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    We tried and ranked every Chili’s burger, and we think it’s the chain to watch

    We sent three reporters to Chili’s to try every full-sized burger on the menu.

    Maria Noyen/Business Insider; Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    We sent three reporters to Chili’s to try every burger on the menu.The double-stacked burgers were a little too heavy for our tastes.But we were pleasantly surprised by Alex’s Santa Fe Burger, the most creative burger on the menu.

    Chili’s is having a moment.

    Following the viral smash of Chili’s Triple Dipper and the release of its first new burger in three years, the Big Smasher, we decided to put the other burgers on Chili’s menu to the test and see if the chain is worthy of all this attention.

    When Business Insider visited the chain’s headquarters in April, executives told us Chili’s was leaning into advertising campaigns and new menu initiatives in order to improve brand awareness and traffic — a strategy that appears to be working.

    In April, Kevin Hochman, the CEO of Brinker International, which owns Chili’s, said in an earnings call that same-store sales rose 3.5% in the third quarter.

    Hochman added that Chili’s outperformed competitors in the casual dining industry on sales by over 7% and on traffic by nearly 4% during the third quarter, despite traffic being down overall.

    The chain attributed the positive momentum to a return to television advertising, as well as the release of its new Big Smasher burger, a dupe for McDonald’s Big Mac and the centerpiece of the chain’s value-focused marketing initiative.

    Burgers are a huge area of opportunity for casual-dining chains.

    Restaurant Business reported that limited-service chains where burgers are a core menu item generated $110 billion in total sales in 2023, more than double the sales generated by limited-service chicken chains like Popeyes and Chick-fil-A.

    While this data was limited to fast-food chains, the trend extends to casual-dining burger chains like Chili’s and Applebee’s. Chili’s is also attempting to prove it has the best-value burger.

    Executives at the chain previously told BI they are focusing on the Chili’s “core four” menu items, which include burgers, fajitas, Chicken Crispers, and margaritas, in future initiatives, with an increased focus on value.

    We’ve already tried the Big Smasher, but we wanted to see how the other burgers on Chili’s menu fared in terms of taste and value. We only tried the full-sized burgers and ordered them as-is. The prices included below reflect how much the burgers cost including fries as a side.

    Business Insider coordinated with Chili’s Grill & Bar to organize this taste test at our local restaurant, but BI paid for the meal, and the chain had no influence on our ranking.

    Here’s every Chili’s burger, ranked from worst to best.

    Our least favorite burger was also the most decadent: the Bacon Rancher.Chili’s Bacon Rancher burger.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    The Bacon Rancher burger cost $19.49, excluding tax, at our local Chili’s in Glendale, New York.

    The Bacon Rancher comes with two beef patties, six slices of bacon, ranch dressing, American cheese, sauteed onions, and pickles on a buttered brioche bun. Chili’s Bacon Rancher Burger.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    The bacon was arranged in a criss-cross design on the top of the burger patties and cheese. There were two slices of cheese on the burger patties, which were smashed and had a crispy texture.

    This was the Mount Everest of Chili’s burgers.Chili’s Bacon Rancher Burger.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    The ranch dressing worked well with the other ingredients in the burger and added a creamy, tangy flavor that offset the savoriness of the two burger patties and bacon.

    However, we thought this burger bordered on too much meat. We couldn’t clearly taste the bacon over the juicy, meaty flavor of the patties, and the moisture from the two burgers affected the texture of the bun, which struggled to hold its shape.

    We also missed some of the fresher ingredients, like lettuce or tomato, that we enjoyed in the other burgers we tried.

    Overall, this burger just wasn’t to our personal taste.

    We experienced similar issues with the Double Oldtimer, but liked the toppings better.Chili’s Double Oldtimer with cheese.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    The Double Oldtimer with cheese cost $17.79, excluding tax, at our local Chili’s in Glendale, New York.

    The Double Oldtimer with cheese comes with two beef patties, cheddar cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and mustard. Chili’s Double Oldtimer with cheese.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    The burgers were stacked neatly on top of one another, with the toppings under the beef. We thought this was interesting — we usually place burger toppings on top of the patties to prevent the bottom bun from getting soggy.

    This burger tasted strongly of mustard, but we enjoyed the classic toppings. Chili’s Double Oldtimer with cheese.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    A thin slice of cheese separated the two burger patties, and we thought the lettuce and tomato tasted fresh. However, we had mixed feelings about the mustard.

    The mustard almost overpowered the other ingredients, and the additional patty made the burger so juicy that the bread was nearly flattened. Still, we thought the burger patties were cooked perfectly and had an excellent texture.

    It was a great classic burger, similar to one we might make at a cookout. However, we all agreed that when dining out, we prefer to choose more creative options.

    We also tried the single-patty Oldtimer burger without cheese.Chili’s Oldtimer.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    The Oldtimer cost $13.29, excluding tax, at our local Chili’s in Glendale, New York.

    The Oldtimer comes with one burger patty, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and mustard.Chili’s Oldtimer.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    We were interested to see how this burger compared to the others, which were all topped with cheese.

    This was the simplest and most traditional burger we tried. Chili’s Oldtimer.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    Unlike with the double, we could distinctly taste all the ingredients since there was no second patty to overpower the flavor of the toppings. We also surprisingly didn’t miss the cheese — the burger was so juicy and moist, it didn’t need it.

    However, the mustard was still a little strong. One of us thought the addition of ketchup would have balanced out the burger more, but another reporter thought it was fine without it.

    The Mushroom Swiss burger was divisive.Chili’s Mushroom Swiss Burger.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    The Mushroom Swiss Burger cost $14.79, excluding tax, at our local Chili’s in Glendale, New York.

    The Mushroom Swiss burger comes with sauteed onions, mushrooms, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. Chili’s Mushroom Swiss Burger.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    This burger was stacked high, with mushrooms falling out of the bun. One of our reporters, in particular, is a big fan of mushrooms, and these ones looked perfectly cooked and came in a hearty serving. We were excited to try it.

    The sauteed onions were crunchy and balanced out the moist texture of the mushrooms. Chili’s Mushroom Swiss Burger.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    This burger tasted earthy but not overpowering, thanks to the generous serving of mushrooms, but the onions were the secret star.

    The burger patty, which was cooked medium, kept its shape while adding moisture, as did the mushrooms. The lettuce, onions, and tomato balanced out the burger by adding crunch, and the creamy mayonnaise pulled it all together.

    One of our reporters actually deemed this burger as their second favorite, but it was beaten in the overall ranking.

    The BBQ Brisket Burger was our next favorite. Chili’s BBQ Brisket Burger.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    The BBQ Brisket Burger cost $17.59, excluding tax.

    The BBQ Brisket Burger has one beef patty and is topped with pulled brisket, the chain’s new housemade barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese, and pickles. Chili’s BBQ Brisket Burger.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    The beef patty was topped with a slice of cheddar cheese, pickles, and a mound of pulled brisket slathered in Chili’s sweet barbecue sauce.

    Meat was by far the star of this burger. Chili’s BBQ Brisket Burger.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    The combination of the soft and moist pulled brisket and the crispy yet juicy patty worked well for this burger, especially when combined with the barbecue sauce that we caught a noticeable whiff of even before tucking in to eat.

    The sweetness of the sauce also provided a solid balance to the tartness of the pickles.

    One of our reporters, who usually reaches for ketchup when eating burgers, noticed she didn’t feel the need with this burger.

    Since we were splitting the burger, we didn’t feel it was overwhelmingly meaty. However, as much as we enjoyed our smaller portions, we could imagine eating a whole burger by ourselves could result in meat overload.

    The Just Bacon Burger was reminiscent of a BLT sandwich.Chili’s Just Bacon Burger.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    The Just Bacon Burger cost $14.99, excluding tax.

    The Just Bacon Burger has one beef patty topped with bacon, cheddar cheese, pickles, lettuce, red onion, tomato, and mayonnaise. Chili’s Just Bacon Burger.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    Despite its size and plentiful ingredients, this burger looked to be holding up decently within its bun. We were curious to see if that would be the case after we portioned it out. After cutting it into four pieces, each section did hold up.

    The tomato was thick, and the bacon was glazed nicely. Chili’s Just Bacon Burger.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    The ingredients in this burger, besides the patty, reminded us of a familiar favorite: a BLT. But what worked so well was that we could taste each component, as none overpowered the other.

    There was a generous amount of crispy bacon, the slice of tomato was thick and juicy, and the mayo-covered lettuce added a touch of freshness to each bite.

    As much as we enjoyed it, we ended up placing two burgers ahead that were just as delicious but more unique.

    The Big Smasher was coated in a refreshing sauce. Chili’s Big Smasher Burger.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    The Big Smasher Burger cost $14.39, excluding tax.

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

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    The Thousand Island dressing was dripping from all sides of the burger. One reporter remarked that we should’ve worn bibs.

    It looked like the Big Smasher Burger was going to be a saucy mess, but the dressing turned out to be one of our favorite aspects.

    The saucy burger was tangy, juicy, and ideal for the summer. Chili’s Big Smasher Burger.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    The Big Smasher Burger wasn’t the easiest to handle, as it left our hands slick with sauce, but it made up for the mess with flavor.

    The Thousand Island dressing was creamy and thick, yet refreshing and tangy, helped by an assortment of red onions and pickles. It completely coated the juicy patty. Despite the heavy amount of dressing and juices, the bun remained intact, unlike some other burgers on the menu.

    It had a tasty zing that we felt made it an ideal burger to eat in the summer.

    Our favorite burger was inspired by the Southwest. Chili’s Alex’s Santa Fe Burger.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    The Alex’s Santa Fe Burger cost $16.29, excluding tax, at our local Chili’s in Glendale, New York.

    Alex’s Santa Fe Burger had the most distinctive toppings.Chili’s Alex’s Santa Fe Burger.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    It came with one beef patty, avocado, pepper jack cheese, red onion, jalapeños, tomato, pickles, cilantro, and the chain’s spicy Santa Fe sauce.

    The burger — named for Chili’s sous chef Alex Gomez, who created it — is as flavorful as it is colorful. Chili’s Alex’s Santa Fe Burger.

    Erin McDowell/Business Insider

    We reached a quick consensus that Alex’s Sante Fe Burger was our favorite burger as it was by far the most creative and authentic.

    Created by Chili’s sous chef Alex Gomez in 2018, the burger is jam-packed with as many flavors as it has colorful ingredients.

    The jalapeños and slightly smoky Sante Fe sauce gave each bite a kick, but the slices of avocado and tomato, the juicy patty, and the cheese balanced it out. As one reporter noted, it’s spicy but not to the level that has you immediately reaching for a glass of water.

    The burger’s brightness and freshness helped it live up to its Southwestern-inspired name and made it our top choice on the menu.

    This definitely wasn’t your average chain-restaurant burger — and it cemented Chili’s as the casual-dining chain to watch, in our humble opinions.

    Read the original article on Business Insider

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