This here is a very special guest article by Joe Donatelli. He’s a good man. He’s a hungry man.
SANTA ANA, Calif. _ Everyone’s talking about the Carl’s Jr. footlong cheeseburger, but few people have actually seen one. There is a reason. The Carl’s Jr. footlong cheeseburger currently is in the “testing” phase, which in the chain restaurant business means “We want to see approximately how many people our new menu item kills at specific locations before we serve it to the rest of the country.”
The 850-calorie mega-sandwich consists of three beef patties, three slices of cheese, ketchup, mustard, pickles and onions on a footlong white sub roll. According to USA Today it contains 20 grams of saturated fat. The burger costs $4.00 alone, $6.50 as a combo meal. There is a deluxe footlong cheeseburger option that has tomato and lettuce. It costs $4.50 ($7.00 combo). In addition to the Carl’s Jr. locations in Southern California, the footlong burger is available at some Hardee’s restaurants in Indiana. In the greater Los Angeles area, the Carl’s Jr. footlong cheeseburger is available at the Santa Ana location on South Harbor.
I ate one. I was in Orange County this weekend visiting Disneyland. My girlfriend agreed to make a stop at the Santa Ana Carl’s Jr. with me. She graciously agreed to shoot the photos for this post. She has photographed food professionally, but never while it was being shoveled into the face of a stocky bald man in the throes of P90X guilt.
Why did I eat a Carl’s Jr. footlong cheeseburger? I don’t know. Why do men climb mountains? Why do women spend four hours in a Target and leave completely satisfied after only buying a $3.99 pair of flip-flops? Why does the Labrador Retriever know where every tennis ball in the house is? I don’t know the answers to these questions. I do know that my friends and I are obsessed with fast food stunts and sometimes this obsession leads us to eat things like Angry Whoppers and KFC Double Downs. I do it because it’s fun. And because I care about you. I eat these supersized foods so you never have to. To answer the question, I am saving lives, yours specifically.
At the Santa Ana Carl’s Jr. I went with the basic regular footlong cheeseburger instead of the healthier-looking deluxe. I wanted the raw, unfiltered footlong cheeseburger experience. I ordered the combo meal with waffle fries and, to drink, a Diet Coke, so that I could live just long enough to write this post before passing away in my sleep. Below is a photo of the burger as it arrived at my table. Note the two pink stickers. One pink sticker cannot contain the wrapper that houses the awesome power of the Carl’s Jr. footlong cheeseburger. Somewhere in the sandwich-production process a second, backup pink sticker was deemed necessary.
The other thing I noticed right away was how incredibly greasy the wrapper was. It was almost translucent, which reminded me of Dr. Nick Riviera’s advice to Homer Simpson when Homer was trying to gain weight. Dr. Nick: “Be creative. Instead of making sandwiches with bread, use Pop-Tarts. Instead of chewing gum, chew bacon. And remember, if you’re not sure about something, rub it against a piece of paper. If the paper turns clear, it’s your window to weight gain.”
Here you will find the Carl’s Jr. footlong cheeseburger in all of its glory. This is kind of an artsy photograph. What you can’t see are the tiny flecks of beef on the outside of the bun. I counted three. Much like the two pink stickers that just barely keep the wrapping paper from busting wide open and killing us all, no bun can contain the three-beef-patty might of the Carl’s Jr. footlong cheeseburger. The meat fights its way to the outside.
Let’s take a look under the hood. It is exactly as you would expect. It looks like a Ronald McDonald Shroud of Turin.
So, in spite of the well-meaning protests from friends and loved ones on my Facebook page, I ate it. I was hungry. I almost never eat fast food burgers, but I looked forward to this, probably more so because there were people who didn’t want me to do it, and that made me want to do it even more. I believe this is the same reason Bruce Willis has a music career.
Sadly, it was too much burger for this guy. Look. I can’t even hold the thing properly. The KFC Double Down I put away with no problem. This sandwich? I ate half of a half. Then the girlfriend took some of the bun and some of the meat and made a mini cheeseburger. Then I took all of the patties and put them on the other half of the half. I ate about half of that. We basically made three burgers out of this one burger and still had enough food left to build another burger. This is me making my “What are we going to do with all this bun?” face. (Answer: Donate it to a homeless shelter.)
How did it taste? If you like Carl’s Jr. cheeseburgers, it was great – like eating three of them at once. If you don’t like Carl’s Jr. cheeseburgers, it was like eating three of something you don’t like all at once. In other words, like voting.
In a way that has nothing to do with good taste or healthy living or corporate sanity, I love the Carl’s Jr. footlong cheeseburger. I love that it exists. I love that Carl’s Jr. is trying something new, and that it is big. I love that when we called the restaurant to see if it was still serving the footlong burger, the guy who answered the phone excitedly told her, “It’s good.” I love that eating this burger might be the best part of some hardworking guy’s day. I love that it was fun to eat. I love that as I walked out of the restaurant an older Latino gentleman who had watched me eat smiled at me and nodded, as if to say, “You did it. You really did it.”
Yes, I did. And if the good people of Southern California and select locations throughout Indiana man up and buy one like I did, you might get a chance to as well.
You can read more of Joe Donatelli’s writing at www.joedonatelli.com.