This Week in Self-Loathing

Monday, June 16, 2014

  • Malcolm Bedell
  • Quesarito
Taco Bell has never been a stranger to remixing existing ideas and ingredients into new product offerings. It's the natural consequence of having only five basic fillings to work with: Sometimes, you've gotta get inventive. The latest launch, however, marks the first time that Taco Bell has cross-pollinated across both its own menu and the menu from other chains.

Meet the "Quesarito," a quesadilla-wrapped burrito previously available only as a so-called "secret menu" item at Chipotle, provided you could hit the chain during an off enough hour that someone behind the counter wouldn't throw you right out the door for messing up their system.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Breakfast Burger from Carl's Jr. - MALCOLM BEDELL
  • Malcolm Bedell
  • The Breakfast Burger from Carl's Jr.
Unless your idea of fine dining includes eating a room-temperature slab of grey beef from a warming tray at a highway rest stop while sitting in the stuffy sleeping compartment of your semi, the cold sweat prickling your skin as you pray to come down smoothly from the benzadrine you've been taking to stay awake for three days to make your next pick-up, you probably haven't had occasion to eat at Carl's Jr.

While the "Breakfast Burger" may not be a new menu item, it's often overlooked in the avalanche of biscuit-based breakfast options at the chain, each overflowing with double portions of meat, double portions of sausage, or double portions of bacon and sausage. All those biscuits are distracting. You can get an omelet on your biscuit. You can get guacamole on your biscuit. You can get strawberry jam on your biscuit. You can get gravy, ham, or another biscuit on your biscuit.

But tucked away among all these insipid biscuits lay another option, a quiet bit of gut-thunder peeking out between the orange juice and the hash brown nuggets, a breakfast item that answers the question no one has been asking since the dawn of time: "How can cheeseburgers be eaten for breakfast?"

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Spicy Chicken Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco from Taco Bell - MALCOLM BEDELL
  • Malcolm Bedell
  • Spicy Chicken Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco from Taco Bell
It's no secret that Taco Bell is the industry leader when it comes to fast food innovation. The chain's Doritos Locos line, a natural coupling (and teenager's fever dream) that finally paired "Doritos" and "tacos" in eternal matrimony, has been an unqualified hit for the chain, generating over a billion dollars in sales and creating over 15,000 sour cream gun-wielding jobs nationwide. The chain followed the success of the Doritos Locos line with an innovative new breakfast selection that has earned Taco Bell favorable reviews and sent other fast food franchises scrambling to keep up.

But the restaurant's recent horrifying misstep may be enough to shake customers' newfound faith in the franchise to its very foundation.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Blazin' Chicken Sandwich - MALCOLM BEDELL
  • Malcolm Bedell
  • Blazin' Chicken Sandwich
Until 2012, the Indian bhut jolokia (or ghost chile) was the hottest pepper in the world. With about 300 times as much heat as the humble jalapeño, the pepper grows naturally in the town of Tezpur, in Northeastern India. It's not widely used as a flavoring agent for food in that part of the world, however. Instead, mashed bhut jolokia is smeared on village fences as a deterrent for wild elephants, or used as a chemical agent in hand grenades and pepper sprays used by Indian authorities to control mobs and riots. It's not food. It's a toxin.

It makes perfect sense, then, that Jack in the Box would choose it to top a chicken sandwich.

We confess to sometimes not giving the Jack in the Box chain the attention it deserves; maybe it's lingering prejudices after the widespread E. coli outbreak in the early 1990s that killed a few children and hospitalized, well, everyone else. Or maybe it's just that we don't seem to share other people's enthusiasm for 50-cent soy-protein-and-American-cheese tacos from a drive-thru that doesn't specifically focus on drive-thru tacos.

No matter the reason, when we see that generic Jack in the Box logo, we feel very little urge to pull over. Until now. With the release of the new Blazin' Chicken Sandwich, we've had to reconsider everything.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Del Taco' "Epic Surf & Turf Burrito" - DEL TACO
  • Del Taco
  • Del Taco' "Epic Surf & Turf Burrito"
When it comes to encouraging rabid fast food fetishism, the humble Del Taco chain very often fails to get the respect it deserves. It's hard to imagine why; when it comes to the world of dirt-cheap Mexican food that you can order by the sack without ever leaving your car, most of the conversation instead seems to revolve around Taco Bell, Del Taco's bathsalts-addicted half-brother.

Oh, sure: Tacos made of Doritos and waffles stuffed with scrambled eggs may grab all the headlines, but it's Del Taco that keeps quietly chugging along, blurring the lines between fast food and fast-casual with typically higher quality ingredients, more attention to detail, and more of a resemblance to actual food - provded you don't delve too deeply into the vagaries of the dollar menu.

After decades of putting an emphasis on quality, however, Del Taco is finally joining the modern-day fast food landscape, and making up for lost time by spinning off a few wackadoo ideas of its own. 

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt - MALCOLM BEDELL
  • Malcolm Bedell
  • Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt
The menu at Subway has historically been designed to serve two groups of people: those who believe that good sandwiches are defined not by flavor, but by "customized" arrangements of flavorless meat and cheese, differentiated only by texture and temperature, and those who further believe that physical fitness can be achieved through their consumption. 

For the first time since the chain was founded in 1965, however, Subway is willfully turning its back on the "healthy" image it has so carefully cultivated, and is promoting a sandwich covered in melted cheese, enchilada sauce-soaked shredded chicken, and topped with a layer of Fritos brand corn chips.

Why the sudden about-face? It's a move most likely inspired by the goings-on over at Taco Bell, where strategic brand partnerships with other junk food companies have yielded staggeringly successful results (most notably in the form of the profoundly addictive "Doritos Locos" line of tacos). It's as though, with slumped shoulders, Subway has finally had to acknowledge that all anyone really wants to eat anymore is vaguely spicy hot goop with corn chips crammed in the middle.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Filet-o-Fish from McDonald's - MALCOLM BEDELL
  • Malcolm Bedell
  • Filet-o-Fish from McDonald's
In 1962, Cincinnati, Ohio-based McDonald's franchisee Lou Groen had a problem. His local clientele was close to 90% Roman Catholic, which was causing his restaurant to founder mightily on Fridays and during Lent, the 40-day period leading up to Easter during which Roman Catholics abstain from eating meat.

In those days, when your McDonald's franchise was struggling, you didn't noodle around with middle management. You got on the phone with old McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, himself. Sympathetic to the struggles at Groen's store, Kroc rather famously came up with a proposition. They would, as Groen had asked, begin testing a new fish sandwich to help the store get through those Friday rough patches.

Kroc also insisted, however, that the restaurant also test his solution. Kroc thought the answer was to feed Catholics his "Hula Burger," a slice of grilled pineapple with cheese on a cold bun, and demanded that both items be placed on the menu. Whichever sandwich sold best would be rolled out to the nationwide menu, and would become the first non-hamburger addition to the McDonald's menu. Lou Groen's Filet-O-Fish sandwich won in a landslide, saved his struggling franchise, and McDonald's went on to sell approximately 300 million of the sandwiches per year.

Now that several various fast food restaurants are starting to roll out their annual fish sandwich promotions for Lent, we did what any reasonable person would do. We went and ate them all. Here's what we observed in the mysterious world of fried fish sandwiches, helpfully ranked here from least to most delicious.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Grilled Stuft Nacho - TACO BELL
  • Taco Bell
  • Grilled Stuft Nacho
Taco Bell's army of food scientists may be the most creative minds currently at work in the back rooms and laboratories of the fast food industry. Following the staggering, game-changing success of its Doritos Locos line of tacos, Taco Bell hopes to raise its status as an innovator even further into the realm of "diabolical genius," on par with the kinds of criminal masterminds who make their homes in underground caves and plan elaborate hot air balloon heists featuring armies of trained flightless birds. How, you may ask? With two bold new additions to the drive-thru menu.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Saturday, Nov. 16 was "National Fast Food Day," which might have been confusing if you live in America, where every day seems to be fast food day. Nevertheless, we thought it was important to mark the occasion of this day -- and every day, really -- not with cards, gifts, or an awkward phone call, but with an exploration of eleven McDonald's "hacks" that will change the way you order from the most popular fast food chain on Earth, while making you appear more attractive and sexually capable to the opposite sex.

Ready to step up your drive-thru game? Here are some of our favorite tips for maximizing your McDonald's experience:

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

  • McDonald's
  • McRib
This week, the biggest names in food blogging have been breathlessly reminding us that the McDonald's McRib sandwich is available yet again, for the month of November. The boneless sandwich with "rib" in its name, introduced in 1981, was never one of the chain's big hits; sales suffered, and the sandwich was officially "retired" in 1985. It returned several times in the 1990s, for promotional movie tie-ins, and on the regional level in barbecue-friendlier states.

Rumors about the sandwich abounded each time it would reappear. Rumors that it was made of kangaroo meat. That it was only introduced seasonally, or during the heady boom times of a pork surplus. But everyone could agree that it just wasn't very good.

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