In what dire straits does a blog about food need to be in before it resorts to talking about Wimpy? Well here we are, as the months without restaurants trundle on and I scavenge for material with the choice of writing about Seventies-era burger joints or resign myself to furloughing this blog until eateries reopen, which is hopefully only a few weeks away now.
Why Wimpy? Well, why not. There’s not many other places available on my local Uber Eats right now which have a logo (a sign of credibility during an era when Randoms are opening their own ‘restaurants’ from the kitchen in their apartment). I have shunned Wimpy for a long time when ordering online, a behaviour which seems to echo general sentiment, seeing as this once iconic burger chain – which pre-dates McDonald’s and Burger King by a good twenty to thirty years – has fallen further and further behind its rivals. At the height of its success in the Seventies, Wimpy had over fifteen-hundred restaurants worldwide. A fifth of that number remains today.
I won’t bore you with the reasons for Wimpy’s demise, but will say that after trying some of their food, it can’t be to do with what they’re selling. A recent order born out of McDonald’s-less desperation resulted in some really tasty, good quality burgers and “shock horror!”, proper chips (in case The European is reading this, ‘chips’ means chunky fries and not ‘crisps’, which she erroneously calls chips).
The Wimpy menu is mostly burger-related, but also offers breakfast muffins, plenty of side orders, and fish and chips. The burgers are served on white buns, and can be customised to a greater extent than at McDonald’s (The European added a fried egg and jalapenos to her Smoky BBQ Burger, and I added to mine a sausage patty, extra cheese (natch) and a ‘bender’, which is what Wimpy euphemistically calls a spiral-shaped fried frankfurter. There is another menu item called ‘Bender in a Bun’, which I am just going to leave here while I snigger.
After the usual Uber Eats shitshow involving the driver attempting to find our apartment, before observing social distancing by leaving the Wimpy bag on the pavement in front of me and running away asking me to leave a review, we took the food inside and dug in. The burgers are super-fresh; looking and tasting more ‘burger-y’ than McDonalds or even Burger King. The patties are thin but juicy, and the burgers are packed with fillings; so much so that they treaded that fine line between “yummy!” and “oh my god the burger has been squirted out of the bun!”. The chips come unsalted, and your order includes some salt sachets, like those Salt & Shake
chips crisps (like Wimpy, another U.K. throwback).
You feel like you eat more with a Wimpy order. It’s like my favourite old pair of stained, orange, jogging bottoms: comfy and satisfying, but I don’t really want people to know I still use them. You end up paying a little more than you would do at McDonald’s but it’s still not extortionate. That said, I don’t know if I would order Wimpy again. We are both doing really well with cutting down our meat intake and prefer to get our junk food fix from Lane Kitchen or from our own creation of ‘filthy pasta’, which is made from pre-cooked sausage, cheese and ketchup. So when the rare opportunity for a dirty burger order presents itself once more, I have a feeling that I will still be going back for a Big Mac. I can’t even tell you why. Maybe it’s habit, maybe it’s familiarity. Maybe, for all of Wimpy’s attributes, McDonald’s are the real stained orange jogging bottoms.