It was only a matter of time before some fast food industry titan hopped on the brunch bandwagon. And now Jack in the Box, the same company that brought us a round-headed mascot and combo meals that treat tacos like side orders, has developed Brunchfast, the all-day, drive-through friendly take on brunch.
Brunchfast is a hybrid menu, one that has adapted brunch to thrive in the harsh, uncaring conditions where orders are placed through crackling speaker boxes and meals are known by number more than by name. This world seems at odds with the entire schema of brunch, the meal we have come to view as an indulgent reprieve from our ordinary lives: a time to sit down, drink up and consume in a fashion that filters middle class life through an aristocratic lens.
But this is not that. Brunchfast is neither a reprieve nor an indulgence. Instead, it follows the same rhythm as the rest of our week: It is convenient, fiscally reasonable and fits within the confines of our busy unpredictable schedules. It is, in many ways, the anti-brunch, stripping away the gild from the lily and covering it instead with the greasy, workhorse film of industry.
Not that greasy workhorses are a bad thing. Here's how the Brunchfast offerings measured up:
Brunch Burger ($4.29)
Compared with the brunch burger in the Brunchfast ads, the burger we were served looked like the dumpy, steamrolled "before" from the before-and-after for a self-improvement regimen aimed at sentient sandwiches. Along this line, our burger's testimonial would read: "Six months ago I was flattened down by the weight of my own trans fats, but thanks to Be a Better Sando I now have five distinct layers and a flavor profile, too!" The patty proved to be a thin saucer devoid of beefy flavor, a patty whose main purpose was to provide textural variance for an otherwise mystifying soft burger. The accompanying American cheese, fried egg and flat, greasy shell of croissant seemed to have formed a coalition whose mission was to coat the tongue with fat and thereby degrade the human sense of taste. Mission accomplished.
Southwest Scrambler Plate ($4.89)
The Southwest scrambler plate is the most straightforward of the Brunchfast entrees. Boxed eggs and a few peppers are scrambled and served with homestyle potatoes and your choice of either bacon or sausage. The eggs were covered by a copious amount of anonymous, melted white cheese that managed to blur the boxed egg taste while somehow failing to do its cheesy duty of imparting flavor. Overall, it was a little bland but perfectly edible. The homestyle potatoes were given the decidedly non-homestyle deep fat fryer treatment, but were starchy and crispy and somehow kept making their way onto our fork. The bacon was anemic-looking and bland but still mustered the strength to provide some crunch.
Rating: C +
Bacon & Egg Chicken Sandwich ($4.89)
The bacon, egg and chicken sandwich stole the Brunchfast show. It was not only the best option in comparison with its sister entrees, it was actually damn tasty in its own right. Here, an English muffin cradled what was essentially a humongous chicken nugget, recalling in its bloated form the unmistakable taste of childhood. The muffin was unsettling in that it seemed far sturdier than your average muffin and yet light, too. Tip of the hat to you, food scientists. And to you, Jack in the Box, for engineering something so good and yet so unabashedly bad, from the salty crunch of the chicken to the egg and cheese, which draped the lot in a shade of yellow not found in nature. And yet somehow, for all its synthetic qualities, the reaction to this sandwich comes quite naturally: Inhale it.
Sides include springy little silver dollar pancakes ($1) which were innocuous enough — a fine, quick breakfast for the tiny, jam-handed half-person in your life. An order of the orange cranberry mini muffins ($1.59), which come three to a pack, tasted indistinguishable from virtually all other mass-manufactured muffins, with a texture that's closer to cupcakes than to muffins and an artificial orange twang. The third side was the passable homestyle potatoes ($2.49). Drink options include a chalky and less than buzz-worthy iced coffee and a Kool-Aid like concoction called blood orange fruit cooler.
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Time will tell if this is a passing trend or if Brunchfast actually fills some previously vacant niche. Our best guess is that there are enough bleary-eyed men and women making their way from the Concrete Cowboys of the world into Jack in the Boxes at godless hours of the morning to make Brunchfast a destination meal for the inebriated. But once those bleary eyes become clear again, Brunchfast would be a poor concession indeed for those in search of a good plate of eggs.
Jack in the Box has multiple locations around DFW.