Sauces and adjectives are the coagulated lifeblood of fast-food “innovation,” because it’s relatively cheap and easy to spike ranch dressing with cayenne dust, refer to the resulting substance as Kickin’, and splort it onto a chicken patty. It’s a slimy move, but what do you expect them to do? Improve the underlying quality of the sandwiches they sell to perfect strangers for less than the price of a bowling-alley Budweiser?
The honest fast-food evaluator asks not, “Is this the platonic ideal of a human ingestible?” but rather, “So how’s this shit stack up compared to other meals that cost the same as a load of laundry?” That gets tricky when the vendor in question shoots too far above its natural station, though. For instance, I hope 7-Eleven introduces a lobster roll this summer, because I love myself and my country, but I’m not quite sure how I’d assess it. Such a thing could never be objectively good, but it might be so much less terrible than expected, which is why I don’t look forward to working out the scoring system.
Avocados aren’t lobsters, but they’re pretty damn fancy all the same, qualifying as a bona fide sandwich-menu luxury item right up there with bacon and the more elite cheeses. And avocados are everywhere these days. Domestic sales of the Haas variety (which accounts for 95 percent of the market) have roughly doubled in the past 10 years, as trade restrictions have eased and “good fat” nutritional theology has emerged. The majority of America’s avocados get turned into guacamole, and thus many of our fast-fooderies have turned to guac as this season’s celebrity condiment.
This is good news for customers who are tired of sriracha and mayonnaise derivatives, and even better news for fast-food places fighting through sluggish sales and slim profit margins. Traditional discount-lunch outlets have been hurt by Chipotle’s rise, but they can also thank the nation’s fastest-growing chain for training fast-foodies to pay extra for mashed-up avocado spread.
You can build an ad campaign around your new creamy Mangoñero Dip, but you can’t necessarily charge extra for it. If you say your new sandwich has guacamole, however, motherfuckers will come waddling in with full wallets and great expectations. And the expectations aren’t even that hard to fulfill: There are millions of blatant guacpologists out there who get so excited by the mere concept of the tangy green chunk-sauce that they fail to pay all that much attention to quality. You know the kind of chump who spends all day reassuring social media that he does, indeed, love cheese and/or bacon? These rubes come in avocado flavor, too, which is a damn good thing for Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway, who have both launched new guac-enhanced menu items. Let’s set about to food-fighting.
Dunkin’ Donuts Bacon Guacamole Flatbread
This new breakfast offering from America’s most relentless donut shop appears at first blush to lack the courage of its ‘cados, as there is no wimpier way to throw your hat into the guac ring than to hide it under bacon. It’s also disconcerting that the marketing copy mentions bacon, guacamole, tomato, lime juice, cheddar cheese, and multigrain flatbread, but forgets to tell us there’s also egg in there. I get that they’re pushing the headline ingredients, but does cruddy Dunkin’ cheddar really need higher billing than the egg component of an egg sandwich?
But those misgivings aside, I must admit that my first impression of the BGF was, “Damn. Kinda handsome.” The flatbread flops over on itself to resemble a wallet designed for one of those countries with oversized paper currency. The bread’s texture is that of a deflated bagel, but there’s some light spice flavor to it that suggests the seed-looking doodles on the exterior might be actual foodstuffs rather than just decoration.
The bacon is too limp, but it’s not terrible: lightly smoky and applied in three generous half-strips. The cheese is orange; the egg patty is oddly sweet, but not objectively bad. So the non-guac elements of this feast are decent, about as expected, and absolutely not what we came here to talk about today.
The main attraction is a bit too thin, and it’s not especially flavorful, but it’s identifiably guacamole, with distinct avocado character, more than enough salt, a couple flecks of onion and tomato, the odd chunk of green fruit to signal authenticity, and a citrus note that likely came from whatever preservative keeps it green. This is better-than-expected guacamole that elevates the $3.49 Bacon Guacamole Flatbread from “just some Dunkin’ Donuts thing” to “one of the better Dunkin’ Donuts things, in that it is pretty much like all the others except it has a layer of decent guac atop the ruins.”
Subway Chipotle Chicken Melt with Guacamole
Last month, one of Deadspin’s junior fast-food correspondents went way overboard in bashing Subway’s very right to life. Her critique was far too harsh; Subway has its strengths. It is certainly not a health-food store, but it is less nutritionally calamitous than its fast-food peers that fry things or go too heavy on commodity beef. And some of the food tastes alright—last summer’s pulled pork was shockingly adequate. They also deserve a lot of credit for selling things by the inch. This isn’t the worst fast-food chain. But their guacamole is really fucking bad.
To the naked eye, it appears to have a more promising texture than the somewhat runny Dunkin’ version, but the first bite indicates that it’s more “thickened” than “thick,” as there’s quite evidently some non-avocado emulsification agent in play. It’s also greasier than guacamole ought to be, and there’s no flavor beyond slight avocado and heavy salt—no hint of citrus or spice.
If we’re going to pretend the rest of the sandwich matters, then I’ll report that $5 also gets you six inches’ worth of chicken that is also curiously under-flavored. In fact, both the guacamole and the chicken made less of an impression than the lettuce, which tasted boldly and vibrantly like lettuce. The chipotle sauce was a muted version of the norm, as the pepper part was largely hidden beneath whatever it is that turned the operation pink. As for the bread, ha ha, no way, we’re 1,100 words deep into this already, and no one has time to talk about Subway’s habitual crimes against gluten.
If you’re really pining away for some guacamole and Chipotle isn’t open yet, then Dunkin’ Donuts Bacon Guacamole Flatbread is an acceptable way to spend $3.49. That ringing endorsement means it’s infinitely superior to Subway’s Chipotle Chicken Melt With Guacamole and Remorse.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass. Find him on Twitter@WillGordonAgain.
Image by Sam Woolley.
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