Carl’s Jr. (Santa Rosa, NM)

doublewesternWhere did it all go wrong? My family and I used to LOVE Carl’s Jr. When we moved from Southern California to the Northwest, we even wrote to corporate HQ to implore them to put a location in my hometown of Kennewick (which DOES have one, so I’ll pretend we were the reason it came to town).

Emoji review: ⭐🍔🍟, 💭,😧

I even loved them through college – my favorite burger was always the Double Western Cheeseburger, as it didn’t bother with the lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, or whatever everyone else was putting on their burger. They stuck with meat, cheese, bacon, BBQ sauce, and onion rings. That’s some great ingredient decision-making.

But now? Either my tastes have matured, their quality has gone down, or some combination of the two has turned one of my favorites into a memory I would’ve enjoyed more had I not kept eating there. And this isn’t on the Santa Rosa location, which had solid service despite being incredibly crowded.

Their meat has that weird flavor of Burger King’s awful “food” or the cheap patties you’ll occasionally find at the store…the ones that thing “smoke flavored” is good. Meat fresh of the grill with actual smoke? Great – but meat that’s flavored like it before it’s cooked is gross. Their BBQ sauce just seems to have gotten worse.

I’m choosing to believe that Carl’s Jr. really was better when I was a kid and that the getting worse is due to several acquisitions and re-acquisitions, resulting in a decrease in quality.

But my daughter still loves their “chicken stars,” so at least they’ve got that going for them.