It’s safe to say that I have a bit of history with Burger King. I once dubbed the company “the saddest chain in fast food,” and they’ve done little in the last 20 months to change that designation. As a brand, BK continues to be defined by a general sense of “We desperately need to change something, but we have no idea how to proceed.” Original thinking (unless we’re talking about Cheetos-covered monstrosities), is an anathema with this company.
Exhibit A: Look no further than the brand new “Bacon King” burger, which BK is rolling out with heavy TV promotion nationwide. It’s … a burger! With bacon! Lots of bacon! Yes, only 9 years after Wendy’s introduced the Baconator in 2007, Burger King has finally gotten around to copying the sandwich exactly. Now, keep in mind that although “almost a decade” might seem like a long time to spend in ripping off your (superior) competitor’s product, it’s LIGHTNING-QUICK compared to the 47 years it took them to steal the Big Mac with their 2013 (and still available) “Big King.” Bravo, Burger King. Really picking up the pace. I look forward to your KFC-inspired Famous Bowl substitute, 5 years from now.
By the way, in case anyone wants to make the case that the Bacon King is somehow different than the Baconator, let’s run down the vitals, shall we? They both feature:
- Two 4 oz patties
- A couple slices of American cheese
- Six strips of bacon
- Ketchup and mayonnaise
And that’s it—they’re absolutely identical, as far as the numbers go. Neither is a complex sandwich; they’re not fooling around with anything fancy or artisanal here. They’re simply meant to be bacon delivery vehicles (BDV’s, in fast food parlance). Not to be outdone on the nutritional front, Burger King actually manages to make its version a smidge more unhealthy than the Wendy’s original: 1,040 calories vs. 950, and with slightly more fat, saturated fat and sodium to boot. Atta boy, Burger King. If you can’t do something first, then at least you can do it more devastatingly and leave a longer-lasting impact on my colon.
A brief aside: Can we all acknowledge that these BK Crown chapeau-ed commercials that have been running throughout 2016 are nothing short of horrendous? Oh look, affluent-looking white people ironically enjoying a children’s hat! That’s clearly a reasonable thing to do in the well-lit, clean, high-income neighborhood Burger King franchise that is no doubt around the corner from your abode. When you traipse up to the counter to request a couple crowns for you and your compatriot, the unfortunate, dead-eyed employee standing there will surely be happy to spend a few moments of their $7.25-an-hour existence on grabbing them for you! And the other patrons wouldn’t even think of moving to the other side of the restaurant to finish shoveling down their 2,000 calorie lunch in peace when they see you doffing a cardboard crown and grinning like a maniac. Nope, nothing at all to worry about when you see something like that in public.
But I digress. Per usual, when a new product like this comes out and makes me want to leap off something high, my first action is to go out and eat the thing so I can speak from some position of dubious authority. So that’s what I did. Here’s what you actually get, ordering a Bacon King.
YE GADS, man, avert your gaze! That is, I mean … it’s, uh … not terribly photogenic. Have you ever noticed that mounds of red and white goo rarely are? We should really get some researchers on this issue, to get to the root of why that is.
In the meantime, let’s simply admire its no-doubt solid construction. You may be thinking (as I was) that the actual amount of bacon isn’t quite as excessive as advertised. This is especially true considering that Burger King puts all of the bacon on top of the burger, free to swim through the confines of the Great Mayo Sea rather than spacing it out between the patties as Wendy’s does in the Baconator. It may be that they wanted to make the amount on top appear more substantial. Of course it’s also possible that the precious seconds BK employees save not spacing out the bacon are better spent on more critical activities, such as siphoning gallons of black sludge out of the broiler before it either reaches critical mass or gains rudimentary sentience. Either seems equally likely.
You’re probably expecting a more traditional “review” at this point, describing the actual merits of the burger. I’m sorry to say that I can’t provide that assessment for you. 24 hours after ingesting it, literally the only impression that remains in my head of the experience is that there was mayonnaise involved. Gallons and gallons of mayonnaise, crashing down like a white, grinding surf, carrying me out to sea as it fills my lungs like an unfortunate extra in 1985’s The Stuff.
I also remember that this meal somehow managed to cost $9, which seems even more impossible than anything I’ve written in this piece up to this point. Once again: Bravo, Burger King. You managed to even charge more than Wendy’s for their decade-old product. You truly are the burger regents, in the kingdom of shameless appropriation.
Jim Vorel is Paste’s resident fast food geek. He’s continuously impressed by Burger King’s cavalier attitude toward stealing decade-old ideas. You can follow him on Twitter.