Fast Food Review: Burger King’s McRib-Off


Rib. Sandwich. Only the plastic purveyors of processed food would conceive of this. I’ve never known anybody to order ribs at a barbecue joint and say, “You know what would make this better? A starchy white bun around it.” White bread for dipping is not unheard of, but that’s it’s own thing. Ribs are meant to be eaten off the bone, which is why they are named after the bone that the meat surrounds.

And yet McDonald’s has persuaded a substantial amount of the population that a processed pork patty vaguely shaped to resemble ribs and called the McRib is a good thing; nay, an annual event to be hotly anticipated. At least vegan “chicken” calls itself Chik’n; Mickey D’s should have the decency to say “McRyb” or something.

It wasn’t all that long ago I had my first-ever McRib, and I’m in no hurry to revisit it, but now that Burger King has finally realized there’s one more idea out there to steal, they have done so, with the Rib Sandwich. They’ve also cannily made it a “summer” item, when the McRib is a winter one, so there’s no direct competition.

Not that it matters. This Rib Sandwich would lose a contest with the McTurd, if such a thing existed. Like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, it deserves our pity more than our fear, but giving it a wide berth might be good for your self-preservation.

The one smart thing the BK version does is to realize that a processed patty can be any shape, so it’s more rounded and fits the circular Hawaiian-style roll better. It’s a smaller sandwich than I expected, and the patty itself is as thin as the gargantuan pickle slices are thick, making them about the same size as one another.

Overcooked and dry, the fake rib needs all the help it can get from the barbecue sauce. McRib, as I remember it, was greasy and tasted of smoke flavor – this tastes like the worst factory farmed meat I’ve had in a long time: a flavor akin to burnt mackerel. I’m going to go way out on a limb and say this was not corn-fed pig. It might never have even been pig to begin with. ManBearPig, maybe. As I started to write the review in my head, I lost track of what I was doing, and then realized that, as I had stopped paying attention to the flavor, it had basically stopped existing. I could tell I was eating something, but it tasted like nothing unless I actively paid attention to it.

Fortunately, there was a back-up – the Memphis-Style Pulled Pork Sandwich. I was afraid that the two of the sandwiches might be symbiotic – the one consisting of pureed parts from the other – but not so. This pork was a different beast, a recognizable one, even. It came on the same sweet bun that looks like Freddy Krueger slashed the top, but that’s where the similarities end. Unwrapping the thing unleashed an oozing flow of barbecue sauce (a darker variety) and…honey mustard? Really? I’m familiar with mustard-based barbecue sauce, but this was a new one. Combined, the two sauces overwhelm with sweet and sour; the raw onion rings (white rather than red, thanks be to the food deities) serve as a good crunchy, veggie-ish counterpoint.

The meat is the right texture, soft and just chewy enough – honestly, I’ve had barbecue sandwiches other places that weren’t as good. It’s a slight step above the usual fast-food fare, and that plus the availability of peach Mello Yello Zero may ensure my continued BK patronage this summer.

Oh, and the sweet potato fries. They’re perfect, especially with BK’s “Zesty” sauce added.

The cookie with bits of crumbled Oreos in it is something that looks less than good. I may never know. It seems to me that just buying a goddamn Oreo to begin with is the best plan there.