Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What's Happened to Tasty Fast Food?


I don't eat fast very often, but when I do, it's usually at lunch when I'll hit the drive thru on the way back to work after running errands. Lately I've been super disappointed with what I've gotten at different fast food restaurants, and I wonder if I'm just trying the wrong things or if other people have had the same experience.

I'm not even thinking about nutrition, fat, and calories. I think we all know that fast food is generally not great for us, but I do occasionally sacrifice good, healthy food choices to food that's tasty and fast. And historically, most fast food has been bad but reasonably tasty. But not lately, it seems.

A few weeks ago, I visited the Colonel at KFC and ordered the chicken strip snack meal. For once, the mammoth cut fries were okay but the chicken breast strips seemed kind of spongy and the taste wasn't that great. And there wasn't any sauce for the strips. Isn't there supposed to be sauce, or maybe they should offer? I hate not knowing what I'm getting and what I'm supposed to ask for separately.

And that reminds me. Awhile ago, I stopped at Chipotle on my way home from errands and grocery shopping one night. I don't go to Chipotle often enough to be familiar with their menu, so as I was standing in line, waiting to order, I read the descriptions of their burritos, tacos, salads, etc. I decided burritos were the easiest things to order and bring home, but when I got to the front of the line, the people behind the counter preparing the food wanted to ask me all kinds of questions about what I wanted in my burritos. Hey, wait a minute! Didn't I just read a list of stuff that comes in the burritos standard? Then why are they asking me? I was so discombobulated, I forgot to tell them I wanted salsa, so our burritos were kind of dry and boring! And besides that, I couldn't remember what was standard and what they charged extra for, so I probably ended up spending a little more than I anticipated.

The same sort of thing happens at Subway. I'll go in thinking about their television ads and the guy who lost all the weight by eating Subway sandwiches, but then when I order, they try to tempt me with stuff like cheese and mayo and there's really no posted "low calorie" menu--you're actually supposed to know what's okay and what's not. I think the sandwich makers should at least know what their company's advertising point is. I've asked them before to make me the low fat/low calorie version of whatever it is, and they just look at me kind of blankly. Sheesh!

Anyway, I've gotten off track talking about the frustration of ordering at certain restaurants when what I really wanted to talk about was the disappointing TASTE of fast food.

I saw a McDonald's billboard recently that advertised a new sandwich--a crispy chicken sandwich with jalapenos and cheddar cheese. Sounded good; looked good. A few days later, I was running errands at lunch with no time to eat, so I hit the McD drive thru and ordered the new sandwich. Mistake. (By the way, I really LIKE McDonald's grilled chicken sandwich--without mayo, which is actually fairly healthy too.) The jalapeno peppers tasted like pure chemicals and the chicken patty tasted like what it was--pressed and formed, breaded and fried.

Today might have been the worst though. I had some errands to run and the only drive thru on my way back to the office was Jack in the Box. I used to like Jack in the Box and they may even still sell a couple decent menu items now, but I don't go in often enough to really know. This time, though, I decided to try one of their newer items, the sirlon burger with Swiss cheese and grilled onions. The meat had a nasty flavor--it reminded me of when I was a kid and my mom would slap some unseasoned hamburger into patties, fry them, and stick them on buns. Maybe it's the flavor of cheap grease or something. Worse, though, was that the bun was dry and stale--it kept breaking apart every time I took a bite. I had ordered the small combo meal, which means this really poor excuse for a meal cost around $7.50, but at least I had the fries, which were somewhat decent. (That photo at the top is what the burger is supposed to look like. Of course it doesn't, but I wouldn't really expect it to, just as long as it TASTES like that looks.)

I wonder whether fast food restaurants are so anxious to come up with the "new thing" that they forget that sometimes simple food, when done well, is really the best. For instance, In and Out Burger, which is only here on the west coast I think, keeps their menu simple--single burger, single cheese burger, or double burgers of each. Onion, tomato, and lettuce. A bun. That's pretty much all. But everything tastes fresh and good, and that's the secret to their success. That and reasonable prices, which they can do because the menu is simple and they don't have to stock a lot of supplies that may not be used. It's just too bad there's not one close to my office!

So how about you? When you have to hit the drive thru, what's your favorite place and meal? Help me out here, because if I'm going to sacrifice health to speed and taste, it better at least TASTE good!

30 comments:

Kelly Ann said...

what you are describing is exactly what I experienced and why I've stopped eating at fast food joints...

QuiltingFitzy said...

OMG, and Burger King? What happened to the messy yummy salad burger type of Whopper? I got a scaled down, almost dry sandwich! Have it MY WAY? Whatever! I guess that's why they offer BOGO on Mondays, they aren't worth full price?!

Give me an In & Out, Protein Style any day. Without the bun you can enjoy the taste of the meat and cheese....and a HUGE honking chunk of lettuce pocket to hold it all in.

I think most fast food joints have taken, "HOLD THE PICKLE, HOLD THE LETTUCE, SPECIAL ORDERS DON'T UPSET US," to a new level. They're holding out on TASTE!

Melissa said...

I no longer do alot of fast food, but with kids still at home, we hit it more often then I would really prefer. But, at McD I get the chicken ranch snack wraps. Burger King has the best tasting burgers IMO. Chick Fil A (not sure they have this on the west coast, I know there wasn't one when I lived there) has the absolute best chicken. Wendy's, ugh, I get salad. I don't do KFC, Jack in the box, or Hardee's. HTH Kim :)

Wilma NC said...

Since starting WW, I don't eat much fast food, but when I go to McDonald's, I get a hamburger Happy Meal with the apple slices. They are still good.

Josie McRazie said...

I am a Subway gal!! Worked there way back in the day, but I do have to say... they used to cut their sandwiches in a v shaped well so the yummy vegies would not spill all over (as much) they no longer do this! Now is is just a simple cut it accross like bread and call it a day! I wonder if they decided that way to much stuff would fit in it!
I did also LOVe bk's Chicken broiler, they changed it and now call it a chicken whopper and it is not the same!! What a pitty! I only eat out about once a month and it is not what it used to be!!
Now Taco Bell on the other hand...

Kris said...

To me fast food = cardboard taste. That's how it is in Australia anyway. Just had a big mac tonight. Yuk. Every time we do it I wonder why cause it tastes terrible.

Debi said...

Since losing weight, I have not hit the fast (fat) food places..but when I do, I go to Chick Fil-A for their wraps and salads.

debbie said...

Due to sea food alergies I don't go into many restaraunts. Cooking shrimp is enough to set me off, and cross contamination has happened, too. Getting a burger bun that has been handeled by the person that just picked a hand full of shrimp out of the bag of frozen shrimp is quite Bad for me.
I eat at Chipotle's regularly...3 times a month. Their meat is not full of chemicals, antibiotics and hormones. I think the only thing they charge extra for is guac, and not if your salad/burito is vegetarian. If you get meat they may charge for the fried onions and peppers. That is also a vegetarian item. I'm not sure because I don't eat them.
There are only 3 places I can eat here, because everyone else has some form of seafood! Hate this allergy!
I haven't eaten at ff places for quite a while, due to all the junk they put in their food, but do occasionally eat at Chic-filet

paula, the quilter said...

Did you ever watch Sienfeld? Remember the soup natzi's setup? We have a local Mexican place (Tortilleria La Autentica y Panadera) set up just like that, where you go in, stand in line, order, pickup and pay. No drive thru but it is fast. And good: $2.25 for a chicken chipotle burrito. This is not a franchise. The one place I sometimes frequent that is a franchise is Runza which is a midwest thing. Love their salads and the chicken sandwich.

In both instances, tho, they are not a national chain, but the food is tasty.

Amy said...

When 5 Guys comes to your town, give them a try. I haven't tried In N Out Burgers, but our son has, and still prefers 5 Guys (and he has one near him in Long Beach). (They have Boardwalk fries and malt vinegar too...)

Lauretta6 said...

I think the fast fool places weigh and count everything so much they take all of the flavor out. Money money money makes the world go round. They keep taking things out and see if people keep buying it. If we quit buying that junk they would stop making it.

Richelle said...

Happy to hear that In n Out Burger is good. We are getting ready to get the first one in Texas right around the corner from our house and my boys are chomping at the bit to try them out.

Wendy said...

I just simply stay away from the fast food. We only have one drive through near my home so I go home and make a boring sandwich.

Nancy said...

OMG...If I am getting fast food it is a BIG MAC!! Nothing healthy about it and it kills my stomach a bit later, but so totally worth it..lol
Yes...KFC offers sauce..you have to ask and ask for extra crispy tenders not the standard limp kind..lol
But hands down..ARBY'S is my favorite roast beef sandwich..with LOTS of pepper added...
Now i'm craving Arby's and we don't even have one in my town...

Paula said...

We've stopped eating at all fast food places because of taste issues. The food just isn't good. The only fast food place we will eat at is Chickfila. It tastes like real food. A bit more expensive than regular fast food, but well worth it. And, they have delicious wraps and salads.

Happy Cottage Quilter said...

The only fast food place I visit anymore is Chick fil A. I like their chicken salad sandwich and the cool wraps. I don't eat fried foods, so this is the best choice for me. Besides I LOVE their sweet tea :-)

Daniel said...

Now Kim, McD's is my favorite, UH, for my dog that is. Every time Maggie (my standard poodle) passes the arches, she knows we will stop and get her a plain hamburger.We do this once a week and the last 5 times, I got the wrong order and had pickles and the works on her plain $1.00 burger. You's think they could get that right, but no. Me? I get a coke and call it good. I agree with you, most tastes like chemicals of some sort.

Kim West said...

My favorite is Panda Express. It is the only (decent) Chinese around that isn't super expensive (like PF Changs) and too far to drive on a regular basis).

sunny said...

I was thinking about In 'n Out while I was reading this. I think they decided to specialize in what they're good at, and stick with it. I'd consider moving to California just for In 'n Out! I think the problems now is that everything is made ahead, nothing is cooked fresh anymore. The fries might be fresh, but I have my doubts as to what they're really made of!

Sharon said...

Since going on the Slim4Life diet and losing weight, the only fast food I eat is salads. In the 80's I craved Big Mac's and eat a lot of them (partly why I weighed so much). The last one I had several years ago was nasty, no favor other than the "special sauce". Kind of hard to mess up salads and I really like the Southwest Salad at McD's.

Dirt Road Quilter said...

Nope. Its not just you. We too seldom eat fast food, but on occassion we do out of neccessity and its always frustrating. We;ve found the best place to rgab something quick is the local lovestock sale barn (great, simple green chile burgers) or a little local place called Walley Burger. Its just a little hut and you walk up and order. Its always packed at noon.

Julie said...

I love In & Out Burger. I can still get 4 burgers (all made differently--double/double) and 4 fries for less than $20.00! Where can you find that? The food tastes consistantly the same every time. The choices are easy. You can't say that about McDonald's that used to be that way when I was a kid.

I go there once a month after sewing with a friend until 6pm on the last Saturday. The staff is friendly and speaks ENGLISH. Unlike the Carl's Jr. by my home or the McDonald's by my home.

Dorian said...

Kim, what I'm finding out is this. The fast food restraunts may not be changing much, but your preference for healthy foods is. I love a good burger, but find that I much prefer a homemade one using leaner burger than you get at the fast food joints. After eating at home more, I just think your taste buds change, and they just don't like that greasy stuff anymore...at least, that's how it seems to me, after eating home more often than not :)

Oh, I agree, In and Out is the best fast food joint! I love their just cut real fries.

Megan said...

We usually just eat fast food on road trips now. I always enjoy Five Guys and Moe's (does that count as fast food?), and Chick Fil A hits the spot every now and then also. We love that Bojangle's serves their breakfast menu all day.

Hand Quilting Nana said...

You are so right on. I used to LOVE Taco Bell. Now it tastes awful.

The only fast food I really like now is Five Guys Burgers and Fries. If you want a big juicy burger get their bacon double cheeseburger. OMG!!

Chic fila is good in some locations. Unfortunately not so good in the one near me.

KFC, McDonalds, Arby's, Burger King - don't even stop there anymore.

I'm like you, if I'm going to ruin my diet, at least I want it to taste good.

Oh and Jersey Mike's has the best subs. Load it with that mayo. Yummy!!

Linda

Anonymous said...

When you mention food, the comments really come out. I do go to fast food restaurants, and usually only order from their dollar menu. It's a treat for me to order something costing more. I did have a coupon for BOGO big mac from McD and got those today. They are so much smaller than what is shown on tv commercials. It tasted okay, but it would have been nice if I could see the meat without a magnifying glass. Thanks for sharing.
cindy

Beth said...

We don't go out to fast food all that much, but usually it's Subway where I get the same thing all the time, or In N' Out where I also get the same thing all the time.

Anonymous said...

Eat at very few fast food places these days because the food does not taste that good anymore. My faves here in the Sacramento area are the Sunflower Drive Inn (Old Town Fair Oaks) and Chipotle. Sunflower is a cool hippy kinda vegetarian joint. The Super Nutburger is to die for (ask for vegan option). This is REAL food - not particularly lowfat, but it sure tastes GREAT!

At Chipotle, we get the veggie burrito (rice, black beans, grilled veggies, corn salsa & fresh tomato salsa, guac, lettuce - hold the cheese and sr cream).

Mmmm mmmm good! Nutburger is sounding pretty good to me right now. Pardon me while I step out for one... :-)

Miss Jean said...

Ok, go to Chipotle and order a steak salad. Have them put rice, steak, black beans, mild salsa, a little sour cream and cheese on it. Get their little container of dressing. Also get an order of chips and guacamole. Heaven!!!!

DangAndBlast! said...

Hmmm maybe it's different in my part of the country (Texas), but the Subways here all have a big sign on the plexi saying what condiments/toppings you can have to stay under the health restrictions and what you can't, along with the big sign on the menu listing the sandwich types that count as healthy. Maybe not where you live? Again, probably a Texas thing, since we have masses of burrito places here, but Chipotle was marketed in Texas at least as a "not your standard fast food" place, where the point of it was that it's all custom-made, and there is no standard, pre-made, sitting under a heat lamp for three hours option. Of course, if it were marketed differently where you are, I understand the confusion!

Soybean oil doesn't agree with me, so I had to stop eating KFC when they switched... from what you said, I guess I should be glad I have only the good memories!