The decision for Universal Studios to open a real-life Krusty Burger (one in Orlando, which has been open since 2013 and now one at Universal Studios Hollywood), while not surprising, was slightly ironic. The restaurant is modeled after the cartoon Krusty Burger, the eatery founded by beloved Simpsons character Krusty the Clown (aka Herschel Shmoikel Pinchas Yerucham Krustofsky). The irony lies in that the restaurant, in the context of The Simpsons show, is notoriously, horrendously bad: the staff is incompetent, the food unhealthy and horrible-tasting. Even Krusty can't stand to eat the burgers at his own restaurant. During one episode, he bites into a Krusty Burger while shooting a commercial and immediately spits it out, exclaiming, "Blech! I almost swallowed some of the juice!"
Then again, it's only a TV show. And Universal deserves credit for completely rehabilitating Krusty Burger's image in its new Springfield-themed environment at Universal Studios Hollywood. There, visitors can eat at Krusty Burger, drink at Moe's, shop at the Kwik-E-Mart, and even tour the Duff Brewery. And Krusty Burger is not at all how it's portrayed on the show: it's big, bright, clean, and the burgers, while overpriced (though not unexpectedly so, given the fact that you're in a theme park), are quite good.
A little history: Krusty Burger, founded by Krusty the Clown, first appeared in a 1991 episode of The Simpsons entitled "Three Men and a Comic Book." There are thousands of locations (on the show), including one restaurant that is located on an unmanned, offshore oil rig. The menu is vast, and generally pokes fun at the increasingly ridiculous and over-the-top nature of real-life fast food restaurants. Menu items that have appeared on the show in Krusty Burger locations include not only the Krusty Burger, but also:
- Deep Fried Krusty burger
- Mother Nature Burger
- Double Double Double Double
- Meat-Flavored Sandwich
- The Clogger
- Whatchamacarcass Sandwich
- Gravy Scrapems
- Twisty Lard
Sadly, we real-life Krusty Burger patrons are left to only imagine what an actual incarnation of something called "Twisty Lard" would taste like. Fortunately, three of the television burgers made it onto Universal Krusty's menu: the original Krusty Burger (naturally), the vegetarian Mother Nature Burger, and the Clogger Burger. For the sake of journalism, posterity, and just plain fan-boy curiosity, I ordered and ate all three of Krusty's burgers. Here's what I discovered:
1. The Mother Nature Burger
Chronologically the most recent of Krusty Burger's offerings, the Mother Nature Burger debuted during the final episode of season 20, "Coming to Homerica." On the show, the burger is made from "wheat-fed barley." In real life, it's a veggie burger. And not a bad one, either! Actual vegetables are definitely visible in the relatively coarse grind of the burger. It's well-seasoned, not mealy, and works well with the guacamole that comes on top of it.
2. The Krusty Burger
The old standby. The flagship burger. The burger that caused Krusty to personally lose $44 million dollars in 1984 (on S4E10, "Lisa's First Word") due to a promotional giveaway gone awry: when the Soviet Union boycotted the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Krusty was forced to give away way more burgers than he originally anticipated.
The actual burger itself? Very solid. The surprisingly large six-ounce patty is prepared fresh, and well-dressed with American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and a ubiquitous Thousand Islands-esque "secret sauce." The buns are quite excellent; light, eggy, and tender like a brioche bun.
Next read: The 21 Essential Burgers of America
What interested this Simpsons fan the most, however, is that the Krusty Burger comes with cheese automatically — there is no distinction between a Krusty Burger without cheese and one with cheese. This, despite the fact that in the famous "22 Short Films About Springfield" episode, Lou references a Krusty Burger with cheese, implying that a regular Krusty Burger would typically come without cheese. Splitting hairs, here.
3. The Clogger
Our last (and best) burger, The Clogger, has actually no relationship to the television show — it was created for 2007's surprisingly-not-horrible The Simpsons Movie. Krusty uses a pig named Plopper (aka "Spider Pig") in filming a commercial for the burger, which he's totally disgusted by.
The actual burger is a winner, though. It's essentially a double Krusty Burger with bacon, but the Clogger is more than simply the sum of its parts. It's a massive, difficult-to-eat behemoth, but the decadence is part of its charm. For anyone who's ever wished you could get bacon on your burgers from In-N-Out (I have), this is as close to a Double Double with bacon as you're going to come.
And who knows? Maybe if this Krusty Burger experiment goes well at Universal Studios, more restaurants and an expanded menu could be in the cards. I, for one, eagerly anticipate tasting a Whatchamacarcass, washed down with a Krusty Partially-Gelatinated Non-Dairy Gum-Based Beverage.