The Guilty Pleasure: The All-Natural Burger. Where to Get it: Carl's Jr., several locations around town. Price: Starting at $5.99, more for a double burger or a combo, natch. What it Really Costs: Hope you're hungry at 730 calories for a single burger. And am I getting old, or is six bucks a lot for a drive-thru burger even of this caliber?
Phoenix sure loves burgers. Over around Biltmore and Arcadia, there are seemingly dozens of places you can go that specialize in chichi hamburgers.
Anymore, if someone tells me that their burgers are made with grass-fed, hormone-free beef, and natural cheddar cheese, all on a bun baked fresh in-house daily, I'm not going to bat an eyelash. Around these parts, that's a bush-league burger.
However, when a regional chain puts out a burger like that, it gets me to sit up and take notice.
Carl's Jr. is all too proud to point out that their new All-Natural Burger uses a grass-fed, free-range beef patty made without the use of hormones, antibiotics, or steroids. According to them, they are the first major fast food chain to use a burger like that.
Of course, all of that doesn't matter for squat if the burger itself isn't any good. Turns out, the burger is terrific. There's nothing fancy about it, unless you consider a slice of real melted Cheddar cheese in lieu of processed American fancy. Toppings are simple iceberg lettuce, tomato, and red onion. What? a grass-fed burger with natural cheddar and a fresh-baked bun and they put on it plebeian iceberg lettuce? Good! More power to 'em! I know a lot of people out there scoff at iceberg lettuce, but darn it, it's great on a burger! It provides a cool, crisp crunch, while pretty much any other lettuce out there just wilts and doesn't bring anything to the party.
In the usual Carl's Jr. style, the burger is a little on the messy side with mayo, mustard, and ketchup. I'm not usually a fan of ketchup on my burger, but here it worked well, helping bridge the salt of the beef and cheese with the lightly sweet fresh-baked bun.
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I'd go for one of these over the more expensive offerings at Five Guys any day. Hell, I'd go for one of these over a couple of the various upscale local burger joints that tend to over-promise and under-deliver.
The combination of a premium burger with the convenience of drive-thru does come at a price. The All-Natural Burger is one of the more expensive across any fast-food place, starting at six bucks for the burger on its own. A double burger with one of their upgraded sides (I'm a sucker for fried zucchini, what can I say?) comes in around twelve dollars, a princely sum considering the source.
But you know what? I'll probably get one of these burgers on a semi-regular basis, if only to encourage other quick-service burger titans to up their burger quality too. Can you imagine if McDonald's could pull this off?