A wise man once said “It’s good to be king,” but I don’t know if that applies to royalty of the hamburger variety—Burger King’s name has always seemed more of an aspiration statement rather than a legitimate claim. Emperor Norton I had a better grip on his title than does the creepy, plastic-faced monster that somehow manages to be more disturbing than a clown with a thing for small children. But I digress.
I drive past the Burger King on Markham every day on my way to and from work, and if the wind is just right and my windows are cracked, I catch a face-full of that weird, pseudo-grill smell that I am convinced is made in a lab somewhere and pumped out from steel canisters to create an illusion of flame-broiled deliciousness. It’s always a little bit unsettling—there’s really no other smell like it. Thank God.
But because I enjoy writing about things from time to time that totally ruin any credibility I might have as a legitimate food writer, I stopped in to the Burger King today to try their newest promotional item, the decidedly not-burger Grilled Hot Dogs, which I am capitalizing because the King is pretty proud of that grilled thing. Also a point of pride: the dogs are advertised as being “100% Beef,” but hey, who knows exactly what part of the cow we’re talking here?
In any case, I grabbed a “Classic” dog, which clocks in at a buck-ninety-nine, and a “Chili Cheese” dog which set me back thirty cents more. And then I took them back to the office and ate most of both of them. And the verdict? Oh, they’re exactly what you’d expect. A dense tube of mush with some painted-on grill marks and a vague bit of snap to them, slathered in inferior condiments and carelessly shoved into a bag and out of a drive-thru window. They’re fine. Edible. Not so terrible that I can snark on them with anything approaching enthusiasm, not good enough to be a fast food surprise.
The classic is piled with a too-sweet relish, a slap-dash handful of indifferent onions and enough ketchup and mustard to destroy any other flavors. The chili cheese is covered in exactly the sort of canned chili that’s been hiding in the back of your pantry for so long you don’t even remember how it got there. During my drive, the cheese turned into a translucent, slightly orange skin. Both are the food equivalent of a forgotten anecdote.
For a buck, these hot dogs would be all right. After all, gas stations have hot dogs of various flavors available for just around that price—and gas station dogs are generally larger and have a bit more flavor than did these specimens. But for $2 and up, these dogs are worth exactly one try, which I have done, and thankfully never need do again. Fans of sweet relish and canned chili will find a lot to love here, so go to Burger King and grab a hot dog if that’s your thing. Or don’t. You probably won’t notice much of a difference either way.