Thursday, November 22, 2007

Club Burger at Carrols, Helsinki, Finland

This was my fourth and last burger with a journalist from Helsingin Sanomat. He's making a story about hamburgers and I was interviewed for the article while tasting several burgers.

In the 90's there were three big burger chains in Finland - McDonalds, Carrols and Hesburger. Two of these were original US based burger chains. You know the McDonals but also Carrols originally came to Finland as a franchise from the United States. Carrols Corporation was found in Syracusa NY, and during the 60's Carrols restaurant were found in North East and Southern states of United States. In 1975 all Carrols restaurant locations were converted to Burger King franchises. The original menu of Carrols, and the Carrols brand, then went overseas - to Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, and Russia.

First Finnish Carrols restaurant was opened in Helsinki in 1975, and already in 1976 Finnish Carrols restaurants were the last restaurants in the world to carry the Carrols brand and menu. Eventually the Carrols brand was completely bought by the Finnish company Tuko while the original Carrols location in the United States converted to Burger King restaurants. In 1996 Tuko was acquired by the Finnish company, Kesko, until Hesburger acquired their rival Carrols chain in 2002. After that almost all Carrols locations were terminated or transfered to Hesburger restaurants. Only few locations were left alive in Greater Helsinki region. In August 2006 new life was breathed into the Carrols brand when a pilot concept was launched with Pikoil, an operator of Neste branded service stations across Finland. Currently there's only six Carrols location in Greater Helsinki region and one satellite location in Imatra, which is located in South East Finland, near the Russian border.

The flagship sandwhich in the original Carrols menu was the Club Burger. Like the Big Mac at McDonald's, its piled on a sesame seeded triple-decker bun and it has 2 all-beef patties, a special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions. The original Club Burger also had a tomato slice which was left out from the Finnish version. The special sauce in Club Burger is known as Royale sauce. Back in the day I remember Roayl sauce to be a big secret of Carrols but basically it's a simple blend of 45% mayonnaise + 45% ketchup + 10% relish.

While Hesburger almost terminated the whole chain they also changed the menu to fit the Hesburger production chain. This caused the Club Burger taste to change.

So what's the Club Burger like in a Hesburger world? It's still a standard burger chain product, pretty dry and tasteless while the only real taste comes from the sauce. And for this very reason Club Burger doesn't taste the same as it used to. The sauce doesn't taste as strong and delicious after the production was transfered to Hesburger production plant. Suprisingly Hesburger has also cut down the amount of Royal Sauce on Club Burger while they overdo it on their own burgers. Also little things like standard Hesburger ketchup and pickle has changed the original taste.

Recommended for the history and good times but it just doesn't taste same as it used to.

Aleksanterinkatu 17
00100 Helsinki, Finland

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