Guilty Pleasures

Does Jack in the Box's New Waffle Breakfast Sandwich Stand a Chance Against the McGriddle?

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, McDonald's must be feeling pretty proud. Is the latest breakfast sandwich on the block a true guilty pleasure, or is it none of the pleasure and all of the guilt?

The Guilty Pleasure: Waffle Breakfast Sandwich Where to Get It:Jack in the Box, scores of locations Valley-wide Price:$2.79 on its own, $4.19 with hash browns and coffee What it Really Costs: 479 calories, almost two-thirds of the calories from fat.

What Is It? It's pretty easy for me to argue that if you have to get something from McDonald's, your best bet is breakfast. The Egg McMuffin kicked off fast-food breakfast, for crying out loud. In 2003, McDonald's introduced McGriddles, with eggs, bacon (or sausage), and cheese put between two syrup-infused pancakes. Thanks to the sweet-and-salty combination, it's a love it or hate it proposition. Recently, Jack in the Box has returned fire with an almost identical offering, with a pair of diminutive waffles in place of the pancakes.

How Is It? When I tried the Waffle Breakfast Sandwich, I realized that McGriddles must have been in R&D for an awful long time. Somehow, McGriddles work, with the sweetness of the pancakes balanced just right with the savory ingredients within. The Waffle Breakfast Sandwich doesn't show the same balance. The default sausage dominates the lighter sweetness of the waffles. A further fault is the waffle itself. A sad fact of waffles is they're best right off the waffle iron while they're light and crisp. Jack in the Box's waffles are soft and a bit heavy, more like a waffle-shaped pancake (and if you open up the sandwich, you'll see it looks like a pancake on the inside). The one advantage Jack in the Box has is time. If you hit McDonald's after 10:30 AM for breakfast, you're out of luck; Jack offers the full menu 24/7. I imagine they don't have much demand for breakfast sandwiches during the dinner hour, but it's nice to know the option is there.

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