The Plant-Based, Beyond Meat P.L.T. at McDonald’s

Beyond Meat Burger (PLT) at McDonald'sLocation: 980 Dundas Street, Woodstock
Website: https://www.mcdonalds.com/ca/en-ca.html

What have I been up to today?  Oh, you know, not much, just driving 120 kilometres to try a veggie burger at McDonald’s.  That’s 120 kilometres one way, so 240 kilometres total, or about three hours of driving.

You know, a totally rational, normal way to spend a Monday.  Not crazy at all.

Yes, in case you haven’t heard, McDonald’s recently embraced the inevitable and announced that they’re going to be joining the increasingly crowded fake meat game.

They’ve teamed up with Beyond Meat, probably the most famous purveyor of veggie burgers that (supposedly) taste like the real deal, and they’re testing them out at 28 locations in and around London, Ontario.

Beyond Meat Burger (PLT) at McDonald's

The faux-burger is called the P.L.T. (Plant, Lettuce and Tomato), and they describe it on their website as “a juicy, plant-based patty made with Beyond Meat® and served on a sesame seed bun with tomato, lettuce, pickles, onions, mayo-style sauce, ketchup, mustard, and a slice of processed cheddar cheese.”

It’s… fine, I guess?  It’s a Beyond Meat burger through and through, so if you’ve had one of those, then you know what to expect.  The McDonald’s publicity machine is claiming that they’ve been working with Beyond Meat to create a custom patty that matches the flavour of their standard burgers, and maybe that’s true.  But if it is, I certainly couldn’t tell.

The advance buzz — that this tastes just like a regular McDonald’s burger — is absolutely, positively not the case.  It’s basically fine for what it is, but unless it’s been many, many years since you’ve had a burger at the Golden Arches, you’re not going to be fooled.

Beyond Meat Burger (PLT) at McDonald's

The biggest issues are the taste and the texture (so… everything, basically).  The flavour is vaguely meat-like, but it also tastes off and lacks anything even remotely resembling beefiness.  It’s not gross, but it kind of falls into the uncanny valley of hamburgers.

The texture is about the same — close, but not quite there.  It vaguely approximates an actual hamburger, but again, it’s off; it’s a bit too soft and mushy.

I recently had the Beyond Burger at Tim Hortons; this is going to sound completely insane, but that one was better.  In this particular case, Tim Hortons’ incompetence worked in their favour — the patty had obviously been cooked in advance and kept warm, which dried it out a bit and helped to reduce the off-putting squishy texture.

Beyond Meat Burger (PLT) at McDonald's

Everything else about the burger was fine — the many condiments were all McDonald’s standbys, and they were all tasty enough.

Honestly, it could have used more toppings.  The patty was still the dominant flavour, and in this case that’s definitely not a good thing.  The version at Tim Hortons was more successful in covering up the flavour of the patty with a welcome deluge of assertive condiments.

Is this worth a three hour drive?  For a maniac like me who’s eaten at McDonald’s all over the world, maybe?  For everyone else, absolutely not.  It’s fine for what it is, but when Tim friggin’ Hortons is beating you at your own game, you know you’re in trouble.

Mexican Chipotle Burger at McDonald’s

McDonald's Mexican Chipotle Burger - McTastersLocation: 1138 Victoria Street North, Kitchener
Website: https://www.mcdonalds.com/ca/en-ca.html

McDonald’s recently came out with a couple of “new” (I’m pretty sure both have been on the menu before) items called McTasters: the Thai Sweet Chili Chicken Sandwich, and the Mexican Chipotle Burger.

I tried the Mexican Chipotle Burger, and it was surprisingly decent.  It’s definitely one of the better new things I’ve tried at McDonald’s recently.

McDonald's Mexican Chipotle Burger - McTasters

The burger comes with “chipotle aioli sauce, crispy tortilla strips and a juicy beef patty, all on a toasted sesame and paprika ciabatta bun.”

It’s tasty.  The chipotle aioli sauce basically tastes like the dressing you’ll find on any number of Southwest salads, only with a mild spicy kick.  The crunchy tortilla strips add a nice bit of texture, and the cheese (which is unmentioned on the menu for some reason) ties it all together.

McDonald's Mexican Chipotle Burger - McTasters

The bun is interesting, too — it’s chewier and more dense than the typical McDonald’s bun, but it works.

It helps that the beef is the classic small McDonald’s patty, and not the Angus or the Quarter Pounder patty that they use in most of their limited-time items.  When it comes to the beef at McDonald’s, less is more; the slim old-school patty is the perfect size.

The New “Hotter and Juicier” Big Mac

McDonald's - New Improved Big MacLocation: 2510 Hampshire Gate, Oakville
Website: https://www.mcdonalds.com/ca/en-ca.html

McDonald’s is making a big hullabaloo about their “remastered” classic burgers (the Big Mac, the Quarter Pounder with Cheese, and the Cheeseburger).  This includes a promotion where you can get a Big Mac for three bucks, so I figured it was worth a shot.

The improvements, according to McDonald’s:

  • 100 per cent Canadian beef patties now cooked in smaller batches for hotter and juicier beef
  • Storage changes for fresher and crisper produce
  • Onions added directly on the patties on the grill to intensify flavour
  • More of our legendary Mac Sauce applied on Big Macs
  • New bun recipes for warmer buns

I got a Big Mac, and… I don’t know.  It’s a Big Mac?  It tastes like a Big Mac?  I’m sure if I were that guy who eats multiple Big Macs every day, it would have blown my mind with all the little differences.  But it’s been a year or two since I’ve had one.  It tasted exactly the same to me.

McDonald's - New Improved Big Mac

Actually, that’s not entirely true — it’s clearly saucier.  The amount of sauce is kind of insane.  It oozes out of the burger with every bite.  It’s a mess.

Obviously the dry, mostly tasteless McDonald’s patties need a lot of help (and no, they are absolutely not juicier in any discernible way).  But even still, this was overkill.

The only other change that stood out were the onions; you could tell just by looking at them that they had been put on the griddle.  They had a bit of colour to them.  But if that made any particular difference to the flavour, I certainly couldn’t tell.

Still, it wasn’t bad.  I liked the Big Mac before, and I like it now — but I guess I prefer the old version, because the amount of sauce on the new one is bonkers.

Beyond Burger at Tim Hortons

Beyond Burger at Tim HortonsLocation: 4100 Dixie Road, Mississauga
Website: https://www.timhortons.com/ca/en/index.php

The Beyond Burger at Tim Hortons is way better than it has any right to be.  Is it particularly good?  No, not really.  Would I order it again?  Absolutely not.  But it’s perfectly acceptable.  It’s not gross.

Maybe that’s a low bar.  But Tim Hortons isn’t exactly known for having an appetizing lunch selection.  And their last foray into the fake meat game — the Beyond Sausage breakfast sandwich — featured an impressive emulation of actual meat, but was otherwise pretty lousy.

Beyond Burger at Tim Hortons

Beyond Meat has clearly been evolving their product since I tried the Beyond burger at A&W last summer.  I found that one to be off-puttingly mushy.  The texture of the burger I just had at Tim’s was much, much better.

If you compare it to a good quality burger, it’s pretty much garbage.  But!  It actually compares quite favourably to the frozen burgers that are served all over the city.  If I had eaten it blind, that’s what I would have assumed it was.  It’s impressive.

Beyond Burger at Tim Hortons

In fact, I think I might have liked this a bit better than that type of frozen burger; those ones sometimes have a gamy, off meat flavour that’s a bit off-putting.  This one, on the other hand, has a generic meaty flavour that’s not unpleasant.  Again, it’s not particularly good, but it’s not bad either.  It’s fine.

They top it with cheese (which isn’t melted, of course), lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and mustard, which successfully covers up the patty’s lack of a beefy flavour.   Between the assertive condiments and the impressively accurate cheap burger texture, you’d never know that you’re not eating a lousy (but real!) hamburger.  I know that’s not exactly high praise, but I’m actually really impressed.

Unique Pork Cheeseburgers at Harmony Lunch

Harmony LunchLocation: 90 King Street North, Waterloo
Websitehttps://harmonylunch.ca/

Harmony Lunch makes me mad.  Not because the food is bad — it’s actually quite good.  That’s the problem.

I went to the University of Waterloo, so I lived in the area for four years, and I somehow managed to go that entire time without knowing that this place existed.  To add insult to injury: it’s right around the corner from the Princess Cinema, an art house theatre that was a regular destination for me during my time in Waterloo.  So it was right there, and I had no idea.

Harmony Lunch

Harmony Lunch is a legit old-school diner (it’s been around since 1930) that’s mostly known for their pork-based hamburgers that are served with a generous amount of griddled onions (along with tomato, relish, mustard, and American cheese).

It’s basically a classic griddled hamburger, only with pork instead of beef.  I missed the beef — in the context of a hamburger, the much milder flavour of pork feels like a downgrade when you’re expecting that nice beefy hit.  But then I’m kinda burger-obsessed, so maybe I’m biased.

Harmony Lunch

Certainly, it’s hard to complain too much when the final product is so tasty.  The patty is otherwise just right, with a good texture, a nice amount of crust from the griddle, and a satisfying juiciness.  And the combo of the pork patty, the soft griddled onions, and the gooey American cheese is hard to resist.

It’s all on a soft, fresh bun that’s been lightly toasted on both sides, and that suits the burger perfectly.

Harmony Lunch

I got it with the house salad on the side, which was nicely prepared and featured a deliciously zingy dressing.

So… how did I manage to live in Waterloo for four years without knowing about this place??  Who should I be furious at?  I need to direct this anger somewhere.