Sonic seems to be challenging Arby’s reputation for “having the meats” — right after releasing its bacon and peanut butter cheeseburger, it rolled out a pulled pork menu with three new items: the Pulled Pork Cheeseburger BBQ, the BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich, and BBQ Pulled Pork Totchos. All three dishes feature smoked pulled pork served with cherry smoked barbecue sauce.
For this taste test, I tried both sandwiches to see if they could satisfy true barbecue fans. Having lived in the barbecue mecca of Austin, Texas for several years, I have high standards for barbecue and am wary of a fast food joint’s ability to achieve them. Traditional barbecue requires a painstakingly long and slow approach, which is contrary to fast food’s pursuit of convenience and efficiency. Sonic’s pulled pork certainly doesn’t rival the lovingly smoked meats prepared by pitmasters in the American South, but I was pleasantly surprised by its taste. As you’ll see, however, Sonic’s execution of these menu items wasn’t entirely free of problems.
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What’s in the Sonic Cheeseburger and Pulled Pork Sandwich?
The pulled pork barbecue sandwich is a classic, minimalist dish similar to what you’ll find at any hole-in-the-wall barbecue joint. It features smoked pulled pork, pickles and barbecue sauce encased in a soft bun. Sonic has a bit of a desire to use a brioche bun and toast the bread, but there’s nothing particularly original about this sandwich beyond that.
The Pulled Pork BBQ Cheeseburger is a slightly more outlandish concept. It has the same toppings as the pulled pork sandwich, plus a hamburger patty and a slice of American cheese. If eating pork isn’t enough for you, why not stack two animals on top of each other in one sandwich?
Both sandwiches can be customized with Sonic’s standard menu of toppings, which includes additions like fresh veggies, spicy jalapeños, bacon, extra condiments and chili. You can also request extra cherry wood smoked sauce at no extra cost.
How much do they cost and where are they available?
When it comes to value in today’s fast food market, the pulled pork barbecue sandwich is hard to beat. I paid $3.99 plus tax for this. It’s the same price I recently paid for a McDouble, but Sonic’s sandwich is much bigger and more substantial than McDonald’s economy menu mainstay.
Given the price of the pulled pork sandwich, the pulled pork barbecue burger seems a bit pricey at $6.69 (although the price may be lower in your area). I’m not sure adding a burger patty and a slice of cheese justifies charging more than 1.5 times the price of the base sandwich, but at the same time the price is not in mismatch with the cost of other fast food burgers. these days.
These sandwiches went on sale on the Sonic app on January 29th and will be exclusive to the app until February 5th. They will then appear on the normal menu from February 5 to March 31. You should be able to find them at all Sonic locations in the United States
How do they compare to other Sonic menu items?
As far as I know, Sonic’s new pulled pork menu is the chain’s first experiment with this particular protein. Its other limited-time offerings currently include the aforementioned peanut butter bacon menu as well as Buffalo Chicken Dip Bites, a type of fried patty filled with chicken, cheese and Buffalo sauce.
Although the pulled pork dishes are rolling out nationally, they’re definitely playing with the flavors of the American South when it comes to these menu items. Sonic loves showcasing regional flavors on its menu, so much so that it even has an entire section dedicated to local favorites. At my Sonic location in Arizona, the local entrée is a Hatch green chile cheeseburger – this type of green chile is popular throughout the Southwest. In Texas, where I lived, I always had the option of ordering a country fried steak sandwich from the chain. The pulled pork menu is another example of taking inspiration from a deeply rooted American culinary tradition – in this case, barbecue – and giving it a fast food twist.
If you’re trying to moderate your calorie and fat intake, you should choose the pulled pork sandwich over the cheeseburger. Sonic must use fairly lean pork for this menu item, as this sandwich contains a reasonable 350 calories and 12 grams of fat (3.5 of which are saturated), according to the nutrition facts displayed in the Sonic app. All of these numbers represent just a small fraction of the FDA’s recommended daily values for these nutrients, meaning you can easily fit this sandwich into a normal day’s worth of meals. Fast food often hides a ton of extra sugar, but here too, Sonic’s pulled pork sandwich is pretty moderate, providing 10 grams of added sugar, or just 20 percent of the daily limit. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s healthy, but it’s certainly less potentially harmful than the other options on the menu.
The burger, on the other hand, is a bit of a pain in the ass. It contains 700 calories and 40 grams of fat, 13 of which are saturated. This represents more than half of the daily intake of fat and saturated fat. It also contains about two-thirds of the daily sodium value, or 1,590 milligrams. I’ve eaten a lot of fast food meals with scarier nutritional stats, but I still wouldn’t eat that burger every day if I was trying to maintain a balanced diet.
The pulled pork cheeseburger was a little disappointing
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try the Pulled Pork Cheeseburger like Sonic had planned, because my local Sonic forgot a few components. More tragically, it was missing the cheese, making it a pulled pork barbecue burger. Pickles were also missing from the example I received. I ordered it on the first day the app was only available, so maybe the cooks were still working out the kinks.
Without these two ingredients, it was an incredibly dry sandwich despite the generous helping of barbecue sauce. The beef patty was nicely browned and flavorful, but it was cooked so well that the inside was completely devoid of moisture. The pork, while tasty, was also a little dry. The bun was nice enough, but calling it brioche is a bit of a stretch – it was more like a potato bun or a sweet challah. A French baker would cry if he was presented with this bread in the form of a brioche.
Even if I had received a full version of this burger with all the appropriate toppings, I think I still would have enjoyed it less than the regular pulled pork sandwich. The burger patty added nothing special and distracted from the pulled pork, which should be the star of the show.
The pulled pork barbecue sandwich was a treat
Speaking of making pork the star of the show, that’s exactly what this sandwich did. Sonic’s smoked pork was almost like a hybrid between traditional pulled pork and carnitas. It looked like it had been pre-cooked until tender and then reheated on the griddle, giving the pork wonderfully crispy edges. Although the smoke flavor isn’t very strong, it gives the pork a slight bacon essence, especially in the nicely browned bits on the griddle.
I didn’t taste much smoke in the cherry smoke barbecue sauce, but it was still pretty well executed for a fast food barbecue sauce. The taste wasn’t overly sweet and the texture didn’t veer into murky territory. The acidity of the sauce helped balance the salty richness of the pork, as did the sweet and sour taste of the pickles.
Just like the burger, the sandwich I received was not 100% up to Sonic’s company specifications. It was served on a regular Sonic burger bun instead of a bun, but that didn’t bother me. If anything, I preferred it because it was slightly less sweet.
Brioche bread or not, it was a delicious sandwich. This might be one of the best things you can get at a fast food restaurant for under $5 right now. Hopefully sandwich making will become more consistent in the coming days.