I Tried Carl's Jr. For The First Time And Was Pleasantly Surprised

Although you might see a few of them decorating space alongside the wide-open highways in Texas, Carl's Jr. isn't exactly a fast-food hot spot for Texans. When I'm craving a burger combo, as any good Southern girl would, I tend to opt for Texas staples like Whataburger (or my dad's secret recipe).

It's not that I ever purposefully avoided Carl's Jr.; it simply wasn't an integral part of my fast-food rotation. There were never any rumors of grimy bathrooms or tall tales of bugs on burgers, I just didn't give the chain the time of day. Carl's Jr. was more a distant figment of my imagination than a brick-and-mortar restaurant with hundreds of locations across the nation and a successful sister chain.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm still a cowgirl, but I don't live in Texas anymore. I live in the heart of Los Angeles where Whataburger and heaping bowls of queso are nothing more than culinary concepts. What we do have, however, is plenty of Carl's Jr. locations. About a year ago, I found myself melting in the cracks of my couch, eyes heavy as weights as midnight crept closer, when, suddenly, a commercial for Carl's Jr. flashed before my tired eyes. But it wasn't the chirpy music or the ad's catchy script that caught my attention — it was the food.

Since that moment, stopping by my nearest Carl's Jr. has been on my to-do list. At the heels of a million excuses, I finally trekked through a rare downpour of Los Angeles rain to get my hands on some Carl's Jr. I ordered a classic cheeseburger; a side of fries; and, for the sake of novelty, a burrito. Despite some doubts, I was pleasantly surprised.

Carl's Jr. has excellent customer service

Personally, customer service isn't my main concern at a fast food restaurant. Between the high volume of customers and typically low wages, it's important to maintain a sense of empathy and altruism when eating at fast-food joints. Many fast-food employees are overworked, underpaid, and often disrespected by entitled customers who struggle to understand that Carl's Jr. is, in fact, not a Michelin-star restaurant.

Despite my preconceptions, the customer service at my neighborhood Carl's Jr. was excellent. Perhaps it was the short drive-thru line and empty indoor-dining space that lent to my swift experience; but, whatever the reason, I left satisfied with the service. The polite window employee encouraged me to take as much time as I needed while perusing the menu — I didn't feel rushed, anxious, or pressured to order within a specific time frame. The employee carefully recited my order back to me to ensure that the kitchen received all of the correct details.

Once I arrived at the window, the employee took my payment and confirmed my order with me a second time. She was quick to ask if I needed any condiments and apologized for any wait time. However, I was happy to wait a few minutes for my food as it indicated that it was made fresh to order rather than a frozen burger nuked in a microwave. The employee's patience and kindness alone were reason enough for me to return in the future.

The burger was a solid option

Despite the swells of savory scents infiltrating my car's atmosphere on the ride home, I actually managed to avoid sticking my hand into the brown bag for so much as a single fry. Once I finally ripped into the bag like a feral animal who hadn't fed in days (Hey, a cowgirl's gotta eat), I went for the burger first. I quickly unmade the carefully wrapped paper to reveal Carl's Jr.'s neatly-made Famous Star with cheese.

The patty itself was charbroiled, thin, and crispy. Super-thick burger patties are off-putting for me, so the size and texture of the beef were perfect for my preferences. I wasn't entirely fond of the charbroiled cooking method, but the burger's fixings and fluffy sesame buns were enough to distract from the grill waves pressed into the patty.

As far as flavor goes, it checked the boxes without standing out in any particular category. It certainly wasn't bad, but it was missing the wow factor. However, what really stood out was the fresh produce topping the uninspired patty. The lettuce boasted a farm-to-table appeal alongside crisp, ripe onions that rivaled any fast-food onions I've ever tasted. To match, the pickles were zesty and the tomatoes were juicy. Carl's Jr. special sauce tied it all together with a creamy simplicity that didn't distract from the overall experience of the burger.

If you're looking for an all-American cookout burger, Carl's Jr. seems to have a formula that thrives on simplicity.

Carl's Jr. has delicious fries and boring burritos

Now what's a burger without some sides (and a burrito, apparently)? The fries at Carl's Jr. are downright delicious. They're crispy on the outside and mashed to perfection on the inside. With a fair amount of salt to give them a little flavor, these simple but delicious fries are definitely worth stopping for. Extra points for the generous serving size that felt more like a medium and a half than a medium!

Once I gobbled down my burger and fries, I went for the plain bean and cheese burrito. I was hoping it was prepared in the vein of Taco Bell's cheesy bean and rice burrito, but I was sorely mistaken. This enormous burrito is enough for two people to share; and, for under $8, it could be worth it. Unfortunately, the burrito didn't agree with my tastebuds. There was a surprise heaping of tomatoes that felt like a flavorless attempt at pico. It lacked flavor and soul and the ingredients were isolated rather than emulsified, leaving it with a confusing texture and taste. In its defense, the tortilla was perfectly charred; it was what was inside that didn't live up to my expectations.

Carl's Jr. certainly didn't skimp on the condiments, either. The bag was full of ketchup, mustard, and loads of Cholula packets that will be used to top my morning eggs for the days to come. I mean, come on; what other fast food restaurant has Cholula packets?! Genius.

Carl's Jr. is worth a second trip

As I finally fulfilled my year-long dream of trying Carl's Jr., I realized that I should have tried it long ago. However, there are a few things I would have done differently.

Next time I find myself at Carl's Jr., I will certainly avoid the Mexican-inspired foods on the menu. Maybe I'm a Tex-Mex snob who's also enjoyed the guilty pleasures of Taco Bell one too many times, but this burrito just didn't do anything for me. On a positive note, I wouldn't pull out of the drive-thru again without an extra side of the chain's special Big Twin sauce — the more of that stuff, the merrier!

In the future, I'm eager to try out their breakfast items, fried chicken plates, and sandwiches and I'm going to substitute a sourdough bread bun on my next burger, because, duh, everyone loves sourdough.

Overall, my experience was a pleasant one. Carl's Jr. isn't exactly the best fast food I've had in my life, but the many highlights of my experience have inspired me to make this burger institution a road trip regular.