McDonald's new premium quarter pounders are decent -- but the bacon seems familiar

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The golden arches have nixed their Angus third pounders and replaced them with three new specialty quarter pounders, one spicy, one with bacon (allegedly a new, thicker, Applewood-smoked bacon), and one with....lettuce and tomato.

The new burgers are marked for the permanent-items list gracing the McMenu of ever-revolving fast food creations (usually made with a revolving list of on-hand ingredients with the occasional new sauce or bun upgrade). But are the new burgers worth ditching the old ones? *Hint* The answer is gonna be yes, because the Angus burgers weren't that good, so anything would be a vast improvement.

See also: - McFish Bites: McDonald's sure knows how to bait a hook - My top five McDonald's horror stories - The McDonald's map of America -- and Denver's place in it (VIDEO)

I was never in love with McDoo's Angus third pound burgers, because there really wasn't anything special about them. The patties were larger, but usually chilly and all gobbed up with that weird, garlic-parmesan-tasting, mayo-based McSauce that was so sodium laced I could feel my ankles swelling up like water balloons when I ate one.

But McDonald's decided to drop-kick the Angus burgers into the fail bucket after four years of obviously lagging sales, and the company also zapped the Chicken Selects (good riddance) and that crappy salad with the bitter apple slices and chewy walnuts (about time), neither of which were worth wasting a single drop of saliva on.

I wasn't exactly salivating at the thought of the replacement trio of revamped quarter pounders either; I try to keep my expectations about every new McDonald's item reasonable; i.e. I don't suppose they'll conjure up anything mind-blowing like the holiday pie, or anything I would spit out, but a middle-course menu of middling items and the new Deluxe (American cheese tomato, fresh leaf lettuce, red onion, crinkle-cut pickles, mayo and mustard), Bacon & Cheese (American cheese, bacon, red onion, crinkle-cut pickles, ketchup and mustard) and Habanero Ranch (with white Cheddar, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and habanero ranch sauce) mostly met my middling expectations.

The only disappointing part was that the new bacon looked, felt and tasted eerily similar to the same old bacon as before.

The Bacon & Cheese Quarter Pounder didn't seem that far-removed from the original one -- maybe like a second cousin -- with the same cheese slice, same beef patty, but substantially more raw onion slices and thicker, crinkle-cut dill pickles that taste exactly like the thinner ones I have come to know, love and order extra of on every sandwich I get from the Golden Arches.

And then there was the bacon: thick-cut and Applewood smoked, my ass. It's not that the bacon was terrible, just didn't seem one whiff different than the bacon was before -- same semi-transparent strands and crumbs of scotch-tape thin salty pork that I've been getting dropped onto my plate of early morning hotcakes since I was a kid.

Perhaps McDonald's is hoping that by using the same bacon, but telling everyone it's different enough times that they'll believe it. Hell, it works for religion.

The Quarter Pounder Deluxe was "deluxe" in the same way that adding red and green bell pepper nibs to corn transforms it into "fiesta" corn. It had a bit of green leaf lettuce and relatively small, uniform red onion ring slices, a reasonably ripe tomato slice, more of those crinkle cut pickles, but McDoo chefs need to give the leaf lettuce more TLC than they do with the hulking bags of shredded iceberg lettuce (ew) because the lettuce leaf was already sadly wilted and dry as parchment paper in some spots.

And I got one bite into this burger before I realized that whoever made it totally "did a Burger King," meaning they set the thing open-faced on a prep table, turned on the mayonnaise spigot and left it there while they went to the bathroom.

Unexpectedly for me, the Habanero Ranch was a breakout fave for no other reason than the habanero ranch sauce was actually heat-spicy -- a first for the chain, in my memory at least, which is usually pretty timid there. I would characterize the sauce as a mild-to low-medium temperature slow burn, and the white cheddar cheese is nothing more than pasteurized processed cheese, which was predictable, and more of the not-so-new bacon (on this burger it was shattered to bits) and too much sauce. But if you skip the bacon and ask for extra lettuce and tomato, this burger is pretty good.

All the new quarter pounders have new, poofy, white buns with some stray bits of what looks like oatmeal on top, presumably to mimic artisan-style breads. The buns are of that fake-over-sugared-soft variety, and much breadier than the original, flatter, seeded quarter pounder bun, and I still prefer that one.

Each new Quarter Pounder is $3.99, and overall, they are better than the ditched third pounders, but since Jack in the Box is unleashing a big-assed, waffle-bunned breakfast sammie, and Burger King is getting into the delivery business in selected areas, McDoo might want to jack their game up a few more steps by adding more off-the-regular-path items -- and teach their employees to put a crimp in the sauce hoses.

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