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The Mustard Whopper
I was chatting online with a friend about secret menu items at fast food restaurants. When the conversation turned to Burger King they started raving about having ordered a Whopper that had mustard instead of mayonnaise. This brought back memories of discussions I had with my Uncle when I was a kid about this very sandwich, which he aptly called a “Mustard Whoppper.”
The Origin of the Whopper
The Whopper was born way back in 1957. It was created by Burger King co-founder Jame McLamore after seeing a rival burger restaurant doing well selling larger burgers.
Originally priced at 37 cents, it was given the name, “Whopper” because he believed the name conveyed “imagery of something big.” Fortunately for Burger King, McLamore was onto something, and this large format burger would help catapult the chain to national success.
What is a Whopper?
Although you can “have it your way” at Burger King locations, the basic Whopper consists of a quarter pound flame-grilled 4 oz beef patty, sesame seed bun, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup, and sliced onion.
In this commercial starring future Academy Awards nominee, Elizabeth Shue, we get to see a Whopper loving assembled, while we are hard-sold on the concept of “have it your way.”
The problem with this level of customization is that you are still working with just 8 ingredients. You could ask for less or more of those 8, but it’s still very limiting. That is where Whopper variants enter the picture.
Over the years, there have been dozens of variations on this venerable burger around the world. Depending on where you live in the world, you could or still can get things like Angry Whoppers, Pizza Whoppers, Chicken Whoppers, or Halloween Whoppers. The list is large, varied, and also fairly recent compared to the Mustard Whopper, which got its start way back in the Seventies.
The Mustard Whopper
The first mention I can find of the Mustard Whopper is an advertisement from January 1975. It appears to be part of their regular menu, along with Whopper Double Meat and the legendary Yumbo Ham Sandwich in its original round format.
Interestingly, people claim the Yumbo sandwich was discontinued in 1974. Here we clearly see that it lingered past that date.
They would get advertised throughout the Seventies, especially in the Southwest United States. The emphasis of the pitch was the “sharp zing” that you got from the mustard. Check out this description:
Westerners love its quick, sharp zing! It’s the zippy, zesty, original Whopper Sandwich you only get at Burger King. One hundred percent pure beef and plenty of it, with lots of mustard slathered on. Then, crunchy onions, farm-fresh tomatoes, and crisp, curly lettuce. Like all our burgers, it’s flame-broiled, never fried. Ant here’s the spiciest offer in the West – buy one Mustard Whopper, get another Free with this coupon.
Advertising seems to have peaked in the early 80s and then for about a decade you cannot find much talk about the Mustard Whopper. Then in 1991, a Mustard Whopper combo advertisement appears in Austin, Texas.
After that, it seems the Mustard Whopper went completely off-menu, at least in any way that can be traced in print. Although, very quickly you do start seeing people with health concerns about mayonnaise suggesting that people trying to cut down on their calories order a Whopper with mustard instead of mayo.
Why Mustard? Why Texas?
After posting this, I got an interesting comment from Food Historian, Brian Miles, about food regionalism and Whataburger.
As I mentioned, the Mustard Whopper seemed focused on the Southwest United States, with most advertising from Texas. Why there?
As Brian noted, It is probably a reaction to the successful regional chain Whataburger and their use of mustard on their burgers. It was one of those, “if you can’t beat ’em, imitate ’em” things. It explains the presence of mustard and why it stayed so regional.
Secret Menus are a great way for people to get more out of their fast food experience. But as the Mustard Whopper demonstrates, a lot of these unusual “secret” variations, got their start as canceled menu items. Their memory was kept alive by people who enjoyed them and because of that, you can head down to your local Burger King and get a zingy mustardy taste of the seventies without a time machine.
Line starts behind me.