DRIVE-BY TASTING: Carl’s Jr.

Posted on 16 Feb 2012 at 5:00pm

diningI’m not ashamed to admit to being a virgin. Truth is, I was saving myself.
Oh, not for marriage. Sex? God, no — that boat left the dock, like, 30-plus years ago.

No, I mean that I hadn’t eaten at a Carl’s Jr. Not until this week.
Strange, maybe — the one on Lemmon Avenue has been there since early last year, and the chain first made entrée into the Metroplex market in late 2010.

And I didn’t let the paint on In-N-Out Burger dry before standing in line for their “animal” burger. I’m not sure why I waited. I just knew I wanted it to be at the right time.

And the right time was after running on a treadmill do get a stress test. Hungrifiying, that.

I stuck to one item on the menu: the steakhouse burger with a single patty (though the doubles and triples weren’t that much more expensive). I was curious how a fast-food joint would tackle something of a specialty burger.

As is usually the case, the one handed to me through the drive-up window did not look as mouthwatering as the picture menu, where the meat glistened with moistness and fat, the onion strings sat atop the burger like a coronet encircling the head of a new monarch, the blue cheese sprinkled like rose petals before a marriage bed.

No, my version was flat, the onions mashed down, the cheese lopsided favoring one side of the bun.

But that didn’t really matter: It still tasted good.

I’m a peculiar onion eater: I hate raw onions on burgers, and cooked ones in spaghetti sauce or pizzas. But caramelize them in soup, or deep-fry them in string form, and I love ’em. That’s what Carl’s Jr. does, and it’s an improvement worth respecting.

Even pressed like a corsage in a yearbook, the onions still retained some crunch, and the blue cheese — while hardly the veiny, aromatic treat of an aged Maytag — melded well with the meat (overcooked, as all fast-food burgers are, but still satisfying) and the surprisingly crisp, fresh lettuce. The tomato, as we have come to expect, was mealy and pale, but it hardly mattered. At under four bucks, it sated my grumbling belly as only bad-for-you burgers can.

Yes, I’m no longer a virgin at Carl’s Jr. But I was glad I waited. When you need a meal to hit the spot, you don’t wanna miss.
Recommended: Yes

Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

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