Wendy’s recently debuted a new “Cravings Menu”, part of a new and improved drive to put premium burgers in a new place on the traditional “I’ll have a number X” ordering menu.
The method is genius; you order your burger (the traditional Dave’s Classic and the Baconator now occupy the 1 and 2 spots, while the new Barbecue, the elevated “S’Awesome”, and a peppercorn mushroom offering rounding out slots 3 through 5 while the chicken side of the menu board remains unchanged), then you are given a choice whether you want a single, double, or triple (or, in the Baconator’s case, the full or “Son Of” version of the sandwich.)
They have, in essence, put 14 burgers into five menu slots without making their prep area needlessly complex.
But this is not about clever administration. This is about a barbecue burger that illustrates just how wide the gulf is otherwise between fast food and something like Red Robin or Chili’s in terms of offering a proper tavern burger at a reasonable price.
At $5.59 (at the Wendy’s location I visited in downtown Renton, Washington, just outside Seattle), the burger is 50 cents pricier than a Dave’s Single. It is far cheaper than anything Red Robin’s got on its menu (even their Tavern Burger usually runs about eight bucks, though admittedly that does come with bottomless fries.)
The sandwich contains a quarter-pound beef patty, barbecue sauce of a kind not radically dissimilar to what you dip the nuggets in—although it has a bit of a thinner texture, possibly from being heated—a smattering of pickle slices, and fried onions akin to the onion straws on those sit-down restaurant burgers just mentioned.
In other words, it’s a tavern burger at a fast food joint. Add fries and a drink and the whole thing’s under 10 bucks.
This is a product for people who love this kind of burger and hate having to pay a sit-down restaurant price for it, plain and simple.
The burger is available in a double and triple configuration. But having tasted the Double version, I can fairly say that extra beef patties are superfluous. They actually detract from the overall enjoyment of the sandwich, because while there may be twice (or three times) as much beef, the balance of flavor is thrown completely out of whack.
When you eat one of these, you’re looking to taste that barbecue sauce and the crisp and mellow onion flavor, and more beef just overpowers that experience; you might as well just order a classic burger plain, ask them for a nugget sauce, and pour the nugget sauce onto the burger for a cheaper ounce-for-ounce rendering of a bigger burger.
More and more, fast food joints are looking to take back a chunk of that casual dining market, and being able to introduce a new offering that manages to hit the spot that a sit-down place hits is one heck of an accomplishment on Wendy’s part.
Can’t recommend this enough. The Barbecue Burger off Wendy’s Cravings menu gets the Raccoon of Approval.