Our Resident Taste Tester Reviews Wendy’s Next Great Combo
What makes the combination of Dr Pepper and Wendy’s® new Pretzel Bacon Pub Cheeseburger so irresistible? Well, if you’re a deconstructionist foodie, you might argue over the individual ingredients, as our editors did. But if you’re like me, a professional taste tester, it requires a more holistic approach. Sure, much of my taste-testing experience involves self-harm via capsaicin, but while Thrillist was still operating from an office, I did get a reputation for visiting Wendy’s constantly. As a connoisseur of their offerings, I couldn’t wait to do a deep-dive taste test of this burger and drink combo. I broke down my observations based on the five major criteria of fine dining: ingredients, presentation, taste, aroma, and value. Here’s how it ranked:
As I’ve established, I’m a Wendy’s fan. And as a fan, I have to say that they rarely disappoint on the ingredients factor. The Pretzel Bacon Pub Cheeseburger differentiates itself from a normal burger with a pretzel bun, Applewood smoked bacon (duh), Muenster cheese, beer cheese sauce, pickles, and crispy fried onions, topped with smoky honey mustard. Plus, who could forget about Wendy’s famously never-frozen beef patties, doing the Lord’s work as usual.
Meanwhile, we’d be remiss not to include the Dr Pepper. With its alluring blend of 23 flavors, served fountain style, the bubbles seem bigger, the zests seem zestier. I don’t know what they’re putting in there, but it works. All this is to say: so far, so good. I’m intrigued to see how this chorus of ingredients will harmonize, but patience is key when you are, again, a professional taste tester.
Like dating apps, specialty burgers often suffer from the “this doesn’t look like the picture” problem. But when I unwrapped my Pretzel Bacon Pub Cheeseburger, I was pleasantly surprised. I attributed this to the hefty pretzel bun, which held up better to my clumsy maneuvering. The full stack of ingredients stayed in place as well, with the cheese looking nicely melted and crispy onions practically cascading out from underneath the top bun in a decadent pile. A single rogue pickle was the rare misstep, jutting out from the side, but those things always have a mind of their own. When combined with Dr Pepper you have a fairly picturesque package -- I always go no lid, no straw (for the environment). It’s an unconventional choice, but it really lets you see, hear, and appreciate the fizz.
Unwrapping the Pretzel Bacon Pub Cheeseburger at my work-from-home desk immediately transported me to a cozy local pub, with the house specialty sliders gently placed in front of me. While I chose not to dissect the burger itself to smell each individual ingredient (I’m a food reviewer, not a serial killer), I was very into the overall aroma. When I tried to smell the Dr Pepper to complete the experience, the fizz got on my nose. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a solid bouquet right there.
Here’s what you really wanted to know: it’s delicious. I have to compliment Wendy’s for putting together such a stacked meal. With so many ingredients to enjoy, each bite has a slightly different flavor. Sometimes you get a bite of crispy onions and a pub burger vibe, other times you taste more of the beer cheese sauce and feel like you’re sipping on a hearty Kölsch. Between bites I sipped my Dr Pepper, to enhance my testing experience. Its sweetness contrasts with the savory burger, while the slight acidity of the carbonation acts as a palate cleanser. 10/10. When I embarked on this review, many people were asking me: Stephen, is it better to sip your drink before or after a big bite? This is a classic chicken-egg scenario, to which I must give the Zen answer: it’s all good, man.
Having visited Wendy’s for lunch roughly once a week for the past five years, I can confidently say that they offer a great value. This time is no different. With a suggested price of $5.69, this is like buying Apple stock back in 2008. The combo comes with fries and a drink, so the Dr Pepper just seals the deal. Let me put it this way: if you gave a medieval king three sips of Dr Pepper, he would probably start a war to get a full can. The fact that we’re able to go out and buy all this for a few bucks is frankly absurd, and we should all be taking advantage of it constantly.
During this process, I’ve attempted to stay objective. But luckily for us, eating a tasty burger is a subjective experience. Did it help my experience that I had a lovely walk to Wendy’s? Absolutely. Did I almost spill my Dr Pepper on the way home, nearly ruining my entire meal? I sure did. Does my particular soft spot for Muenster cheese make me the perfect candidate for reviewing this? Who can say? The emotional journey of trying the burger was a long one, but in the end, I couldn’t have been more satisfied.
*Fresh beef available in the contiguous U.S., Alaska and Canada.