I ordered similar burger combos at McDonald’s and Chili’s, but I got more food at the sit-down chain restaurant.

I ordered the same burger meal at McDonald’s and Chili’s Grill & Bar.The meals cost exactly the same, but one came with way more food.The Chili’s combo also had a bigger, better-tasting burger and was a better value.

The value wars are in full swing, as chain restaurants are trying to lure in customers with meal deals and burgers inspired by fast-food favorites.

Chili’s is a prime example. In April, the chain launched its Big Smasher burger, a dupe of the iconic Big Mac that comes with shredded lettuce, minced onion, and Thousand Island dressing.

The burger is bigger than a Big Mac, which has a pre-cooked patty weight of 3.2 ounces, and the chain is desperate to prove to customers that chain restaurants can deliver just as much, or even better, value than their competitors as fast-food prices rise.

I put both chains to the value test by ordering the same burger meal at McDonald’s and Chili’s, and the winner surprised me.

I ordered a large Big Mac meal from a McDonald’s in Dayville, Connecticut.
McDonald’s Big Mac.

I live in New York City but stopped by a local McDonald’s while I was visiting family in Connecticut.

The large Big Mac meal cost $10.99, excluding tax and fees. This was the same price as Chili’s $10.99 “3 For Me” deal, which is how I tried the chain’s new burger.

It was interesting to see just how much food you could get at each chain for the exact same price.

The price of the McDonald’s meal will vary by location, and could actually be more expensive than $10.99, as it is for me in New York City.

A Big Mac comes with two 1.6-ounce patties, shredded lettuce, two pickle slices, minced onions, Big Mac sauce (similar to Thousand Island), American cheese, and a third bun.
McDonald’s Big Mac.

The Big Mac is a staple on the McDonald’s menu. Created by a McDonald’s franchisee, Jim Delligatti of Pittsburgh, in 1967, the first “Big Mac” featured a triple-decker burger and sold for 45 cents.

The burger rolled out across the US in 1968 and quickly became the chain’s signature burger.

The burger was about the size of my hand.
McDonald’s Big Mac.

The cheese was only partially melted, and, to be honest, the burger wasn’t hot. I ate the burger inside the restaurant, so I was surprised it was already room temperature when I started eating it.

It’s worth noting the preparation and temperature of McDonald’s menu items, like those of any other restaurant or chain, can vary by location.

Business Insider reached out to McDonald’s for comment.

I liked the Big Mac sauce but was honestly underwhelmed by the rest of the burger.
McDonald’s Big Mac.

The Big Mac sauce was perfectly creamy and tangy, but I thought the other ingredients lacked flavor, especially the burger patties. They were very thin and dry — there was no juiciness to this burger.

A problem I’ve consistently encountered with McDonald’s signature burger is that, in my opinion, the ingredients are extremely bottom-heavy. The cheese and Big Mac sauce are layered beneath the first burger patty and bun instead of on top, resulting in a lack of flavor and moisture as they come into contact with the roof of my mouth.

Although I recognize the Big Mac as McDonald’s flagship burger — it’s been reported that the chain sells 900 million Big Macs a year — it isn’t my personal favorite.

I also got a large order of fries with my meal.
McDonald’s fries.

I’m a fan of McDonald’s fries, which I find to be crispy and deliciously coated in salt.

While they’re quintessential fast-food fries, I’m not sure one could describe them as restaurant-quality.
McDonald’s fries.

I paired them with a ranch dipping sauce and was left feeling satiated, but not quite blown away.

I also got a large drink, which I think was a great deal.
McDonald’s soft drink.

The 32-fluid-ounce soft drinks at McDonald’s are truly massive, and there was a soda machine that allowed me to pour the drink myself. There is simply nothing better than a crisp Diet Coke from McDonald’s. It hit the spot.

I ordered the new Chili’s Big Smasher burger as part of the chain’s “3 For Me” combo.
Chili’s Big Smasher burger.

The Big Smasher starts at around $12.99 on its own, but the price differs slightly by location. At my local Chili’s in New York, the burger cost $14.39, excluding tax.

I ordered the burger as part of the “3 For Me,” which starts at $10.99, excluding tax. The deal is only available for a limited time.

With the meal deal, you get an appetizer like bottomless chips and salsa, a drink, and a main, and you can add things like a margarita or a different entrée for an added cost.

The burger comes topped with shredded lettuce, diced red onions, pickles, American cheese, and Thousand Island dressing.
Chili’s Big Smasher burger.

The burger, which is smashed down on the grill, was much bigger than the Big Mac — I needed two hands to hold it comfortably, and I actually ended up cutting it in half to eat it.

I chose fries as my side, but you can also choose from options like mashed potatoes, rice, and steamed broccoli.

Unlike on the Big Mac I tried, the American cheese on the Big Smasher was completely melted and coated every square inch of the large beef patty. There was also sauce on both buns, which I hoped would prevent the dry feeling I got from the fast-food version.

Chili’s smashed burger blew McDonald’s out of the water, in my opinion.
Chili’s Big Smasher burger.

The burger patty was juicy and pink in the middle but had a delicious caramelized crust on the outer edges. It was also much thicker and more filling than the Big Mac.

This burger had nearly twice the meat, which made an immediate difference, and I thought the ingredients tasted higher quality.
Chili’s Big Smasher burger.

The cheese was thick and gooey, and the lettuce tasted fresh — although the lettuce on the Big Mac was comparable. I also thought the red onion added a sharper flavor than the white onion that McDonald’s puts on its burger.

I also loved the tangy Thousand Island dressing, but I could have used a little bit more of it.

Chili’s won in terms of sheer value when it came to the added appetizer.
Chili’s chips and salsa.

Both burger meals came with fries, a burger, and a drink. However, the meal from Chili’s also came with an appetizer. The options include a side salad, soup, or bottomless chips and salsa.

I went for the bottomless chips and salsa.
Chili’s chips and salsa.

The chips were delightfully thin and crispy, and the salsa was the perfect consistency. It was flavorful, and not too watery or chunky.

This appetizer was also bottomless, meaning they’ll keep refilling it if you wish. This gave Chili’s the edge in terms of value and the sheer amount of food I received.

I was also impressed by the fries, though they could have been a touch saltier.
Chili’s fries.

Maybe I’m just used to the tasty salt-bomb that are McDonald’s and other fast-food fries, but I thought these fries were a tad underseasoned.

However, salt shakers provided on the table fixed that problem.

I had to give Chili’s the win in terms of value and taste.
The author outside Chili’s.

I thought Chili’s delivered a larger, better burger and more food for the same price as McDonald’s. I loved the addition of the chips and salsa and the perfectly charred and juicy smashed burger. I left feeling stuffed.

Not only did I get a cheap, high-quality meal at Chili’s, but it was also a better overall experience. You’re rarely going to get the same service at a fast-food joint as you do at a sit-down restaurant with table service.

If I had to choose which chain was a better use of my $10.99, I’d opt for Chili’s based on the amount of food I received and the taste of the items.

I’ll definitely be back, and I hope the Big Smasher gets a permanent spot on the “3 For Me” menu.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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