Burger King's New Sourdough King: Here's What You Need To Know

Burger King sprung a new sandwich on the fast food world in late March 2018 by introducing the Sourdough King. After subtly dropping a Jalapeno Sourdough King in select markets, BK took off the hot stuff and released a more traditional sourdough for the masses. The new item comes at a time when the burger chain could use a little push — they're sitting number five in the coveted QSR ranking, and number three in burger joints (behind McDonald's and Wendy's).  

Burger King could use some positive vibes in the social media world right now, too. Customer satisfaction has risen in recent years to a century-high for the chain, but it's still wicked low, and there are complaints galore about service. Burger King is trying to turn the Sourdough King into a thing by asking on social media, is it a sandwich? Is it? More importantly, is the sourdough creation the secret to getting people in and giving Burger King some love? Or is it even worth trying? Let's dive in.

But why sourdough?

If a sourdough burger sounds eerily familiar, that's because it is. Hardee's/Carl's Jr. had a Frisco Burger for years, before retiring it and then bringing it back in the form of a Thickburger in 2005. And make no mistake, people really like that Frisco Burger. But it's still not like Hardee's invented the sourdough burger. Sourdough bread has been around longer than metal — yes really — and the idea of a sourdough sandwich has been around since shortly after the Earl lent his name to the meat delivery device. Adding a burger to a sourdough bun is basically a no-brainer.

So for BK to take a swing at a popular new burger using sourdough isn't much of a shocker, especially since sourdough's popularity on the whole has been on the rise in recent years. And then there's the other obvious reason... Burger King is the king of copycats.

Ain't their first Rodeo (burger)

Did you ever notice that McDonald's has a Big Mac and Burger King has a Big King? Of course you did. In fact, Burger King has a few items that are pretty similar to the Golden Arches in structure. But it's not just McDonald's; they had a chicken sandwich with a pickle (hello Chick-fil-A!), and the Bacon King is a bacon bonanza (what's up Wendy's?). Even the beloved Rodeo King is a copycat — let's be real, they're not the first place to throw barbecue sauce on a burger, nor throw a side item on a bun. You know how McDonald's had that awful spaghetti that makes every single "failed fast food items" list you find out there? Burger King tried it too. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then nobody lays on the compliments like Burger King.  

Burger King has been doing this for years, and for years people have taken notice of the unoriginality. It's not like Burger King hasn't ever come up with their own plan — but Burger King's game is to be a follower (which is fine), so the Sourdough King is just the latest in a long series of "similar to other places" tastes.  

Let's answer their question

What exactly is the Sourdough King anyway? Traditionally, if you think sourdough you might think "melt." San Francisco has made a flavor living on sourdough melts, and there are other fast food joints that plainly advertise a sourdough sandwich as a "melt" — Culver's and Steak 'n Shake (you can make on of your own, by the way). Well, not to answer the question that Burger King doesn't want answered, this is a burger, not a sandwich. Aside from the obvious fact that  it's got a hamburger in between the bread, the key is in the way they prep bread. Their own commercial says the bread is toasted — and it certainly tastes that way. However, a melt is prepared on a hot flattop and the bread is toasted with the meat, cheese, and other goodies already on the bread. This burger (not sandwich) isn't made like that. It's not a sandwich, it's not a melt... it's a burger. Sorry, not sorry, Burger King.

What's going on under the hood?

The Sourdough King comes with a single patty or a double — or in the case of the one I ordered, three, because I guess I sweet-talked the nice lady behind the counter. The build is bread, sauce, patty, two slices of American cheese, patty (or two, in rare cases), bacon, onion, more sauce, and bread. Sounds a lot like a standard melt (but it's not). It's not the prettiest thing when you lift up the top bun, but few fast food burgers are. Let's just take a quick look at a what we've got here.

The bacon is the usual Burger King bacon — which to a lot of palates is just too crunchy for its own good. The double cheese melts (yes, like a melt but it's still not) and gets pretty gooey. So far, you could describe this as a "fake melt" and that wouldn't be a put down; it's melt-like. The onion isn't raw, but it isn't a traditional sauteed onion either. The draw, however, is the sauce.

What's the deal with the sauce?

Burger King naturally features a sauce to go along with their Sourdough King, because every all-star burger needs a superstar sauce, right? They call this one their "creamy signature sauce," which really doesn't tell us anything about it at all. They do a good job of making it look pretty darn tasty in their commercials, but is it really?

I expected the sauce to taste a lot like Steak 'n Shake's Frisco Sauce (it looks just like it), but it didn't. It's more of a thousand island dressing style sauce, with some tomato taste — very very little tomato taste. It wasn't especially creamy and had a lot more thousand island flavor than anything else. If anything, the sauce was just "kinda there" and didn't really take the burger over the top. That's a shame since the sauce has the power to make or break a burger. This one just didn't meet expectations.

How's the rest of it?

Let's start with the obvious — if they give you three patties that's just simply too much meat. Take one off and give it to the dog or the goldfish or sell it on eBay. In fact, two patties really is a bit overpowering on this thing. The big problem is that on your first bite you get an overwhelming taste of meat — not sauce, sourdough, or cheese, just meat. The sauce gets kinda lost with everything and the bacon was too crisp for my liking.

The sourdough seemed to be missing that sourdough punch I was looking for. The onions were a nice touch, but overall the burger felt like something was missing — probably because this burger doesn't know if it's a melt or a burger. It's workable with one patty, for sure, but the meat to bread balance still seems a little off. You're used to a different taste with a patty, and the charbroiled Burger King patty doesn't really work here. Despite not being too terribly far off from the Hardee's/Carl Jr. cooking style, this felt more like a Whopper on a different bun.

You know what it needs?

If you look around on the internet, a few tasters say that they got a tomato flavor to the sauce — not me. Or at least not enough for me to think it made an impact. But what this thing needs is a tomato. Hardee's/Carl Jr. has the tomato on their sourdough burger, and the acidity of the tomato works in concert with the sourdough and the meat to balance the meal. Burger King's missing ingredient is probably something to cut the overwhelming burger taste. The build is also a bit backwards from other sourdough burgers. Culver's puts the onions in between the meat and puts the cheese on top — it's less gooey but more tasty that way. The big problem with anything where the bread is part of the focus (like, you know, sourdough) is that you need to make sure the sourdough is featured and not lost in the run of other flavors. That's why the build is crucial and doesn't work with Burger King's Sourdough King.  So really, outside the missing ingredient and the poor layout, this isn't that bad!

How does it stack up?

You've got a few different choices if you're hankering for a sourdough burger. Burger King, Steak 'n Shake, Hardee's/Carl Jr. and Culver's. There may not be a Culver's in your neck of the woods, but for the sake of a full and accurate comparison we're including them. The burning question is, given the choice of the four, which should you get?

Well, this isn't a melt, so you can punt Steak 'n Shake (top left corner) out of the competition. Culver's is a melt too. So we're left with two main competitors. Between Hardee's/Carl Jr., the originator of the Frisco, and Burger King, the new kid on the block, where should you go? Hardee's/Carl Jr. is the clear cut champ. Everything just works better on the Frisco Thickburger than the Sourdough King — from the tomato to the white American cheese instead of that yellow one BK uses. Does the Sourdough King work in a pinch? Oh yeah, it's fine and passable, but like with most copycats, it doesn't hold up to the original. Burger King isn't out of original ideas, but their "similar style" burgers are better left as just ideas.

It's on the breakfast menu too

People like Burger King's breakfast. You'll generally find the breakfast (as a whole) ranked toward the top of your average fast food morning rankings. So it's a logical move to see the sourdough bun pop up on the breakfast menu, too. It's not exactly healthy, but that's what happens when you throw ham (or bacon), on some sourdough with egg and cheese.     

And to be honest, the ham and egg Sourdough King is pretty doggone good. The ham is a hearty order, and the eggs really work with the sourdough bread — the sourdough feels more like a featured player here than a device to get the main course in your belly. The cheese works well with everything going on, and this is a pretty good breakfast meal, albeit not for those looking for a light meal. The sausage isn't bad either, but buyer beware — it's a double-patty order, which is pretty big.