For all of the menu items that Burger King has come up with over the years, the Whopper has survived as a staple for good reason: The signature grilled hamburger tastes about as close as fast-food customers are gonna get to a flame-broiled, backyard burger. And even when ingredients are added to make it a fill-in-the-blank "new" Whopper, fans always know that the "new" Whopper is never going to stray far from the old one that they expect.
In other words, adding guacamole, bacon and a mess of raw white onion slices to the Whopper won't make it weird.
BK usually isn't the first drive-through place I head to when I want a quick burger and fries, but I've never really disliked it either. Apparently many people feel this way, which is why BK is usually lagging behind McDonald's and sparring with Wendy's and In-N-Out Burger for the number-two sales slot. But when I heard that I recently heard that Burger King was bringing back the California Whopper -- a burger I didn't recall existing in the first place -- I decided it was time to visit the King.
The Burger King location at 3200 Downing Street -- or, as I have derisively nicknamed it, "The one that's always out of Kung Pao dipping sauce tubs" -- seemed like a convenient spot to try the guacamole Whopper. But when I was at the counter, I noticed something truly worth celebrating: Cinnabon-branded cinnamon roll Minibons. These 300-calorie baby buns looked every bit as tantalizing as the ones in the warm glass cases at the mall stores, and since the classic Cinnabon rolls have a little over 800 calories each, I could shovel down three of these without hitting the guilty, self-hating place.
I ordered a California Whopper, fries and two Minibons -- predictably, there was no Kung Pao sauce for those fries. But when I picked up my tray a few minutes later and unwrapped the burger, I was earnestly disappointed: The patty was cold, dry and wrinkled; it smelled like crappy barbeque sauce; there was a scanty amount of cold bacon on it -- and no guacamole in sight. I figured either BK had just given up, or the employees had run out of avocado paste. Or perhaps I'd just gotten the wrong burger.
So I did something I don't normally do: I took the burger back up to the counter to request a new one. I f*cking hate doing this; I wouldn't dare go back through a drive-thru, and even returning fast-food items at the counter is dicey, because sometimes all it takes is one scudgy employee having a passive-aggressive brain-nugget to smile and give me back a spit-burger -- or worse. (I've seen those vid clips of fast-food employees doing things unsavory things with lettuce.)
The female counter employee pushed the tray back toward me and told me that it was a California Whopper. I told her it was clearly a Whopper of some kind, just not the one I ordered. She took the cardboard burger box, opened it, spent a few minutes arguing with another employee in the back, then came out and told me they'd make me a new one. I stood at the counter and watched, and she brought out the new burger and unapologetically handed it to me.
This new burger was picture-perfect: hot and juicy; covered with bacon, onion, melted Swiss-ish cheese; and slathered with premade but not unpleasant guacamole. Although it didn't take my taste buds on vacation to exotic beaches or broaden my horizons, it was a reasonably good fill-in-the-blank Whopper.
I was impressed with both Minibons -- yes, I ate them both -- for the same reason I'm always impressed with anything Cinnabon makes: because it defies reason that anything could be so disgusting and so delicious at the same time. I may as well have been sucking on a bag of lard and sugar, but something about these cinnamon rolls is magical, and I've never been able to recreate them at home, no matter how many expensive ingredients I've bought, or how much I've destroyed my kitchen trying.
I'm not sure that Burger King having Cinnabon cinnamon rolls will give the chain a huge shove in its race against other major chains, but it least it gives me a more reliable reason to stop at BK.
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