Wayback Burgers recently unveiled its McDonald’s-trolling take on the Big Mac, the Big Way. (The announcement said it is a “remake of a mediocre burger made by the biggest clown in the business.”) McDonald’s and Wayback are two very different chains, even if they both sling burgers. Most importantly, Wayback is fast casual, not fast food. It might seem like a small thing, but it is significant. You pay more and expect better at a fast casual establishment.
Still, I wanted to know how these dueling burgers stacked up against each other. Is the Big Way genuinely doing a good job aping the Big Mac? If it is, which is better? I did what anyone would do when they’re paid to think about these deeply important topics: I tried them side by side.
Now the criteria are obvious. The Big Mac is one of the most iconic fast food menu items in existence. It has its own song! It’s not a jingle for the restaurant but for that exact burger. Because of that little ditty, everyone knows what’s on a Big Mac. It shouldn’t be hard to recreate. They wrote a song to remember the recipe. So, let’s use the song as a guide to see how Wayback performed and if being first means being best.
Two All-Beef Patties
We’re starting at the top of the song. Keeping in mind that this is fast casual versus fast food, It shouldn’t be a fair fight at any stage of the jingle. Still, we start.
I’m not excited by the quality of the meat at Wayback. It’s not keeping pace with fast casual competitors like Culver’s, Five Guys, or Smashburger here. However, biting in side by side drives home how flimsy the patty is at McDonald’s. It feels almost flavorless compared to Wayback’s beef, and it definitely lacks that charred flavor. Neither patty is particularly juicy, but the McDonald’s patties are outright dry. I’m dying for a little more special sauce to help me get it down. Wayback’s meat isn’t bad, but the scales tip primarily because McDonald’s just isn’t cutting it here.
Point: Wayback (I’m giving out points, I guess)
Wayback’s “special sauce” is a Thousand Island dressing that is creamier and less sweet than the sauce from the Golden Arches. You probably aren’t ordering a Big Mac if the Thousand Island on a burger repulses you, but you should deeply appreciate salad dressing as a burger condiment when you order the Big Way. There’s a lot of sauce on there. That’s a good thing because the less-sweet profile on the Big Way complements the burger nicely. Also, again, the Big Mac would have benefited from more sauce to balance out the dryness of the meat.
Okay. This is a bit of a weird one. It may come down to preference, but the shredded lettuce at McDonald’s gives the Big Mac a nice crunchy texture. In most other instances, the large leaves of lettuce Wayback drops on the burger would be my preference, but McDonald’s has that lettuce texture down to a science, even if it’s 99% texture and 1% flavor. They must know that because the ingredients list on this McDonald’s page does not follow the jingle and calls it “crisp lettuce.”
You expected McDonald’s to get shut out when I started doling out points. Well, it’s a game.
It’s not just about the placement of the cheese. I was really searching to make sure McDonald’s didn’t forget the cheese entirely. I’ve got a whole pile of pictures of the Big Mac, and I don’t think you can see cheese in any of them. Wayback’s American cheese is melted perfectly and nails what you want from a Big Mac. Also, the McDonald’s page that lists “crisp lettuce” calls the cheese “processed cheddar cheese,” which is not an appetizing way to say the burger’s got cheese on it.
This category was easy, even though I really like the pickles at McDonald’s. That might be more about nostalgia than anything. Nonetheless, the Big Way has optimal pickle coverage. They’re everywhere, and they’re crunchy. They’re perfect. McDonald’s, well…
Both of these chains must think I’m scared of onion breath. I am not scared. If you say there are onions on this burger, if you’re going to sing about those onions, you better give me some onions. The onions on both burgers were more challenging to find than Waldo.
Point: If I were Gordon Ramsay, I’d say no points. Get the hell out of here.
Sesame Seed Bun
Wayback creates a pretty faithful adaptation of the Big Mac on the whole. However, there is a point of divergence here. It’s like the modern Westworld versus the Michael Crichton-directed 1973 Westworld movie. Sure the movie might be the original, but no one is debating which is better.
Instead of the triple stack of bread that McDonald’s serves, Wayback gives you a brioche bun. Just a bun. No third slice. No sesame seeds. Still, it’s painfully obvious that the quality of the bread is much higher at Wayback. That’d be the case even if the sesame seed bun from McDonald’s wasn’t a bit stale, and it was.
Point: Wayback, even if I’m missing about 70 sesame seeds here.
Obviously, Wayback is more expensive. It came in at about $8.50. The Big Mac in my neighborhood cost me $5.55. Again, we’re looking at fast casual versus fast food. Expect everything to be marginally more expensive. However, the moral of the story here is that you’re getting what you pay for.
Point: McDonald’s, I guess. I probably shouldn’t give a point for this. Too late now.
Oof. I know you can dress up a Big Mac to look nice in a picture, but the one that I got is not a handsome sandwich. The Big Mac looks grim next to the Big Way.
Is it a Faithful Cover?
There are differences between the two, but they are primarily about making the Big Way taste better. Wayback may position the Big Way as a troll, but the truth is that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. This is a tribute to what might be the most iconic fast food item in American history.
Setting Everything Aside
Honestly, if you’re sitting down to scarf down a Big Way, you might not be all that concerned with the breakdown or if it’s a faithful homage. Here’s what matters: It’s a solid burger. It’s better than a Big Mac, and it’s a legit contender for the best burger on the Wayback menu. It’s absolutely worth ordering. Where it comes up short are the exact spots where other Wayback burgers come up short when compared to the titans of fast casual burgers like the ButterBurger or the Classic Smash Burger.
If you’re craving a Big Mac, you’ll be more than happy to have spent the extra few bucks on a Big Way.