A very good cheeseburger

(An abridged version of this review appeared April 22, 2021, on Instagram in meatfilleddough.)

In a mid-1970s Tonight Show monologue, Johnny Carson said, “McDonald’s announced today that they’ve sold 20 billion hamburgers. That’s got to be a good, oh, pound of beef.”

It’s easy to make fun of McDonald’s hamburgers, because how can they be any good, after all, if they’re so cheap? Is their attractiveness due to their availability everywhere on earth? (I looked it up just now, and there are around 160 McDonald’s restaurants in India. And if a hamburger chain is in India, it’s safe to assume it’s everywhere.) Price and accessibility are virtues for most people when it comes to what is commonly known as “dining out.” And the burgers are safe, at least in the sense of knowing what you’re getting when you go in, though one doesn’t want to delve too deeply into precisely which parts of the steer are involved in the production process of hamburgers that can cost, depending on where you live, less than a dollar.

There are people who like McDonald’s hamburgers and there are those who don’t. Some might engage in the so-called Fast Food Wars, arguing the relative merits of the Bic Mac and the Whopper. Others might acknowledge a taste for neither, professing instead to be hamburger connoisseurs who prefer free-range, grass-fed beef (Wyoming only), aged Irish cheddar, and house-made aïoli as essential components.

I like what are known as Fancy Burgers, except for the part that involves fatty liquids cascading down my arm. What I really like are hamburgers I can eat with one hand, or at least that I can enjoy without worry of stained shirtsleeves or pant legs.

As a combatant in the Fast Food Wars, I enlisted early in the McDonald’s army. Burger King uses more mustard than McDonald’s, for which they receive points on my scorecard, but on the whole it’s McDonald’s for me. And even if there were a draw in the sphere of meat and condiments, it’s the McDonald’s bun that assures my loyalty.

The McDonald’s bun is soft. Like a pillow, whose job it is to enhance your slumber and not to draw attention to itself, the McDonald’s bun does little more than hold the hamburger’s contents in one place long enough to consume said hamburger without a knife and fork. The Burger King bun, on the other hand, is an actual ingredient in the burger. It asserts itself, in texture if not in taste, which reverses whatever points the burger might have scored from the mustard. This is the same reason that White Castles are better than Crystals: the softer, less intrusive bun.

When the Greyhound bus on which I was traveling across the southern United States made a lunchtime meal stop at McDonald’s in Lordsburg, N.M., I felt neither dismay nor excitement. I knew I’d get something to eat that was cheap, satisfying and safe. On cross-country bus voyages, one doesn’t expect much in the way of adventurous dining. But I was in for a surprise.

My heart leapt when I beheld on McDonald’s window a sign advertising a Green Chile Double Cheeseburger. I adore green chiles anywhere, but there is a special delight in consuming them in New Mexico, where they are revered and appreciated. Lordsburg is only a couple of hours from Hatch, N.M., whose chiles are renowned for their deep flavor and gentle piquance.

Photo: newmexico.org

I had eaten green chiles on hamburgers before, and on hot dogs and enchiladas and fried eggs and steak and chicken, and in cheese dip, omelettes, and macaroni and cheese. I don’t recall ever disliking a New Mexico green chile.

At two dollars, the McDonald’s Green Chile Double Cheeseburger scored on value and flavor. The beef patties appeared to be the same size as those that come on the bottom-of-the-line Hamburger and Cheeseburger, which is not a bad thing. 

The headliner here was the green chile compote, which topped the more elevated of the two patties, adhered to the top bun by a light application of ketchup. A slice of something cheese-like appeared between the meat discs but served little purpose beyond enlivening the color palette. The toasted bun lent extra elements of crunch and rich smokiness. 

Reliving the happy experience of my Lordsburg, N.M., McDonald’s Green Chile Double Cheeseburger has stirred my appetite, and I think I shall make one this very week. 

NOTE: My experience in Lordsburg, N.M., with the McDonald’s Green Chile Cheeseburger occurred in June 2019, and apologies are in order for the tardiness of this review. One has no excuse except for a busy social schedule and general sloth.