Over the last couple of years, fast food restaurants have engaged in a sort of gastronomical arms race to see which company can get Americans to eat the grossest, stupidest or most calorie-laden food items. KFC introduced the Double Down, a “sandwich” that consists of bacon, cheese and “the Colonel’s secret sauce” smashed between two pieces of breaded chicken. Taco Bell started serving tacos in shells made out of chips covered in neon-colored flavor dust. And Carl’s Jr. currently serves an almost comical monstrosity of an ice cream sandwich — take a strawberry Pop-Tart, snap it in half, then slather a glob of ice cream in the middle — that sounds like it was invented by a drunk eighth-grader.
Burger King has committed its fair share of culinary atrocities while participating in this trend, offering items such as the Bacon Sundae (an ice cream sundae with, you guessed it, a strip of bacon jammed in the top) and the French Fry Burger, one of their normal cheeseburgers topped with four fries, which creates a nice visual reminder of what it would look like if a pack of scraggly, yellow worms decided to curl up and die on top of your flame-broiled beef patty. The chain that proudly serves the Whopper, in all its 630-calorie and 35-grams-of-fat glory, has time and time again shown a willingness to fully embrace the stomach-busting, nausea-inducing nature of today’s fast food wars. And that’s why the launch of Burger King’s latest menu item — a fast food staple that takes a small step back towards sanity — is such a pleasant surprise.
Earlier this week, Burger King unveiled Satisfries: crinkle-cut fries that are billed as a healthier alternative to traditional fries, claiming to contain 40 percent less fat and 30 percent fewer calories than McDonald’s fries. But just because they have “less” bad stuff than normal fries doesn’t make them “healthy.” According to Burger King’s website, a medium order of Satisfries clocks in at 340 calories and 14 grams of fat. Not exactly diet-friendly, but if you’re eating fries at Burger King, I suppose you probably aren’t overly concerned with your diet anyway.
For the record, I’m not a fan of Burger King. BK has never really done it for me and I honestly can’t remember the last time I ate there. But I am a sucker for trying new products, so I set out to give BK’s latest creation a try. The photo above is what Satisfries look like on Burger King’s website. Here’s what they look like in real life:
Not the most impressive presentation, but again, if you’re eating something handed to you in a paper bag through a drive-thru window, I doubt you’ll give the aesthetics of your meal a second thought. The fries looked like every other crinkle-cut fry you’ve ever eaten, and the texture was classically fry-ish: semi-crisp on the outside with soft, potato-y guts. For some reason, the fact that these fries contained less fat made me think they wouldn’t be as greasy as regular fries. Not true. They were every bit as slippery (and occasionally soggy) as anything served at McD’s, Wendy’s or the like.
As far as taste, I have to admit that the Satisfries were, well, satisfying. The batch I had was overly salty, but otherwise tasted like perfectly serviceable fries. There was nothing outstanding or necessarily off-putting about the product. Satisfries are simply your stereotypical fast food side dish. And, technically, I guess that makes them the best fries on the market. I mean, if all things are equal when it comes to taste, texture and general appearance, and if the claims of reduced fat and calories are, in fact, true, then why wouldn’t you choose the fry that infuses your bloodstream with slightly less garbage than its counterparts?
Overall, I’d say BK might be on to something here. If there proves to be a market for fast food that isn’t quite as terrible for you, maybe more chains will offer marginally healthier versions of their menu staples. Imagine the possibilities! A Whopper with only 28 grams of fat! A 10-piece chicken nugget meal that, afterwards, leaves you regretting your decision to shove unidentifiable meat bits in your fat face for only three hours instead of six hours! But something tells me that’s a bit of a long shot. Most people scarfing down fast food on the reg seem just fine ingesting the biggest, sloppiest items they can fit down their gullets, and I don’t expect that’s likely to change any time soon. Perhaps Burger King should market fries that have 40 percent more fat and 30 percent more calories than McDonald’s fries. Then they might actually have a hit on their hands.
Funkhouser Rating: 3.5 Chomping Coach Cals out of 5.