I spent over $120 to try every burger at Wendy’s, and the best is a classic

I tried every burger I could get at the fast-food chain Wendy’s.

I spent over $120 to try 22 burgers available at the fast-food chain Wendy’s.
The pretzel Baconator was good, but I thought it had too much meat.
The Baconator was my favorite, and it felt like the perfect meal.

I love grabbing a quick, hot meal on the go, and lucky for me, there are plenty of great fast-food chains around. Fast-food giant Wendy’s is known for its “fresh, never frozen” square burgers, making it a go-to spot for many customers craving the diner classic.

Wendy’s, which has over 7,000 locations worldwide, carries seven distinct burger categories: Jr. burgers, Double Stacks, Big Bacon burgers, Baconators, Dave’s burgers, bacon jalapeño cheeseburgers, and pretzel cheeseburgers. Lately, I’ve been wondering which Wendy’s burger is the best, so I decided to do my own ranking.

Buying all of these burgers wasn’t cheap, which, considering fast-food chains’ increasing prices, didn’t surprise me. Over multiple trips to Wendy’s, I spent about $120 and tried 22 burgers. I assigned each order a division and pitted the winners against each other to compile a master ranking.

Here’s how the burgers stacked up.

Editor’s Note: This piece includes items that are no longer available but may return. 

Division 1: The Double Stacks consisted of 2 contenders

These burgers are known for having two 2-ounce patties and not too many toppings — just cheese, pickles, onions, ketchup, and sometimes mustard. 

The first of this bracket, the original Double Stack, was understandably smaller in real life than in the menu picture

The Double Stack had simple toppings.

First Impression: In real life, this burger looked a lot smaller than the picture, which I probably should have expected. Its only toppings are ketchup, pickles, and onions.

I thought this one would be pretty good, as you can never go wrong with two patties and some pickles — White Castle understands this

It reminded me of a quarter pounder with cheese, but not quite as good

The Double Stack wasn’t super special but it was still good.

Review: Essentially, this reminded me of a McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese. The pickles were delicious, but there were no onions to be seen. 

All in all, this was a solid burger, even if it wasn’t unique. Every establishment needs a menu item like this. 

The bacon Double Stack lacked condiments

The bacon Double Stack had ketchup, mustard, pickle, and onion.

First Impression: I spent a while trying to figure out the difference between the bacon Double Stack, the Baconator, and the Big Bacon Classic double.

They each have bacon, cheese, and two patties, but there are a few differences in the toppings. The Big Bacon Classic double has crisp lettuce, tomato, pickle, ketchup, mayo, and onion. 

This burger’s rank came down to the value I placed on condiments. Here, I thought having mustard — an oft-forgotten topping among fast-food chains — was a good move.

I enjoyed the mustard, but this option lacked in other departments

I liked the meat that was in the bacon Double Stack.

Review: Again, this felt like a quarter pounder with cheese and bacon. Was it better than McDonald’s? I honestly wasn’t sure. It was a little saltier, which could go either way. 

I thought the meat — although underseasoned — was top-notch. The mustard was a nice touch, but the meal could’ve used a dash more of it. That said, I missed the lettuce and tomato.

Division-1 winner: The bacon Double Stack triumphs for having bacon 

The bacon Double Stack had a decent variety of toppings.

Although these burgers had many good qualities, a lack of toppings held the Double Stacks back.

The bacon alternative slightly beat out the original one, but only because bacon beats no bacon. 

Division 2: All 3 burgers in the Dave’s category seemed promising

This collection of burgers is named after the chain’s founder, Dave Thomas.

Each toasted bun is stacked with a select number of quarter-pound beef patties, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, ketchup, and mayo.

The smallest of the options, Dave’s single, still has a large patty

Dave’s single was basically a classic hamburger.

First Impression: The single patty on this burger looked about the size of the Double Stack’s two. The only difference was this option genuinely looked like a burger, with onion, lettuce, tomato, pickle, mayo, ketchup, and a toasted bun. 

This is Wendy’s version of a classic hamburger, so I was excited to taste the chain’s interpretation. 

This burger impressed me

I’d definitely order Dave’s single again.

Review: This was an excellent burger. The pickles and lettuce actually crunched, even after I waited to eat it at home. I also liked the addition of mayo and look forward to eating this burger again.

Dave’s Double looked like a total classic

I had high expectations for Dave’s Double.

First Impression: This order was a great baseline for all of the double burgers since it’s such a classic. 

I took this from the Wendy’s wrapper and thought, “Yeah, that’s a good-looking burger.”

This was a quintessential American hamburger

I loved the mayo and the crunch in Dave’s Double.

Review: Once again, I was confronted with a great burger. I wanted some bacon, but there was magic in the ketchup and mayo team. I loved the onion as well. 

Dave’s triple was a massive burger

Dave’s triple intimidated me.

First Impression: Wendy’s website says to “use both hands” while eating this one, and that’s a solid piece of advice.

It was just too … much … food

Dave’s triple was just too beefy for me.

Review: Wendy’s said to use both hands — I needed a third. 

The delicious pickles, onions, lettuce, and tomatoes were lost in this sea of beef. I can’t see myself eating this option again unless dared to do so. 

Division-2 winner: Dave’s Double easily won this set

I preferred Dave’s Double.

Emblematic of the quintessential American hamburger, this meal made me want to get a soda pop and go to the sock hop.

Division 3: The Big Bacon burgers, which had 4 competitive options

The Big Bacon burgers are, unsurprisingly, all stacked with Applewood smoked bacon, but can also include other toppings like lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, ketchup, and mayo.

I was excited to dig into the Big Bacon Classic

The Big Bacon Classic had a lot of sauce.

First Impression: This burger wasn’t a whole lot larger than a Dave’s single, but it did have bacon on it.

It also had a liberal amount of sauce, and I liked that it came with two pieces of cheese.

I liked that Wendy’s didn’t skimp on the cheese

The Big Bacon Classic had plenty of cheese.

Review: This burger was excellent. The two pieces of cheese were a highlight of this burger since a single slice would’ve gotten lost. 

I grew up near a hole-in-the-wall burger place, and this sandwich reminded me of it. The bacon was super crispy, and the seemingly fresh ingredients stood out. 

This option was better than the Dave’s single, but only because bacon makes any burger better. 

If you need a big meal, look no further than the Big Bacon Classic double

The Big Bacon Classic double was a manageable size.

First Impression: I honestly thought the double cheeseburgers were the perfect size overall.

I noticed that Wendy’s didn’t increase the serving of condiments, either. The meal just oozes meat — in a good way. 

It was a classic burger with just the right amount of toppings

The Big Bacon Classic double was pretty good.

Review: This was the ultimate straight-up burger. I liked that Wendy’s didn’t increase the number of toppings and just added more cheese — it was the right call.

This was a lot of meat, and if there was twice as much bacon, it would’ve felt like overkill. 

The Big Bacon Classic triple seemed to have too much meat

The Big Bacon Classic triple seemed like a lot of meat.

First Impression: This burger had three patties and three slices of cheese. The question here became whether a burger could truly have too much meat. It was so big it needed two foils to cover it. 

It was literally too much of a handful

The Big Bacon Classic triple was kind of hard to eat.

Review: The burger was delicious, but I only really tasted the meat. Even the three slices of cheese got lost. The beef also tasted underseasoned to me.

Although promising, this burger lacked the balance of the double. As I ate the massive burger, it nearly slipped out of my hand.

The things that make a good burger great, like lettuce, tomato, and onion, were virtually nonexistent. In this case, less would have been more. 

The Big Bacon cheddar cheeseburger looked delicious

The Big Bacon cheddar cheeseburger had a cheesy bun.

First Impression: I thought this burger looked quite good. I was interested in the cheesy bun — the only completely new ingredient that I could see — and liked how it stacked. I also appreciated that Wendy’s picked several classic burger toppings, including bacon and crispy onions. 

Plus, I was optimistic about the addition of cheddar and American cheese. 

This burger had a great balance of flavors

The Big Bacon cheddar cheeseburger had a good combination of flavors.

Review: The onions were excellent. They were greasy and a little chewy, but the fried flavor didn’t overpower them. 

The combination of cheddar and American cheese was also fantastic. The American cut the sharpness of the cheddar, and it all mixed wonderfully with the bacon. The cheddar bun, however, wasn’t very noticeable and tasted a bit like a dull Cheez-It.

That said, the bacon-jam sauce held everything together and then some. It added the perfect amount of sweetness to this savory dish.

Division-3 winner: The Big Bacon cheddar cheeseburger came out on top

The Big Bacon cheddar cheeseburger was a standout.

Like most of its contenders, this burger was impressively good. Bacon truly is a game-changing ingredient. However, the delicious sauce made this Big Bacon option a standout. 

Division 4: The Baconators, which both looked like strong contenders

Applewood smoked bacon takes a leading role on top of these meaty options — just the name should tell you that — and each burger is paired with just cheese, ketchup, and mayo.

The Baconator seemed like overkill

I thought the Baconator looked like a bad decision.

First Impression: This burger was bun, patty, cheese, bacon, patty, cheese, and more bacon. I like lettuce and tomato, so staring the Baconator down was a little nerve-racking.

There’s a reason this is considered Wendy’s flagship burger 

The Baconator was honestly so good.

Review: My first impression was off — the Baconator lived up to its hype. I would’ve liked a pickle, just for something a little green, but it was so good. 

There’s something to be said for giving the people what they want. The patty meat and bacon went well together, and the cheese held everything in place. 

There was also something so right about the mayo on this sparse burger. It added a mellow flavor to the meat. The ketchup was a nice finishing touch. 

The Son of Baconator looked like it’d be good for someone who wanted a somewhat average portion

The Son of Baconator had two smaller patties.

First Impression: The only difference between this one and the regular Baconator is that this is made with two smaller patties.

I probably don’t need to eat half of a pound of beef plus however much pork the bacon is, so it’s nice to have this option, but I can’t see myself ever choosing it. Even using a big knife, I struggled to cut through it. 

The small version should’ve been enough, but it wasn’t

Overall, the Son of Baconator was cute.

Review: Because of the size difference, this burger wasn’t quite as good as its papa. This option is probably enough food for most people, but I wanted more.

Division-4 winner: The Baconator was just better  

Wendy’s kept it simple with this one and gave the people what they wanted — more meat.

The cheese perfectly held the meats together, and the flavors of the combined ketchup and mayo brought out the very best in this burger. 

Division 5: There are 4 Jr. burgers, but I didn’t expect any of them to go far

Wendy’s line of Jr. burgers is exactly what you’d expect: smaller portions with the heart of a full-sized one.

The toppings vary based on your order, but the base ingredients include pickles, onions, ketchup, and mustard.

The Jr. cheeseburger deluxe didn’t have too much going on, which I liked

The Jr. cheeseburger deluxe seemed OK.

First Impression: This is a cheeseburger, all right. I felt like I knew what it would taste like before I bit in.

I was curious if this stripped-down burger could stand on its own without bacon and extra patties.

There was a little too much sauce on it, but this was a good burger

I felt like the patty on the Jr. cheeseburger deluxe was a little small.

Review: This burger had more pickles, mayo, and ketchup than some of the other ones I tried. The lettuce was a little bit larger than the meat, which made me feel better about eating it. 

However, I thought the patty was a bit too small, and the sauces felt a little too overpowering. Still, it was refreshing to have a burger that felt normal. 

The Jr. bacon cheeseburger looked solid 

The Jr. bacon cheeseburger looked promising.

First Impression: This looked like a solid cheeseburger, similar to the Jr. cheeseburger deluxe, but with bacon. 

The size of this burger was the only thing holding it back

The lettuce on my Jr. bacon cheeseburger was larger than the whole sandwich.

Review: This burger was pretty good. The bacon added something nice, even if the serving of mayonnaise was a little heavy-handed, but that might have been the human element at fast-food chains

I thought Wendy’s used great cheese, even if it was more processed-tasting than the produce. Really, the size was the only thing holding this one back. 

The Jr. cheeseburger seemed cute

The Jr. cheeseburger seemed pretty basic.

First Impression: Enveloped in a warm bun, this option looked cute. With no lettuce and tomato, this order was stripped down to its most basic flavors. 

The pickles and onions were a great combo

The Jr. cheeseburger was pretty good.

Review: This burger was very nice. I liked the pickle-onion combination, and the ketchup stood out, too. It was a step above the kind of frozen patty you’d make at home on a hot plate, but certainly not as good as the one you’d get at a cookout. 

The flavors went well together, but unless you walk into Wendy’s thinking, “Wow, I just want a hamburger,” I’d say get something else. 

The Jr. hamburger looked very plain

The Jr. hamburger seemed underwhelming.

First Impression: This kind of looked sad compared to the behemoths that it stood next to on the menu. 

Honestly, if the Jr. hamburger is the worst thing on this list, I think it will reflect how fantastic all of the other burgers are rather than how bad this one is.

But it’s a hamburger. You don’t go to Wendy’s for just a hamburger. 

This was so small that I felt like I was eating Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree

I wouldn’t get the Jr. hamburger again.

Review: The pickles were crunchy, the onion had zip, and the ketchup was good, but the meat was pretty underseasoned.  

It was so small, with just a single sliver of onion and a couple of tiny pickles. I felt like I was eating the tiny “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree.

Division-5 winner: The Jr. bacon cheeseburger was the best of this large pool

The Jr. bacon cheeseburger was my favorite in this category.

Honestly, an argument could be made for the deluxe, but I think the bacon helped push this option over the edge — it also slightly seasoned the meat. 

That said, I didn’t see this winner advancing very far in the ultimate playoff.

Division 6: The bacon jalapeño burgers had 3 formidable-looking contenders

Wendy’s added a kick of spice to its menu with its bacon jalapeño burgers. Each order is topped with pickled jalapeños, bacon, cheese, fried onions, cheese sauce, and jalapeño sauce. 

I loved seeing crispy onions on the bacon jalapeño cheeseburger

The bacon jalapeño cheeseburger had crispy onions.

First Impression: I was excited about the addition of crispy onions, which are always good on a burger. Jalapeño would never be my first move, but I was interested to see what Wendy’s did with that choice as well. 

Again, this one had no other vegetables, but that hadn’t been a dealbreaker so far. 

The hot jalapeños made this burger 

The bacon jalapeño cheeseburger was delicious.

Review: This burger was excellent. The cheese sauce was good but not on Taco Bell’s level, which knocked it down a peg.  

The jalapeños were delicious and gave the burger a real kick, and the crispy onions elevated the whole thing. I liked that Wendy’s took a shot with the cheese sauce, even if it didn’t quite hit. 

Overall, the onions and jalapeños made this better, but the cheese sauce brought it down.

The bacon jalapeño double cheeseburger looked especially promising

The bacon jalapeño double cheeseburger seemed like a good size.

First Impression: The double burger was the best size, and this seemed to be where the bacon jalapeño double cheeseburger separated itself from the rest. 

This burger was one of my favorites 

I wished the bacon jalapeño double cheeseburger had more crunch.

Review: This was one of my favorite burgers. The jalapeño had a lot of bite, and the cheese balanced everything out. It was like ballpark nachos between a bun. 

My only complaint was that it didn’t have produce. I’d love a crisp, fresh onion or tomato on here. 

The bacon jalapeño triple cheeseburger looked like the best triple

The bacon jalapeño triple cheeseburger made my mouth water.

First Impression: This was the only triple that I actually believed might have been as good as the originals, but only because I thought the jalapeño had a strong enough flavor to carry across three patties. 

Still, I just didn’t know why I needed this much meat. 

I could not have opened my mouth any wider

The bacon jalapeño triple cheeseburger was a little much.

Review: My first impression was spot on. The jalapeños added enough variety to avoid making this one taste like a meat sandwich. Still, the double was more manageable and, therefore, better to eat.

Division-6 winner: The bacon jalapeño double cheeseburger was the best in this bracket

The bacon jalapeño double cheeseburger had a good meat-to-toppings ratio.

I may have been skeptical about the cheese sauce and lack of vegetables, and although those points still stand, this burger was still good on its own.

Division 7: I expected stiff competition between the burgers with pretzel buns

Each burger in this category had a thick pretzel bun. This line of Wendy’s burgers is dressed to the nines in toppings and upgrades, though the contents of each sandwich vary. 

The pretzel Baconator looked like a meat-heavy yet delicious option

The pretzel Baconator featured cheese, bacon, ketchup, and mayo.

First Impression: This two-patty burger certainly looked filling. The pretzel bun excited me, but I was slightly disappointed that it didn’t have salt on top. However, I was sure the burger would be salty enough.

I also appreciated that the burger came with ketchup, mayo, and two slices of cheese.

I wished there was less meat in this burger

I liked the individual ingredients in the pretzel Baconator, but I didn’t think they worked too well together.

Review: This sandwich had everything — to the point where I thought it was a little too much. I couldn’t handle all that meat, and although there was ample cheese, it was overpowered. At first, I thought the burger needed more ketchup, but it definitely had enough.

Each ingredient was fine by itself. Even the pretzel bun tasted good, though it lacked crispness and was slippery from the glossy sheen on top.

The bacon seemed high quality — I liked it better than what I’ve had at other fast-food chains — but sadly contributed to the meat takeover. Those patties just overpowered everything.

This could’ve been a balanced burger with a pickle or some vegetables. As it was, I felt there was too much meat.

The Pretzel Bacon Pub cheeseburger looked like a delicious mess

The Bacon Pretzel Pub cheeseburger had honey mustard.

First Impression: This certainly looked like the best burger on the list. Forget the beer-cheese sauce, the fact that Wendy’s included honey mustard on this is incredible. 

Fried onions are classic, but the thing that caught my eye was the Muenster cheese. That was a bold move for a fast-food restaurant, and I wouldn’t have trusted any other place to get it right.

The onion bits smelled incredible, and I was excited to dig in. 

I shouldn’t have let this one get cold

The Pretzel Bacon Pub cheeseburger was a solid choice.

Review: This was a delicious burger, but don’t let it get cold.

Temperature doesn’t usually make a huge difference, but there were too many moving parts here to let it sit — I’m talking about even the time it takes to get back home.  

The Muenster cheese, onion, pretzel, and beer-cheese sauce, which I couldn’t really taste, were very heavy. The light pickle flavor and fluffy pretzel bun held this meal together. 

I had to hand it to Wendy’s. I’ve had worse pub burgers, but this was a solid offering.

The Pretzel Bacon Pub double was more balanced

The Pretzel Bacon Pub double seemed like it would have a good combination of flavors.

First Impression: I was optimistic that having two patties could help balance out the flavors in this burger.

However, I was slightly worried the honey mustard would get lost in the meat. 

It was the only double I liked less than the single version

The pickle was the saving grace on the Pretzel Bacon Pub double.

Review: I liked this option less than the first one. Throughout most of this taste test, two patties had been the perfect amount of meat for a burger, but the toppings felt like they got lost in this case. 

The pickle was the only thing that saved this meal. Everything else got utterly overpowered.

The Pretzel Bacon Pub triple probably shouldn’t exist

The Pretzel Bacon Pub triple seemed like too much.

First Impression: I didn’t think I’d be able to get my mouth around this burger. 

I also couldn’t imagine it would be better than the double, which had already lost so many of the delicious flavors and textures of the original — but I had to eat it.  

This burger was way too meat-heavy

The Pretzel Bacon Pub triple didn’t make any sense to me.

Review: As expected, this burger was a wall of meat. Frankly, I was disappointed it didn’t have cheese between every layer of meat, which likely would’ve made this meal better. Muenster must be pretty expensive. 

The burger wasn’t bad by any means, but it felt like an odd mix of ingredients.

The original Pretzel Bacon Pub Cheeseburger eked out a victory

Overall, this division was kind of disappointing compared to the other burgers I had tried so far, but I liked the single version the most. It was balanced enough for me to enjoy each ingredient separately.

Finally, I sat down to calculate my results

By the end, I tried 22 Wendy’s burgers.

I sat back to catch my breath, trying not to think about all that I’d consumed over four trips to Wendy’s. 

I feel sodium in my blood and cheese sauce coursing through my veins. Still, I was able to determine Wendy’s best burger. 

Let’s start at the bottom of this ranking. The Jr. burgers have to occupy the lowest spot. Every self-respecting burger joint needs to have a section like this, so you can’t fault Wendy’s.

The pretzel-bun burgers came next, which was an upset considering I had high hopes for them. As a group, these burgers were just too much. The flavor profile was just too busy, and I couldn’t get my mouth around them in every sense of the phrase. Even the single Pub burger couldn’t quite cut it. 

Dave’s line of burgers was also solid, but it suffered from some of the same issues as the Jrs. I don’t go to Wendy’s to have a regular burger, no matter how high it ranks on the list of offerings from the fast-food chain. 

Despite some strong competition, the Baconator won the gold

The Baconator was my favorite burger.

The bacon jalapeño double cheeseburger, Big Bacon cheddar cheeseburger, and Baconator all had excellent qualities. 

The pepper on the bacon jalapeño double cheeseburger offered a unique kick, but as a whole, this option suffered from an underwhelming cheese sauce and couldn’t compete with the winner. 

I didn’t want to rank the Big Bacon cheddar cheeseburger above the Baconator after one taste test — that would feel sacrilegious. It was absolutely the second-best burger, but if somebody wants to buy me another one, I’ll tell you if I change my mind.

Ultimately, the Baconator was just too excellent. This order was everything that you could ask for in a burger

This story was originally published in December 2020 and most recently updated on July 9, 2024.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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