As anyone who follows business knows, fast-food chains are in trouble. With the rise of fast-casual eateries like Panera and Chipotle, coupled with the sudden proliferation of so-called gourmet burger chains (see, Smashburger, Five Guys), the big four of the burger world have found themselves scrambling to woo diners back to their drive-thru windows.
In some cases, they’ve pared down their menus, but more often than not they’ve turned to bizarre and often baffling stunt burgers to increase brand interest.
Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. has long been the leader in this capacity, offering up curiosities like their Tex-Mex burger (fire-roasted peppers and onions, thick-cut bacon, pepper jack cheese, and Santa Fe sauce) to out-and-out monstrosities like the Most American Burger, which is topped with both a hot dog and potato chips.
Now, one certainly has to wonder if Hardee’s executives actually intend for customers to order these burgers — for one, they’re pricey, and in the case of the Most American Burger, simply vile — or if these stunt burgers are created to generate buzz and nothing else.
And right now, no burger is generating more buzz than Burger King’s Halloween Whopper — with good reason.
As you know, the Halloween Whopper comes on a jet-black bun that is, without question, the pinnacle of lab-to-table cuisine. Visually it’s a fright and inside it’s a mad scientist’s shopping list: Unbleached enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, high fructose corn syrup, yeast, contains 2% or less of each of the following: wheat gluten, soybean oil, salt, maltodextrin, defatted wheat germ, fructose, refiners, syrup powder, glycerine, monoglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate, powdered flaxseed, brown sugar, corn syrup, gum arabic, FD&C Red No. 40, molasses powder, modified corn starch, FD&C Blue No. 1, calcium sulfate, raisin juice concentrate, spice, Worcerstershire sauce (vinegar, molasses, corn syrup, water, salt, caramel color, dried garlic, sugar, spice, tamarind, natural flavor), natural flavor, FD&C Yellow No. 6, sugar, orange juice concentrate, sunflower oil, ascorbic acid, corn syrup solids, garlic powder, caramel color, enzymes, onion powder, tannic acid, agar, citric acid, xanthan gum, calcium propionate, and potassium sorbate (to retard spoilage), and topped with sesame seeds and the blood of a virgin. (OK, OK. The ingredients list doesn’t note the presence of any blood, virgin or otherwise. It is merely a humble suggestion from this seasoned food writer.)
The remaining ingredients are more or less standard Whopper fare: lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, mayo, and onions, plus a dab or two of A1 sauce, one of the leading condiments of the lab-to-table movement and one that is favored by foodies who prefer their steaks well done and their vegetables nestled in a half-inch-thick bed of donut batter or covered in a kilo of fine-tuned, shelf-stable Velveeta cheese.
But enough on the virtues of lab-to-table dining and globalvorism — i.e. the noble attempt to source as many ingredients from as many locations around the world as possible, or at least as an efficient system of cargo ships and tractor trailers will allow. What about the Halloween Whopper itself? How does it taste?
The answer is quite simple: It tastes like the burger that one-time Misfits frontman Glenn Danzig would pick up on the way back to his comic book-filled mansion after buying kitty litter at Petsmart. In fact, it’s so deliciously black, he would order one for Henry Rollins too, and together they would dine under the light of the moon on a blanket made out of gym shorts and sip wine from empty vials of HGH. And when their bellies were full, they would make passionate hate until the break of dawn, or at least until Stephanie Meyer pens another chapter in the Twilight Saga.
Truth be told, the Halloween Whopper isn’t all that much different from the regular Whopper. But whereas the BK’s signature scientist-created, lab-perfected mayo gives the tang of the pickles and the acid of the tomatoes a soothing counterpoint, one that plays off well with the patty’s decisive char-grill marks, with the Halloween Whopper the brightness is kicked up a notch by the vinegary bite of the inclusion of sparingly applied A1. Personally, we could have used a few more dabs of A1, both for its zing and the blast of umami, but that’s a minor quibble, much like the short-lived Twitter feud between Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj.
As for the bun, it’s a touch denser than the traditional Whopper bun, with its sesame seed-covered exterior and the blizzard-like whiteness of its soft slightly sugary interior — in some ways, it’s like biting into the backside of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, minus the overpowering flavor of Gozer the Gozerian, an acquired taste to say the least. However, if you close your eyes as you chew, you will catch the inviting tease of A1 in much the same way that a half-naked co-ed standing in front of a window and changing her clothes beckons a Peeping Tom through nearly shut Venetian blinds. You naughty minx.
But if there is one downside to the Halloween Whopper, it’s that over time the blackness of the bun crumbles and mixes with the velvety American cheese product — a tasty blend of cultured milk, water, cream, sodium citrate, salt, sorbic acid, sodium phosphate, artificial color, enzymes, acetic acid, and soy lecithin. These unsightly black spots had us second-guessing each bite as we fought against the eons of evolution which have taught our species to avoid eating anything black. But if South Carolinians can turn against the Confederate flag, you can overcome your tastebud’s racism.
And if you do, you’ll find yourself in the most delicious nightmare ever. Stay cool. Support City Paper. City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.
Stay cool. Support City Paper.
City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.