Denny’s Baconalia: A Look at Bacon Meatloaf
Out of the seven “new” items on the Denny’s Baconalia Menu, the one that struck me as being both inventive and appetizing was the Bacon Meatloaf. The Maple Bacon Sundae was certainly inventive, but I must admit not particularly appetizing (although, I did end up enjoying it) and the rest of the items all looked appealing, but didn’t strike me as groundbreaking. The meatloaf, I thought, at least has one foot out of the box.
As we awaited the white coated servers at the Denny’s Test Kitchen to serve our next trial sized dish, our hosts explained the makeup of their creation. There were bits of bacon mixed in with the traditional ingredients to form the “loaf” and there were now bits of me wondering if I qualified as a “loaf” for actually being excited to try it. The meatloaf was adorned with a specially made smoky sweet ketchup and sizeable chunks of traditional hickory bacon. To me, the proper or improper use of ketchup is what makes or breaks meatloaf. Too much, and you want to gag, too little and you may as well have a hamburger without a bun. Additionally, the taste (or brand) of ketchup is of high importance. If you go with cheap, off-brand stuff made out of high fructose corn syrup and Red #4, it makes the loaf too sweet. I prefer Heinz, but the stuff Denny’s came up with was top shelf and it had a perfect mild flavor that really complimented the extra meatiness of the bacon laden meatloaf. To wrap up, this stuff tastes good.
Now on to the texture. I think many people, if not grossed out by the ketchup element of meatloaf, are turned off by the idea of just eating a slab of cohesive ground meat. Striking a balance between the loaf falling apart when sliced and getting a dense rubbery consistency is the hardest part about making meatloaf. When we were presented our sample from the test kitchen, I was pleased to see that they had paid attention to this detail and had found that happy medium. The loaf was easy to cut with a fork, but didn’t fall apart once on the end. But… this was the test kitchen. How would this product hold up if it was served to me at a real Denny’s? Well, I had to find out, so I ventured off to my local outpost and ordered it up. The meal comes with two sides and dinner bread. I chose the onion rings and fiesta corn. I was served the onion rings and regular corn, but no worries, I was here to give the meatloaf a quality control check, not the sides.
As I suspected, the meatloaf in the actual Denny’s was a bit more rubbery, taking on the form of a patty, rather than a slice. The taste, on the other hand held true, right down to the specialty ketchup topping. In the end, the problem might have more to do with presentation than it does with texture, but nonetheless there’s something a little unappetizing about its Swanson Frozen Dinner-like appearance. That being said, I did finish my plate and left the restaurant satisfied. For $8.99, this might seem a bit pricey, given Denny’s reputation as a low cost road trip pit stop, but with the two sides and bread, I didn’t feel taken.
Pros: Good meaty taste, complimented by an artfully constructed smoky ketchup topping.
Cons: Looks like it was stamped out of a meatloaf slice shaped machine; texture a bit rubbery.