Every now and then, despite the fact that you know what they’re made out of, and against all better judgment, you just crave a hot dog. The sensation of biting into the squishy bun, through the casing, and finally getting that burst of salty mystery-meatiness brings back memories of baseball games, the State Fair, and backyard barbecues.
In an effort to expand its market share, and to save you from having to pop an Oscar Meyer wiener in the microwave at home, Burger King debuted hot dogs on its menu on Tuesday. You can choose from two options, a “classic grilled hot dog,” and a “chili cheese grilled hot dog,” or of course, have it your way, mixing and matching the condiments used on the chain’s burgers.
The marketing people at Burger King are apparently very proud of the fact that the hot dogs are “grilled,” as that’s part of the official name on the company’s website and on the menu when you order. Unfortunately, you couldn’t prove the grilled claim based on taste. Although they do sport char marks like those you would expect if you cooked your hot dogs on a Weber on the patio, it’s really just a mind game – there is absolutely no flame flavor. For all the smokiness they bring to the party, the marks might as well be painted on.
The hot dogs are served in those boat-shape paper rafts, then tucked inside a paper sleeve. The first impression upon removing the sleeve is, “hmm, this doesn’t look anything like the menu picture.” The chili and cheese dog – I mean chili and cheese grilled dog – sported a fair amount of chili, but hardly any cheese. The classic, which gets ketchup, mustard, onions, and relish, looked a bit of a hot mess. And, as any self-respecting Chicagoan knows, you never, ever, put ketchup on a hot dog.
Looks aside, the hot dogs tasted like . . . hot dogs. Not outstanding, not inedible. The bun is the hot dog-shaped incarnation of the fast food hamburger bun, overly processed and soft (the folks at Burger King prefer "pillowy"). It swallows up the scrawny hot dog in its embrace, so there’s a distinct imbalance in the bread/hot dog equation. The chili is bland, and oddly a bit sweet, and you can’t really tell there’s cheese on the chili cheese version. The sugary theme plays out on the classic dog as well, with the relish coming across as more sweetened than pickled. The tang of the mustard isn’t enough to fend off the saccharine double whammy of the relish and ketchup combined. While you get an immediate hit of sweetness, the lasting taste is of a sodium hangover.
But, like we said, sometimes you just want a hot dog, and if you get your fix at Burger King, you know going in that what you’re getting is fast food version of an iconic American favorite.