The Chicken Sandwich War is over, so now it’s time for a new debate. The fight for fast food breakfast domination has never been fiercer. Classic drive-thru chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell periodically update their morning offerings to stay competitive, but it’s relatively new contender that’s raising the breakfast stakes even higher: Wendy’s.
The square-shaped hamburger slinger introduced its highly-anticipated breakfast menu at locations nationwide back in March. The extensive lineup includes cold brew coffee-infused Frosty-ccinos, Breakfast Baconators, Honey Butter Chicken Biscuits, and even a breakfast burrito, among other options. Notably, this isn’t Wendy’s first swing at A.M. items; the chain previously launched breakfast a few times since it first forayed into morning food in 1985, but none of those attempts were successful.
So, you might be skeptical that, after numerous failures, the chain could pull it off. But hear us out: Wendy’s has done it. While competitors saw a plummet in breakfast sales during the COVID-19 pandemic (Micky D’s went so far as to temporarily nix its all-day breakfast menu). Wendy’s had already made up 8% of its total sales by May. This was a goal the company had hoped to reach by the end of 2020, according to a Business Insider report.
Wendy’s has finally managed to carve out a space for itself on the breakfast scene — during a health crisis no less. But don’t just take their word for it. Take mine. Because this is my job, I did what any good journalist would do… and tried every last item off the new menu. Now, we’re breaking it down. Get hungry, friends.
Wendy’s Frosty-ccino is an obvious shining star of the menu, but as someone who drinks coffee almost exclusively black, I was skeptical the cold brew-Frosty hybrid would do it for me.
Then I took a sip and all my preconceived notions flew out the window. The iced beverage was no doubt a departure from your typical morning coffee. It was sweet and indulgent, but not in a way that makes it impossible to slurp down before your first meeting. You might find yourself three orders deep before your boss even starts hounding you for work.
It has the consistency of a regular cold brew coffee (and, important note here, all the caffeine). It’s an iced drink rather than the blended, Frappuccino-style drink you might expect. There’s no soft serve involved, but it does feature that iconic Frosty flavor. And while it’s definitely sweet, according to Wendy’s reps, it has half the calories of a Starbucks Vanilla Frappuccino. Bonus.
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When it came time for the Honey Butter Chicken, I was psyched but realistic: Biscuits can be disappointing because of their tendency to crumble. Do you really want a sandwich that disintegrates upon first bite? But after 50 recipe variations, Wendy’s managed to create one that’s equal parts soft and structurally sound enough to endure your first bites. But the crispy fried chicken sandwiched between it is the real MVP and the honey butter adds the optimal amount of sweetness. You know that age-old “savory or sweet” breakfast dilemma? Here’s the solution.
But if you’d rather go the straight salty breakfast route, Wendy’s has got you there too. There are two more sandwich variations: a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit and bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit.
Much like the aforementioned biscuit situation, Wendy’s created a croissant for its croissant breakfast sandwiches that is soft, buttery, and easy to eat. This is especially important considering that fast food is the cuisine of car trips and fast food breakfast should be extra easy to eat because you’re probably juggling multiple items on your way out in the morning. Wendy’s pulls this off.
You can choose from three croissant sandwich options — the Sausage, Egg & Swiss, the Bacon, Egg & Swiss, and the Maple Bacon Chicken. The sausage version is a safe bet. You can’t go wrong with a sausage breakfast sandwich, and with this one’s clean flavor, good seasoning, and Swiss cheese pairing, it’s no exception. However, the bacon version’s additional saltiness just tastes better with the fatty Swiss cheese.
The Maple Bacon Chicken croissant sandwich, though, is easily the best, and for several reasons: 1) you’re getting both bacon and crispy chicken 2) it’s another example of Wendy’s nailing the sweet and savory combo for breakfast with the addition of slightly sweet maple butter, and 3) that MAPLE BUTTER, y’all. Get this one.
There’s only one kind of breakfast burrito on Wendy’s menu, and it’s super basic. While it’s called the Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Burrito, we found it lacking in the cheese department. Of course, the sausage had the same clean flavor and savory spices that I loved in the breakfast sandwiches on the menu, but this burrito just tasted like it was missing something… until I squeezed out a salsa packet onto it. The salsa, which you have to ask for, makes up for the lack of cheese with its bright and acidic flavor. If you order this burrito, the salsa should be mandatory. Don’t forget it.
Although I’d happily eat regular French fries with my breakfast, that doesn’t seem be socially acceptable, so Wendy’s, like many other chains, offers an alternative potato in the morning: Potato Wedges. And they’re not playing around with the recipe. The starchy side is crisped for ideal potato mouthfeel (crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle) and coated in a mix of salt, cracked pepper, and garlic that almost tastes like everything-but-the-bagel seasoning.
While Potato Wedges are the go-to side here, you’ve got other options to round out your breakfast. The menu also includes Oatmeal Bars — packed with whole oats, sweet blueberries, and tart cranberries — that taste like cookies you can eat for breakfast. There are also two side biscuits — one with just sausage, the other with honey butter — as well as sliced apples and strawberries if you’re in the mood for a lil fruit.
What separates the Breakfast Baconator from the OG? Well, a lot of things. It’s got the most important ingredient, bacon, but it also boasts the requisite fixings of a breakfast sandwich — eggs, sausage, cheese. Everything is piled on a soft, buttery bun and topped with a decadent Swiss cheese sauce, the pièce de résistance. The sauce adds yet another layer of flavor to sandwich without being overpowering. You get the perfect hit of every ingredient, but the sauce — which is actually 70% hollandaise, 30% Swiss cheese — ups the flavor experience.
As for the sausage, it works well as a substitute for the classic Baconator’s hamburger patty. It’s savory (but not too salty) and while it commands the show, it still gives way for the other ingredients to work their flavor magic. There’s a reason Wendy’s decided to give this menu icon an a morning update: it’s that good.
If you’re craving another sandwich, Wendy’s has two additional contenders that come on classic buns — one with sausage, egg, and cheese and another with bacon, egg, and cheese. They check off the “basic breakfast sandwich” box on this menu. They’re fine. But the Breakfast Baconator will forever reign supreme.
Look, I’m not saying you should outright abandon your go-to McMuffin, but I am saying Wendy’s breakfast is worthy of your morning routine. Guess you’ve just gotta try and fail (and try and fail again!) to really get it right.
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Megan Schaltegger is a staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her @MegSchaltegger.
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