We've reconvened our panel of fast food experts to chime in on a classic: Burger King's Whopper, discounted on Wednesdays for decades.
Heading up the V.I.A. Fast Food Panel is reporter Brendan Kergin, who once held it down as an employee of both Romeo's Pizza and the snack stand at Victoria's All Fun Waterslides.
Our video reporter Thor Diakow fancies himself "a frequent purveyor of fast food," and was the second panel member to be added, when we first got together to review McDonald's Spicy McNuggets last month.
I'm the third member because I'm the one who buys the stuff for us, and today I'm happy to introduce a new, trial member of our panel, Lindsay William-Ross.
William-Ross is V.I.A.'s Managing Editor (and Foodie-In-Chief) and we've put her on probation as a fast food expert because her qualifications include going to culinary school and being on VanMag's Restaurant Awards judging team. The founding three members are much more lowbrow, but we're giving William-Ross a chance to prove herself in this category.
WHY ARE WE REVIEWING THE WHOPPER?
While you might find it odd that we're reviewing a burger that was introduced in 1957, I can assure you that our readers asked for it. Sort of.
I recently received a phone call from a woman who came across a 2009 post on our website (back when we were a blog) in which I encouraged frugal folks like me to grab a Whopper for $1.79, on what the company calls "Whopper Wednesday," which takes place every Wednesday in BK franchises around the world.
The reader who called in had found that post in our archives, printed it out, then brought it to Burger King on Denman, requesting that they be sold the burger for that price.
The franchise turned her away (or, that is, they charged her the $3.99 that it now costs on Whopper Wednesday) so she called to let me know that I might want to update the piece.
I decided to do one better by not only updating everyone on the current price of a Whopper on Wednesday, but also getting our panel of experts to review said burger.
BK'S WHOPPER ON A BUDGET
Priced at $6.99 ($7.35 after tax) the rest of the week, the Whopper's price on Wednesday is $3.99 ($4.20 after tax) in Vancouver. The panel unanimously agrees that this is a decent value, even though that's an over-50 per cent increase of its 2009 $1.79 price tag.
Kergin goes a step further than simply agreeing, exclaiming through a mouthful of flame-grilled beef that "You're not gonna get a better burger for under five bucks!"
He also expresses his opinion that the mouth-feel is "Better than the 'pink slime'" texture that McDonald's has been trying to distance itself from for years, though they used to include that ingredient in their signature Big Mac.
William-Ross disagrees, noting that she expects a chunkier ground from a burger such as this. This is her first test as a member of our panel, and while I'm not the chairperson I can say that she's getting close to stepping over a line by saying such a thing about what I have long considered to be a beloved part of my diet.
But this isn't about me, or my feelings.
I bought our Whoppers from the BK on Denman St, and the presentation is as you might expect: stacked in a paper bag, with napkins on top.
Diakow expected something different than what I pull out of the bag and present to him, as he says his burger is “bigger than I remembered.” We found out why as he explains that he's "always been more of a Whopper Junior kind o' guy."
William-Ross agrees that the portions are generous, saying, "That's a lot of food."
She's not wrong.
Kergin thinks the meat in his Whopper tastes "better than Wendy's and McDonald's, but not White Spot."
Thor looks up at the ceiling as he chews thoughtfully, then mentions that he thinks he detects a "hint of smoky mesquite." At this point, the three founding panel members (the published-and-established fast food experts) start talking about how a fast food restaurant would go about smoking its meat in order to give it that flavour.
William-Ross proves herself by telling us that it's not likely that they smoked it at all, and that they added "smoke" as an additive somehow.
At first, it felt like having an actual food expert on our panel might somehow throw this entire thing off its axis. But as we quietly finish our meals, nodding at each other as we dab our Whopper-smeared faces with napkins which were haphazardly thrown into the takeout bag, I think we all silently come to the agreement that William-Ross has proved her value to this committee.
Would we order these again?
Kergin wouldn't, as he has a somewhat fierce allegiance to other chains, such as Carl's Jr: "Unless the car dies in front of BK, I'm not stopping there."
Diakow would "absolutely" order a Whopper again, as "It was better than I remembered" it being when he last ate one five years ago. He specifically cites the smoky flavour (that is, additive - thanks, William-Ross!) as something that sets it apart from others. He's also impressed by the "fluffiness" of the bun and says the veggies are "fresh and flavourful."
William-Ross' verdict is a bit more... nuanced, shall we say? She says the Whopper is “very pickle-centric,” and that it tastes the same as she remembers; she too hadn't eaten one in a long time.
To the direct question of would she eat it again? "I'm good for a while," she offers, and follows that up by saying she doesn't eat fast food very often. That comment is met with a side-eye from the rest of us, but we will bring her over to our side in time.
My verdict? Well, I wrote in 2009 that I would buy three of these burgers on Whopper Wednesday, eat one that day, then put the other two in the fridge to consume the next day as lunch and dinner.
My position on the Whopper - and specifically Whopper Wednesday - has not changed since 2009.
The V.I.A. Fast Food Panel is a lighthearted series of stories, published once per month. We are not connected to or compensated by the chains we feature, and simply aim to offer honest takes about fast food available in Vancouver, while having a bit of fun.