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Weekly Alibi Speed Eater

Pick and Eat Your Own Burgers

By Nick Brown

OCTOBER 13, 1997:  A billion beautiful burgers lie steaming at our fingertips, seething in their slathering juices, beckoning from their bakery fresh buns like glittering jewels. Still, the media can trick us into eating shitty ones that neither slather nor beckon when megachains wage their petty squabbles. Burger King thinks it can rule the world if it makes a Big Mac, while McDonald's thinks it can rule the world if it makes a Whopper. Oh, the tragic irony of it all. If only I had a beak I could fly.

I'm a busy man. I've got a gig at the Balloon Fiesta cackling at children on the park grounds. While I could surely have written a fair and accurate assessment of the aforementioned burger variations without my taste buds' participation, I knew it wouldn't be fair to the kids. I decided to assemble the team. The team said they were busy and denied being part of any team. I hopped in the dune buggy and hit the blacktop, destination Burger King.

The Burger Kingdom I graced featured a hellish eating arena just to the east of the main complex. Imagine the sun blaring down on a rectangular plot of crushed gravel surrounded by a frightening iron fence with a life-sized fiberglass camel. I half expected to see a band of Arab slave traders setting up camp and decided to eat in the BK bathroom like I usually do.

Burger King must assume we can't remember that they tried to make a fake Big Mac less than six months ago, calling it the Double Supreme. The towering Burger Manager seemed a little irritated when I brought it up, especially since I made him discuss it at length in front of the other customers. Let's hope they have more success with the Big King.

My order (one Big King) was ready before I could say: "Jack Robinson, I knew you in high school, do you want to join my team," but it had several qualities that couldn't have been intentional. For example, the bottom bun was crusty as toast while the top bun was more akin to bread pudding. The meat was dry and chewy around the edges and the lettuce was like wet crepe paper. Grampa Big King had probably known some Croissanwiches during the war. Still, the essence of its burgerness was, with some forgiving imagination, as I had expected: 99-cents worth of burger and not a penny more. The Big King, for good or ill, has all the ingredients of a Big Mac, except that it utilizes "King Sauce" rather than "Special Sauce," though both are merely clever euphemisms for Thousand Island Dressing, thus named because most people hate it.

Minutes later, I swaggered into McDonald's for a 99-cent Quarter Pounder with Lettuce and Tomato (hereinafter, the McWhopper). The man in front of me quarreled with the cashier at great length over getting a free slice of cheese on his. Let's save everyone some trouble: You can't. If you thought you could, you're a dumbass. Just to be impartial, I made my cashier discuss the McDLT with me, and I imagine she quit later that afternoon.

When I finally got my McWhopper it had blasted apart inside its box and was all but inedible. I reassembled it, wiping the hot, watery mayonnaise on my pants, and crammed the whole thing in my mouth while making ape noises. It, too, was exactly like I expected, though to be quite honest, I don't remember seeing or tasting any tomato--not that I care. The McWhopper and Big King were both just cheap, bland, thoughtless things that I rammed in my mouth to keep the machine running.

While Burger King burgers tend to focus more on the liquid smoke flavor of the meat, a starchy bun flavor is predominate at McDonald's. Both chains offer perfectly satisfactory food, occasionally at a reasonable price. However, a wise gourmand will keep on driving and get to that weird little place he's never tried before. See you in the Walgreen's liquor line.

--Nick Brown


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