More adventures in American cuisine. This week, a “secret” menu item from the fast food world.
Whether you like it or not, America is synonymous with fast food. In fact, moving here makes you realise just how much fast food is available. There are so many chains that aren’t overseas, and even more that are confined to a few states. What’s more, each of these chains offers a different and often unique take on the same food, be it burgers or tacos or sandwiches.
But apparently the regular menu items are not enough, and so people have taken to exploring the “secret” menu - items that aren’t advertised but can be made to order. They’ve often developed out of fun by staff working quiet shifts, or from customers pushing the boundaries of what they can get away with in an order. One of my own favourites is the McDonald’s “Shylock” burger (a quadruple Quarter Pounder, i.e. “a pound of flesh”) and the Dirty Shylock (just like a Shylock, but with bacon).
And so it was that yesterday I thought I’d have a small adventure and try out a secret item at the Whataburger chain of restaurants. Whataburger is probably the most unpretentious, old-school fast food chain I have ever visited. It’s very much a Texan institution, with simple, clean stores and country music on the stereo. Their logo hasn’t changed much since the ‘60s, along with their bright orange colour scheme. And the service sets them apart even further; though you order at the counter, they cook the burger fresh and bring it out to your table with a selection of sauces for your fries (on a side note, the spicy ketchup is so popular they sell it in supermarkets).
Procrastinating on the internet the other week instead of studying, I became aware of a secret burger you could get there called the Whatafarm, and knew I had to try it. It’s a burger with a beef patty, a chicken breast, bacon, egg, cheese and all the trimmings. In other words, the whole farm. What a burger indeed.
So early yesterday morning I went to my local Whataburger (you need to go at breakfast in order to get it with egg) and sauntered up to the counter, armed with a diagram of the burger. Clearly I was the first person to order it at the store, because the reaction was one of bemusement, and the store manager stifled a laugh as I showed her the diagram. But to her credit, she immediately said that they could make it, and punched in a combination on the keypad. It turns out that the best way to order it (should you want to try one yourself) is to describe it as a Whataburger with extra bacon, a chicken patty and an egg.
$7.70 and a few minutes later, she brought out my burger with a smile that said “this guy is crazy”. And you know what? It isn’t actually that crazy. In fact it was quite tasty (like pretty much anything I’ve had from Whataburger). Granted, it was quite a handful to keep together, but carefully managed, it worked. All the flavours balanced out evenly, and it wasn't greasy or overwhleming.
Despite what I had expected, it wasn’t the monstrosity people had made it out to be. There’s no denying it was a big burger, but I’ve had bigger (my Dad’s homemade burgers that are loaded with nearly every topping imaginable come to mind). And I’ve had more heart attack inducing foods (including KFC’s infamous Double Down burger). But, that said, the Whatafarm is not for the faint of heart.
All in all, it was a fun adventure, with a very tasty outcome. Next time I might even add an extra beef patty or two.
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