How did Arby’s, a fast food chain so meat friendly that their official tagline is “we have the meats,” miss out on linking up with the Jurassic franchise ahead of next month’s Jurassic World Dominion? The two brands are practically made for each other, they could’ve just put one of those Arby’s hats on a T-Rex and called it a day. But where Arby’s dropped the ball, Carl’s Jr./ Hardee’s seems to have grabbed it — dropping their “Primal Menu,” a decadent prime-rib packed menu that promises to offer the brand’s “most flavorful, meatiest burgers, burritos, and biscuits to date.”
We’ll be the judge of that, Carl’s Jr.
While we don’t have as much confidence in Carl’s Jr to deliver the meats as we do Arby’s, we have to admit, an Angus Thickburger with layers of prime-rib sounds pretty damn intriguing. The full Primal menu consists of the Primal Angus Thickburger and two breakfast-only items — the Primal Burrito and Primal Biscuit with Fried Egg. Those who know the chain as “Carl’s Jr.” will also get the Beyond Wraptor and Double Beyond Wraptor Beyond Burger. Not sure why Hardee’s was left out of that option, sorry Hardee’s heads!
Let’s jump into the good and bad of the new Primal menu, starting from the least essential menu item.
Let me just come out and say this outright so we can get it out of the way. The entire Primal Menu is pretty solid, there isn’t a single bad item on it, but the Primal Burrito feels the most inessential. It’s made pretty much just for the small contingent of Carl’s Jr fans who love the chain’s burritos. If you’re lukewarm on the burritos, or outright hate them, this isn’t going to fix that.
The Primal Burrito features layers of sliced prime-rib, hash rounds, smoked cheddar, scrambled eggs, shredded cheese, and what Carl’s Jr. is calling “Amber BBQ Sauce,” a reference to the mosquito cased in amber that made the Jurassic Park/World Universe (which we’ll call the JPWU) possible.
The prime rib isn’t the best you’ll ever eat, it’s chewier than we want it to be and doesn’t exactly have that melt-in-your-mouth texture that the cut is known for, but the flavor is great. It’s beefy, rich, and satisfyingly… meaty. It’s probably Carl’s Jr’s best meat option for its burrito but… that’s not saying much because this burrito is one of the chain’s weakest offerings.
The Amber BBQ, which has a sort of mustard-like tang to it, pairs strangely with the flavor of the underrated tortilla. We’d skip it.
The Bottom Line:
If you like Carl’s Jr’s burritos, you’ll like this. If you tend to stay away from the burritos, this isn’t a reason to re-up.
Primal Biscuit With Fried Egg
The weird tangy BBQ sauce works a little better here on the Primal Biscuit with Fried Egg, which features layers of prime-rib under a fried egg, smoked cheddar, and an Amber BBQ brushed biscuit. Smokey notes largely dominate this breakfast biscuit, the cheddar adds some sharp saltiness to each bite and the combination of prime-rib and fried egg really makes this tiny biscuit substantially filling and hearty.
Tangy bbq notes dominate the aftertaste but the dryness of the biscuit really dulls the flavor the more you chew through it. I found myself enjoying the biscuit a lot more once I ditched the bottom half. It made for a messier but tastier meal.
The Bottom Line:
A solid option if you’re looking for a hearty and smokey breakfast biscuit that’ll keep you full past lunch.
The Wraptor Burger
We have to give it to Carl’s Jr. for managing to make fast food’s first decadent Beyond Burger. While this wasn’t my favorite item on the Primal Menu, it’s by far the most interesting and it’s really a shame that Hardee’s was left out of this promotional item. The Wraptor Burger consists of a single or double Beyond patty topped with Amber BBQ sauce, fried zucchini, and tomatoes, wrapped in leafy green lettuce and, to be honest, it’s f*cking delicious.
Each bite is packed with flavor and crunch, courtesy of the tangy Amber BBQ sauce, fried zucchini, and mildly sweet Swiss cheese that finishes in this sort of fresh salad space that makes each bite really pleasing to the palate. It manages to capture the magic of a good decadent burger, as well as a fresh salad. The BBQ sauce really does a lot to add some of those savory notes missing from using a Beyond patty over a meat patty. I wouldn’t say it makes it taste more like a burger, but it’s good enough that you won’t miss the meat.
The star of the show for us is the inclusion of fried zucchini. That combination of greasy fried saltiness and grassy sweetness is fast food’s great untapped flavor world.
The Botton Line:
Yeah, the name is a cringe-inducing pun, but this is Carl’s Jr’s best Beyond Burger, and the most inventive Beyond Burger in all of fast food right now. Having said all that, we’d gladly eat a version of this with a real meat patty as well as the prime rib. You’re welcome for the hack.
Primal Angus Thickburger
As deliciously interesting as the Wraptor Burger is, the most essential item on this new menu is without question the Primal Angus Thickburger. This features Carl’s Jr’s thick charbroiled Black Angus beef patty topped with prime rib, Amber BBQ, smoked cheddar, and fried onion rings. This is an absolute meat bomb, if you’re looking for fast food’s beefiest burger, look no further.
It’s an improvement over Carl’s Jr’s deliciously decadent Western Bacon Cheeseburger, but beefier, a little sharper and tangier, and still smokey, but differently so. The smokey notes are fainter here and come from the aged Cheddar, whereas the Western Bacon has a sweeter smoked aftertaste courtesy of the non-amber BBQ and the bacon.
But what you lose in smokiness, you gain in beefiness, this burger is much more savory, with the layers of prime-rib serving as a sort of second patty to the thick Angus beef patty. The tenderness of the meat adds a juicier mouthfeel to each bite, acting as a counterbalance to the slightly dry and charred Angus patty. When the meat’s savoriness combines with the salty onion rings and tangy sauce, it comes together as one of Carl’s Jr’s best cheeseburgers to ever hit the menu.
It’s so good it should be permanent, but given the sliced prime rib it’s almost certain that that’s not going to happen — grab it while you can.
(As good as this is though, let me offer a hack. Swap out those onion rings for fried zucchini, it’ll add some grassy vegetal notes and separate this even further from the Western Bacon Cheese.)
The Bottom Line:
More savory and beefier than any burger on any menu in the fast food universe. Your move, Arby’s.