American fast food is both ultimate death and mother’s milk. Seriously, don’t eat this shit every day, but take some time every once in a while.
Nathan: Burger King
Walking into a Burger King, any Burger King, is downright depressing. The chain has done nothing at all to keep up appearances while their arch-rival (rim shot) has morphed into a Starbucks with yellow in their color scheme. The burgers at Burger King are pretty good, but the rest of their dinner menu is pretty bad.
This choice is for their breakfast menu, which completely destroys every other fast food breakfast menu. The Croissanwiches, in particular, are a powerhouse of butter, egg, and sausage that wipes the floor with a McMuffin. I don’t go to Burger King often, but when I do it’s for breakfast!
Travis: Food Court Chinese Orange Chicken
It’s the same no matter what the chain, be it Panda Express in the mall or Rice Garden in the food court in my current office building. Fried, sweet but not too, spicy but not too, and as obviously unhealthy as a bit of food served with rice has any right to be. But I can’t stop.
Tyler: McDonald’s, Cheddar Melt
McDonald’s likes to pretend it’s haute cuisine every once in awhile by withholding customer favorites for long stretches so the crowd goes wild when it’s finally the month of the, say, McRib.
The McRib is a pox upon humanity, but the long-forgotten (?) Cheddar Melt was cause for great excitement whenever it came around in my very youngest years. Looking back, I remember a somewhat dense (for McD’s, anyway) wheat bun, unseasoned patties, absurd “grilled onions,” and a barrelful of nacho cheese.
Mmm. Quit playing with my emotions, you insidious bastards. BRING BACK THE MELT. And, while you’re at it, hook me up with an Arch Deluxe.
Nathan: Little Caesar’s
Not so long ago, Little Caesar’s was a pizza chain like any other. There wasn’t a whole lot to distinguish them from Domino’s or Papa John’s, and there certainly wasn’t anything about them to put them in the ranks of Pizza Hut. Then they decided to do this “Hot N’ Ready” thing. You walk in and your large pizza is ready, and it’s only $5! The pizza is not amazing, and your choices are limited to pepperoni, sausage, or cheese; but at that price it’s hard to complain.
On a more personal level, Little Caesar’s is owned by Mike Illich, who also happens to own the Detroit Red Wings and Tigers. This fact gives me the opportunity to think that by consuming destructive slices of grease and cheese I am supporting two of the greatest sports franchises ever.
Travis: In-N-Out Burger
There’s something to be said for simplicity. Yeah, I know there’s a “special” menu where you can order the Animal burger, and the Cannibal Holocaust burger, and the Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Tax Your Colon burger, but the real menu is hamburger, cheeseburger, double cheeseburger, fries. I go for the double-double and fries from the well-oiled SoCal fast food franchise.
Tyler: Wendy’s, side Caesar salad
I will now attempt to look up whether there is actually any aspect of anchovy involved at all in the creation of a Wendy’s side Caesar.
Well blow me down! There they are, right in the middle, “anchovies.” Though there is merit in both the processed bits of “bacon” and the sad browning lettuce, the appeal of the Wendy’s Caesar lies in its dressing, which comes in a packet that outweighs the remaining salad components by a ratio of like five-to-one. It is a healthy alternative to french fries.
This pick is for one menu item only: the Frosty. No other dessert at any other restaurant is so satisfying. The key to the success of the Frosty is that it is simple. In recent years, Wendy’s has tried to excite us by adding options to the Frosty; you can get it in vanilla, you can have Oreos with it or make a root beer float out of Frosty. Um, no thanks.
Travis: Lion’s Choice
I miss my parents, I miss my friends, and I miss the cheap rent. Another thing I miss about St. Louis is the fast food roast beef chain that puts Arby’s to shame. I don’t miss the humidity, or the twang, but I miss you, Lion’s Choice.
Tyler: Hardee’s, Thickburger
Hardee’s was a joke. I dug their sourdough “San Francisco” burgers (usually a treat after whatever disastrous attempt at team athleticism my parents had roped me into), but their lone nearby location at Beechmont and Sutton was some dank shit. A friend once tried to shock me with a lie that he’d rubbed one out in the bathroom. It was certainly believable.
My first year in St. Louis for college, Hardee’s aired a series of remarkable ads, featuring their CEO or whatever staring the camera straight in the face–black-and-white, of course–and saying, essentially, “Yeah, okay, we’ve sucked. We’ve sucked for a real long time. No more. Get ready.”
I finally tried “the new Hardee’s,” a Thickburger, junior year, with some friends in town, wolfing down food in between a trip to St. Louis’s glorious City Museum and our silly-ass apartment’s first-ever kegger (!!). It was a very good day.
I can get a burger just about any old time I want, either at a fast food or sit down joint. It’s harder, though, to get a nice roast beef sandwich. Arby’s satisfies my desire for something a little different. If you add some melted cheddar cheese, Arby sauce, and horsey sauce, you’ve got a delectable little treat. Arby’s also has great fries and a nice selection of deli sandwiches.
One bonus to Arby’s is that they’re rarely busy, so the food truly is fast.
Travis: Steak N’ Shake
This might be cheating, since even when going through the drive-thru Steak N’ Shake isn’t all that fast, but the diner chain’s steakburgers, chili and shoestring fries have nurtured many a drunken night and many a hungover morning (make that early afternoon).
Tyler: Burger King, Whopper Jr. w/cheese
I downgraded after I realized that, even when distressingly hungover, I can barely get through even a Junior without my stomach inverting. But, oh, the “fresh” veggies, the “charbroiled” tang, the heavenly mixture of ketchup and mayo dripping all over the place…like a smack addict on the wagon, I will always go back when I least expect it for one more hit.
This is about overall everything. Every food idem is high quality (Butterburger? Yes, please.), the service is great (Here’s your number, we’ll bring your food out to you in a few minutes), and the atmosphere is pleasant (without being pretentious). Culver’s is a Wisconsin-based chain that is slowly spreading across the Midwest. My hope is that Culver’s makes it to the South, so that I can tell everybody down here how dull Chick-Fil-A is in comparison.
Travis: Popeye’s Fried Chicken
“Lovin’ that chicken from Popeye’s” has been a long and fat family tradition, a long-time Sunday meal, perfect for getting the fingers greasy while watching football in the fall and winter. I go for the spicy instead of the mild, with Cajun fries and as many overly buttered biscuits as I can shove in my face.
Tyler: Cincinnati chili
Preferably while intoxicated.
(Ludlow and Clifton.)