To reenact this scene, you’d have to travel 1,360.1 miles from the Empire State Building.
With his developer-friendly real estate policies, Bloomberg has opened the floodgates to fast-food franchises. Ten years ago we had a fraction of what we have now, and ma-and-pa eateries prevailed at the same price level in most neighborhoods. No use crying into our Starbucks caramel lattes, however. There are many that haven’t yet arrived — unfortunately, many happen be the ones I like best (though you’ll have to guess which). Here’s a rundown of how far you’d have to go to find an example of nine prominent national chains, arranged in order of distance, measured from the base of the Empire State Building.
1. Sonic Drive-In — Some go for the corn dogs, some for the fried chicken, and others for the oddball burger called the Bacon Cheeseburger Toaster. The best thing about this chain is the retro-drive-in ambiance. Nearest location: 2819 Kennedy Boulevard West, North Bergen, New Jersey, 201-766-4595. Distance: 4.3 miles
2. Arby’s — Do you still crave that thin-shaved roast beef, the color a corpse achieves after rigor mortis sets in? When you see the neon cowboy hat do you say, “Yee-haw!” Nearest location: 98 Meadow Road, Rutherford, New Jersey, 201-935-3065. Distance: 7.4 miles
3. The Cheesecake Factory — There’s probably not a single place in the country where you can consume so many calories in one sitting. And could the cheesecake itself be as good as Junior’s? I’m waiting until one comes to NYC to find out. Nearest location: 197 Riverside Square, Hackensack, New Jersey, 201-488-0330. Distance: 13.6 miles
4. Dairy Queen — Who wouldn’t want a Dilly Bar? Or a curly-top cone dipped in butterscotch or chocolate? And some swear by the DQ Freeze. Nearest Location: 550 Broad Avenue, Ridgefield, New Jersey, 201-945-0933. Distance: 15.2 miles
5. A&W Root Beer — What is root beer anyway? A&W was a key brand, along with Dad’s and Hire’s, in the days when the beverage reigned supreme among soft drinks. Now the tree-barky flavor is largely a thing of the past, but a few of the old A&W’s still remain. Nearest location: 59 West Merritt Boulevard, Fishkill, New York, 845-897-3542. Distance: 53.9 miles
6. Culver’s — Nothing better than a butter burger, and if you try one once, you’ll never forget it. And, of course, the place doubles as a frozen-custard parlor, with a product superior to Shake Shack’s. Nearest location: 1912 State Route 256, Reynoldsburg, Ohio, 614-863-2333. Distance: 529.8 miles
7. Shakey’s Pizza — Not to be confused with Shakes the Clown, Shakey’s was a franchise pizza parlor that dominated the national pizza conversation decades ago, but has now shrunk. But in its day, the all-you-can-eat pizza buffet of many afternoons was a considerable institution. Nearest location: 2487 East Glenn Avenue, Auburn, Alabama, 334-826-0060. Distance: 847.3 miles
8. Whataburger — As a University of Texas grad, I’ve spent many nights longing for the mustard-smeared elegance of the Whataburger burger. Nearest location: 290 Frontage Road, Brunswick, Georgia, 912-264-1355. Distance: 876.2 miles
9. Carl’s Jr. — Don’t know much about this chain, except I see them all over California, and many people rave about the food. Looks like a Denny’s to me. Nearest location: 1850 South Muskogee Avenue, Tahlequah, Oklahoma, 918-207-043. Distance: 1,360.1 miles
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