Dave's Single Vs The Big Mac: Which Is Better?

Realistically, the battle for fast food burger supremacy comes down to two restaurants: McDonald's and Wendy's. While Burger King had more locations than Wendy's as of 2022 — McDonald's dwarfed both establishments in that regard — Wendy's edged out the faux royal burger spot in total sales that year (an area where McDonald's also greatly outpaced the competition).

Of course, McDonald's and Wendy's don't just have superlative sales numbers and widespread popularity in common. Each fast food burger chain is also home to a signature burger with a staggering track record of success behind it: Dave's Single from Wendy's and the Big Mac from McDonald's. No menu item better embodies the very ethos and identity of Wendy's than the burger named for the restaurant's late great founder Dave Thomas ... a statement that's just as true about McDonald's and the Big Mac.

Now, simply declaring these two titans of the fast food world are culinary legends provides little assistance when deciding which burger is best. So to determine which is the superior sandwich — the Big Mac or Dave's Single — we taste-tested (and researched) each burger. Without further ado, here's our answer to a question that's plagued mankind for decades. Which is better: Dave's Single or the Big Mac?

Which burger patty tastes better?

Would any person with a fully-formed palate willingly choose to consume a previously frozen burger over one prepared with fresh beef — the type that's never seen the inside of a freezer? Probably (given the laws of probability and all). Either way, we're not here to appease folks with unusual culinary preferences. And when it comes to the better-tasting burger patty, between the Big Mac and Dave's Single, the square-shaped Wendy's entry is head-and-shoulders above its McDonald's competitor.

We're not saying the burgers found on a Big Mac aren't worth ingesting, of course — nor are we implying we'll be rejecting anyone offering us the three-bunned Mickey D's product in the future. But the beef found on a Dave's Single is a delectably succulent treat that offers a superior flavor and mouthfeel to the flimsy beef patties in the Big Mac.

Simply put, the never-frozen beef used by the Dave Thomas-founded chain — which it's touted since the first Wendy's opened – tastes drastically better than the alternative offered by McDonald's and the Big Mac. 

Winner: Dave's Single

Which burger patty is bigger?

At first glance, it may appear there's something untoward about this comparison. McDonald's technically has more than one horse in the race, after all, since it's putting up two burger patties against the Dave's Single's, well ... you get it. Yet the question (that we asked ourselves) isn't which burger has more patties, but which signature sandwich's patty is larger. Since we're not awarding any points for the highest number of patties, Dave's Single wins this category with ease.

A simple gauge of the eye test is all we needed to determine Wendy's entry is drastically bigger than the somewhat sad and puny burger patty put forth by McDonald's. We recognize the Big Mac comes with "two all-beef patties" (feel free to sing the rest of the jingle's lyrics on your own). But even when stacked together, the teeny, tiny burgers on the Big Mac can't hold a candle to the Dave's Single. Frankly, the Big Mac patties would be lucky to play for a high school junior varsity team — while the Dave's Single patty would already be in college.

Winner: Dave's Single

How do the toppings compare?

Special sauce? Yes, please. Now onto the next category!

Oh, you'd prefer we elaborate on the rationale for why the Big Mac's toppings top those found on a Dave's Single? Fair enough. Well, to start, there's nothing wrong whatsoever with the always-fresh ingredients complementing the never-frozen beef patty used by Wendy's. We might even say there's something comforting about the fairly standard assortment of Dave's Single's toppings (which includes lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, ketchup, and mayonnaise).

Yet we also can't help but conclude that the non-beef ingredients on the Dave's Single are relatively boring when compared to the unique collection of toppings used on a Big Mac. Even though McDonald's stopped using the Big Mac jingle in recent years, we all know what comes with the Big Mac burger patties thanks to the classic advertising earworm.

More than likely, if you order a top-notch burger from anywhere, the toppings will mirror what's on a Dave's Single. That's not a bad thing by any means, but it is enough to keep Dave's Single from taking this category. Well, that ... and the special sauce, of course.

Winner: Big Mac

Which bun is best?

Quick: Describe the two different types of buns used to house a Dave's Single and a Big Mac. If you instantly knew the Big Mac is served on a sesame seed bun while drawing a complete blank regarding any details about Dave's Single bun, you've illustrated our point — and explained why the Big Mac takes the best bun crown in its competition versus the Dave's Single.

It's sort of the same issue we encountered when deciding which burger offers the better toppings. There's nothing to complain about regarding the bun used by Wendy's for the Dave's Single — but there's nothing that stands out about it as exceptional, either.

We were somewhat tempted to call this category a draw and award neither burger a point for its bun. But that sort of decision would be a cop-out. So to maintain our integrity (by the standards we, again, made up ourselves), we're forced to pick a bread winner (not breadwinner) between these two burgers. Thus, we're giving it to the Big Mac's sesame seed bun.

Winner: Big Mac

What are the different varieties or burger options available?

To be perfectly honest, there's little to no variety when it comes to different options available for either the Big Mac or Dave's Single — unless you count doubling (or even tripling) the number of burger patties per sandwich as notably unique. In that regard, picking a winner for this particular category was a tad more challenging than we expected beforehand. But seeing how customizations can be made to a Dave's Single without losing the burger's essence, we're giving it the edge over the Big Mac.

Can you even call a Big Mac a Big Mac if it doesn't contain each and every classic topping? We don't think so. A Big Mac sans special sauce would be blasphemous, after all. On the other hand, we don't think anything matters more on a Dave's Single than the beef itself. As long as the edges of Wendy's' cheeseburger hang over the side of its bun, the toppings don't matter — making the Dave's Single far more amenable to variation and customization.

Winner: Dave's Single

Which burger is less nutritionally detrimental?

When it comes to fast food burgers, there's no such thing as a genuinely healthy option. Of course, while we're not here to declare either the Big Mac or Dave's Single is healthier than the other, per se, a quick perusal of the nutrition info for each sandwich offers some cold hard facts.

Unsurprisingly, neither burger walks away a winner when it comes to its nutrition facts. Each contains 590 calories per serving, and the Dave's Single has 37 grams of fat to the Big Mac's 34 grams of fat. However, the Wendy's burger comes with an additional 4 grams of protein (29 grams compared to 25 grams of protein in a Big Mac), and only 1030 milligrams of sodium versus 1050 milligrams in the McDonald's burger.

Add in the fact that Wendy's has publicly pronounced its dedication to solely using fresh ingredients in its burgers, and the Dave's Single just barely gets the nod as less nutritionally detrimental.

Winner: Dave's Single

Which burger comes with the better combo meal options?

The knee-jerk reaction to this question likely depends on one's french fry preference — because what else comes in a fast food burger combo besides fries? Well, if we're talking about the Big Mac, the answer is nothing (we won't give McDonald's any credit for the apple slices or array of dipping sauces listed among its sides). If you'd prefer to skip a batch of deep-fried potato pieces alongside a Dave's Single, though, Wendy's also offers a delicious (and healthy-ish) baked potato and its classic homemade chili.

On the flip side, if you'd prefer a side that's more indulgent than standard fries (call it a cheat day), Wendy's provides several cheese, bacon, and chili-topped fry options, as well. With a wider variety of accompaniments for the Dave's Single in a combo meal, the Wendy's entry takes yet another category over the Big Mac.

Winner: Dave's Single

Which burger is more affordable?

Considering fast food prices have risen 29% over the past four years, per Restaurant Business Online, it's tough to declare that either the Big Mac or the Dave's Single is affordable in the grand scheme of things as of December 2023. But when looking at the basic facts — i.e. looking at the receipts after purchasing each burger — which burger is more affordable is clear: the Big Mac.

The price difference was fairly negligible. The Big Mac cost $6.39 for the sandwich by itself, while the Dave's Single set us back a whopping $6.49 (the things we could have done with that additional 10 cents!). It's possible the price we paid for each burger — at two Lowell, Massachusetts-based locations — could differ in other parts of the U.S.

But with nothing else to go on besides the actual price we paid for a Dave's Single and a Big Mac, the McDonald's burger just barely wins the affordability contest.

Winner: Big Mac

The verdict: Dave's Single wins in dominant fashion

We'll admit we sort of expected Dave's Single to emerge victorious over the Big Mac in our head-to-head competition. This wasn't our first rodeo with either burger, after all. But even going into this taste test with clear eyes and a full heart (because you can't lose that way), the final verdict was clear from the start — Dave's Single is better than the Big Mac. Quite frankly, the matchup wasn't particularly close. Despite only winning five categories to the Big Mac's three, this felt like a football game where the final score was much closer than the actual contest.

Eating a Dave's Single is like a heavenly stroll for the tastebuds. The never-frozen beef patty is a meaty marvel that works in perfect harmony with its complementary ingredients. The undeniably fresh toppings stood in sharp contrast to the shredded lettuce thrown atop our Big Mac, which tasted fine (what else can we say? It was a Big Mac).

The Big Mac's incredibly sloppy composition — a common problem we've encountered in the past with this burger — did it no favors, either. And while the easy-to-grab (and eat) nature of a Dave's Single wasn't the deciding factor, well ... it did further prove its overall supremacy.

Overall winner: Dave's Single