For the nation's fast-food chains, new menu items mean new customers willing to give up a few greenbacks to try something different — at least once. And with the economy still as shaky as Uncle Larry's hands before a few glasses of spiked eggnog, every patron matters — especially in the fourth quarter.
This week, Fry Girl's noshin' on the new stuff to find out whether it's worth a dent in our holiday fund. Let's ho-ho go:
The Whataburger 5-3-1: Available for a limited time and featuring one of the worst names for a new menu item, the Whataburger 5-3-1 is a numerical nightmare. Named for its unique toppings (five pickles, three onion rings, and one creamy pepper sauce) housed with two beef patties and two slices of cheese between two slices of Texas Toast, the 5-3-1 is so salty, you'd swear it gazed back on the city of Sodom. (Yup, its sodium content is listed as a whopping 2,462 milligrams.) Add a $5 price tag — make that $7 with bacon and jalapeños — to this salty beast and the 5-3-1 equals a big zero.
Checker's Quarter Pound Big Chicken Sandwich: I'll give Checker's props for going big on chicken before anyone else, but that's where the compliments end. Featuring barely toasted sourdough bread, wilted lettuce, a truckload of mayo, and a chunk of chicken that came straight from the prison chow line, this sandwich may be sizable, but the effort's barely there. Take a pass.
Wendy's Natural-Cut Fries: Good things come to those who wait, even if it's for 41 years. That's the time it took the redhead to redesign her classic fries. Sliced from whole Russet potatoes, cooked skin-on, and dusted with natural sea salt, Wendy's Natural-Cut Fries have more potato flavor and better texture than the classic model. Though I wish they were crispier, I ain't knockin' progress.
Sonic's Holiday Spiced Sugar Cookie Blast: Like Christmas in your mouth, this seasonal treat from "America's Drive-In" is what the holiday should taste like. Made with spiced, caramel-flavored ice cream, pieces of sugar cookies, and whipped topping, the trick is to let it melt, just a little, allowing the cookie bits to soak up the ice cream, making the last few spoonfuls a sweet, slurpy ending to Sonic's delicious, limited-time dessert.
Whether the fast-food giants' new menu offerings make the holiday brighter or, like that cocoa mix re-gifted to you in 2007, not worth considering, now at least you know the score.