Ah, the burger. Labor Day grilling tradition, force of good and ease in the American diet. We take you for granted, burger. We assume that because you are a national culinary treasure that you are also unassailable, that you can be toyed with--unmercifully at times--and that you'll still come out perfect.
But it is, in the end, we who are imperfect, o burger. Arrogant. Thankless. How have we screwed with thee? Let us count the ways. And then, forgive us our trespasses.
Sometimes bad ideas come with good intentions. This 1980s McDonald's campaign didn't fail so much because the burger was especially bad (by McDonald's standards, mind you), but because the packaging was an environmental nightmare. The whole "keep the hot hot, keep the cool cool" strategy didn't exactly work either -- the steam from the hot side tended to wilt the cool side in short order. Perhaps the biggest problem with this campaign, though? George Constanza (Jason Alexander) singing its praises as some sort of comically-hip hamburger Pied Piper.
9. In 'n' Out's 100x100
Can you really fault a restaurant for the idiocy of its patrons? Is it really In'n'Out Burger's fault that someone got the bright idea to take the California chain up on their offer to let customers choose how many meat and cheese pairs they want on their burger? Yes. It absolutely is. At meetings, we call this "enabling."
8. Frozen Microwavable White Castle Cheeseburgers
Any burger -- hell, any anything -- that can be described as both "frozen" and "microwavable" can also fairly be described as "awful." This is one of those products that should -- by law, and enforced by angry Midwesterners with bats -- have a label that says "Warning: While this product may visually resemble the product it is attempting to replicate, it in no other way will remind you of said product, and may in fact damage long-term memories of the original. Eat with caution. And maybe a dash of shame."
7. McDonald's Hula Burger
Back in the early 60s, Ray Croc was looking for a way to make more money on Fridays -- receipts were down at that time in Catholic areas, due to the more widely-observed tradition of eating no meat on Fridays. So Ray came up with this massive failure of an idea, which basically replaced the meat with a slice of grilled pineapple. Response to this varied from "pardon me, I think you forgot my burger" to "I'm not Catholic, I'm Hawaiian" to "This would be great for a vegetarian in the mid-90s desperately searching for any decent meat replacement."
6. Carl's Jr Breakfast Burger
This may be the most literal burger name in existence, because in the same way that a cheeseburger is a burger with cheese on it, this is a burger with breakfast on it. It's not a burger just designed to be eaten at breakfast; it uses breakfast as a topping: fried egg, bacon, and hash browns, to be precise. (I hear that if you ask for it, they'll soak the bun in orange juice for you so that it's a healthy part of a complete breakfast.) Truly the most important burger of the day.
5. Arch Deluxe
The Arch Deluxe was McDonald's attempt to inject a little sophistication into their menu. "The burger with the grown up taste" was the tag line -- which didn't take into account, really, that grown-up taste pretty much precluded going to McDonalds. It was also introduced by way of an ad campaign that featured kids saying "I don't get it," and even "yucky" (which is I suppose what the girl in the attached ad is trying to communicate-- either that, or "I'm licking your coupon"), which were sentiments to which adults tended to respond with general agreement and ultimate disinterest.
4. McLean Deluxe
The second "deluxe" burger from McD's on the list, this one isn't about adult tastes, but adult waists. More specifically, this was McDonald's low-fat burger -- 91 percent fat free, to be specific. This dubious accomplishment (91 percent fat-free means 9% fat -- not bad, but no better than the stuff you can get at the grocery store) was made more problematic by the fact that it just plain didn't taste all that good. And face it -- if you're going to McDonalds, especially in the early 90s, you weren't doing it to eat healthy. This was an irony made all too apparent by the above ad, which offered a free large fries when you bought a McLean -- sort of like getting a free coal-burning furnace with the purchase of a Chevy Volt.
3. Burger King's Super Seven Incher
Using fellatio to sell burgers? There are no words. (Except maybe: "Would you like a condom with that?")
2. Lady's Brunch Burger
The internet is full of lists of ridiculously bad-for-you burgers: the "what-the-hell, we all gotta die someday" Hardee's Monster Thickburger, Ruby Tuesday's sinister healthy-sounding-but-not Bella Turkey Burger, and the John Jacob Jingleheimer Smith of burger overindulgence: Chili's Smokehouse Bacon Triple Cheese Big Mouth Burger with Jalapeno Ranch Dressing. But Paula Deen, Food Network's Grande Dame of Butter, came up with something that beats them all -- her Lady's Brunch Burger is a half-pound of beef, topped with bacon and an egg fried in butter, served with two Krispy Kreme donuts in lieu of a bun. It's okay that you're both repulsed and sort of excited--this is the brave new world of food porn.
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SHOW ME HOW
Cheeseburger in a can. It's a simple idea, for simple people, some of whom might not realize that cheeseburgers shouldn't come in a can. But heck, it's sort of cool in a novelty-item-not-to-be-actually-consumed sort of way. This burger doesn't just come in the can -- it's also cooked in the can, which is supposed to protect the flavor (though protecting the flavor of this sandwich is something akin to protecting Charles Manson from an attack in the prison showers). It is, however, great for 1950s fallout shelters, neo-conservative militia stockpiling, and perhaps as a gentler alternative for those families for whom the fictional Obama Death Panels don't sound so bad -- because if grandma eats this, she'll lose the will to live all on her own.