by Liz Miller
In a recent morning hangover-induced jaunt to Jack in the Box, Gut Check glimpsed a new menu item: the waffle breakfast sandwich. According to Jack, the sandwich is made with the chain's new country grilled sausage, a fried egg, cheese and toasted maple waffles. Our first thought: Can we get hash browns with that? But then we had a second thought: How does Jack in the Box's new breakfast sandwich stack up against McDonald's original sausage, egg and cheese McGriddle sandwich?
Admittedly it's been awhile since Gut Check wolfed down a sausage, egg and cheese McGriddle, but not so long ago that we don't remember the basics. Obviously the McGriddle's trademark is the refashioning of McDonald's maple-syrup infused "griddle cakes" as sandwich bread -- complete with the McDonald's arch insignia burned into the cakes! From there the sandwich comes in several varieties, including the fully loaded sausage, egg and cheese McGriddle. For comparative research purposes that's the sandwich Gut Check ordered, which Jack in the Box's waffle breakfast sandwich innards match dime for grease-covered dime. At first glance the only difference between the two sandwiches are griddle
pancakes verses waffles, harkening back to that age old debate that doesn't exactly have a correct answer.
Further examination and analysis of both breakfast sandwiches revealed more subtle, yet substantial, distinguishing elements. The waffle breakfast sandwich at the Jack in the Box (6950 Olive Boulevard; 314-862-6070) in University City set us back $2.69 ($4.10 for the combo meal) and packs a 479-calorie punch. At the McDonald's (1420 Hampton Avenue; 314-781-8032) we visited, a sausage, egg and cheese McGriddle cost $2.79 (or $3.99 for the combo meal) and clocks in at 560 calories.
The Verdict Damn it all if we don't feel a tinge of nostalgia for the McGriddle. A comfort and familiarity programmed in us by McDonald's marketing that is so pervasive it doesn't matter how self-aware we are -- it still flips a switch in our minds, not unlike a legion of Krusty the Clown dolls set to "evil." Except instead of being set to "evil" we're set to "eat McDonald's." The McGriddle combines the best parts of breakfast -- pancakes, eggs and sausage -- into compact sandwich form, and though we know it's not the healthiest way to start the day, it's a darn tasty way.
However, in this breakfast-in-a-bag battle, Jack in the Box's waffle breakfast sandwich has the edge. Not only were we impressed with how the sandwich's toasted maple waffles taste, but also how they manage to better sandwich the sausage, egg and cheese without, like the McGriddle's griddle cakes, turning soggy and limp. Jack in the Box's sandwich also tastes slightly less greasy than the McGriddle, and -- could it be? -- the egg appeared to be freshly cracked and fried, unlike the egg on the McGriddle, which retains the cookie-cutter perfection we've come to expect, love and fear from McDonald's menu items. Served fresh and hot off the grill, the Jack in the Box waffle sandwich triumphs.