Its true, their combination of spices, salt and chemicals is an aphrodisiac for the palate. Fast-food restaurants rely on taste over health to brain-wash customers from early childhood in order to regenerate new clientele.
Although contemporary menu's are changing to fit the times...the time-honored success of these restaurants is based on feeding us fat, cholesterol and other crap. Remember, spinach and Brussels sprouts...unless covered in cheese whiz or confectionery sugar will never taste better than french fries or wet walnuts. That's the way we like it and wouldn't have it any other way.
I think because of the subjectivity of individual needs and inconsistency of availability, there could never be a definitive best fast-food. Just google, "Top 10 Fast-Food Restaurants," and you'll see more lists than you'll ever care to read. The reason there are so many lists is because they are making judgements based on different criteria.
McDonald's is the clear leader in gross sales...yet only 4th in the quality of franchise category.
ITS HARD TO ROOT FOR McDONALD'S BECAUSE THEY SINGLE-HANDEDLY PUT ALL THE MOM & POP JOINTS OUT OF BUSINESS. CAUGHT IN THE CORPORATE TIDAL WAVE, GREAT PLACES IN MY OLD NEIGHBORHOOD LIKE; BENSON'S BURGERS, CONEY ISLAND JOE'S AND FARRELL'S GOT SWALLOWED-UP.
Starbucks is listed 4th in gross sales but I disqualify them because, I don't consider them a fast-food restaurant.
I do accept Subway as fast-food...and I embrace their healthy option tangent to success but their food would never get between me and Wendy's, Arby's or Dairy Queen.
Plus the world famous Hot Dog on a Stick (clever concept) which was the #18 franchise, I never even heard of.
So because all that matters here is my opinion, I present for you approval, THE MORE GLIB ThAN PROFOUND... MOUNT RUSHMORE OF FAST-FOOD.
FOR THE SAME REASON YOU WON'T FIND HERBERT HOOVER, RUTHERFORD B. HAYES OR ANDREW JOHNSON MEMORIALIZED IN SOUTH DAKOTA, YOU WON'T FIND STEWART'S ROOT BEER, AUNT ANNIE'S PRETZELS OR PAPA JOHN'S GETTING IMMORTALIZED ON MY MOUNTAIN.
Only four presidents are forever etched in our national consciousness at Mount Rushmore. Greats like Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy did not earn the rose of acceptance. Neither did near-greats like Ronald Reagan, Andrew Jackson and John Adams. Bottom-feeders like Millard Fillmore, Richard Nixon, Martin Van Buren and Benjamin Harrison didn't even even get votes from their descendants. And Gerald Ford's nomination was negated because he slipped down and accidentally put his name in the address section of the application. However it should be noted that, William Howard Taft was considered until they realized no one else's image would have fit on the rock.
Some of the fast-food "also-rans," were.
A virtual unknown in these parts, "THE JAMES *CONEY ISLAND AND CHILI PARLORS," are sprinkled throughout Texas.
*Note - Throughout the south, the term "coney island" refers to a hot dog.
While I was in Houston in 1976, I came across this restaurant. I had already walked all day so when I brought my tray to a table, I plopped down in exhaustion. Just as I was about the start my chili, I realized that I didn't get any Tabasco sauce. My tiredness out-weighed my need for further accoutrement. Lucky me...like nuclear fission exploding in my mouth, the first spoonful neutered my taste buds for 2 days.
During an episode of "SEINFELD," Jerry makes the statement; there's no such thing as bad pizza. While many less sophisticated people can relate...it is merely a truism...something to make you laugh. Therefore, I beg to differ..there is bad pizza! Upon closer examination, you shouldn't have to be a New Yorker to recognize crappy pizza. PIZZA HUT ranks third as a franchise and seventh in gross sales. I guess most of America has an; any port in a storm, pizza mentality. To prove how bad it is...DOMINO'S PIZZA is the #7 franchise but does not make it into the top 10 in gross sales. And while their product is also awful...it is eons better than the ketchup on cardboard at the hut ! To make matters worse, in the Raton New Mexico Pizza Hut, in their need to be regionally sensitive...included in their Italian subs, (without warning), were gobs of jalapenos.
The WAFFLE HOUSE has a special place in my heart. When RBOY and I lived in Kissimmee Florida, (summer '74), during the night, vandals switched the giant sign's "W" and "A." In my mind, I've called it the AWFFLE HOUSE ever since. More recently my son Andrew tried to order pancakes at their Elkins Maryland location. The waitress Nadine's name-tag indicated that she was a 14-year Waffle House veteran. She said, "This is the Waffle House! We don't sell pancakes!" Andrew politely replied, "Why not, you can get waffles at the pancake house, (IHOP)." Today, three years later, I bet she's still stumped for an answer.
In 1985, to acknowledge RCC's 30th birthday, I bought him 30 of his treasured WHITE CASTLE hamburgers. While I was waiting to be served, I saw a cockroach skating across the greasy floor...suddenly, it vomited. I ignored this obvious omen and ate a couple of burgers myself. The secret of these cheap little chop-meat laxatives are the minced onions. No doubt about it, they are tasty and go down easy. Unfortunately mine did a roller-coaster explosion through my system and soon there after burst out my other end. By the way, I haven't stepped into a White Castle since.
Somehow JACK IN THE BOX was listed as the fourth best franchise? I am perplexed...how can anyone "like" this place? In the 70's, I associate eating there...or should I say, winding up there, because it was the only place in my native Canarsie that was opened for 2:AM munchies. The reality check clicked-in when I ate there sober...the food was disgusting! However, ordering from the clown...even when I was 20 was still thrilling.
WHO'S RUNNING THE DAMNED SHOW? IN THE 80'S, "JACK IN BOX," HAD A COMMERCIAL CAMPAIGN WHERE THEY WERE BLOWING UP THE OLD CLOWNS...ITS WAS BOTH SATISFYING AND RIVETING. I THOUGHT THOSE BOZOS WERE MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. UNFORTUNATELY, IT WAS REPLACED WITH THIS FAR MORE CREEPY SPOKES-MODEL.
To para-phrase Sir Winston Churchill's quote about Russia, SONIC DRIVE-INS, are a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. It baffles me that their marketing strategy has them seemingly wasting millions in advertising dollars when I have NEVER...until this past summer in Las Vegas, seen one in operation. Somehow, their franchise ranked fifth and their gross sales came in at number ten. To their credit, my Andrew did score the food highly. But the smoke-screen of afternoon half-price drink specials are misleading because their competitors all offer round-the-clock self-service soda fountains and limitless refills.
So which four restaurants get to be on my MOUNT RUSHMORE of FAST-FOOD.
#1 In the George Washington position is McDONALD'S. With perhaps the single most recognized corporate logo on the planet...they are clearly the prototype of fast-food success. Founded in 1955 on the simple concept of; meat, bread, potatoes, milk and little else, Mickey D's has evolved and re-invented itself (Happy Meal, McDonaldland and Big Mac), to the contemporary needs of today's consumer. Perfect for kiddie parties, their pleasant environment is clean, consistent and friendly. They perpetuate repeat business by partnering with Hollywood by including corresponding collectible Happy Meal toys. Of course they aren't perfect. Their thick shakes resemble aerated Kaopectate and their surprise drop-ins by Ronald McDonald can be scary to little ones. Unfortunately for me, when Ronald frightened my kid in the Absecon NJ store, my tough guy was eleven.
McDONALD'S CUSTOMER SERVICE IS SO GOOD THAT THE BELCOVILLE, NJ SITE TELEPHONES A CORPULANT COWORKER OF MINE, THREE TIMES A WEEK TO LET HIM KNOW WHEN THE AFTERNOON COOKIES ARE READY.
#2 In the Thomas Jefferson position I select DUNKIN' DONUTS. Featuring the convenience of 24-hour service, DD did an everyman version of the cool sophisticated beatnik coffee houses of the early 60's. Coupled with a wide selection of doughnuts that would be the envy of any bakery and an ever-expanding array of sandwiches, DD has always had a special place in my heart. Also, because the franchises are frequently owned by foreigners...they're accessible for emergency visits on Christmas Day, New Year's Day and Thanksgiving. You can even brew DD coffee at home and enjoy them with a nice chocolate french cruller or a bag of Munchkins.
#3 Hidden in Rushmore's alcove, in Theodore Roosevelt's spot is BURGER KING. I remember when you could get a free hamburger if you could say; the bigger the burger, the better the burger, the burgers are bigger at Burger King. Even though they always played second fiddle to McDonald's, BK remained a giant themself with great innovations like flame grilling and the idea of having it your way. My son Andrew disagrees but side-by-side, I have always preferred the King.
SOME OF MY LESSER KNOW FAVORITES INCLUDE; CINNABON, POPEYE'S FRIED CHICKEN and CARL'S JR...LONG JOHN SILVER'S...NOT SO MUCH.
#4 Last but not least, way back in Abraham Lincoln's spot is TACO BELL. Taco Bell bucked the trend of burger joints and rejoiced in the slogan, "go beyond the bun." Founded by an American with roots in Mexican restaurants, Glen Bell opened his first Taco Bell in Downey California in 1962. He used aggressive ad campaigns and made the Taco Bell Chihuahua an international superstar. Often imitated but never duplicated, no other restaurant of it kind has ever approached the success of Taco Bell.
Keep an eye out for coupons in the newspaper, every now and then, they have 49c tacos specials. The soft shells are so much better. And make sure they melt the cheese or you'll have the same "hot-lettuce" controversy as I stirred-up in their Pleasantville NJ store. But I'll save that story and their E Coli break-out from last year for another blog. RETRO-BELL - FROM WAUSAU WISCONSIN, THE PRE-1984 ARCHITECTURE
On January 19, 2010 Taco Bell founder Glen Bell died, he was 86. Something tells me that his recipes also included something to make me crave (gladly), his food nightly!
My only hope is that now this fast-food visionary's name will ring a bell when you hear it.