Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fast Food Burger / Fries / Soft Drink Shoot-Out (Sort of)!

To make matters worse better, the #Pizzapocalypse has also become the #Burgerpocalypse. In this blog entry, I will arbitrarily rank various fast-food burger joints on the following criteria: Burgers, fries, drinks, and -- this is the criterion with the most weight -- how I currently feel about the fast food restaurant's brand.

In other words, the number ranking of each restaurant is basically meaningless, but I will try to be brutally honest in my opinion of various things on the menu.

1. In-N-Out. Indeed, that's what a hamburger's all about. With various Dollar Menus going the way of the dinosaur, due to inflation and overall food prices rising, In-N-Out's hamburger and cheeseburger are the best-tasting bang for your (couple of) bucks. You can't go wrong with a cheeseburger with chopped, grilled onions. Or a hamburger with raw, chopped onions. Et cetera. As far as the secret menu items go, I'm not a fan of the mustard-fried "Animal Style" stuff. The standard stuff is already brilliant.

On the other hand, In-N-Out's fries are kind of awful, relative to the heavyweights on this blog list. They are sliced too thin, and are subsequently either under-cooked or overcooked. They have the usual selection of soft drinks. Their shakes are decent, but somehow with all the grease involved with the burgers and fries, I'm left with a sticky feeling after drinking an In-N-Out milkshake.

In-N-Out is on the top of my list because their brand is awesome. They apparently treat their employees well. While this corporation stealthily adds Bible references to various food packaging, the owners aren't douchey about their religious beliefs, unlike some other fast food big wigs.

2. The Hat. This pastrami sandwich place is on the burger list because they apparently also serve a hamburger with pastrami added to it. I've never had it. Other than the Pastrami Dip sandwich, which I've had many times, the main draw of this place would be the over-sized (and relatively inexpensive) chili cheese fries. It can't be beat.

On the drink-front, they have been known to carry two of my favorite flavors of soft drink: Cherry soda and Piña Colada Bang! Cherry Fanta (which was probably a different brand years ago) is usually a given at any given The Hat, but the Piña Colada Bang! is in the Bang!/Olé! machine only at select locations.

3. Home-cooked. Get some fatty ground beef, make some patties, and grill 'em up. Slice some potatoes and fry 'em twice. Chop 'n spread your favorite fillings and condiments. Choose your favorite bread. Open some bottles of cold beer. Or root beer.

Home-cooked food isn't at the top of the list because it's technically not fast food.

4. (The Local Burger Joint). Whenever you get the chance, support your local small businesses, especially the ones that serve excellent food.

5. Burger King. It's the mystery of the Whopper. The Whopper and the Whopper Jr. are the only burger build that's better without cheese. A slice of American cheese makes the Whopper so much worse than the hamburger version, which is pitch perfect, as far as Burger King burgers go. The regular-sized Whopper was big when I was a kid, and it still seems big to this day.

When I was a kid, several decades ago, Burger King's fries tried to copy McDonald's exactly -- and they were wonderful. Perhaps a lawsuit was involved, I don't know, but one day, BK changed the recipe of their fries for the worse. Then they changed it again ... still sub-par. They must have tweaked their fries a handful of times over the years, but I'm not entirely sure.

Then there's the current, seasonal, gimmicky Whopper: The A1 Halloween Whopper. For a Whopper with cheese, it's okay. The A1 sauce in the burger is a bit weird at first, but the sore-thumb flavor blends in eventually. The food dye in the bread turns one's stool green, temporarily.

6. Tie: Carl's Jr. and Jack in the Box. Due to learning errors in my childhood, possibly synapses misfiring at times, I usually get confused with a handful of concepts. Sometimes I get Germany's Porsche mixed up with Italy's Ferrari. I know they are two different actresses with different faces, but I cannot come up with the names Glenn Close and Meryl Streep without either thinking long and hard, or Googling for clues.

Sometimes I get confused between Carl's Jr. and Jack in the Box. Their burgers taste about the same -- fries, too. OK, Carl's has the fried zucchini and Jack has the Ultimate Cheeseburger, that much I can differentiate. I think both of them serve decent jalapeño poppers.

Unless that was just Jack. Or Carl's. I'm guessing both. Which place has the Oreo Shake?

7. Wendy's. The founder of Wendy's might be the same person as the founder of Carl's Jr., and the Jr. of Carl might be a daughter named Wendy. The quality of food at Wendy's is about the same as the food at Carl's and at Jack, except for one major detail: Square hamburger patties.

Their square hamburger patties taste decent, but the concept of the square patty freaks me out. This is not a serious psychological condition, but rather a running joke, when I get to be a cartoon character who basically loses it when faced with the reality of the square hamburger patty.

It's not a very funny running joke, but it makes me feel good to play at being freaked out by square burgers.

8. McDonald's. The mighty have fallen. Mickey D's was once a place for reliably cheap food. For some reason, and perhaps it's my increasingly poor math skills, McDonald's has become more expensive than In-N-Out for the same amount of food -- or at least it seems that way. Furthermore, the cheap-tasting hamburger patty is a bit inconsistent from franchisee to franchisee. Some restaurants' patties taste like McDonald's; other restaurants' patties are just salty and nasty. It's a crap shoot.

A video posted by Ryan DeRamos (@ryan_deramos) on
Also, the Big Mac was never a large sandwich, by any stretch of the imagination. Ever. When I was a kid, a Big Mac was still relatively small, compared to the Whopper.

That being said, the French fries at McDonald's are second to none, and the fries alone deserve to be at the top of this list. McDonald's fries pair perfectly with an In-N-Out Double Double, by the way.

The $1 for any size drink deal is a stroke of genius. Each serving from the soda machine merely cost a couple of pennies, anyway -- or so I've been told, years ago.

9. Five Guys. The two varieties of fries at Five Guys are The Hat-level good. It's the freedom of choice when it comes to burger "toppings" -- fillings? -- that ruin Five Guys for me. Yes, people praise the awesomeness of Five Guys' burgers, and I've come to the conclusion that they know which combinations of ingredients work best with the Five Guys hamburger patty and buns.

These winning combinations elude me to this day, and I am doomed to order nasty, soggy Five Guys burgers for eternity, in all likelihood.

10. Everywhere Else I've Forgotten, Never Been to (Yet), and Non-Fast Food Burger Places. That just about covers it. If the restaurant is able to fry an egg on top of the burger patty, then that restaurant is a keeper.

We who are about to chili cheese fry, salute you!

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