The Good: The bacon was actually crisp. Appeared to be actually crumbled up bacon and not just sad little bacon bits. Carl’s uses buttermilk ranch, which has more flavor and is thicker than regular ranch. It also helped immensely in getting the bacon to stick to the fries, which I’ve found to be frustrating in the past when eating fries that involve bacon as a topping.
The Not-So-Good: I appreciate that my fries were hot, but that just made my ranch hot, which is not very appealing. As often is the case with fries covered with toppings, the toppings are far too sparse, with all the bacon clustered in the middle and almost nothing getting to the bottom fries. I wound up adding my own ranch. $3 is a pretty high price for some fries, the equivalent of a side cup of dressing and about one slice of crumbled bacon.
Score:2.5 out of 5
Size: 1 serving
Purchased at: Carl’s Jr. #0828
Nutritional Quirks: These are really bad for you! That is not a surprise. Or a quirk.
I felt pretty guilty entering the driveway to my local Carl’s Jr. (or Carsl’s Jr., as it has affectionately come to be known) because kitty-corner to it, mere hundreds of feet away, sits my favorite mom ‘n’ pop sandwich shop, which serves the best cheesesteaks I’ve ever eaten. Given, I haven’t eaten a lot of cheesesteaks in my day, and I’m sure any Philly native would slap me across the face and start raving about Pat’s or Geno’s and how there certainly isn’t enough abuse from the staff when ordering, but all I know is that their cheesesteaks are delicious.
This is why I felt guilty as I drove past them in order to hit the Carl’s drive-thru to pick up their new Philly Cheesesteak Burger. I was eschewing my favorite, locally-owned sandwich shop in order to pick up some short-lived fast food gimmick. But that is my job, a job I don’t actually get paid for, so it had to be done.
The Philly Cheesesteak Burger is pretty self-explanatory. Carl’s Jr.’s website describes it as “Juicy steak, with sautéed green bell peppers and onions, and melted American and Swiss cheeses, all piled on top of a charbroiled beef patty and served between a seeded bun.” Using beef as a topping for beef, or really, a sandwich as a topping for a burger, should strike me as bizarre. But I’ve seensomethings lately that have apparently dulled my sense of the absurd, because the Philly Cheesesteak Burger doesn’t really seem that insane. Probably unsatisfying, but not terrifying. So I wasn’t feeling very trepidatious as I grabbed my sandwichburger without incident, avoiding eye contact with the real cheesesteak place as I drove home.
The Philly Cheesesteak Burger looked pretty innocuous on the outside, and actually smelled rather tasty. I decided to open it up to see what was inside…
Oh, come on, it doesn’t look that bad, right? Let’s take a closer look!
Okay it does look that bad. But I’m no food photographer, and I’ll be honest with you, I love how disgusting those pictures look because the Philly Cheesesteak Burger was actually delicious! I know, I’m as surprised as you are. The steak was actually juicy; it was finely chopped and really tender. The peppers and onions were crunchy, which seems quite a feat to pull off, considering fast food restaurants are seemingly incapable of keeping anything from becoming a soggy mess. While the onions didn’t add much flavor, you can distinctly taste the bell peppers. The cheese is impossibly gooey and creamy.
This all reminds me of the cheesesteaks I get from that place that sits in the same parking lot. There, you can watch them make your sandwich, and it is a thing to behold: the steak, peppers, onions and cheese are all mixed together with a giant metal spatula on top of a sizzling flat griddle. Something about throwing them around and mushing them together on that griddle makes the cheese gooey and distributed throughout the sandwich in a wonderful way, and while I hate to compare them to Carl’s Jr., I think Carl sent out a spy to see how they did it, because the taste and technique are remarkably similar.
Is this how all cheesesteaks are made? Maybe so; once again, I don’t have a whole lot of experience with this type of sandwich. But the cheesesteak on top of my burger was like my mom ‘n’ pop sandwich’s sidekick: less experienced, not as polished, and with about a 30% reduction in quality. It’s not your first choice when you’re being mugged in a dark alley, but it’ll satisfy you in a pinch. And save you from the mugger? I don’t know, this analogy fell apart pretty fast.
Oh yeah, and there’s a burger in there somewhere, too. The cheesesteak kind of overwhelms it, which I am perfectly okay with, but you will taste that Carl’s charbroiled flavor at the very end. Personally, I could have done without the burger altogether, but at least it kept the bun from completely falling apart.
Carl’s Jr.’s Philly Cheesesteak Burger is delicious, which I really wasn’t expecting. Tender meat, crunchy veggies, and melty cheese all tie together in a way I didn’t think would be possible from a fast food restaurant. The burger is almost completely extraneous, but I guess Carl’s felt obligated to throw it in there, perhaps because burgers are kind of what they do, or because they felt a burger with a cheesesteak on top if it would be a proper novelty item in this exciting era of “who can make the strangest food?” Either way, I’m a fan, and I’ll keep ordering them as long as they stay on the menu.
Score: 4.5 out of 5 sandwiches on top of sandwiches
Size: One burger
Purchased at: Carl’s Jr. #828
Nutritional Quirks: 1,420 milligrams of sodium, but that’s hardly unusual these days. Let’s go with vegetables that are actually crunchy, which is definitely a quirk for a fast food restaurant.
When Carl’s Jr. told me via email and Twitter that it was introducing a new burger on the 27th of this month, I ran out that very day to purchase one and tell the Internet what I thought about it. I was very excited – so excited that I actually left my hermit cave when it wasn’t deemed absolutely necessary. My local Carl’s is within walking distance of my apartment, but I was a douche and drove there anyways. Hey, I’m already leaving the house – asking me to walk somewhere would be stretching it too far.
I made sure to ask the lady in the drive-thru intercom if they actually had the new Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger, because I live in the asshole of the United States, which means there’s a strong possibility that it might not have been available at my local joint yet. But, lo and behold, she said they had them, so I went ahead and ordered one, thrilled with my good luck. I waited in a short line of cars, as it was lunchtime, took my bag, and went home, ready to take some pictures and write some insults.
But fortune was not on my side that day, for when I got home and opened the bag, instead of a Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger, I was greeted with a Charbroiled Chicken Club and a small order of Natural-Cut French Fries. Shocked, terrified, I checked my receipt:
GRL CH BGR certainly sounds closer to what I ordered than what I got. The only conclusion I could come to is that I got someone else’s order, and, in turn, they will get my order. Sucks to you, chicken lover. I wanted that damn burger.
I threw the chicken sandwich in the fridge, disgusted, and ate the fries, seasoning them with my own tears of frustration and disappointment. I could have gone back and tried again, but the wind had been taken out of my sails. I could not leave the house again, not after what had happened. My only consolation – hey, free fries!
So I tried again yesterday, and actually managed to get what I ordered. Before we get to that, let’s explore what Carl’s Jr.’s marketing team thinks we should know about the Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger. Your options are Single, Double, or Six Dollar. I went with the Single, so we’ll go with that description from their website: “A charbroiled all beef patty topped with crispy bacon, slices of melted Swiss and American cheese, and mayonnaise served on toasted sourdough bread.”
So, a Sourdough Jack, then. Minus the tomatoes. Maybe a little more cheese.
But this is not what Carl’s Jr. wants you to think. Fast food companies seem to think they need to add a gimmick on to each new menu item they introduce, as if the American public will not try new food unless you have somehow tricked them into buying it. In the Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger’s case, the spin they are using is that you love grilled cheese sandwiches, you have loved them since you were a kid, and it is your ultimate comfort food. According to their press release, “Carl’s Jr.® has created the ultimate comfort food, Grilled Cheese Bacon Burgers™. Starting today, fans of the cheesy, gooey comfort food can try one of the new Carl’s Jr. Grilled Cheese Bacon Burgers, which features all the comfort and deliciousness of the grilled cheese sandwich mom used to make, with the addition of a delicious charbroiled burger and bacon.”
The Executive VP of Marketing for Carl’s Jr. goes on to describe the “funny story” of how the GCBB was born, saying that they were looking to make some vegetarian menu items, came up with grilled cheese, and then some asshole said, “Fuck the vegetarians, let’s make this a motherfucking hamburger! With bacon! Motherfucking meat, you motherfucking carnivores! Fuck those pussies!”
…I’m not sure if that’s exactly how it went down, since I wasn’t at the meeting, but I assume I got it about right. So, the GCBB was born, but you can also get a grilled cheese sandwich if you like. But that doesn’t get its own press release or marketing campaign. Suck it, vegetarian pussies.
So, in conclusion, Carl’s Jr. wants you to buy their bacon cheeseburger on a sourdough bun and believe you are turning back the clock to simpler times, when you didn’t have a mortgage, or a job, or a spouse that you secretly hate, or children that are eating your soul. Bite into a GCBB and all your cares will melt away, much like how the delicious cheese on the burger melts down the sides of that succulent charbroiled meat.
Well, not quite. I got home with my new burger and unwrapped it eagerly, and this is what I saw. Not exactly what the marketing picture looks like. Of course, that picture is of the Six Dollar version, but still. I mean, look at the top bun of that promo burger. It looks like you could attach some legs to it and turn it into an end table.
But, that’s okay, we all know that the real thing never lives up to the advertisement pictures when it comes to food. My bun doesn’t look very toasted at all, the bacon looks like typical weak, limp fast food bacon, but hey, the cheese does look melty and plentiful. Take me away, Carl’s Jr.!
Hm. Not so much. The burger itself tastes good, delivering that charbroiled taste that I think makes Carl’s burgers better than McDonald’s or Burger King’s. The cheese is, indeed, melty and plentiful. It does succeed at being the star of the show; with each bite, you get lots of gooey cheese that works perfectly with the meat. Unfortunately, to get that consistency, fast food restaurants use all that processed cheese, so you’re getting a lot of that processed flavor. Which doesn’t bother me; I can get over that artificial taste, but I’m sure it’s not for everyone. But hey, what kind of cheese did your mom use when she used to make you grilled cheese sandwiches? If you’re the average American kid, it was probably Kraft American Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product. If not, then nuts to you. Stop being so hoity-toity. It’s uncouth.
There’s so much cheese , in fact, that it almost entirely drowns out the bacon, which isn’t such a terrible sin, since the bacon is small, limp, and lacking in flavor. The mayonnaise disappears also, but that’s perfectly fine. Mayo is not supposed to be the star. If mayo is the star, your burger is having a problem.
I think the real problem with this burger is the bun. In trying to emulate a grilled cheese sandwich, they’ve gone with sourdough, which I love. However, they’ve missed one important part, which is “grilled”. Bob, an occasional JFB writer, also got a GCBB, and his bread was just as un-toasted as mine was. The butter was there, but the toasting was not, which resulted in a soggy bun with no satisfying toast flavor or crunch. A grilled cheese sandwich that is not toasted properly is no grilled cheese sandwich at all. It’s just a sad, buttery mess.
If you can get yourself one that’s actually grilled, the Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger isn’t a bad burger. Even with untoasted bread, it wasn’t terrible, it was just…meh. I guess you could say it is kind of like a grilled cheese sandwich, in that bread and cheese are involved, but once you add a burger, it’s a freakin’ burger, man. It’s a burger with a little extra cheese and a different bun. Honestly, it’s a Sourdough Jack, and frankly, I’ll take the Sourdough Jack over the GCBB because they actually toast their bread. And tomatoes are yummy. So, you know, give it a try if you’ve got a Carl’s nearby, but don’t go too far out of your way for it. Hey, maybe your Carl’s will actually toast it for you. But if there’s a Jack in the Box on the way, just swing in there and get a Sourdough Jack instead. The meat might not be as good, but the sandwich will be better overall.
Score: 2 out of 5 sad, soggy buns
Price: $1.99, although the Carl’s Jr. press release says a Single costs $2.49. Eat it, rest of the nation!
Size: 1 burger of unknown weight
Purchased at: Carl’s Jr. #828
Nutritional Quirks: Has “grilled” in the name; no actual grilling performed.
Junk food and fast food reviews. We eat it so you don't have to!