Burger King Blows It: A Review of the New California Whopper


The California Whopper features small schmears of guacamole, bright white mayo on the liquid side, and Swiss cheese. Oh, and there’s some bacon tossed in there somewhere, too.

This is the first in a series of reviews of newly introduced fast-food items that will run this week, graded on a bell curve.

Ahhh, Burger King. You may be gone but your works live on. In particular, there’s the newly introduced California Whopper. Which is sort of a redundant idea.

For you see, when the Burger King chain introduced the Whopper in 1957, it was an attempt to emulate the sort of California burger that had became popular in the late ’40s and early ’50s. While previous hamburgers had been mere meat and bun, with maybe some condiments and grilled or steamed onions, the California burger came heaped with vegetables of the type that issued year-round from the state’s agricultural valleys, and were now generally available by rail and truck across the country.

In some places, this sort of burger — which spread rapidly across the country, often sold in hamburger stands called “dairy bars” — was referred to as “in the garden,” because the patty would be lavished with crisp iceberg lettuce, carefully pruned into burger-size sheets; slices of tomatoes that, in the original incarnations, were invariably red and ripe; and chopped raw onions. Additionally, some California versions had ripe sliced avocado. These burgers were generally doused with mayo rather than the standard East Coast and Midwestern ketchup.

The Whopper featured a patty of unusually large circumference (hence the name) cooked on a conveyor belt under a flame broiler, which conferred a smoky taste on the meat, plus lettuce, tomato, raw onion, and pickle, with a very democratic combo of mayo and ketchup by way of sauces.

The California Whopper in the picture above the counter must be propped up with toothpicks.

The interior reveals quantities of fresh tomato and iceberg, but very modest amounts of cheese and guacamole.

So, in brief, the Whopper was already a quintessential mass-produced variation on the original California burger. Why try to intensify this California-ness?

The California Whopper begins with a regular patty and standard sesame-seeded bun. It adds lettuce and ripe tomato, as is standard. The pickle is omitted, as is the ketchup. The California Whopper I examined had a smear of mayo, and a slice of sour-tasting — and readily meltable — Swiss cheese. Instead of sliced avocado, the patty is also smeared with a darkish guacamole. The guacamole, too, is sour, suggesting it has been prepared with shelf life in mind. There seemed to be no raw onions. A small piece of very thin bacon seemed extraneous — but I guess we’re lucky it wasn’t Bac-O-Bits.

The chopped iceberg lettuce looked and tasted very fresh, and the tomato was two slices of nicely ripe plum tomato. Wholesomeness was not a problem with this example. Unfortunately, the smoky taste of the meat got lost in the mayo/guac/melted Swiss sludge. The California Whopper was deemed inferior to the regular Whopper, and at $5.22 without accompaniment, more expensive, too. It was gloppy without being very flavorful, and the flavors that were present were muddled.

Letter Grade: C

The box uses “guac” as a verb — for perhaps the first time ever.