A cashier almost talked me out of my decision to buy Burger King's new grilled hot dogs.
"Really? You want both?" the cashier asked, when I ordered two all-beef franks from a Fort Lauderdale location on Tuesday afternoon.
Yes, I did. I was committed now. I doubled down and added the combo: one medium French fries and a soft drink, please.
For the sake of watchdog journalism, and to satisfy a curiosity about how Burger King could tackle the noble frankfurter, I sampled the fast-food company's permanent rollout to its menu. Burger King's beefed-up addition couldn't be crazier than KFC's Famous Bowl, Taco Bell's Waffle Taco or Pizza Hut's Hot Dog Bites Pizza, could it?
I bagged both to go, and sat inside one of the booths to snap a few cell-phone photos. Minutes passed, and the same cashier approached my booth cautiously. "So how … how were the hot dogs?" I noted his too-high-pitched pronunciation of "dogs."
"I decided to take them back to the office," I told him.
Two dogs debuted in time for Tuesday's lunch: the Classic, with ketchup, mustard, onions and relish; and the messier variant, the Chili Cheese, topped with warm chili and shredded cheddar cheese. Both cost $1.99, and it's $4.79 for a medium combo.
The Classic (310 calories, but who's counting?) uses an Oscar Mayer wiener and basic backyard cookout buns. It's flame-grilled on the bottom, and its blend of diced onions and relish pack a sweet, satisfying crunch. The quality hovers somewhere above a gas-station dog but below a ballpark frank.
I then sampled the Chili Cheese (330 calories). Freed from its Burger King paper prison, the hot dog appeared to be covered in a slurry of ground beef and cheddar. A hunk of cheese had congealed in one corner of the dog, forming an orange blanket.
Something seemed off. After the first bite, I examined the frank: There was a long, thin discoloration, like buffed leather, running down the edge of the hot dog. Freezer burn?
For comparison, I also stopped by Hot Dog Heaven, a Fort Lauderdale institution once handed four stars by former Sun-Sentinel restaurant critic John Tanasychuk. The Chicago-style, all-beef Vienna dogs, which are skinless and fit inside a steamed poppy-seed roll, snapped with a juicy crunch on the first bite.
Now, that's how you grill a hot dog. I should've listened to the cashier.