A friend of mine, a fast food fan is always amazed at the places I have never ate.
"You've really truly never even eaten at Subway?" "You have NEVER had a Big MAC?"
I tend to rattle off a list of their food sources, labor practices and their impact on the world and environment; once I get into GMOs I can't be stopped. In addition my mother never fed us at those places. We used to get nice fish and chips when we had a place in town and an occasional pizza but that was pretty much it.
I am a chef, if I want a burger I can make a GREAT burger with grass-fed beef, I grind it myself and make my own mayo. I've even baked the buns. Why would I need this stuff?
Finally after much begging (and his promise to pay for everything) I agreed to do my best to objectively taste the food and give it a rating not based on politics or knowledge of the ingredients but only on sensual experience.
I am also forbidden to comment on any digestive difficulties, or after effects and to rate with no comparisons to upscale restaurants.
Taking a deep breath...
Subway. I was allowed to customize my choices as that is what one does at Subway. The first was ham with mustard and every vegetable in the tray. My first thought was where on earth do they source vegetables with so little flavor? Crisp bits that resembled vegetables were layered upon a pink substance that tasted slightly of salt. The bread, a sponge of a sort with no bread flavor. I took out an olive and tasted it on its own. Where do they get those olives? No olive taste at all.
The second sandwich was tuna salad. Loaded with a sweetish mayonnaise (Miracle Whip?) It had a tuna taste however and the entire experience was much better than the pink slices.
Taco Bell. My first selection was the classic crisp taco. The salty meat substance was actually really good. After one bite I was hooked.
The second was the half-pound burrito, Half meat mix, half beans, soft tortilla. Oh my gosh, could anything be more delicious? I really liked this.
I went ahead and ordered another selection, the bean burrito, my excuse was that I wanted fiber to push it all through. With onion and a reddish sauce, wow. With a straight face I actually said that I was still hungry and tried to cadge a second half-pound burrito. I failed.
McDonald's. I was given a Big Mac and Fries. There was a goopy melted substance on the meat that they called cheese. I recognized nothing about this as cheese. This with the sweet bun and the Russian dressing obscured any taste of meat. The only real flavor that I could discern was the pickle and there were only a couple of bites of it. This was a bad burger. The fries started with a hint of salt which was alright but then the interior was sweet as if they had added sugar to the potato substance.
The second item was the filet of fish. It was a tiny square of something fried in the shape of a round bun, giving much more bun than fish substance. Sweetish bun, sweetish tarter sauce. Nothing was good, nor even recognizable as the items presented. Total Fail.
McDonald's : No stars. Zero.
As an apology for McDonald's I was taken to 5 Guys. I ordered a single with onions, mustard mayo and pickles. I watched them cook my burger and they lose points for not salting the meat. (I asked for salt as a pre-cook topping and my request was refused) and yet more points for using the dreaded burger smasher which speeds cooking and size uniformity but presses the juices out of the meat. However with the addition of salt at the table this was pretty good. The fries were excellent. Real potatoes were fried perfectly in peanut oil, salty and delicious.
Popeye's Fried Chicken<. A mix of regular and spicy, side was red beans and rice and it was served with a biscuit. The beans and rice were really mild but creamy and good. Both kinds of chicken were just great at first, but I soon realized the FRIED was what I loved. When I got to the interior of a breast I set it aside, once the flavorful crust was gone there was not enough flavor. The biscuit was awful, it had a strange off taste. I asked what the flavor was. "Butter," she responded. "Real butter or was it margarine?" Turns out it was margarine. That chemical flavor ruined the biscuit.
Papa John's Pizza. We shared a small pepperoni and a small plain. The crust was a bit sweet and not at all what I expect from a pizza, the sauce was tomato frosting. I have never had such a sickly sweet sauce on a pizza before. I don't know where they are sourcing their cheese but neither the taste nor texture were what my mouth expected from cheese. The pizza comes with a garlic dipping sauce. It does not help. Total fail. In a place like NYC, it is shocking this place even exists. I would rather eat a frozen pie from Mama Celeste than ever be subjected to this again.
Papa John's: No stars. Zero.
I was done, there were 4 more on the list including White Castle and Burger King but after that vile pizza, I could not go on.
Were I in a car with limited choices on the road, Taco Bell would win hands down. I actually get what the cravings are about now. I am grateful that Taco Bell is a long subway ride away or I just might... no... not until they pay their workers more.
**It is important to note that the photos that were provided by the fast food chains and bear absolutely NO resemblance to the food being served at their establishments. The candids are actual.
Follow Karl Wilder on Twitter: www.twitter.com/fusiononthefly