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[This photograph: Wendy's; All others: Lee Movic]

I'm exhausted, the days are still too short, and it's freezing cold here in New England.

What better cure for the winter doldrums than cozying up by the fireplace?

At Wendy's.

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Shut. It. Down.

My jaw dropped when I entered the recently renovated Wendy's. A friggin' fireplace. (Okay, so maybe you can tell from the picture that the fireplace was a TV monitor with a streaming fire on it, or maybe you've watched the three-episode "Fireplace for Your Home" series on Netflix and recognize the cast, but it fooled me at first.)

"One order of shark to-go, please. Extra jumped."

Because this isn't a restaurant review column, I won't say much more about the location itself. But if the redone interior (see my Twitter feed for more photos) is an indication of a new direction for Wendy's, why were the premium, pub-style pretzel bun sandwiches absent from the menu (I mean, even if they didn't taste very good, they were definitely classy)?

Why are the newest menu items, Wendy's Spicy Chipotle Sandwiches, just variations on old standbys from the value Right Size Menu®? (Though perhaps it has something to do with Wendy's Right Size Menu® already being the classiest $.99- ~$1.39 menu out there.)

For what it's worth, the Spicy Chipotle Junior Cheeseburger and Spicy Chipotle Crispy Chicken sandwiches earned their $.99 price tag. Consisting of bun, patty, pepper jack cheese, jalapeño pepper slices, and Spicy Chipotle Sauce, the sandwiches are well-executed, if not particularly well-assembled.

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I thoroughly enjoyed the sauce—its creamy texture and smoky-sweet-not-overwhelmingly-spicy flavor landed it comfortably among the better fast food sauces available right now. And though I may joke about the pathetically small jalapeños and tasteless cheese (picture says pepper jack; sure, why not?), they certainly weren't going to elicit any complaints for being too spicy. Additionally, the bites that included a piece of jalapeño offered a nice kick, and while it will never happen, I will use this space to lobby for a substitution of fresh jalapeños for the pickled variety. 'Twould be phe-nom-i-nal.

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I preferred the chicken over the burger, and I think that Wendy's would do well to release the Chipotle Sauce as a stand-alone offering for their chicken nuggets or spicy chicken nuggets. (Yes, these are two different things. Are you new??) I also wouldn't object to seeing these sandwiches gussied up a little and offered on the regular menu. But at $0.99 a pop, they'll warm you up a lot more efficiently than cuddling up to a video of a fireplace.

A friggin' fireplace.


About the author: Lee is always hungry. He's happy to chat food and beer on Twitter @leemovic

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