Tag Archives: fast food

Eat fresh, baby

Sometimes I have no idea what I’m going to eat. I like to cook for myself, and ideally, I’d be preparing all of my meals in the house. But I go through these spells, they can last for days or even weeks at a time, where any motivation I have to plan ahead and go to the grocery store just evaporates. I wind up jumping from meal to meal, forever stuck in the moment, nothing in the house to satiate my unstoppable hunger, no choice but to go out and buy something fast, something quick.


I had Subway for lunch. It’s fine. I like Subway. But it’s just like, I don’t know, I go to Subway, I stand in line and wait for them to make my sandwich. There’s nothing about the process of getting a sandwich at Subway that really speaks to me anymore. That same feeling I get when I open up the refrigerator and see that there’s nothing inside is almost identical to what I experience as I wait on line for the Subway people to make my sandwich.

The Subway people at the Subway by my house are all foreigners, and whenever I go there, I can’t shake the feeling that they’re all kind of judging me, all of us, anybody who goes to Subway to eat Subway. I imagine them going home and saying stuff like, “These Americans, these idiots, lining up every day to eat this … this stuff … this whatever it is,” having a good laugh at the idea of selling us these five dollar foot longs.

I only say this because one time I was waiting on line for a sandwich and I saw one of the employees run outside. He came back later with a bunch of takeout from an ethnic restaurant. They work in a Subway, and they don’t eat Subway? I thought, man, that food looks good, much better than this sandwich that I was about to eat. But I was already invested in this line. It took me quite a while to make that conscious decision, to get out of the house, to make that walk down the block. Changing plans now that I was already this deep, well, it just wasn’t going to happen. I had to be content with the knowledge that these Subway employees might at least get some pleasure out of their food. I wonder if they ever eat Subway, or is just strictly business for them, a vehicle to make money and nothing else.

When I went to Subway today, there was a guy my age behind the counter. He was clearly new, because every time he tried to do something, he did it really cautiously. Like he carefully chose his words, asked people the same question multiple times. Every time he started an action, the manager would yell at him in a different language and take over, telling him to start doing something else. He’d start doing another task, and the process would repeat itself as he was continuously chased from job to job.

It was beyond uncomfortable, the way the boss didn’t really have any sort of awareness of how loud she was barking at this poor guy. She had originally started to make my sandwich when she caught him improperly placing the toppings on a sandwich further down the line. She relieved him of duty and sent him to finish setting up my order.

He kind of just looked at me, wide eyed, totally confused, “Uh … did you want this toasted?” And he made it halfway through spreading the tuna before the manager swooped back in to show him the correct way to put out individual slices of cheese.

As a different employee rung me up and swiped my credit card, I heard more screaming behind me, followed by an, “I’m sorry he’s so slow!” to a customer to my left. This guy was beyond patient, “No, it’s OK, everybody’s got to learn, right? I was the same way on my first day, very careful, making sure everything was perfect.”

And the manager just kind of glared, almost visibly insulted that the customer hadn’t sided with her, shared the contempt for this employee that couldn’t work fast enough. I could picture her thinking to herself, “Oh yeah? You think that makes it OK? It’s not OK. That guy’s not your boss. I’m your boss.”

I got home, the sandwich, whatever, it’s a Subway sandwich. I almost wished that I could just teleport it directly inside my stomach, to save me the ten minutes or so I’d actually have to spend chewing, swallowing. All of that yelling before, all for a sandwich, something way too basic to get so bent out of shape over.

Don’t be the person that orders fries with no salt

I come across the same tip every once in a while on the Internet: If you go to McDonald’s, ask for your fries with no salt. That way, they have to make a fresh batch, guaranteeing that your fries won’t be sitting around under the heat lamp, that each French fry you put in your mouth will be as made-to-order as possible.


But what about the seasoning? Won’t plain French fries taste a little bland? Easy, the hint goes on, once you get your super-fresh French fries, you just add your own salt. Bam, you just hacked McDonald’s, you cracked the fast-food code.

Every time I read this advice, because it always pops up, people think they’re being so smart, beating the system, I always get pissed off. Because you’re not beating the system. You’re throwing a wrench in it. And nobody’s benefiting, not even you.

Let’s talk about you. “No salt on those fries.” You know what you just did? You just added like five minutes to your wait time, not to mention all of the people behind you in line, watching you as you stand to the side of the register, they’re not ordering, even though you already ordered. Because you’re not moving. You’re just standing there. Everybody’s getting annoyed, nobody knows what’s going on. They don’t understand that you’re waiting for some ridiculous side-item special request.

Then you get your fries. “Whatever,” you’re saying, “I don’t care about the extra wait time, because it’s all worth it, fresh, hot fries.” And yes, everybody agrees that hot fries are better, right out of the deep fryer, they’re perfectly crisp on the outside with that almost creamy potato interior.

But you’re not getting that maximum fry experience, because they didn’t add salt. You think you’re somehow gaming the system by just sprinkling it on at the table, but you’re cheating yourself out of what should be the perfectly seasoned French fry. You ever see just how those fries are made? The fry cook takes the basket out of the fryer, gives the whole thing a few shakes to get rid of any excess oil, and then immediately applies the salt.

This is what you’re not getting. It’s an immediate application of salt. They have a giant shaker, like it has its own handle. And that salt they use, it’s not your average table salt. This stuff is super fine, it’s distributed evenly throughout the broad salt shaker opening, dispersing in a briny cloud, perfectly and evenly coating every inch of those fries.

And this is done as it’s being shaken. So you think about your fries, your super fresh, made-to-order fries. By the time you get them to wherever it is that you’re going to apply your own salt, those things have already cooled down. Sure, it’s only been a minute or two, tops, but that’s all it takes. You’re going to open up your salt packets and empty it on top. Guess what? Most of that salt is going to bounce off of the fries and land at the bottom of the bag. You need that ultra hot coating of right-out-of-the-fryer cooking oil. When that industrial salt shaker does its magic on the fries, immediately upon emerging from the cooker, the salt dissolves on contact with each piece. Plus you add the wrist-action, the up-and-down flicking of the basket, it’s like the salt becomes one with the potato, there’s not a spot that’s not perfectly seasoned.

I get this all the time at my restaurant also, “Let me get those fries with no salt.” And then I watch as their food comes out, they immediately grab the salt shaker, they’re shaking it up and down over each French fry, like, I wish I didn’t have to do this for each bite, but someone along the course of my life told me this trick about ordering fries with no salt, and even though it’s clearly an inferior way of ordering and eating fries, for whatever reason, I’ve never really examined what’s going on, I’m just blindly following ridiculous tips and tricks that I read about somewhere on the Internet.

Open your eyes. Heed my advice. You ask for no salt on the fries, you’re taking the fast out of fast food. What you gain in freshness and piping-hotness, you lose it deliciousness and I-can’t-stop-putting-these-in-my-mouthness. Plus, the McDonald’s worker is going to resent you for making him or her do extra work all because you don’t know how to order.

But won’t that mean that sometimes you won’t get super fresh fries? Yes, that’s just a reality that everyone has to deal with. That’s life, that’s fast food, OK, there’s a reason most of this stuff costs a dollar. Sometimes you get fresh fast food, other times it’s coming from the heat lamp. Trying to manipulate your way into a perfect McDonald’s experience every single time, it’s a recipe for frustration, you’re trying too hard to make it happen, you’re setting your standards way too high, and it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be pleased by anything in the long run.

Plus, you really shouldn’t be eating so many French fries. Hasn’t your doctor ever told you to cut back on the fried food? Come on man, do yourself a favor, next time you’re about to head out the door to McDonald’s, grab an apple, all right? Go have a yogurt and drink a glass of water.

I still miss Dave Thomas

I’m still really upset that Dave Thomas is dead. I know he passed away like fifteen years ago, I don’t really know how many years, and I don’t feel like looking it up, but it feels like fifteen years. Actually, it doesn’t feel like fifteen years at all. It’s just that, as I get older, and I look back at things that have happened in the past, for some reason it feels like everything happened within the past year.


Maybe it’s because I love Wendy’s so much, but Dave’s absence from this world is sometimes too much to bear. I used to love watching TV, because Dave used to be like the Wendy’s mascot. He starred in pretty much every one of their commercials. Remember that one for Wendy’s at-the-time new spicy chicken sandwich? It was Dave sitting across from some mean looking southwestern guy. Each man hands the other his own spicy chicken sandwich. Dave takes a bite of the opponent’s, chews it, and doesn’t really give much in the way of any facial expressions. The other guy offers Dave a glass, “Water?” “No, thanks.”

And now it’s the other guy’s turn. He takes a bite of Wendy’s spicy chicken and his face immediately gets red. Now it’s Dave’s turn. “Water?” The other guy can’t even respond, he’s making a really pained facial expression, he just takes the glass and downs the whole thing.

It wasn’t just commercials. Dave had a vested interest in every one of his stores. He used to pop in at random locations across the country and start flipping burgers, taking orders. Naysayers would be like, “Oh big deal, he shows up and gets his photo taken holding a spatula every once in a while, that’s nothing more than a glorified photo-op.” But it was more, because after the photographers had left, the employees would be like, “OK, Mr. Thomas, we can take it from here.” But Dave wouldn’t leave. He’d insist on finishing his shift. Even afterwards, he’d get on his hands and knees and start scrubbing the floors, changing the fry oil, all of the hard, dirty work. And then he’d buy everyone a round of Frosties before he left.

He’d been a hard worker at an early age. When Dave was like twelve or thirteen, he got a job at a local diner, somewhere. I think he was from like Detroit or Cleveland or Chicago, one of those big cities somewhere in the middle of America. Legend has it that one night, every employee at this restaurant called out sick at the same time. Not one to back away from an honest night of hard work, Dave stepped up to the plate and waited on every single table. People in Akron, or Cincinnati – it was somewhere out there, I can’t remember exactly – they still talk about that night, saying he personally handled over two hundred tables through the course of dinner.

I got so inspired after I heard that story, I tried to replicate his feat of serving fortitude. But by halfway through my shift, I looked at my checks, I’d only gotten through six so far. Man, I’d have to really step it up if I even hoped at coming close to Dave’s record. I ran my ass off for the rest of the night, busing tables, taking orders anywhere I could. I think I turned some heads. It might have been in my imagination, but I thought I heard my boss say something like, “Wow, what’s gotten into Rob?” I was channeling Dave Thomas’s spirit. If only my boss accidentally called me Dave instead of Rob, my night would have been complete.

Well, also if I could have taken some more tables, that would have made my night even more complete. Because despite my best efforts, I still only came in at around eleven checks. The second half of the night wasn’t nearly as busy as the first. And then, I don’t know why I did it, but I took a fifteen-minute break right in the middle of the dinner rush. I was just so tired! I really needed to just sit down and have a glass of iced tea.

Still, even though I didn’t come close that night, I always have something to reach for. Thank you, Dave, wherever you are. You’re an inspiration to the service industry. I hope that in the afterlife, whichever god or goddess presides over heaven, I hope they like Big Bacon Classics. I love Big Bacon Classics. It’s definitely my go-to sandwich at Wendy’s. That and the spicy chicken. I get both. The fries … eh, honestly, McDonald’s fries are hard to beat. But nobody picks a fast-food place solely based on the fries. In terms of sandwiches, Wendy’s is king. Thanks Dave.

McDonald’s should sell a Quarter Pounder with a bun made out of Twinkies

When Taco Bell started selling those tacos with the Doritos shell last year, I experienced something of a personal fast-food renaissance. I started going back to all of my favorite restaurants, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s. But thanks to genius product launches like Doritos taco, Taco Bell maintains its lead against any would be competitors. And that’s what Taco Bell has always been about.

What do I get when I go to McDonald’s? Big Mac. What about Burger King? Whopper. Sure these chains all promote their own specialty sandwiches, constantly trying to earn a permanent spot on America’s taste buds, but it never works. I’m trying to think here and, without doing any research at all, the last time I can remember any fast-food place introducing something that stuck was when Wendy’s came up with the now classic Spicy Chicken Sandwich.

Taco Bell is different. By always pushing the envelope in terms what’s on the menu, Americans have fallen in love with items like the Chalupa, the Gordita, the Crunch Wrap Supreme. I could seriously just start typing Taco Bell favorites and I’d have an entire essay written right here. And adding Doritos to the mix changed the game entirely. What other fast-food/snack-food hybrid might we be able to come up with?

How about a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, but instead of a bun, McDonald’s can use Twinkies. They’ll call it the Quarter Pounder with Cheese with Twinkies. Or something else. I’m not much of a branding expert. I’m getting hungry just thinking about how delicious such a sweet and savory sandwich might taste. I’m tempted to run out right now to buy a Quarter Pounder at McDonald’s. Then I’ll head over to the grocery store to buy some Twinkies, so I can just make it myself at home and … wait a second.

Oh yeah, but Twinkies are getting shut down, so that’s not going to work out. Which is why McDonald’s needs to get moving on this sandwich. Think about it, I’m assuming Hostess is going out of business because it’s not selling enough Twinkies. And let’s face it, nobody’s wondering why. Who really eats Twinkies anyway? Moms today are making their kids eat rice cakes and baby carrots. It’s disgusting. I mean, I don’t necessarily blame them, because we’re all getting so fat, but when was the last time you saw anybody go to the store and buy a box of Twinkies?

It’s a food product that’s been around for like a hundred years. And now all of the sudden we’re getting so upset because Hostess is shutting the whole thing down. Stores are being looted for their Twinkies. News channels are running non-stop stories about Twinkies. After having lived the past ten years or so without so much as being reminded that it even exists, the Twinkie is relevant again.

McDonald’s, make this sandwich happen. Capitalize on Twinkie-fever before people wake up and think to themselves, wait a second, I never buy Twinkies, and nobody else does either, so I actually don’t care if it they get shut down. I guarantee you that if you bought the rights to the Twinkie and marketed this sandwich, you’d put McDonald’s back on the map. Because seriously, what else are you guys up to lately? I see you have all of these signs for a new CBO sandwich. Cheddar bacon and onion, right? Yeah, I get it, it just doesn’t sound very inspired. And I’m no ad man, but all I think of when I see ads for this sandwich is BO. It takes up over fifty percent of the title.

Do it. Make the Twinkie-bun sandwich. Give me credit for coming up with it. Or at least give Taco Bell credit. And then just send me a check. Nothing huge. OK, well, nothing too small either.