After over a year’s worth of anticipation, the long-awaited opening of the first Whataburger location in Athens has finally arrived. This popular fast food restaurant located on Atlanta Highway is currently offering a 24-hour drive-thru service and is already attracting noticeable business from the Athens community.
Whataburger is a Texas-based chain that offers a diverse selection of menu items for any time of day including burgers, sandwiches, chicken strips, salads, sides and breakfast options.
I visited the restaurant on the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 7. As I pulled up, the dual-lane drive-thru line was wrapped around the corner, with over 20 cars inching slowly toward the employees standing outside taking orders.
After a 40-minute wait, I decided to try some classic favorites, including the traditional “Whataburger,” the “Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich” and, of course, a side of fries.
Unwrapping the “Whataburger” immediately released a mouthwatering aroma which lingered as I took my first bite. I had previously heard that Whataburger was known for its huge burgers, but my eyes still widened in shock when I saw the 5-inch burger in front of me. It came warm, topped with mustard, tomato, lettuce, pickles and diced onion.
I opted to add American cheese to the burger, which I highly recommend, as it adds a bit of smooth creaminess. The prominent, but not overbearing flavor of pickles brought an acidic sharpness to balance the savory, smoky taste of the large beef patty and enhanced the medley of flavors brought by a balanced ratio of toppings.
No element of the burger I ordered made it particularly distinctive from other competitors. However, I think if I chose to add-on any of its customizable toppings such as chili, bacon, jalepeños, avocado or any other sauces, I would have enjoyed it even more.
Despite this, I was impressed by the size and quality of this burger, and I think it was worth the price of $5.69.
The chicken sandwich includes three chicken breast strips, honey barbeque sauce and two slices of Monterey Jack cheese, served on your choice of Texas toast or a toasted five-inch bun. I opted for the Texas toast option.
Upon first bite, I was disappointed by the dryness and lack of seasoning. As I kept eating though, I was pleasantly surprised by the sweet and tangy flavor of the honey BBQ sauce that complimented the richness of the melty monterey jack cheese.
The mix of textures between the two layers of fluffy, buttery Texas toast and crispy chicken tenders inside blended together well, but some bites tended to be overly bready.
The golden, thin-cut fries were perfectly salty and varied in texture between crispy and soft. They were fairly standard fast-food fries but were still delicious nonetheless.
I tested the fries with the signature spicy ketchup and the spicy jalepeño ranch, both providing a subtle kick in different ways.
I wasn’t a fan of the flavor pairing of the spicy ranch with fries. It would be much better suited as a dressing on one of Whataburger’s salads given its earthy and peppery flavor.
The spicy ketchup, on the other hand, coupled with the fries nicely. It was not too vinegary and had a hint of sweetness with a very mild spice. I would definitely try other sauces on my second visit.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience trying Whataburger for the first time and thought the quality was impressive for a national chain. However, the irony of the restaurant being “fast” food definitely became clear after my lengthy wait time in line.
Patience, a good playlist and a full gas tank are all necessary when taking on the drive-thru, yet I do understand the hype and will return once some of the initial excitement dies down.
Read More: Taste Test: Whataburger