The new Dave's Hot 'N Juicy is compact, and looks unremarkable from the outside.
When Wendy's, in response to falling market share, set out to revamp their burger program, they went about it scientifically, according to a recent USA Today story. If the press accounts can be believed, the Dublin, Ohio-based company spent 2½ years examining and testing every phase of the burger, from sourcing raw materials, to burger architecture, to cooking methods at individual locations.
Apparently, some franchise owners have rebelled, and a lawsuit is in progress concerning the safety and cost of the new toasters required to produce the buttered bun. The company examined the pickles, and the way by which they are cut; the thickness of the tomato slice; the constellation of dressings; and even the temperature at which the cheese is kept, supposedly petitioning the federal government to allow them to keep their "cheese" (technically, "cheese food product") at a slightly elevated temperature to encourage thorough melting. A higher-fat meat was selected, and the characteristic square shape altered to make it more raggedy. Fry cooks were instructed to press the patty down twice rather than the usual eight times, to keep most of the grease in the burger.
Finally, the Dave's Hot 'N Juicy Cheeseburgers, the new flagship of the fleet, were rolled out yesterday at a majority of Wendy's locations. What's the burger like, and was all the fuss worth it? Read on.
Push the top of the bun back, and the new structure becomes readily apparent.
The ¼-pound burger looks small as it's unwrapped from the printed foil. The bun is nothing special, wholesome, but still overwhelmingly white-bready. No difference in patty shape or appearance could be detected, but when a piece of the protruding meat was nipped off, it appeared slightly pink and a little greasy. Despite these hopeful signs, the flavor of the meat was still dull and gray.
As you deconstruct the burger, a completely new style becomes apparent. With its cheese melt on top and bottom (looking more like Cheez Whiz than American), generous quantity of mayo, dabs of ketchup, and grease leached from the patty with that which is applied to the bun, the thing is gloppy and juicy as all get-out.
Though one of the stated reasons for reconfiguring the burger was to make the flavor of the meat shine, little beef taste is apparent as you first bite into the Hot 'N Juicy. You'd probably have to buy one of the multiple-patty versions to be able to really taste the beef. The patty itself seems devoid of salt. The welter of other flavors -- including purple onion and three pickle chips -- is interesting, though, and the non-meat juiciness makes you want to pick the thing up again and again. The predominant flavor note is not grease and salt, it's sweetness and Cheez Whiz.
Strangely, the pickle chips stand front and center, and they're not quite dill pickles, or sweet pickles, either. The flavor has been formulated to be both sweet and sour at once, with sweet in the forefront as aided by sweet ketchup and sweet mayo. The thing is almost a dessert burger. Not quite sure what to make of it.
I'd rather have a Whopper, but would prefer a Dave's Hot 'N Juicy to a California Whopper.