Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Half-Assed Gourmet: What the heck is a Whopperito?

I would write more about the happenin' fast food trends in America, but usually by the time I get around to trying a new menu item, it's gone, so forget about me actually getting one AND putting up a post. Last I checked, though, Burger King's Whopperito was still around, so let me share my experience with it.

It began, as I believe all Burger King experiences do, with a discussion about McDonald's, followed by an attempt to go to McDonald's. I actually enjoy BK's burgers more, but let's face it. McD's is number one with just about everyone, my kids included, all things being equal.

Rarely in this world are all things equal, so when my children surprised me with a request to go to Burger King instead, that's where we ended up. Don't get too cocky, though, BK; my daughter suggested the audible because she figured it would be less crowded. She was right, of course.

Earlier that day, my friend and I lamented McDonald's axing of the Southern Style Chicken Sandwich a while back; sure, it was a Chik-Fil-A ripoff, but some of us have to eat on Sundays. Anyway, she mentioned the Whopperito, which I thought was a hoax by the restaurant chain, if not her. "Whopperito!" I scoffed. "That sounds ridiculous!"

Yet as I stood at the counter at Burger King with my kids and looked at the big picture of the Whopperito, I couldn't help but wonder--Actually, I wondered, where the hell did my kids go, as they ran to get a table and left me to get all the food. Then I wondered if maybe I should try this attractively priced, exotically named menu item. I OWED it to my friend to report back, I concluded.

First there was the little matter of investigating what kind of bizarre condiment was ruining the Whopperito. Every new burger has some kind of mayo or special sauce lurking under the bun, just waiting to spoil every bite. I asked the gentleman at the register, "Uh...there isn't any kid of sour cream or weird sauce on that, is there?"

"Let me check," he replied. "No, there's no sour cream."

"You're sure?"

"No, that white stuff is just the queso sauce."

I don't like hearing phrases like "the white stuff" from someone who's about to give me food, and I was tempted to ask him to verify that "queso" wasn't BK corporate speak for "sour cream," but I ordered it anyway. You only live once, and probably barely even that long if you order stuff like Whopperitos.

Longtime readers will expect me to report that there was indeed sour cream on the Whopperito and that it ruined my meal, but I am happy to report the guy didn't do me wrong. No sour cream, special sauce, or anything like that. So right away, Whopperito > Whopper.

This combination of burrito and Whopper includes some beef--ah, wait, ~FLAME-BROILED~ beef--wrapped up in a tortilla. It's lightly seasoned but distinctive enough to let you know it's not a regular burger. Also included: lettuce, tomatoes, sliced onions (Incidentally, the guy at the register wasn't totally on the ball, as the "white stuff" in the pic was the onions), queso sauce, and the only real surprise I found: pickles.

It was bizarre enough that even the kids asked me if I was sure I wanted to eat it, but it surprised me. The Whopperito is rather tasty. The seasoning of the beef is not overpowering, the vegetables added some nice texture and crunch, and the wrap wasn't too wrappy. It felt substantial. Best of all, unlike a Chipotle burrito, it didn't give me E coli.

My complaints: The queso sauce was skimpy. The whole thing was a tad drier, and I think some extra queso would do the trick. The pickles didn't bother me, but I can see a lot of people disliking them in this kind of burrito thingy. Overall, though, the combination of decent taste and low relative price made me feel I got good value from it.

I'm not one of those people who pretends to dislike all fast food or at least feels the need to tell everyone how bad it is. I will admit that if I looked too closely at the Whopperito or saw it being prepared, I probably wouldn't want it. But on this unexpected Burger King visit (again, aren't they all?) it got the job done.

Introducing my new fast food rating system: 1 to 5 stars, with:

5 ***** - Excellent. I'd make a special trip to get the item.
4 **** - Very good. I might get it again next time I'm there.
3 *** - OK, but I probably wouldn't get it again without a deal or some kind of coupon.
2 ** - Did not like, would not get it again.
1* - The thought of it makes me want to go somewhere else.

On this scale, I give the Whopperito ****. Well done, Burger King. I'd still rather have a Southern Style Chicken Sandwich, though.

My complaints: