In the past here at Retro Ramblings and over at The Retro Network, I’ve shared memories of numerous old foods that I miss. I’ve covered the things I miss about Wendys, stuff from McDonald’s like the McD.L.T and the Super Hero Burger, old sandwiches from Hardees, KFC’s Chicken Littles, and various other junk foods. Hell, I’ve even covered junk foods that I wanted to try but missed out on. But I’ve yet to really mention anything from Burger King besides the Alf hand puppets promotion. So let’s rectify that today and look at a few long-gone favorites of mine from the King!
Burger King rolled out their original chicken tenders in late 1985, and I was an immediate fan. Back in those days, the main chicken dish in fast food was McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets. But the nuggets then weren’t exactly like the nuggets now. When you got a six-piece, three or four of them were dark meat, and just a couple were white meat. So as a kid, I would get them on occasion, but they weren’t my favorites. Then along came these tenders from BK that featured real white meat chicken in a breading that was loaded with pepper flakes. They were just so good, and immediately became my go-to order when we’d stop at Burger King.
At that time, and still today actually, I was a big fan of their original chicken sandwich. These chicken tenders had a similar flavor but used actual sliced chicken meat instead of pressed meat. My dad became a fan as well, and when I would be traveling with him, he’d pull into a Burger King and order the largest pack they had. I can’t remember if that was a twenty-piece or a fifty-piece. I know it sounds crazy, but I remember it being a fifty-piece. Anyway, he’d put the box up on the dash in the sun where they would stay warm, and we would just take our time eating them until they were gone.
The packaging was great too, as the box they came in had a compartment to put the sauce cup in. While that doesn’t sound like a big deal, to an 8-year-old, any extra feature like that is a big deal. My mom used to use the chicken tenders as a “reward” at times to make me feel better. I say to feel better because, at that time, I was a carrier of strep throat, and had to go to the doctor and get a shot every two weeks. That sucks as a kid, but after the shot, we’d stop at Burger King and put up some of these tenders to take home and enjoy.
I don’t remember when this version of the tender went away, but I do remember in the late ’90s and/or early 2000s, they added a Chicken Tenders sandwich to the menu. It featured 3 chicken tenders on a bun with lettuce, tomato, and mayo. I’m pretty sure it was on the $1 menu or whatever their deal menu was at the time.
The nuggets that Burger King offers today taste nothing like these tenders of old did, but their chicken fries are actually pretty close. The first time I tried the chicken fries, it hit me pretty quickly how similar in taste they were. I’ll order the chicken fries once in a blue moon hoping to recapture that chicken tender magic, but it’s just not quite there. Maybe one day they’ll actually pull the trigger and bring them back again.
I know my heading is different than what is listed on the screenshot. That’s because I only knew the sandwich as a pizza burger. I have to assume that the Pizza Double Cheeseburger is the actual sandwich I remember. The timeline is dead on, so I’m pretty sure this is it. The only thing that gives me pause is that I don’t remember it being a double burger.
But anyway, the pizza burger was a short-lived item from what I remember, but I know I had it on a couple of occasions. The premise was simple, as it was just a double burger with pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese. But really, what else would it need to be good? Combining burgers and pizza is about all a kid needs.
Earlier I said I knew that the timeline was dead on for thinking this is the pizza burger I remember. I know that because I can distinctly remember having one while watching an episode of NWA Pro Wrestling on a Saturday afternoon. That episode of Pro featured a match between Tully Blanchard and Brad Armstrong that I was overly into, and that match took place in January 1987. It’s funny what little things the mind holds onto for years. Some random memory of a wrestling match and a special burger from Burger King…but which is it that my mind remembers most? Is it the burger with the wrestling memory attached, or is it the match with the burger as an addition? Either way, that memory is why I still remember the pizza burger to this day.
The “American” Chicken Sandwich
As I mentioned earlier while talking about the chicken tenders, I’ve always been a big fan of the original chicken sandwich. In the late ’80s, Burger King took things up a notch when they ran a special promotion featuring international versions of the sandwich.
The international versions just featured add-ons to represent their idea of other countries’ cuisines. As I’m about to describe the sandwiches, you’ll see that there wasn’t much imagination put into them. The Italian chicken sandwich saw the addition of marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese…not much different from the pizza burger we’ve already covered. The French sandwich got some slices of ham and swiss cheese to try and emulate Chicken Cordon Bleu. And the American version got an upgrade over the original by adding tomatoes and American cheese.
I don’t remember ever trying the Italian or French versions, but while the promotion lasted, I switched from the original version to the American version. The Original chicken sandwich is pretty damn good just the way it is, but when you add cheese and tomatoes, it just goes up a notch.
While this promotion hasn’t seen the light of day in quite a while, this is one long-gone item that can still be enjoyed. Every once in a while I’ll order an original chicken sandwich and ask to have tomatoes and cheese added, thus recreating the American chicken sandwich that I enjoyed so much back then. The best part is that since the original chicken sandwich patty has not changed since then, the modern incarnation tastes exactly as it did all those years ago.
BK Dinner Baskets
In late 1992 and early 1993, Burger King attempted something new and radical. They decided to try and get families in the door for dinner by offering “table service”. Between the hours of 4 pm and 8 pm, they had a special menu featuring what they called dinner baskets. You had several options for what you could have in your dinner basket, and those options included:
- Fried boneless chicken breast
- Fried shrimp
- Steak Sandwich
- Meatloaf sandwich that was available in select areas
You also had choices for your sides too as you could pick from fries or a baked potato, and choose either a salad or coleslaw.
In addition to the baskets, one of the key features was that you would order your food at the counter like normal, but instead of getting your food then, they would give you a number and you would head off to find a table. When your baskets were prepared, they’d bring your food out. Oh, and they gave you a tray of popcorn to enjoy as an appetizer while you waited on your dinner baskets to arrive.
It seems like a stretch to expect a huge influx of customers to come rushing in for this promotion, and it must have been because I don’t remember this promotion lasting very long at all. I do however remember one individual being super hyped for it for some reason…me. As I sit here and type this, I can’t tell you why I was so excited about this concept, but I was all about wanting to experience it. I managed to convince my folks to try it out just one time. I ordered the Whopper basket with fries and cole slaw. I have no memory of why my folks ordered, but they must not have been impressed with it all since we never went back for it a second time. Maybe it was the popcorn that lured me in. I don’t know but regardless, the whole thing obviously left a lasting impression on me since I remember it fondly enough to still recall what my dinner basket consisted of.
Well, I feel a little more complete now that I’ve covered some of my long-lost favorites from Burger King. There are still plenty more old fast food items and junk food items I miss like hell to cover in the future, but this Burger King post checks off several things that I’ve wanted to talk about for some time. Thanks for indulging me.