 90 percent of an adult’s daily recommended amount of sugar. Thanks, but no thanks.
Address book: McDonald's has 50 or so Twin Cities metro area outlets. Find one at mcdonalds.com.
Talk to me: Do you have a favorite burger? Share the details at firstname.lastname@example.org.