Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Best and the Worst: Fast Food Menu Items

 Okay, I'll just come right out and say it, I eat way too much fast food.  I could make a lot of excuses for my poor eating habits like my job keeps me so busy I only have time to grab a quick lunch, or I'm not a very good cook, or fast food is a cheap way to fill my belly.  All those things are true, but if we're going to be completely honest about it, I just really, really like a good burger.  Or a burrito.  And fries.  Given my experience with the quick-cuisine industry, I'm happy to share with you the best and the worst of what our fast food chains have to offer.


1. Double Double (In-N-Out Burger)

This one is a no-brainer.  For those of you not on the West Coast, In-N-Out Burger makes the greatest hamburgers known to man, and the Double Double is their crown jewel.  Two patties, two slices of cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and secret sauce.  Simple, yet perfect.  And while that's the "basic" formula for the Double Double, there's a whole "underground" menu available for those of us in the know.  First of all, there is no limit on the number of patties and cheese slices you can order -- the 3x3, the 4x4, whatever you want.  Legend has it that someone once ordered a 100x100 for a party, at the everyday low price of $98.  "Animal Style" burgers (my personal favorite) are made with a mustard-grilled burger, sauce, tomatoes, pickles, and grilled onions, the "Flying Dutchman" is just the meat and cheese with no bun.  Whatever your preference, In-N-Out Burger is the best of the best.

2. Macho Combination Burrito (Del Taco)

When my family first moved to California my Aunt Judy, who lived in Hollywood at the time, introduced me to the Macho Combo and I've been a fan ever since.  It weighs about fifteen pounds (okay, maybe not that much but it seems like it when it's sitting in your belly), contains beef, beans, veggies, two kinds of hot sauce and sour cream, and is mucho delicioso.  I get mine with no sour cream or green sauce, and with extra red sauce.  Like I said, these things are enormous.  A grizzly bear could hibernate for an entire winter after eating just one.  Of course, his farts would wipe out a small village.

3. Homestyle Chicken Filet (Wendy's)

I'm not a huge fan of fast food chicken sandwiches, but I'll make an exception with Wendy's.  There's nothing at all fancy about it -- just a breaded chicken breast, lettuce, tomato, and mayonaisse -- but the chicken is always juicy.  Pair this up with a cup of Wendy's chili and a chocolate Frosty and that's one heck of a lunch.  Back in the 80's I worked at Wendy's during the infamous "Where's the Beef" era and when it got close to closing time, a couple of us would drop a few chicken breasts into the fryer hoping that there would be "leftovers" when it came time to lock up.  They made a great late-night snack.

4. Cole Slaw (KFC)

Cole slaw is an interesting dish.  My mom's recipe is absolutely delicious, while the stuff you get in the deli section of Stater Brothers supermarket tastes like lawn clippings soaked in tepid dishwater.  There's just no industry standard for cole slaw.  But if there were, Kentucky Fried Chicken's entry would most definitely be the one to shoot for.  If KFC existed on Mount Olympus, Zeus and Apollo would've shunned ambrosia and nectar in favor of cole slaw and crispy Snackers. 

5. French Fries (McDonald's)

McDonald's French Fries are the Beatles of the fast food industry.  The best, without any competitors even close to attaining their pure and unquestioned greatness.  I don't know what the McRecipe is for their fries, but my guess is that a key ingredient is crack because once you eat one, you just keep eating and eating and eating.  In my forty-plus years of McDonald's customership, I can honestly tell you I've never thrown away a single fry, not even the burned and cripsy McRejects.  I would have no problem whatsoever with McDonald's creating a fifth size for their French Fries -- small, medium, large, Super Size, and Infinity.  A bargain at any price.


1. Chicken McNuggets (McDonald's)

It amazes me that the same group of chefs who came up with the world's greatest French Fries also created the single most disgusting lumps of crap to ever grace a McMenu (have I worn out the McJokes yet?  I believe I have.).  Seriously, the Chicken McNuggets are so terrible that I once saw a few hundred hens and roosters picketing outside the McDonald's corporate headquarters.  But let's not kid ourselves here.  If you believe that McNuggets are made with 100% pure chicken, you probably also think Joan Rivers has never had plastic surgery.  The first clue that something's not right in McDonaldland is the nuggets only come in three McShapes (yeah, I went there again): a rough circle, kidney-shaped, and something that vaguely resembles one of  Santa Claus's boots.  Whatever the shape, the one constant is their taste which can best be described as spongy cardboard.  No amount of barbecue sauce can make up for that.

2. Taco (Jack in the Box)

A basic rule of thumb in the fast food industry is this:  If the word "taco" doesn't appear in the name of your restaurant, you have no business making tacos.  Nowhere is this more obvious than at Jack in the Box.  Jack's tacos are unique in the fact that aside from the cheese and vegetables, they come "preformed" as a frozen taco shell with a lump of meat/sauce/seasonings wedged inside.  This is deep-fried, pried open by the "cook" and filled with lettuce, tomatoes and cheese.  More often than not, the shell ends up limp and soggy, dripping grease and recently-thawed beef juice all over the place.  Since they taste like sewage, the mess is simply not worth it.

3. Whopper (Burger King)

When a restaurant chain dubs itself the burger "king", you'd expect it to serve burgers that go beyond the level of mediocre.  The Whopper isn't an especially horrible hamburger, but it's hardly exceptional.  Besides, it's made with mayonnaise as a standard ingredient.  Oh sure, I could "have it my way" and simply tell them to hold the mayo, but what's the point?  The fact that they even considered using mayonnaise on a burger kills their credibility from the get-go.  If we were to look at all the major fast food chains in the country (and we're going to come fairly close), I doubt we could rank Burger King's hamburgers in the top ten.  It takes more than flame-broiling, that's for damn sure.

4. Big Carl/Big Shef (Carl's Jr./Hardee's)

Not too long ago, Carl's Jr. (Hardees in some parts of the country) came up with a burger called the "Big Carl" designed to compete with -- or more accurately, copy -- the Big Mac.  Two all beef patties, special sauce, etc., etc., with the only difference being its larger size.  I've had a couple Big Carls and to tell you the truth, they're pretty decent.  But they're not quite the Big Mac.  But all that's beside the point.  I have no respect for a restaurant that shamelessly rips off one of its rivals.  It's like that commercial where the creepy Burger King guy sneaks into McDonald's at night and steals the blueprint for the Egg McMuffin.  There's a reason other companies steal from Mickey D's.  It's because they know they're not as good.  Just a bunch of sore McLosers (I just can't seem to help myself).

5. French Fries (In-N-Out Burger)

Remember when I mentioned the McDonald's paradox, how odd it is that the company that makes the best fries on the planet also makes repulsive chicken nuggets?  In-N-Out Burger has a similar situation, only in reverse.  They make incredible hamburgers, but their fries flat-out suck.  The problem is simple.  In-N-Out makes its French fries from actual potatoes and nothing else, if you can believe it.  You can see the employees over by the fryers, slicing the spuds and submerging them in the grease.  They leave out all the tasty additives and preservatives (like the crack they use at McD's, for example).  In a perfect world, In-N-Out would merge with McDonald's and serve Double Double cheeseburgers with McFries.

But with my luck, they'd go with In-N-Out fries and Chicken McNuggets.


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Katy said...

I agree with you on most points... although I used to hate In N Out fries... I've found that getting them 'animal style' vastly improves them (what wouldn't) ...also, McNuggets aren't nearly as bad as the chicken strips from Burger Palace (in LV)...oh, and Jack in the Box tacos...they don't have meat.. it's soy.

Eva Gallant said...

I have had In and Out burgers once, and they were very good. We don't have them here in the east. We do have Five-guys, though. They are a great burger plus fresh cut fries that are awesome! They do give McDonald's fries a run for their money!

Eva Gallant said...

I have had In and Out burgers once, and they were very good. We don't have them here in the east. We do have Five-guys, though. They are a great burger plus fresh cut fries that are awesome! They do give McDonald's fries a run for their money!

Mariann Simms said...

No In-n-Out Burgers here..I never even seen one altered bumper sticker here in Alabama. I'd like to try a burger one day based on how much you seem to love these things.

I have to agree with the McD's fries...they really are tasty.

Chick-Fil-A's chicken sandwiches are damned tasty, too...and if you get the waffle fries straight from the cooker...oh, seriously...they give McD's a run for the money there.

I used to love going up to McD's at like 3 in the morning to get a "Big Breakfast" when they used to be open 24 hours and served breakfast starting right after midnite. Then they stopped doing that and then they changed their hash browns. I don't know if they've gone back to the original hash brown...but, damn, those things were tasty, too.

screwdestiny said...

I can't believe you don't like the Whopper! That is by far my favorite fast food burger. I tell them to hold the mayo though. I hate mayonnaise anyway, but it definitely does not belong on a burger. Oh, and McDonald's fries are good, but Burger King's are the best. It's a really good thing we don't have a Burger King where I live...
Oh, and McNuggets have 38 ingredients in them. Yup. Pretty nasty.

Heff said...


Burger King Burgers RULE, and not only are McDonald's fries renown, I love their McNuggets even MORE.

Other than those two items, McDonald's can kiss my McAss !

MikeWJ at Too Many Mornings said...

Dude, I do disagree with you about In-N-Out and Carl's. In-N-Out's burgers are horrible (though better than the Big Mac). And Carl's is the best of the lot, thanks to charbroiling without all the flavoring additives Burger King puts in its burgers.

Also, Carl's arguably preceeded McDonald's. The corporation was started in 1941 with a single stand-alone restaurant, but opened it first two Carl's Jr. restaurants in 1956. McDonald's started out as a single stand-alone restaurant in 1940, and it developed its fast-food model in 1948 (the same year In-N-Out was started). But it wasn't incorporated as McDonald's until 1961, 20 years after Carl's.

I love Dell Taco, although there's a chain in Texas called Taco Cabana that serves restaurant-quality Mexican food and fast-food prices that puts them to shame.

I'm Jane said...

In-and-Out fries can be improved greatly by ordering them "double fried" and served animal style. And, of course, adding a milk shake to the mix for sipping and occasionally dipping doesn't hurt anything.

I would also vote for Arby's Super roast beef with extra dressing.

This post is making me seriously question the whole vegetarian thing. Shit.

The Good Cook said...

Ug... all this before breakfast. I don't eat fast food - but I have tasted McD's fries. They soak the potatoes in sugar water. That's the crack part.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

I definitely agree on fries and the whopper & Wendy's chicken sandwich...OK, pretty much everything. As a matter of point anything from BK makes my stomach retch. Gotta say though, you missed a golden opportunity to showcase two levels of fast food perfection in the DQ Blizzard (whipped heaven in a cup!) and Sonic tater tots.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Oh yeah & if you're ever in Tucson you have got to try Los Betos (spelling??) its fast food Mexican that would put any Mexican restaurant here to shame. Of course I do live in the land of 1lb roast beef sandwiches (not at Arby's YUK!) and pizza to kill over so I guess we can't have everything in life...

brookeamanda said...

Totally agree about McDonald's fries. I SWEAR they put crack in them! Their Southwestern Style Chicken Sandwich is also to die for. Oh, and Burger King's Big Fish Sandwich is AMAZING. Must stop typing now b/c I'm making myself hungry:)

Carolina said...

Hmm, interesting. Just wondering about the farts. You know that from experience? Being a Macho Combo fan yourself?

See, I don't eat meat, so my mind just focussed on the farts.

J.J. in L.A. said...

Mmm...Double Double. : P~~~

J.J. in L.A. said...

Btw, if you want to try some awesome food, and you happen to be in Pasadena, you'll have to stop by Top's. Their pastrami sandwich makes The Hat's pastrami bawl like a baby.

Nick said...

Remember the orginal KFC mashed potatoes and gravy? It was heaven -this was back in the 80s. Now it's just wallpaper paste and dishwater.

IT said...

Bwahahahahahahahah @ Carolina.

I went here and had a really good burger and fries... and a root beer.
Is it okay to like both MacDonald's and In-n-Out's fries?
And whatever happened to the Jumbo Jack?

Suldog said...

Yup, McDonald's fries are the best. Seriously salty,sweet and substantial. Can't beat 'em.

~jill said...

I think In-n-Out is one of the main reasons we stay in California. You really should try the fries animal makes a world of difference.

otin said...

Dead on with the chicken mc nuggets!!

I am a fan of the McRib, though. One of my favs!

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