The Guilty Pleasure: Fresh-Baked Buns on Six Dollar Thickburgers Where To Get It: Carl's Jr. locations Valleywide Price: Five or six bucks What It Really Costs: These burgers hover around a thousand calories each. Good grief.
Over the past year or two, the brass at Carl's Jr. has made some big strides to ramp up the perceived quality of the food. They hand-scoop the ice cream for shakes. The chicken tenders are hand-breaded instead of coming in a freezer bag. They even make biscuits for their breakfast sandwiches (in my opinion, the best breakfast offering in the industry) from scratch in the store.
After all that, they have turned their attention to upgrading the fast food main event: burgers. At first, I found it odd that they would wait so long to give the star of the show some attention. However, they upgraded their burgers years ago with the introduction of the Six Dollar Burger (now the somewhat unwieldy-named Six Dollar Thickburger for cross-promotional purposes with Midwest sister chain Hardee's), an attempt to do a full-service restaurant-style burger available at a drive-thru.
When the Six Dollar Thickburger was introduced, its name was a cheeky reference to the upscale nature of the burger, with its price point hovering around a mere $3.99. Thanks to inflation, several of the Six Dollar Thickburgers are about to cost more than $6, so Carl's new challenge is to make a fast food burger that's actually worth six bucks.
So, the Six Dollar Thickburger has received a facelift with buns that are baked fresh in the store. This certainly gives an appearance of an upgrade, especially considering the bog-standard sesame seed bun on the former version of the Six Dollar Thickburger. However, the promise of fresh-baked bread only goes so far. Just look at Subway; the bread there is spongy, cottony, flavorless, and it's baked in-store.
How did Carl's Jr. do with the bread? They did pretty damned good. The bread makes its presence known with a hint of sweetness, and strikes a good balance between chew and tenderness. More importantly, the bun is a just-right size for a good balance between bun, burger, and toppings. I wouldn't mind if they ditched the sesame-seed bun in favor of the fresh-baked ones on the regular burgers when I get a craving for their oft-imitated Western Bacon Cheeseburger.
The nicer bun does reveal a weak link. The burger itself is the same dreary patty as before. It's a little on the rubbery side, and a distinctly dry well-done. Maybe if I ask them nicely I could get a slightly less cooked (and therefore more juicy) burger.
Or I could just hit one of the countless hoity-toity burger joints that have popped up in my neighborhood for a happy hour burger that ends up costing less than the ones from Carl's Jr.