Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Believe It Or Not -- Carl's Jr.

Carl's Jr.
Bazillions of locations

Odd -- perhaps even shocking -- that my re-entry to the blogosphere after a long hiatus  should be about a formerly right-wing Christian apartheid-supporting fast-food joint with one of the more obnoxious ad campaigns in television history.  If this seems out of character, you're partially right.  I find all that stuff abhorrent.  But hey, the supremely evil, gay-hatin', John Birch-lovin' founder Carl Karcher was ousted as CEO years ago, and he died in January, and when it comes down to it, it's all about the food.  And for my taste, Carl's simply makes the best fast food burger out there, always has.

I've always had a soft spot for Carl's. It was my first job, during my junior year in high school. I washed trays, I took out garbage, I made fries, finally I got promoted to the burger line, where I learned intimately about the design and construction of the Carl's hamburger.  They are flame-broiled, and that's how I like 'em.  The buns on the Famous Star and Super Star are sesame-seed, and that's how I like 'em.  The lettuce is leafed, not shredded, and that's how I like 'em.  Don't get me wrong, In-N-Out's fine, but their plain bun, griddled patties, and prosletyzing soft-drink cups just aren't my type.  Plus their limp fries truly suck. 

In addition the burgers, Carl's has also had some kick-ass alternative sandwiches.  I still lament the loss of the California Roast Beef Sandwich, with its swiss cheese and ortega chile.   I celebrated my last day of work at Carl's by eating three of 'em on my employee discount.  Fortunately there is still the Santa Fe Chicken Sandwich, which is just plain delicious, with that spicy special sauce and the selfsame ortegas.

But what got me wanting to write up Carl's here is their new Chili Cheeseburger.  Yeah, the one with the totally gross commercial of the guy with chili all over his face.  For some reason I expected that the burger would be built on Carl's oxymoronically smaller "Big Burger" (formerly the Happy Star), so the first time I ordered one I got a double: a freakish amount of food!  The burger's built on a Famous Star base, with a big beefsteak tomato slice, sliced (not chopped, another big burger preference of mine) onion, pickle, and mustard.   And the double is based on a SuperStar with chili.  If you know the SuperStar, you know that's two meals' worth of burger even before adding chili, which brings it up to a whopping 1050 calories and 61 (count 'em!) grams of fat.   But face it, you're not getting a chili cheeseburger for the health benefits. 

What makes a chiliburger is the chili itself, and the Carl's version is unexpectedly excellent.  It's finely-ground beef in a tangy and surprisingly kicky sauce; entirely comparable to the chili at the Original Tommy's.  And given that the burger at Tommy's is griddle-cooked on a plain bun... well, I know it's just a matter of taste, but I am willing to utter the ultimate heresy: I think the Carl's Chili Cheeseburger is BETTER than Tommy's.

Let the flaming (or in this case, the flame-broiling) begin.

One last note: I won't bother explaining the no-posts-for-months thing. Suffice to say I've been busy. I hope you'll take a trip over to for the latest news and some very nice early reviews of my first novel, coming to a bookstore near you July 8, and available now for pre-order online from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Oh, and one more last note: I'm thrilled to report that my favorite political blogger is back raging against the machine from a new site.  Check out