Burger King Breakfast Revisited

For those of you who haven’t seen the strange pied-piper-style ads, Burger King has a revitalized breakfast menu. In the fall, I had the chance to preview the new breakfast at a PR event in New York.  It was one of the few times I’ve reviewed fast food under the nose of the executive chef and the chief marketing officer of a company.  They had hired a trained wait staff, and I’m certain that the cooks in the back were on their best behavior.  Though the waiters brought out regular, old BK food, it felt too controlled.  I wanted to see what these things would be like in the field, so I set out to try it again.

Burger King Breakfast

At the PR event, my favorite new item was the Mini Blueberry Biscuit.  In my last review, I raved about them: fluffy, light, hot, and packed with blueberry.  In the store, though, they disappointed me, arriving much sweeter and harder than I remembered.  There was even some kind of sugary, brown substance that had oozed out of the blueberry.  I found the Blueberry flavor I remembered, but not the fluffy buttermilk taste.

On the first pass, I didn’t like the Burger King Breakfast Ciabatta either: uninteresting aioli, so-so ham, bad tomatoes.  In the store, I liked it more.  The peppery aioli, ham, and egg were all better than I remembered.  I found the ham at the PR event slimy and green, but the ham in-store was edible and not too salty.  The egg cake was fresh, and the cheese was well melted.  Thought the tomato was still gross and the bun still too chewy, it appeared they had worked out a few kinks.

The biggest surprise came from the Pancakes.  At the PR event, I found them chewy and overly sweet, saying, “you have to put effort into cutting them.”  In the store, I had a completely different experience.  They smelled amazing, filling my nose with buttermilk; They tasted even better: light and fluffy like a pancake should be.  I almost felt like I was back at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House in Cape May, NJ.  Though the syrup was good, I felt like these pancakes deserved real Vermont maple.  They’re much better than the McDisks you get at the Golden Arches.  They are still fairly sweet, and you can almost eat them without syrup, but these were 500% better than what I had at the PR event.  Did I mention they were fluffy?

Last up was the Breakfast Bowl.  During the controlled event, I decided that the eggs were the stars of the show because they tasted like real, buffet style scrambled eggs.  Again, they were delicious and almost runny.  The sausage came nice and thick, the potatoes tasted light and peppery, and I found large chunks of green pepper in the bowl, as opposed to pepper skins at the PR event.  I was impressed the first time, and more impressed the second time.

Overall, I’d say the new BK Breakfast was 100% better.  I walked away from the restaurant feeling very disappointed because my blueberry mini was bad. Later, as I looked back over my notes and comparing them with my old notes an article, I realized that I had a completely different experience in the field.  The BK breakfast is really good, despite the weird advertising campaign with the suburban pied-piper.  Kudos to BK for a brave new menu!

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Regional Chain: Raising Cane’s

My obsession with regional chains began at Raising Cane’s.  On a trip to New Orleans, I saw one from the drive-thru line at the Frozen Daquiri chain.  I asked my friend what it was, to which he replied, “it’s a chicken finger joint.”

Chicken Fingers?

“Yea.  Chicken Fingers.  It’s really awesome.  You mean you’ve never been there?  We should go.”  Daquiri’s in hand, off we went in search of chicken in his grandparents’ Mercury.

Raising Cane’s

The first thing that hit me was the air conditioning.  It’s hard to live without in Louisiana.  The second thing that hit me was how new the restaurant seemed.  The decor felt modern, like a Skate Shop or Renovated loft.  It felt hip, not like a hangover from the 80′s, which is how many McDonald’s feel.  On an interior brick wall they had painted an enormous mural of their logo, Warhol-esque photographs hung on the wall, and pop music played on the speakers.  Much more compelling than any Burger King I’ve frequented.

So they nailed the concept.  How was the food?  Well, for a place that serves only chicken fingers, not bad.  Their crinkle cut fries reminded me of school lunches, but not in a bad way: crispy fry on the outside, light potato on the interior, and a proprietary dipping sauce, that most say is like ketchup, mayo, and Tony’s Creole Seasoning.  The fingers themselves were pretty good: meaty and crispy, with a good meat-to-breading ratio.  All too often, chicken fingers have too little chicken, too little fry, or too much of either.  They had the ratio down pat.

What struck me most, though, was the story of the founder, Todd Graves.  Printed on the wall inside the store was a short background on the chain.  Todd came up with the idea while at LSU.  He wrote up a business plan for a class he was taking and received a poor grade.  Undeterred, he and a friend worked jobs on oil rigs and Alaskan fishing vessels to make the money to open the first restaurant.  Today, this little Louisiana chain that could is now in over 10 states and has spread well beyond the South.

And I had never heard of it.

I knew there were other chains like it out there.  My hometown, Pittsburgh, had Primanti Brothers, a local favorite that few knew outside of Western PA.  I had only ever seen D’Angelo Sub Shops in New England.  Jeffrey Lebowski’s darling burger joint, In-and-Out, has yet to make an Eastern US debut.

Remember back to your first summer camp, or your freshman year of college, that first time away from home?  Remember meeting people from new places, and talking about what you had back home? “You put french fries on sandwiches?  That’s so weird!”  That’s what I’m trying to capture.

Stay tuned on Envie Recipes for more updates.