Fast Food Nation

When a friend recently told me he never eats fast food, I couldn’t help the look of shock and horror that came over my face. I called him a liar.

Because in the year 2007 if you have any sort of normal life, hitting the drive-through at 11pm after everything else closes is pretty much unavoidable. Even the most conscious parents eventually succumb to the pleas of Happy Meal-crazed children. Even BiteClub isn’t above scraping together pennies from under the car seat at the end of the month in search of a dirt-cheap meal. And, there’s always the issue of pleasing out-of-town guests who think Outback is the absolute height of gastronomy (especially when it’s your mother-in-law).

Come on. You do it. We all do it. It’s awful, but let’s just admit it and move on. **

Recently, Zagat’s–the little red restaurant guides that are pure gold when it comes to honest reviews–came out with a survey and guide to fast food and chain restaurants around the country. Stuff like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and, yep, Outback. Great, right?

They actually got hammered for it by smug foodies who swore they’d rather turn in their forks than ever eat at Applebees. Funny thing is, I’ll bet there are a whole lot more of you who actually want to know which giant chain has the best burger, the best shake, the crispiest fries and, overall, the healthiest food than where to get the most sustainable foie gras or which completely over-rated restaurant is worth spending $250 on.

Frankly, I find the whole thing brilliant. Because while I usually devote my energy to talking about local restaurants and chefs with noble ideals, sometime a girl just needs to grab a quick bite and get on with it.

So, whatever your socio-political-economic stance, here are a few outtakes you may want to consider on your next Micky D’s run. I mean, if you’re into that kind of thing-

  • Wendy’s wins overall for their burgers and generally popularity. (BiteClub is a huge fan of the Frescata sandwiches, though the décor and sometimes wacky clientele at the Santa Rosa Ave. location leave something to be desired)
  • Outback Steakhouse: Number one full-service chain (Come on: Who can touch the Bloomin’ Onion?)
  • McDonald’s was rated tops for fries and child-friendliness (Only fast food fries I’ll eat, uh, willingly.)
  • Dairy Queen has the surveyors’ favorite milkshakes, followed by McDonald’s and Sonic. (Why, oh why don’t we have a Sonic nearby?)
  • Find more details here:

Interestingly enough, the survey (Zagat’s asks real people for their opinions) also found that 93% of their readers were very concerned about things like trans-fats and 96% said they’d actually eat MORE fast food if the industry would actually ban them.
Take it for what it’s worth.

And uh, see you at the drive-through.

What’s your take? Evil empire or fact of life? And, what’s your favorite fast food?

**First off, the fact that my friend is Italian and has a wife who is a killer cook gets him off the hook. I also realize there is a rather small contingency of people who staunchly eschew fast food/restaurant chains for a whole myriad of reasons that have all sorts of social and ecological merit. Finally, I admit that most fast food is horrible for you and makes you fat. But sometimes a bag of burgers are a fact of life. Talk to me when you’re a single mom on a budget trying to feed two young children three decent meals a day, seven days a week while working a full-time job.