Welcome to 2016, fellow fast food enthusiasts! The last month or so of 2015 left us with the return of Crunchwrap Sliders at Taco Bell and exciting new menu items such as the Gouda Bacon Cheeseburger at Wendy's and the Flame Grilled Chicken Burger at Burger King to consider. A burger patty made from chicken—what will they think of next?! But I'd like to use this column to explore a recent concept that seems to be #OnTrend for 2016: offering many small items for a cheap price.
As regular readers of the Fast Foodie column might recall, I previously attempted a hard-hitting investigation into this late last year when Wendy's announced a 4 for $4 deal—a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, a four-piece nugget, fries, and a soda for four bucks—only to discover in the course of my digging that the two Baltimore locations I visited had opted out. Since that time, McDonald's and BK have latched onto this idea, drafting up a McPick 2 menu that features four items diners can pair off for $2 and the Wendy's-one-up 5 for $4 deal, respectively. I take the added participation of the fast food world's two burger goliaths to mean the Wendy's bundle meal went over well with the citizenry, at least those who could find it.
So I renewed my inquisition, this time seeking out the mega 5 for $4 meal, which combines a bacon cheeseburger, four-piece chicken nugget, small fries (or onion rings, if you so choose), small drink, and chocolate chip cookie for a price cheaper than most Starbucks coffees. Fortunately for this fast foodie, the Burger King nearest the City Paper offices, on Fayette Street, is a location choosing to participate.
What strikes me about the Wendy's and Burger King offerings is, holy shit that's a lot of food. There are 1,170 calories, 47 grams of fat, and 73 grams of sugar in the 5 for $4, according to BK's site—I'm not a doctor, but I think those numbers are, um, not good. The flip side, of course, is holy shit that's a great deal.
I went into this assignment thinking of it as a food challenge. Would I be able to eat everything? Have the fast food restaurants pushed the limits, even for an enthusiast such as myself?
The meal didn't seem all that gargantuan, however, upon opening the bag. A close examination of the bacon cheeseburger revealed a specimen that was smaller than it appeared in the menu picture, with a pretty thin patty (then again, when is that not the case). It was easy to scarf down, and it was just as easy to make quick work of the nuggets. My quick consumption of the meaty parts of the 5 for $4 gave me pause. "Geez, I still feel hungry. That's kinda bad, isn't it. Maybe this is a sign I really need to get off my ass and go to the gym."
The fries definitely pushed the needle closer to full, but there was no question about eating that damn cookie. Still warm and ooey-gooey, an effect no doubt aided by its brief stay in the bag with the hot food, the cookie pushed the needle to the "F." Then broke it. I walked out with that feeling in the pit of my stomach that says, "Mmmm, I am satisfied, whereas before I was not," but also, "Oh God, what have I done to my body?"