[Kelley’s Note: Boy do I wish I lived in the UK right now. Fortunately, guest reviewer Kirsten (of Pizza Hut Hot Dog Stuffed Crust Pizza fame) does, and she has done me the favor of reviewing one of the McDonald’s Tastes of America burgers. We’ve done a little bit of collaborating, since she’s tasting America and I’m living here, so expect me to chime in every once in a while for some insight from the States.]
Every year in the UK, or at least for as long as I can remember paying attention, McDonald’s UK has run a summer promotion called TASTES OF AMERICA, whereby 5 State-‘inspired’ burgers are presented at a rate of one per week for 5 weeks, offering us Brits the chance to glimpse at the wonders of America in burger form. Sadly, I missed the first burger ‘Louisiana BBQ’ by a mere DAY, and grovel for your forgiveness. Instead, I present WEEK 2: CHICAGO.
When I think Chicago food, I think of pizza. That’s it, really. I got briefly confused about cheese curds, but that’s Wisconsin, apparently. Also, I am told that the Chicago Dog is the more prominent food association with Chicago. Clue’s in the name, I guess. I blame Chicago Town Pizzas. Whaddaya gonna do?
Anyway, a Chicago Dog is not at all what I expected. I dig the big bit of pickle in it (we don’t do pickle enough over here) but really it just seems like a Classic Hamburger set up, with a hot dog instead. I am not convinced at all. That is also completely nothing like the T.O.A: Chicago burger.
Here is McDonald’s UK’s description of The Chicago Supreme: “Experience the supreme taste of the Windy City. 100% beef patty, shredded lettuce, bacon, onions, cheese slices, spicy tomato salsa and cool mayo, all in a chilli, chive and sesame topped bun.”
[Kelley’s Note: I actually had to explain what a Chicago Dog is to Kirsten. She had never heard of such a thing. I also explained to her that, even in the States, if you’re going to make something “quintessentially Chicago”, you’re probably going to try to emulate a Chicago Dog. (If you don’t know what one consists of, read the first paragraph of this. It sums it up pretty perfectly.)
I was very amused by the UK’s version of “Chicago”. Not to make too much fun, but…salsa? Oh well, all they’re missing is the pickle. And the mustard. And the…okay, it’s pretty much missing everything. I’d be curious to see what the citizens of Chicago have to say about this burger representing their city.
Okay, back to Kirsten, who actually ate the burger.]
The burger is a big burger. I’d say it’s about 1.5 times the length of a Big Mac. It’s an ovoid. The bun is also a fancy split-top bun, sprinkled with the chilli, chive and sesame. The bun itself was light and soft, though I found it hard to tell if the chilli and chive topping added anything because of the spicy salsa heat.
The mayo and onion were plentiful. The patty meat was perfect, beefy and flavoursomely charred, just the right side of crumbly, not tough or chewy at all. The sheer amount of sauces in combination gave good flavour but really just meant the patty was trying to escape the buns. My patty had too much lubrication. Now I see why they didn’t spread the load by adding any to the lower bun. Does anywhere do that? I think I’ve found salad there before.
There was a good amount of bacon, but at first I wondered if I’d imagined there was meant to be any – there was no bacon in sight. It only emerged after I’d bitten in, and was indeed pinned within, smothered by the heavy quantity of cheese slices and disguised by the nonchalant shredded lettuce, an accomplice to bacon obfuscation. It was the Thomas Crown Affair of burger bacon.
There was a lot of mayo. I’m not a big fan of mayo (in or out of burgers) but it didn’t ruin it for me, and just meant it was like an oddly creamy but tasty salsa, like a spicy prawn cocktail sauce. Y’all do that too right? With the ketchup and mayo, or ketchup and salad cream and then you get Marie Rose sauce or whatever? I like it with brandy in. There was no brandy in this burger. Good job, I don’t think that’s what it needed.
[Kelley’s Note: I had to look up “Marie Rose sauce” – it is indeed a synonym of seafood or cocktail sauce, but, at least to me, sounds more like Thousand Island dressing. My definition of cocktail sauce contains stuff like horseradish and Worcestershire.]
The salsa was great, I’d like to see that back in another burger, maybe as a dip.
A dip, hey! That would have been real good with the special edition TOA: Crisscut fries I got too! I didn’t really like them. They were that kind of mashed and reformed potato shape and reminded me of potato waffles, a thing I have only had once in my life and avoided ever since. I still only eat hash browns when I’m desperately hungry.
They came with a sour cream and chive packet of dip which I gave a miss as I’m not eating any sour cream that doesn’t come from a fridge. I want to say the Crisscuts taste reminded me of Alphabites ((does that translate?)) but had a slightly spiced coating, which according to the website was onion powder and yeast extract. I won’t be ordering them again.
[Kelley’s Note: This did not, in fact, translate for me. I was pretty sure Kirsten wasn’t talking about the cereal. Luckily I found this, so now I know she was talking about a letter-shaped frozen potato product.]
In Hull, fries come with a coating of ‘chip spice’ (because we call fries ‘chips’, and chips ‘crisps’) which is more or less the same thing but with paprika and salt thrown in and I do not like that either. I did not know this when I first ordered fries in Hull, and have been scarred ever since. Consider this a PSA for if you ever find yourself there.
The TOA: Chicago burger was tasty but not as gourmet as I think it wanted to be. I think the oversized patty will continue to be an issue in the upcoming weeks, but I can’t fault them for being generous; it was good meat and cooked well.
Really, the TOA: Chicago was just a big ol’ Bacon Cheeseburger in a fancy bun, and whilst it was a good enough eat, I won’t be missing it from the menu a month down the line.
I am totally not ordering the TOA:Crisscuts again though, even though I think regular McD’s fries will serve to make the burger look even more enormous. One point to the Crisscuts – they are proportionally sized for the TOA burgers.
[Kelley’s Note: Kirsten turned me on to McDonald’s UK’s Tastes of America website. We both agreed that it was an amazing feat of marketing. She let me take the reins on this one, so you’ll be hearing from me from here until the roundup at the end of the review.]
Oh, McDonald’s UK Tastes of America. You’ve already given us so much. But once Kirsten showed me your website, I felt I had been given a special gift from the marketing gods.
While I’d love to break down each and every “Tastes” page, that would probably take up the length of an entire review, and we’re talkin’ about Chicago here, so let’s focus on that.
First off, every Tastes of America “tribute” page is an amazing feat of music and bizarre gifs. It’s like someone with a current knowledge of graphic artistry was instructed to make them look like a 1996 Geocities website. It is strange and mesmerizing at the same time.
I will give the UK this: Chicago is the longest-running American musical in the history of Broadway. Looking at the States from the outside in, this would be a pretty easy choice to encapsulate the spirit of the city. However, the Tastes of America takes it a little too far. The music is va-va-voom, the background is reminiscent of a Broadway marquee, and there’s attractive ladies wearing sexy tuxedos dancing around with canes.
Correction: one sexy lady, multiplied by eight. GIFS!
There are also two mirror-image limos thrusting in and out of the background in a way that makes me mildly uncomfortable.
The icing on the cake for me is the introduction of a jumble of red-clad basketball player gifs, obviously meant to represent the Chicago Bulls. I have some sad news for you, Britain: the iconic era of Michael Jordan and the Bulls’ dominance in the NBA ended in the 1990s. I’m sorry.
So what crazy gifs would I use to represent Chicago? Well, I’ve never even been to the Windy City, but here are some of my suggestions:
Lots of Tommy guns shooting with the sound of automatic fire as your music
One guy in a three-piece pinstripe suit repeated eight times making threatening gestures
A corrupt government official repeatedly signing a check and handing it to a shady character
Crates of bootleg alcohol dancing around
It’s obvious I’m also not intimately familiar with Chicago, but I still feel mine is a closer representation of the city than McDonald’s UK’s. Regardless, all of the Tastes of America pages are priceless, and I highly encourage you click on the link I posted above.
Okay, enough of my blathering. Here’s Kirsten’s round-up. A big thanks to her for the guest review!
McDonald’s UK Tastes Of America Chicago Supreme
- Score: 4 out of 5 dancing gifs
- Price: £4.89 plus £0.40 Crisscut upgrade (~$7 USD)
- Size: Regular meal with Chicago Supreme, Crisscut fries and drink
- Purchased at: McDonald’s – Leeds 2
- Nutritional Quirks: Nothing like a Chicago Dog, but at least there’s lots of protein?
McDonald’s UK Tastes Of America Crisscut Fries
- Score: 2 out of 5 potato Alphabites (NOT the cereal)
- Size:8 lattices
- Purchased at: McDonald’s – Leeds 2
- Nutritional Quirks: Say no to chip spice.