Wendy’s has finally launched its new breakfast menu and has been talking a lot of smack about its competitors. Last week Wendy’s asked its Twitter followers to (according to a press release) “roast stale, old breakfast offerings” under the hashtag #WendysBreakfastBattle and then “took the fight against tired breakfast routines to a new battlefield – Times Square.” Just like everything else about Times Square, it was extremely classy:
Wendy’s always loves talking a big game, but when I’ve gone there, I’ve been served greasy burgers, nuggets the texture of bomb shelter rice cakes, and fries that make the side salad seem like an attractive option. I do not want to feel this way about Wendy’s, and believe that every restaurant deserves a second (or 47th) chance. I decided to see if Wendy’s actually has the goods to back up all that trash talk it’s been spewing all over the internet. I did not try everything on the new Wendy’s breakfast menu, because even with all the thingsI putmy body throughfor the sakeof thiswebsite, that would be completely insane. Instead, I ate one item from every section of the new menu, which was a lot more reasonable, but still such a vast undertaking that only a review in slideshow form can contain it.
Classic Bacon, Egg & Cheese Sandwich
A bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich is the perfect litmus test for any breakfast menu, because it’s nearly impossible to mess this up. In fact, I’d wager the only way to mess up a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich (hereafter BEC) is by making it too nice, like by adding caviar or shaved truffles or some other fancy-pants bullshit whose only contribution is to make you believe that a regular BEC is beneath you, which it most certainly is not. A BEC is the sandwich of the masses. The Classic Bacon, Egg & Cheese Sandwich, served on a warm breakfast roll, is a guaranteed win for Wendy’s, because it can be made with just one half of an ass and still be perfectly serviceable. And “perfectly serviceable” was exactly how I found this sandwich to taste. (How do you like that for a roast, Wendy’s? #WendysBreakfastBattle)
Maple Bacon Chicken Croissant
As Wendy’s wanton displays of indulgence have thus far sullied the first week of Lent (during which my latent Catholic genes become hypersensitive to all acts of hubris, malarkey, and blatantly unnecessary pompousness), I was hoping that there would be at least one sandwich that proved to be one dilly of a humdinger to win my approval. Wendy’s will be quite happy to know that the Maple Bacon Chicken Croissant succeeded, and in spades.
First, let me call your attention to that croissant bun. I ordered all of these new breakfast items sight unseen and had prepared myself for a sloppy, crumbly mess of a croissant like the one Burger King has disappointed me with exactly twice. Wendy’s offering neither looks nor tastes as if it shares a single strand of DNA with its croissant competitors. The croissant is light and flaky, but has the sturdiness of a proper sandwich bun. It’s beautifully buttery without being too rich. And just look at that color and shine!
Between the buns lies a small patty of fried white meat chicken. Popeyes it is not. This chicken is relatively bland, but in this instance that’s actually a good thing. I normally have gripes about adding bacon to sandwiches because its flavor gets lost in the cacophony of components, ultimately adding nothing aside from additional fat and calories. On this sandwich, though, it’s wonderful. The bacon was cooked properly: two thick cut, crunchy curls dripping with maple butter. I do not think that this is a part of a balanced breakfast, but I do think it would be a lovely option for a sophisticated brunch on those weekends when you’ve blown your entire paycheck on rent and bills.
Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit
Because I was born and raised in New York City, I understand that no matter how buttery or sexual my biscuits are, a significant portion of Americans will be hesitant to accept my opinions on the topic. I would like those people to know that since early January, in anticipation of Biscuit Week, I conducted extensive biscuit-focused interviews with Southerners about important topics like aroma, texture, crumbliness etc. etc. Unprompted, every interviewee brought up their personal favorite fast food biscuit, which it seems to be quite the competitive category in the Battle for Breakfast Supremacy.
What this means is that, over the past two months, I have unintentionally been pursuing a side quest that must have been the universe’s way of preparing me for this moment. I ate at Hardee’s, I ate at Popeyes, I ate at McDonald’s and Church’s and KFC, all because some higher power was dead set on training me for Buttermilk Bloodsport so that all Americans could read this review with the confidence that I am a woman who knows what she is talking about. And that being said, this is a pretty great biscuit sandwich. The chicken part was fine; if anything, it was a bit on the bland side, with both the biscuit and maple butter practically drowning it out completely. Most importantly, the biscuit was fluffy without being so light that it could not possibly function as a sandwich, meaning it is possible to eat this one-handed while driving without incurring a crotch full of crumbs, and that’s truly the only test that matters.
Like I mentioned before, I think putting bacon on a sandwich is usually a waste, and putting bacon on a burger is most definitely a waste. In its ideal state, bacon is served with crisp lettuce, good tomato, and a judiciously portioned schmear of mayonnaise between two slices of lightly toasted inoffensive white bread. If bacon is going to be participating in any sort of situation, it should always be the main event so that you can fully appreciate all the beautiful things it has to offer. On a burger, it becomes an afterthought, and that is precisely the role it plays in Wendy’s classic Baconator, which is an absolute disaster of a burger. In pictures, it’s a regal, stately tower of glistening meat products, accented with peek-a-boo drips of American cheese, erotically undulating curls of mahogany bacon, with a mere soupçon of mayonnaise on a pillowy, domed bun. In reality, every Baconator I’ve encountered was two grease-saturated circles of bread, fat-glazed beef, and a few paper-thin frizzles of undercooked, wimpy bacon, all brought together with a whisper of cheese and a palmful of mayo. The Baconator feels like a burger that was concepted in a kitchen, but in a room of executives who think adding bacon to things is the culinary equivalent of daring you to fight them in the parking lot. Big Macs? Please. Real tough guys eat bacon at Wendy’s.
As you might have surmised, I had exceptionally low expectations for the Breakfast Baconator, which is advertised on the Wendy’s website as “Grilled sausage, American cheese, Applewood smoked bacon, a fresh-cracked grade A egg, (deep breath) more cheese and more bacon all covered in swiss cheese sauce. Don’t just break your fast. Destroy it.” Nevertheless, I persisted.
The photo above was the best of over two dozen I shot, because just like the burger it was inspired by, the Breakfast Baconator is an unwieldy, greasy disaster. I love cheese, I love bacon, I love eggs, and yet this sandwich made me hate all of those things at the same time. Why, exactly? Because Wendy’s sausage patty is so aggressively seasoned, it manipulates the flavors of everything around it, causing them to taste like filler that exists solely to make you feel like you’ve drank a mug full of hot lard. The Breakfast Baconator makes the regular Baconator seem like the responsible option. Perhaps I’d feel differently eating this at 10 p.m. after my children have gone to bed and I’ve smoked a formidable amount of marijuana, but unfortunately this sandwich, which should never be considered a cromulent breakfast food, heads back into the Wendy’s vault at 10:30 a.m. daily. Unless you like to live on the edge and want to risk some very, very unfortunate things happening to you at work, you should avoid the Breakfast Baconator at all costs.
Sausage, Egg & Cheese Burrito
This does not need to exist, full stop. I honestly cannot fathom why the innovators at Wendy’s thought the fast food chain needed a breakfast burrito, and why, once they decided to move ahead with this, they did not attempt to make it good. Maybe because they needed something that’s technically lower in carbs? I’m just guessing, and hoping, they didn’t invest many resources into crafting this burrito, because if they put their best and brightest minds together just to come up with this... thing, I’m quitting America and going to live off the land in a cave. This abomination of dry eggs and dry sausage wrapped in a dry flour tortilla is the sort of thing that should cause all other burritos to band together in protest, worried that their good name will be eternally sullied. And I mean all the burritos, from the mythical ones of the West Coast all the way down to the burrito-shaped imitation food products that are sold next to 7-Eleven’s microwave. (#WendysBreakfastBattle)
This is actually pretty good! I enjoyed it as a quick, mindless breakfast nibble, though I have questions about its place in this world. For one, it’s extremely tiny: in the photo at left, the quarter is placed there for scale. Secondly, is this really something I need from Wendy’s? I can easily buy a whole box of breakfast cookies (which this most certainly should be classified as) for under $5, and I can stash them in the glove compartment for breakfast on the go. I can’t imagine idling on line in the drive-thru lane to pick up an oatmeal bar, and yes, I have considered that this is perhaps intended to be a side item for those who are heading to Wendy’s primarily for their morning coffee. Which brings me to the final part of this epic taste test...
I feel personally victimized by the Wendy’s Frosty-ccino, but really, I just got my hopes up. I was excited, even! With all the poor Wendy’s experiences I’ve had in the past, one thing that’s never let me down is the inimitable Frosty, which is not quite a milkshake, not quite ice cream, and, though its ingredients are public for all the world to see, not quite like anything else I’ve ever tasted. The Frosty is better on French Fries than ketchup (especially if you make two stops and get your fries from the closest McDonald’s... #WendysBreakfastBattle). I was expecting the Frosty-ccino to be a trashy affogato, rich with Frosty flavor. Instead, I got cold brew coffee, a bit of vanilla Frosty creamer, and ice. Lots and lots of ice. If it takes you longer than three minutes to drink your coffee, what Wendy’s delivers is a large cup of cold, beige water that you’ll continue to drink since, well, you paid for it—but each sip will remind you how thoroughly you’ve been hoodwinked. The Vanilla Frosty-ccino tastes of coffee, arrogance, and betrayal, and it will be a long time before my heart heals enough to give Wendy’s yet another chance. (Or as long as it takes to develop another craving for the Maple Bacon Chicken Croissant.)