Last week, at a Wendy's near New York's Penn Station, I was surprised to see a quick flash on their digital menu boards: Breakfast.
Now, McDonald's and Burger King and even Subway have all staked a claim in the breakfast game, and I'd heard tell that Wendy's was testing a new breakfast menu in select markets—but I was certain that I wasn't living in one. A quick search on the Wendy's beta-breakfast site, where you can search to see if their breakfast test menu is served near you, confirmed that Wendy's Corporate wasn't pointing people to this particular New York location. Glitch? Hallucination? No, the cashier confirmed, Wendy's Penn Station did serve breakfast.
But it wasn't the breakfast I thought it was.
The breakfast menu advertised online includes a full line of new products, like the Fresh Baked Biscuit Sandwich, Mornin' Melt Panini, Homestyle Home Fries, and Oatmeal Bars—but except for the Biscuit Sandwich, none of those items were available. Instead, a lineup of breakfast sandwiches awaited me: Biscuit Egg and Cheese sandwiches with bacon or sausage, a McGriddle-style "Frescuit" egg sandwich with maple biscuits, a breakfast burrito, and biscuits and gravy.
What was this rogue breakfast menu? It wasn't the breakfast served in test markets, and none of these items even showed up on their website. How could I have missed this?
Enter the Internet
Wendy's unveiled breakfast in 2007, but it was less than successful, and short-lived—the plan was pulled back sharply by 2009. But now left behind in a fury of fast-food breakfast competition, Wendy's has been planning a 2011 re-launch since January of 2009. Lots of infrastructure lies unused in the morning, and with this latest launch, Wendy's wants to get back in the game.
That's Not the Menu We Found
But New York is not one of those test markets, so the breakfast we found was a rouge Wendy's holdout: a look back to a discontinued breakfast of an earlier era. Not sure what rabbit hole we'd climbed down, we tried the whole lot.
We'll start with the good news: the Classic Breakfast Sandwich was one of the better chain breakfast sandwiches out there: egg, cheese, sausage, and bacon on a Kaiser roll bun. The egg patty was soft and fluffy and, while greasy, tasted more like egg than the patties at many other outlets; the cheese was fully melted, the bacon was thick and crispy, and the sausage had that sweet, meaty Jimmy Dean quality. Two forms of pork might be overkill, but I loved it.
The Egg and Cheese biscuits first ($3.49 each) also had a great egg and cheese base; the bacon, again, was hot and crisp, far better than the cold, chewy variety I found on Wendy's own Asiago Ranch. The sausage patty, again, was nothing to complain about: sweet and meaty with lots of pepper and salt, but no worse than a Jimmy Dean patty. The biscuits, on the other hand, were overcooked, closer to the consistency of bread than a biscuit; ours seemed burnt, but we couldn't imagine them being much improved by proper cooking.
They also show up with Biscuits and Gravy; they pack lots of pepper, and have substantial bites of their sausage, but the gravy can't hide their breadiness. Skip the Chicken Biscuit, which tastes more like a Swanson chicken patty on a biscuit than the chicken fillets from the lunch menu.
Of the two burritos, the Grande Burrito ($2.99), was much better, a large flour tortilla, and packed with potatoes, peppers, sausage, fluffy eggs, melted cheese, and bacon—lots of bacon. It almost reminded me of the Breakfast Bowl and Burger King, packed into a tortilla (not a bad idea.)
Wendy's answer to the McGriddle, the Frescuit, was a better idea than it was a sandwich. I could get behind a maple syrup-infused biscuit to house egg and cheese, but on mine, they overcooked the biscuit; it was almost cracker-tough, and difficult to bite through. The better sweet option is the Cinnamon Bun: Cinnabon-sugary, if not quite as soft or light-textured as it could've been.
All in all, I was impressed; most of that came from the quality of the eggs, sausage, and bacon. With that menu alone, even if it failed initially, they deserve a spot next to McD's—which makes me anxious to see what they roll out next.
Does your Wendy's have a breakfast menu —either the new model, or the old one?