1. Arts & Entertainment

The State You're In: When Burger King dips toe in gourmet waters, bacon jumps the shark

Published Jun. 22, 2012


On a recent Thursday night on Kennedy Boulevard, Burger King did not herald its newest development on a street-side marquee. Nor was it advertised on the regular menu.

Oh, but wait.

There, on the order-counter video feed, was a picture no less alluring than Sofia Vergara stippled in sweat and caramel swirl. Vanilla soft-serve hosed atop a thin layer of inky fudge, the whole thing filigreed with caramel, bacon crumbles and thick-cut bacon hanks for which a forty-niner at Sutter's Mill would have traded a gram nugget.

"Um, do you have the new bacon sundae?"

Yes they did. But it took a while, full minutes behind a scrim of machinery and away from prying eyes. Transparent plastic cup with a domed, snap-on lid, plastic-sleeved spoon, palpitating expectations.

Websites are devoted to bacon. Chefs across the land have adopted bacon tattoos, ironic or otherwise. There are bacon-flavored chips, bacon brownies and bacon salt, even a bacon reality show in the works.

Bacon has jumped the shark, and now Burger King has proved it in 510 calories, 19 fat grams, 61 grams of sugar and $2.49. It's not the first fast-food restaurant to flirt with bacony sweetness. Jack in the Box debuted a bacon milk shake in February, and Denny's had a maple bacon sundae for a limited time last year.

The verdict on BK's? There's a sturdy, salty porkiness that's a disorienting complement to a soft slurry of dairy sweetness — daring, like a Slim Jim shot through the creamy center of a Hostess Sno Ball. The ice cream melts swiftly as you dig to incorporate the fudge layer with a leathery bit of pork.

It's not exactly delicious. And it's not exactly what the Old English "sweetmeat" meant. Yet the King has spoken. And what he said was, "Fie upon the Nanny State. Mayor Bloomberg and his ilk should chillax. Swear fealty and do homage to the royal sundae of the Middle Kingdom!"

Laura Reiley, Times food critic