Whataburger vs McDonald's: Fast Food Fisticuffs

When people say 'it tastes like cardboard,' what do they really mean? Well, after taking a bite from a box left over from my last Costco excursions--a corrugated job with a slick, four-color facing--I can report with some authority it has more character than the batch of McDonald's fries I ordered for this food fight.

Yeah, the texture is rather unpleasant. But there's a bitter, resinous burn under the tiresome swale of paper--a complexity sadly lacking in the fries.

I remember the days when McDonald's set the standard for French fries. Until sometime in the 70s some locations still hand cut the potatoes and--until around 1990, if I remember correctly--cooked them in about 95 percent beef tallow. The rapid expansion (i.e. success) of the chain and lobbying by citizens more concerned with health than flavor doomed the Golden Arches

At least as far as this competition is concerned.

Not that Whataburger's fries are that much better, mind you. Their burgers, however, show a more natural, meaty flavor and short order grill veneer--which, of course, means a thin coating of grease on the outside.

So be it: the patty holds up despite bland orange cheese and other fast food add-ons. It's a decent example of the all-American roadside diner burger. And they prepare to order, giving it that 'hot off the grill' character.

McDonald's quarter pound burger, on the other hand, dies under the offbeat flavor of their orange cheese--a far too mild sliver of beef incapable of fighting through the accoutrements. Maybe they should approach some New Jersey lab for a chemical boost...

Granted, this was a one-on-one battle. Other McDonald's locations may do more than tepid quarter pounders and flavorless fries. Even when it came to attitude, however, the upbeat Whataburger staff at this particular store ("you want cheese? Yeah? Good, 'cause I already put it on by accident. But I'd be happy to make you another") wins out.

In this case, Whataburger kicks ass.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Dave Faries
Contact: Dave Faries