The Guilty Pleasure: Bacon Portabella Melt on Brioche Where to Get It: Wendy's, locations Valleywide Price: $4.69, give or take What It Really Costs: Welcome to Sodium City. Population: you.
It's a little odd to watch major food outlets synch up with each other. Quick-service restaurants don't do anything on a whim; new products spend months and sometimes years in R&D before being unleashed on the public. And, they're tight-lipped about said planning until there's no turning back.
Every now and then, forces align and a couple of places have almost the exact same idea at the exact same time. The players this time are Carl's Jr. and Wendy's. Both chains are attempting to improve their premium (relatively speaking; this is fast food, after all) menu by offering burgers on better buns.
Astute fast food observers may recognize Wendy's Bacon Portabella Melt as a previous limited-time offering. While it didn't set the world on fire, it was rather well received. This time, Wendy's saw fit to fancy up the burger and put it on a brioche bun.
At least they call it brioche. It looks like brioche, with its yellow tint and glossy egg wash. But it doesn't taste much like brioche. Proper brioche is a very rich bread, laden with eggs and lots of butter. Wendy's brioche does have eggs and butter, but according to the ingredients list, there isn't enough of either to make much of a difference.
That said, the brioche bun is a slight improvement over the regular buns. It's a little more tender, yet resilient enough to hold up for the duration of the burger. That balance is tricky, but it looks as though Wendy's nailed it. And while the eggs and butter are slight, there's just enough in there to improve the flavor. Or maybe that's just the visual psychology of the attractive sheen and golden hue talking. All told, the brioche bun seems like less of a way to get new feet in the door, and more of a way to sway existing customers off the dollar menu.
That leaves us with the burger's innards. For the most part, it's Wendy's standard operating procedure. The burger is dominated by the special ingredient, cheese sauce loaded with sautéed mushrooms. Simply put, if you're wondering if a Bacon Portabella Melt should be in your future . . . I hope you like mushrooms. I'm a mushroom fan, so I found the burger reasonably decent, at least for fast food. It's not even close to a upscale gastropub burger, but it's not supposed to be.