Sunday, September 9, 2012

Memphis Barbecue Thickburger Sighting in San Francisco

I've had several friends challenge me to try the Memphis Barbecue Thickburger currently being offered at Hardee's and Carl's Jr. restaurants after witnessing the sexually charged ads being used to tout it. That isn't an easy task here since the Memphis area doesn't have any Hardee's or Carl's Jr. restaurants.

The fact that the restaurants have no presence in Memphis could help explain the mountains seen in the background during the commercial. Once again for folks who don't understand this; the City of Memphis is physically located in the state of Tennessee but in landscape, culture and climate it is entirely a part of the Mississippi River Delta.

Last week I took a vacation trip to San Francisco with my wife. After checking into our hotel and heading out for a walk in search of food what was one of the first things I encountered? A Carl's Jr. offering up the barbecue-topped burgers.

I was hungry. And Tops Bar-B-Q has made me a big fan of barbecue-topped burgers. And I'm the guy who has been willing to eat a McRib, a Burger King "Memphis BBQ pulled pork sandwich" and a pork rib MRE in the name of comparative research. But I couldn't justify wasting a meal in San Francisco on yet another fast food abomination using the words "Memphis barbecue" as a marketing ploy.

This is the view across the street from the Union Square-area Carl's Jr. Sorry but there was no way I was going to try a fast food copy of something I eat all the time at home when I was surrounded by some of the world's best restaurants.

The barbecue-topped burgers at Tops combine Tops pulled pork with Tops burgers. Since I already know that Hardee's/Carl's Jr. don't make better burgers than Tops the only way the Thickburger could compete would be if the pulled pork on it was notably better than the pulled pork from a genuine Memphis institution. Let's be real about the odds of that happening. Also, there was a certain sign on the front door of the restaurant. A sign I didn't notice anywhere else the entire week I was in California, granted that I didn't pay attention to any other fast food eateries during the trip. The sign wasn't very inviting to someone already mentally listing reasons not to eat at the restaurant.

California doesn't play around with fast food. I'm sure there aren't any chemicals in the Carl's Jr. food that aren't also found in every other fast food chain in the country.

I happened to have a friend visiting Los Angeles at the same time I was San Francisco who ended up trying a Thickburger since he ended up in a situation where Carl's Jr. was the only thing available. He assured me that the sandwich was as bad as I'd assumed.

It is interesting to note that the warning sign was most likely due to preservatives used in the food. Meanwhile, salt and smoked foods have been unfairly vilified despite the fact that salt and smoke have been the two dominant, natural food preservatives helping to keep humans alive for a large chunk of our existence. Later in the trip I ran into this glorious shop during a visit to the Ferry Building, which is mostly an incredible gourmet farmer's market these days.

Stick to the old ways of preserving meat with salt and smoke. It's a fine art that yields delicious results with no strange man-made chemicals required.


  1. Hahah, I've never noticed the Prop 65 sign on another restaurant... but then again, I haven't eaten much fast food out here. I suspect it's due to the age of the building. My husband lived for a couple months in a high rise a few blocks from your hotel and his whole building was plastered in those signs - really builds confidence. ;)

    I'm so glad you didn't waste a meal on Carl Jr's.

  2. To be fair, almost every building I've ever entered in California has that sign. Hotels, stadiums, restaurants, etc.

    1. About what I figured. I assumed anything in the Carl's Jr. food is in all the other big chains. And a lot of stadium and hotel continental breakfast foods can make fast food look like farm-to-table.