Takeaway Truth is a regular Lifehacker feature where we compare marketing images against what you actually get served. Today: Carl's Jr. Jalapeno Thickburger. (Plus Taste Test!)
It's a good time to be an American fast food fan down under. In recent months, some of the United States' biggest franchises have finally begun to wet their toes in the Australian market, including In-And-Out Burger (albeit in pop-up form), Little Ceasar's pizzeria and now, Carl's Jr.
Originating in Anaheim, California, Carl's Jr. is probably most famous abroad for its inappropriately raunchy advertisements.
It specialises in Western American burgers and sandwiches that purport to be on par with sit-down restaurant food. The first local stores will be located on NSW's central, mid and northern coast, although plans are in motion to expand aggressively all over Australia.
In other words, the brand might soon be as ubiquitous as Nando's (or as non-existent as Taco Bell) depending on demand.
The grand opening of Australia's first Carl's Jr. store is still a few months away. However, we happen to currently be in sunny California for Nvidia's GPU technology conference. We figured it was a perfect opportunity to put Carl's Jr. through the Takeaway Truth wringer ahead of its Aussie launch.
Being a fan of all things spicy, I naturally plumped for the Jalapeno Thickburger which comes with a charbroiled Black Angus beef patty, Pepper Jack cheese, sliced jalapeno peppers, tomato, lettuce, Spanish onions and spicy Santa Fe sauce inside a freshly baked bun.
You can see a variant of the same burger in the below advertisement, starring supermodel Kate Upton. (Like we said above — entirely inappropriate!)
The Carl's Jr. Jalapeno Thickburger packs in 3682 kilojoules of energy, 59 grams of fat, 100 milligrams of cholesterol, 1570 milligrams of sodium, 12 grams of sugar and 28 grams of protein. This makes for a pretty fatty burger.
Indeed, McDonald's decadent Mighty Angus has 872 fewer kilojoules than the Jalapeno Thickburger. Despite coming with bacon and BBQ sauce, it also has significantly less sodium and sugar. With that said, the Jalapeno Thickburger is significantly larger, which makes a direct comparison slightly unfair.
So how successfully does the Jalapeno Thickburger stack up in real life? Here's a side-by-side comparison of the official marketing image compared to what we got served at a San Jose outlet.
Hmmm. While the real thing is by no means disgusting, it's also significantly less attractive than the advert would have us believe — even if you ignore Kate Upton. The bun is oilier and flatter looking, while the lettuce is common iceberg variety rather than the fancy gourmet stuff on the poster. (Seriously, why do fast food chains think they can flout advertising laws when it comes to salad greens? They all do it!)
The Angus beef patty also lacks the grill marks so prominently displayed on the poster. The tomato and Spanish onion were pretty spot on though. So there's that.
On the plus side, what the Jalapeno Thickburger lacks in faithfulness it more than makes up for in taste. Without a doubt, this was one of the juiciest and most flavoursome burgers I've devoured in a long time.
In terms of quality, it hovers somewhere between McDonald's M Selections range and an upmarket burger from Grill'd. As long as it's priced sensibly in Australia, this could well end up being my favourite burger joint. Shame about the false advertising though.
Truth Rating: 5/10
Taste Verdict: 9/10
Which fast food franchise or menu item would you like us to tackle next? Let us know in the comments section below.