10 Fast Food Items That Don't Totally Suck
Originating in the world's first hamburger chain, the slider (or "slyder" as they've tried to brand it) at White Castle has a strange and strangely addictive flavor resulting from the steaming of cheap ground beef and onions.
Yes, fast food is a great caloric wasteland (we almost wrote "waistline"), but there are some gems stuck here and there among the horse turds. We're restricting ourselves to chains that have branches in the New York area, so "good" chains like Whataburger and In-N-Out are off limits, and so are foreign chains that peddle sublime exotica -- like those Korean chicken places.
The lush Ranchero Soft Taco at Taco Bell.
To make this list, we polled our friends; we rode maybe 100 miles on our bikes and on subways and buses; we spent two weeks tasting and grimacing -- all for the purpose of ferreting out the best-tasting fast-food options, leaving the fat and calorie analysis to you. And whether we admit it or not, there comes a time when each of us must gird our loins and walk through the doors of a Wendy's, White Castle, or KFC.
10. Hamburger at White Castle -- This item deserves some respect if only because it was the first fast-food burger in the world, and it was immortalized in a Devo song ("You can buy 'em by the sack.") While some find the flavor repulsive, there is something intriguing about it -- as if kissed with fermented fish sauce in a Southeast Asian café deep in the jungle.
9. Ranchero Soft Taco at Taco Bell -- Taco Bell is surely the most repulsive of the chains: It took some doing to turn one of the world's fieriest and most flavorful cuisines into mushy blandness. But the taco called the Ranchero has balls -- plenty of cilantro, spicy chicken tidbits reminiscent of Pueblan tinga, and plenty of greenery to make you feel good about yourself.
8. Chicken Biscuit at Popeyes -- Yes, we were tipped to the wonderfulness of Popeyes' onion rings -- except you can't get them here, and you can't get crawfish étouffée, either, at least not right now. So we're left with the sublime Popeyes biscuit, as light and fluffy as it has any right to be. Put a spicy chicken strip on it and eat two, and you have a fine meal.
7. French Fries at McDonald's -- Many things suck at McDonald's, but the french fries have remained the standard by which all other chains' are judged. They're slender, nicely browned (well, usually), made from good potatoes, have just the right amount of salt (well, usually), and are not coated with any dodgy starches (though vegetarians should note that "natural beef flavor" is in their somewhere). Amen.
The Popeyes Chicken Biscuit -- in this case, crumbly means good.Next Page
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to New York dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.