By Mike Thayer
Slowly but surely, fast food is responding to customer demand for more upscale fare, better burgers and sandwiches, specifically, smokehouse/chophouse style options of meat on bread.
We're talking the smokey flavors of hickory, oak and fruit woods. We're going to see bolder sauces, more varieties of meats, cheeses, buns, toppings like crispy fried onion rings, and of course - more bacon! Expect to see a lot more brisket in a variety of sandwich offerings in 2019, it's predicted to be THE meat for the year.
Arby's pretty much lead the way in breaking out better sandwiches in 2018 and look for that trend to continue. They gave us several limited time offerings of what they called "Signature Sandwiches" like their Smokehouse Brisket Sandwich featuring smoked brisket, smoked gouda, crispy onions, mayo and BBQ sauce, served on an artisan-style roll. Now that's kicking it up a notch! And have you ever combined Arby's Sauce AND Horsey Sauce on a sandwich? It's a great combo of the two sauces and offered on their "Arbynator." Their Beef Short Rib sandwich was mighty tasty too!
McDonald's isn't far behind Arby's in upping its game and crafting better offerings. The top dog of fast food rolled out Quarter Pounders using fresh beef in early 2018 and added a Bacon Smokehouse Burger featuring that fresh beef to their menu in July. It's a nice burger that includes crispy apple wood smoked bacon, smoky bacon-onion sauce, real white cheddar, mild sweet mustard sauce and in-house fried onion strings. Look for McDonald's to add a few more "Smokehouse" style items to its menu in 2019.
Sonic is now offering a Steakhouse Bacon Cheeseburger which I have yet to sample. It's a quarter pound burger served on a Brioche bun layered with natural cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, grilled onions and topped with a smokey black pepper mayo. It sounds like a great deal along with medium tots for only $4.99. I'm looking forward to trying it!
Wendy's hasn't really ventured into the Smokehouse/Steakhouse world yet. Sure, they've got their Baconator, a mammoth of a sandwich, but it's basically just a standard double cheeseburger with bacon thrown on it. Regular mayo, American cheese, standard bun.... Don't get me wrong, it's a good burger, but it's NOT really a Smokehouse/Steakhouse level burger. I don't expect Wendy's to sit on the sideline too long on this, they are no doubt working on something to add to their menu. Competition demands it.
Burger King has an interesting sandwich with a smokehouse theme but surprisingly, they're not hyping it up much since its unveil clear back in 2017. The sandwich features to two flame grilled patties, three strips of thick cut bacon, crispy onion rings, bbq sauce, American cheese and mayo on a sesame see bun. I've become a bit tainted against Burger King though and haven't yet tried this burger..... Well, if I did and don't remember it, then it's unremarkable. There's not a well run Burger King restaurant in my neck of the woods and the chain seems to be in some kind of decline funk overall. Perhaps that's why the marketing of this sandwich, which was introduced ahead of the curve, hasn't taken off.
Hardees has done absolutely nothing to break into the smokehouse cravings of consumers market. And while their "Thickburgers" are good, they're classic burgers, not smokehouse style.
The new year looks promising for a continued trend of more upscale burgers and sandwiches from fast food. Hopefully, new offerings won't be limited to what has been so far, mostly burger offerings. There's also the possibility that one or more of the mainstream fast food joints may offer a smokehouse style veggie sandwich or side. I'm looking forward to sampling new menu items and finding new favorites!
Happy New Year!
$pend Wisely My Friends....
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