Jacked Up?

Fast Firsts: Jack in the Box

An advanced fast food challenge is worth the effort.

By Alice Levitt November 28, 2017

Butteryjack baby1e

It's better than it looks.

Image: Alice Levitt

I have to admit, I've been avoiding this one. Butter-topped burgers? Signature curly fries, my least favorite of all fry varieties? Jack in the Box sounded, well, abhorrent.

My earliest awareness of the chain stemmed from a rash of E. coli deaths in the early '90s. But I'm older, more soul-dead and less concerned about my well-being than ever before. Over Thanksgiving weekend, it was time to throw caution to the wind and order that burger.

It was lucky that I already had my mind made up, because the motley menu is overwhelming. It's perfectly possible, nay, reasonable, to pair an egg roll with a taco and finished off with a plate of mini pancakes. The horrifying late night Munchie Meals essentially do that for you, with repasts that combine, say, a cheese-and-ranch-topped fried-chicken-and-hash-brown sandwich on a croissant with two tacos, fries and a drink.

But my goal was to keep it simple: A Bacon & Swiss Buttery Jack, seasoned curly fries and a Jumpin' Jack Splash. The two young women, babbling incoherently to each other when I entered, snapped into cheerful duty when I told them I was new to the chain. They guided me through the fry selection and got me a Jumpin' Jack Splash when the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine told me it was unavailable. I have to admit, I don't understand the fuss surrounding the fruit drink. It's advertised as lemonade blended with cherry, lime and raspberry ("0% fruit," the sign declares defiantly), but the result tasted to me like a mellowed-out red Kool-Aid.

But Jack had more surprises in his box. The fries were mostly thin shards, broken off their coils with a seasoning that betrayed little beside salt. They were basically baby-sized bistro frites. And that terrifying burger was delicious. The bacon was crisp, the Swiss actually tasted like Swiss. I wasn't able to distinguish between the garlic-herb butter and bacon mayo. As a unit, it amounted to liquefied aioli pleasantly tangy enough to enliven the rest of the fatty flavors. It was one of the best fast-food burgers I've had, similar to, but an improvement upon, the BK Stacker.

Best of all, the E. coli hasn't taken me down yet. But there are always more chances.

Show Comments