Steppin’ Out – “Beyond Belief” Burger and “They’re Back”

Well, first of all “Happy New Year.” It’s 2019 and from what I learned in school, so many years ago, among other things by now we should all be flying around in our own personal helicopter instead of driving cars.

For some reason this is one of the times of year that fast food restaurants add new menu items or bring back old ones to re-test the market. Maybe it is because the kids are out of school, or maybe not. I have never tried to figure out this industry.

First on my list this year is an attempt by Carl’s Jr. to open up a new pathway to the vegetarian market with a burger called the “Beyond Famous Star.”

No, this is not the burger that the actress is messily eating in the latest commercials, that is their iconic Famous Star which I believe is one of the better fast food burgers around. This new burger is made with a patty that contains no meat and is rated vegan. However, it can’t be called vegan in this case because it is cooked and assembled in a restaurant that serves meat.

The Beyond Famous Star is a plant-based version of the Famous Star. It’s quarter-pound Beyond Burger patty is cooked top-to-bottom on an open flame in Carl’s Jr.’s unique char broiler, giving it that familiar burger flavor. It has the same build as the regular Famous Star and comes topped with melted American cheese, lettuce, tomato, sliced onions, dill pickles, special sauce and mayonnaise on a seeded bun. If you want a fully plant-based option, simply ask for it without cheese and mayo.

The patty contains 20 grams of protein primarily from peas, but also from mung bean and rice. That is about the same as their regular patty. And, it is soy, gluten and GMO free.

So, last week I tried one, expecting to experience the taste I usually find in “veggie burgers” and was quite surprised…no, shocked and very impressed. It didn’t taste like beans or grains, it looked and tasted like meat. It even had a slightly pink color which is derived from beets. The texture was way better than many fast food meat patties and more like the hamburger you might cook at home: moister and softer than the sometimes rubbery patties that are often a result of beef being overcooked.

I was so impressed by this burger that I had to make sure that I hadn’t been given the wrong order.

Carl’s Jr. will replace the meat or chicken patty on any of their sandwiches with this new patty for an additional price. That is one of the drawbacks. It costs more, about $2 more per patty.

The other drawback is that it has about the same amount of fat and calories as the regular burger, not from beef fat but vegetable oil. Remember, fat is flavor and without it food would be pretty bland.

Beyond Meat Co., the producer of this product, has it in patties, crumbles or “chicken” strips for sale at local markets for use at home. They also make sausages, but I have not seen them yet.

In other news:

For a limited time, pastrami is back at Wienerschnitzel. You can get it as a sandwich on rye with cheese, pickles and mustard (sauerkraut extra), as a Pastrami Dog (all beef dog) or on Pastrami Chile Cheese Fries. I like their pastrami because, unlike most of the overly processed lean pastrami now common at delis, it has enough fat to give it a real pastrami flavor.

Jack in the Box has temporarily brought back their Pannidos, those long, thin sandwiches on a toasted Ciabatta baguette that are now available in Turkey, Bacon and Cheddar or a Deli Trio with Smoked Turkey, Ham and Salami.
I tried them in 2004, when they were first released, and really liked them. I looked back in my notes and they were “delicious, crunchy and different.”

Taco Bell, the restaurant with the most rapidly changing menu around, now has $1 Grande Burritos in two varieties: Chicken Enchilada and Three Cheese Nacho. They are available by separately or in a $5 Grande Burrito Box with Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Taco, a Crunchy Taco, Cinnamon Twists and a medium drink. They also have a new $5 Chalupa Cravings Box that contains a Chalupa Supreme, Beefy 5-layer Burrito, Crunchy Taco, Cinnamon Twists and a medium drink.

I tried both of the new Grande Burritos and they were good, although nachos in a burrito is a bit “different,” but does add some texture.

By the way, in introducing their new “Beyond Burger,” the good folks at Carl’s Jr. coined a new word: “flexitarians,” people who are looking for options in what they eat. Now, wouldn’t that also describe people who go to a gym or yoga class to increase their flexibility? Maybe I can put these two together and stop for a burger on the way to the gym. Or, on second thought, maybe not.

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