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Fast Food Virgin

Wendy's pretzel bacon cheeseburger: Lab-made meat might be better

August 14, 2013|By S. Irene Virbila
  • Wendy's pretzel bacon cheeseburger
Wendy's pretzel bacon cheeseburger (S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles…)

I’m a sucker for a good pretzel wherever I find one. And in these parts, Röckenwagner Bakery makes some of the best. Hans Röckenwagner also has a pretzel burger at his 3 Square Cafe & Bakery in Venice that’s one of my guilty pleasures.

When I heard that Wendy’s had come out with a limited-edition premium pretzel bacon cheeseburger, of course I had to give it a try. I was curious to see if the $4.69 burger could measure up to Röckenwagner's considerably more expensive $12.50 (including fries) pretzel burger.

Not even close.

Wendy's pretzel bun, with a neat cross etched in its shiny brown top, is a distinct improvement on the chain’s usual squishy bun. When you take a bite, the bun doesn’t compress down to a thin wafer: a real plus. The fixings are upgraded with a spring lettuce mix and a slice of red onion. But that tomato is pale and watery and the cheese melts away in the warmth of the burger. 

The sweet-hot tang of the honey mustard sauce makes a point, though. And they’ve tucked some bacon in there too. But the square-shaped beef patty has a definite grayish cast. And it would be a wild exaggeration to call this burger juicy. Calories: 680, with 320 of them from fat.

If this is beef, you might as well be eating that new hatched-in-laboratory beef. In fact, the latter might have more flavor.

Is the lesson you get what you pay for?

Though almost three times as expensive, Röckenwagner’s pretzel burger features meat that has a rosy cast and actually tastes like beef. The pretzel bun is chewier and more substantial too.

Bottom line, I’d rather save my money and spend it on a burger that satisfies the primal urge to eat beef. 

While I was there, I checked out the Baconator burger too. Oh, yeah, 940 calories, 500 of them from fat (!). Just two regular quarter-pound beef patties with six (thin) slices of bacon. It’s not your thick-cut applewood smoked bacon, but the crispy pork does help to give an otherwise bland burger a touch more flavor. But get this, you can add on even more bacon, three slices at a time. Why stop there? You might as well just go home and fry up a whole pound of bacon and eat it at one sitting.

Since when did eating burgers become an extreme sport? 


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S. Irene Virbila has been a restaurant critic at the Los Angeles Times for almost 20 years; she’s been writing about food even longer. Her reviews have won awards from the James Beard Foundation and the American Food Journalists, and she’s known, of course, for her excellent taste. But just for grins, we’ve asked her to expand her horizons and sample fast food on a regular basis.

Twitter: @sirenevirbila

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