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Who is the King of Fast Food Burgers?
By: Paul Andrews
It has been a relentless week at work, and by Friday you're exhausted. You want to satisfy your guilty cravings and reward your sacrifices. You're travelling through a country known as much for quality time with the restroom as for quality time exploring wonderful street food. You want the familiar, a taste of comfort and safety. You're on a day trip at a beach with a group of friends. You want something quick and tasty, a treat to cap off the day's events.
Whatever the situation, what you want is a fast food burger, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
However, you might have been made to feel otherwise. Fast food has been under intense scrutiny for several decades now. Linked to a ballooning rise in people ballooning themselves, shady media practices, and poor food quality, the criticism is perhaps justifiable. Why shouldn't consumers demand better quality and more ethical practices from our fast food overlords? Do we want a society that nourishes ourselves on generally unhealthy food? These are concerns we all should share.
But there's one important factor too often overlooked in popular criticism of fast food: it's goddamn delicious. Particularly fast food burgers.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying fast food is great for you (I've had my share of Taco Bell belly), or is superior to upscale cuisines. I love indulging my inner food critic by sampling a culture's cuisine at a nice restaurant as much as anyone. None of that takes away from the fact that fast food burgers are themselves delicious and worthy of your palette in their own right.
Call me a fast food apologist. Put that label on apparel and I'd wear it with pride (just don't make it a red hat). Owning that label gives me some credibility in answering one of the great questions of our age: which fast food burger is the King of Fast Food Burgers? I have narrowed it down to my three favourites from three fast food giants here in Canada.
The Whopper...just saying that name aloud is enough to make even a satiated man salivate. And with good reason. It’s a terrific fast food burger unique in its flame-grilled taste. Not many other fast food burger joints capture that off-the-barbeque taste, and that’s why The Whopper is in the running here. Condiments are standard, though generous, and there are several Whopper variations seasonally available (Whiplash is my favourite).
Sounds great, right? The problem with The Whopper is consistency in quality. I’ve had my share of delicious three-bite Whoppers, but not without an equal share of whimpers at the sight of others. A poorly done Whopper might be the saddest fast food burger of them all. Unfortunately, Burger King has delivered an equal measure of joy and sadness in my experience.
This next burger will never give you a sad experience, unless you consider eating it alone in a parking lot to avoid public shame to be sad. Myself, I call that freedom and the American Dream. The Baconator is freedom from the tyranny of a plain, over-topped, one-patty burger. It’s liberation from vanilla taste buds. Two burger patties combined with a shit ton of bacon and cheese is a simple enough concept, yet not so well executed by other burger chains. Wendy’s perfected the genre by sandwiching bacon between the burger patties and between the top patty and its condiments. An innovation right up there with sliced bread, in my humble opinion.
But is it kingly? It certainly meets some kingly characteristics. Powerfully flavourful burger patties, a wealth of bacon, and a benevolent ketchup/mayo combination are all fit for a monarch. However, it’s possible that it is simply too powerful to rule, too fit to be King. Call me an egalitarian, but I want a King for the people. The Baconator doesn’t represent fast food’s traditions and humble beginnings, it exceeds them. It is the young radical we want, not the elder statesman we need.
The King of Fast Food Burgers must be wise. It has to know what it offers its eaters in simplicity and consistency. It must be experienced - there from the beginning the King must have seen changes to the fast food industry, and kept its cool, and taste. The Quarter Pounder with Cheese (or if you prefer, the Royale with Cheese) is each of these things.
Introduced in 1971, the Quarter Pounder with Cheese has been a staple in fast food ever since. Its simple but sizable patty, two slices of cheese, and standard McDonald’s condiments are like biting into nostalgia. You know it’s there for you when you need a fast food hit. You know what to expect with each bite. It rules calmly and confidently over your taste buds. It’s a steady hand in an increasingly uncertain world, the most Kingly characteristic to possess.
By doing more with less, the Quarter Pounder with Cheese appeals to all and governs deliciously over the fast food industry. It rises above The Baconator’s bravado and The Whopper’s might. It reminds us that despite how harmful fast food is for our health, there’s something harmless in digging into an old classic. So stop apologizing for your love of fast food, and go enjoy the King of Fast Food Burgers tonight.
It’s on me.
(DISCLOSURE FROM THE EKLECTISH LEGAL TEAM: Your Quarter Pounder with Cheese will not in fact be compensated for by the author. That closing is an attempted and, in our opinion, failed, cheeky sign-off intended purely for amusement and not the satiation of your hunger. Pay for your own burger.)