Do you remember how expensive it was to eat at a hamburger fast food restaurant? As a child, it was considered a luxury to sink your teeth into a Whopper from Burger King or a Big Mac from McDonald’s. At the end of the day, you wound up spending just as much money as if you visited a local sit-down restaurant. In the past, we utilized the value meal (“I’ll have a Number 5”), but today, we can choose to order from a value menu, which offers food items for $1 or 99 cents (depending on where you go).
Today, McDonald’s and Wendy’s are leading the pack in lunch and dinner value menus. In 1989, Wendy’s was the first out of all the major burger joints to offer items on their menu for the price of a buck. Soon after, their version of the dollar menu was reduced to 99 cents and others followed suit in offering discount menu items for $1. It’s hard to believe that the Dollar Menu at McDonald’s wasn’t made a permanent fixture until late 2002; it feels like it’s been around forever.
McDonald’s: The discounted food items at McDonald’s are part of the Dollar Value Menu. As of 2006, the current menu (with a few regional exceptions) offers the following items for $1: Double Cheeseburger ; 4-Piece Chicken McNuggets; McChicken; Small Fries; Side Salad; Small Soft Drink; Apple Dippers; Fruit ‘n Yogurt Parfait; 2 Pies; and Sundaes (hot fudge, caramel or strawberry).
Wendy’s: The discounted food items at Wendy’s are part of the Super Value Menu. As of 2006, the current menu offers the following items for 99 cents: Crispy Chicken Sandwich; Jr. BBQ Cheeseburger; Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger; Jr. Cheeseburger Deluxe; 5-Piece Crispy Chicken Nuggets; Sour Cream & Chive Baked Potato; Small Fries; Small Chili; Side Salad; Caesar Side Salad; Medium-sized Soft Drink; Small Frosty; and Yogurt with Granola.
My Pick: As far as variety goes, I’d have to say that Wendy’s offers more variety and choices for lunch and dinner on their value menu than McDonald’s. I believe they cater to a wide-range of tastes with their chili, baked potato and several sandwich choices. Wendy’s offers 5 chicken and hamburger selections compared to only 3 from McDonald’s. Wendy’s also offers two different salad choices (side and Caesar) while McDonald’s offers only a side salad. Also, depending on your sandwich selection, you may enjoy additional fixings at Wendy’s, such as bacon, tomato and onions.
Out of all fairness, I should mention that McDonald’s does offer better daily variety with their breakfast value menu, but since Wendy’s doesn’t even serve breakfast, we’ll just stick with lunch and dinner options.
Hamburgers: The burgers at Wendy’s tend to be on the skimpy side, sometimes barely covering the surface of a bun. You may find yourself chomping on a lot more meatless chews than with a McDonald’s burger, which delivers a nice-sized patty. Although, the taste of the burgers is truly a personal preference, I sway a little more towards McDonald’s on this one. The double cheeseburger at McDonald’s is quite fulfilling, combining the perfect blend of cheese, burger and ketchup.
Chicken Sandwiches: The Crispy Chicken Sandwich at Wendy’s is a relatively recent addition to the value menu. It comes with lettuce and so much mayonnaise that I suggest you wipe some off before eating. But the crispiness and spices are great. When compared to the McChicken, I’d have to say that Wendy’s is noticeably better. The McChicken reminds me of the chicken nuggets of old when your teeth may come across that unexplainable rubbery food matter.
Chicken Nuggets: The crispy-coated chicken nuggets at McDonald’s have recently switched to 100% white meat, which is way more appetizing than the mystery meat bites they used to serve. Although Wendy’s offers 5 chicken nuggets as opposed to McDonald’s 4-piece selection, the taste of a McDonald’s nugget coupled with their sweet ‘n’ sour sauce is more satisfying. The crispiness of a McDonald’s nugget is also more appealing than the sometimes-microwaved taste of a Wendy’s nugget.
Fries: McDonald’s has always been known for their fries, which straight out of the fryer are unmistakably delicious, but Wendy’s offers more substance to their fries and taste pretty good when they are received fresh. In the past, I’ve tried to stay away from McDonald’s fries because of their perceived grease content, but actually a small serving of their fries is 250 calories compared to the 440-calorie fries at Wendy’s. Side Note: If you purchase Wendy’s at the drive-thru, keep in mind that closing the bag tightly causes your fries to wilt and get soggy.
Desserts: While McDonald’s offers you the choice of three different sundaes, Wendy’s has the signature Frosty. The McDonald’s vanilla ice cream sundae comes in hot fudge, caramel and strawberry. Nuts are included, but you have to make a request. The hot fudge selection is pretty good, but get a trigger-happy employee and the overload of hot fudge melts the treat before you get a chance to enjoy it. As for the Frosty, the recent addition of the vanilla flavor is causing quite a stir. It brings you back to the days of soft serve ice cream cones in the summertime. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “Did you try the new Vanilla Frosty?” It is very addicting. I may never go back to the original chocolate flavor again, which is pretty good as well. Side Note: My only gripe with the Frosty is that since it isn’t ice cream, it melts too fast. But when first received, the consistency is heavenly.
Today, the promotion of leading a more health-conscious lifestyle causes many to frown upon fast-food items. The answer to these concerns has been the addition of food selections, such as McDonald’s Apple Dippers (100 calories) and Fruit ‘n’ Yogurt Parfait (160 calories). Below you will find additional calorie listings for the value menu items of both restaurants.
Double Cheeseburger (460 calories)
McChicken (370 calories)
4-Piece Chicken McNugget (170 calories)
Apple Pie (250 calories)
Sundaes: Caramel (340 calories); Hot Fudge (330 calories); Strawberry (280 calories)
Crispy Chicken Sandwich (380 calories)
Jr. Cheeseburger Deluxe (360 calories)
5-Piece Crispy Chicken Nuggets (210 calories)
Small Frosty: Chocolate (330 calories); Vanilla (310 calories)
Yogurt with Granola (250 Calories)
Side Note: There are ways to reduce the amount of calories in your favorite fast food selections. For example, leave off the cheese on a McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger and 460 calories becomes 360 calories. Take off one of the hamburger patties and you will have reduced the calories of your meal by another 100 calories. Request your sandwiches without mayonnaise and enjoy a reduction of at least 50 calories.
The clever advertising award for value menu promotion goes to (drumroll, please)…Wendy’s. When the fast food chain started showing the characters in their commercials equating everyday expenses with the price of Wendy’s 99-cent menu items, it was definitely catchy and entertaining. For example, a driver receiving a speeding ticket exclaims “75 Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers?” Priceless.
The Bottom Line: Although there are more selections to choose from on the Wendy’s Super Value Menu, there’s just something about the way McDonald’s food tastes. In my opinion, the best options on the Wendy’s value menu are the Crispy Chicken Sandwich and the Frosty. Since I now know the fries are 440 calories there, I will probably eat less and less meals at the restaurant. As for the McDonald’s Value Menu, the chicken nuggets, hamburgers and fries are very good and will probably get more of my overall business when I am in the mood for an inexpensive meal. Side Note: This summer, I haven’t visited McDonald’s at all and have been frequenting Wendy’s often for the Vanilla Frosty.