New pretzel burgers don’t live up to the hype

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Pretzels and burgers are two popular, quintessential American foods. But what happens when they’re combined into one meal? The new trend of swapping out plain burger buns with brown dough-balls that we’re led to believe are pretzels has taken the nation’s chain restaurants by storm. I sampled this innovation in casual cuisine from Wendy’s, Ru

Wendy’s

Wendy’s was the initiator of all this commotion. Of the mentioned franchises, their burger has been the most heavily advertised. You might even recognize their ad about a man returning home from jury duty excited because Wendy’s is selling pretzel burgers right next to the courthouse.

The fast food chain sells a variety of these burgers. The original of the series is the “Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger,” which contains a beef patty, bacon, a melted slice of cheddar cheese, honey mustard, spring greens, tomatoes, and red onions all within a pretzel bun. They also have a “Pretzel Pub Chicken Sandwich” which is almost the same as the cheeseburger. Instead of the bacon it has a slice of muenster cheese alongside the melted cheddar cheese sauce, and a choice of either Spicy Chicken Fillet (fried), Ultimate Chicken Grill Fillet, or Homestyle Chicken Fillet (fried).

I ordered the Pretzel Pub Chicken Sandwich with Ultimate Chicken Grill Fillet which you can get alone for $5-$6 or make it a combo with some fries and a soft drink for about $8. The sandwich was about palm-sized and topped with a glistening brown pretzel bun with a white X running across the center.

In reality, only the exterior tasted like a real, unsalted pretzel while the inside tasted like regular white bread. Another difference between this bun and a real pretzel was that it was a lot plushier and softer, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but not what I expected. The filling inside the sandwich was also quite tasty. The chicken was moist, and the honey mustard added another layer of sweet, spicy, and smoky flavor. The only con was the cheddar cheese, which clashed with the other flavors. The honey mustard also overpowered the flavor of the pretzel. Ultimately, the burger was rich in flavor, but I didn’t get enough from the pretzel bun. It felt like I was eating a regular chicken sandwich.

 

Ruby Tuesday

Ruby Tuesday was the last to put out their pretzel burgers of the three I tried. They have a “Spicy Jalapeno Pretzel Cheeseburger,” which is special for its jalapenos and chipotle mayo;  “Bacon Cheese Pretzel Burger,” which contains bacon and bacon mustard mayo; “Portabella Crispy Onion Pretzel Cheeseburger,” which comes with portabella mushrooms, chipotle mayo, and fried onion straws; and “Black and Blue Bacon Pretzel Burger,” which contains bacon, blue cheese, and chipotle mayo as well. All of these contain beef, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, pickles, and come with a side of fries.

I chose the Bacon Cheese Pretzel Burger and opted for no pickles. Unlike Wendy’s pretzel burger, Ruby Tuesday’s bun was topped with table salt and had a “knotted” appearance. Although it tasted nothing like an actual pretzel, the texture and consistency of the bun was on point. The bottom bun was cute as it was shaped like a spiral to resemble the twists of a pretzel, but the concept failed because the bottom proved to fall apart too easily. Inside, the mustard mayo complimented the bun well considering the fact that mustard and pretzels are a classic combination. The beef was juicy, but because it was so large it was the only thing I could really taste when the burger was eaten as a whole. The vegetables that come with all of the burgers were also fresh and crisp. Other differences between this burger and that of Wendy’s was that this was more expensive being $16, it was about 1 cm. larger in radius, and had more calories.

 

Dunkin Donuts

Dunkin Donuts came out with their pretzel burger before Ruby Tuesday did, but they have been on the down low about it. In fact, when I was there it wasn’t even on the menu.

At Dunkin you can just get their pretzel rolls or you could make it a sandwich. These “Pretzel Roll Sandwiches” come with roasted beef, white cheddar, and dijon mustard, or you can make it a breakfast sandwich with ham, eggs, and American cheese.

I got the breakfast pretzel roll. This bun was similar in appearance and size to that of Wendy’s, but it was drier; somewhat harder; and had a duller, darker shade of brown. Nonetheless, it tasted the most like a pretzel than at any of the other places I tried. It was even sprinkled with coarse sea salt on top. The insides of this pretzel sandwich were not fresh since the egg seemed old and spongy, and the ham was cheap and processed. One of the few merits of this sandwich was that it was the cheapest, being only $3 and having the least amount of calories.

Overall, I thought all of the pretzel burgers I tried were a bit of a let down. They were all mediocre and with the exception of the Dunkin Donuts one, none of them had the taste or texture of a real pretzel. The trend was overhyped and I doubt we’ll be seeing more pretzel buns in the future. Although Ruby Tuesday had the best filling in their burger and Dunkin Donuts had the best pretzel bun, Wendy’s altogether had the best overall burger. If you’ve tried the Doritos Locos Taco and KFC Double Down and you can’t break your tradition of trying ever absurd fast food items, then I would go for the Wendy’s burger. Otherwise, pretzel burgers can be added to the ever-growing list of fast food experiments gone wrong.

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