My job responsibilities require me to travel once or twice a month to visit the manufacturing plants that I oversee from an HR standpoint. While I generally dislike traveling since nearly every flight is delayed and it's hard to fold a 6'6" body into a cramped middle seat on a US Air regional jet, there are a few perks that go along with it. The first is that I get to stay in hotels that completely spoil me. When our family takes a vacation we almost always Priceline our motel and see what we can get for $29.99 per night. When I travel for work, we get company rates for nice places like the Ritz-Carlton (Pasadena) and Weston (Boston). Yeah, I've become a hotel snob, but it is the least the company can do after the headaches, physical toll, and separation from family that come with business travel.
The second perk that comes with traveling for work is that I can go to restaurants that are a little classier than I normally go to. All of my meals comply with the company travel policy and I am not racking up hundred dollar tabs or anything, but I tend to eat more fillet mignon than Nachos Bell Grande when I am out of town for work.
Two weeks ago I was visiting my plant in Rock Hill, South Carolina and only had a few minutes for lunch and the closest restaurant was Hardee's. (Note: It is called "Hardee's" in the eastern states and "Carl's Jr." in the west. This was a difficult adjustment for me when we moved from Arizona to North Carolina. Also, in the east "Dryers" ice cream is called "Edie's" and small hills are called "mountains". Sometimes I feel like I'm living int the Twilight Zone out here. I live in constant fear that a possessed, talking wind-up doll is going to threaten my life any day now.) It was the first time I had been to Hardee's/Carl's Jr. in about six years. Ever since Hardee's decided to market itself by essentially saying, "Forget it! Women never eat here anyway! Let's just embrace this fact and start making sexist commercials, offend every woman in America, and stack our menu with burgers containing three pounds of meat. We can also post signs on our doors that say, 'No Girls Allowed' and give swirlies to nerdy-looking guys who dare to come in here and eat lunch with all of the burly construction workers who pack our restaurant." Their effort to isolate females has been successful with the NMW, so we never eat at Hardee's.
Since I was by myself and my company was paying for lunch, I decided to branch out and order a Jalapeño Thick Burger. It was so big and heavy that they rolled it out to me on a dolly and then team-lifted it up to my table. The next several minutes passed as follows:
12:16 - Took first bite.
12:18 - Still chewing first bite.
12:22 - Swallowed first jalapeño pepper, back of neck beginning to sweat.
12:27 - Finished half of burger, only 420 calories and 29 grams of fat left to go.
12:29 - Feeling...really...sleepy.
12:51 - Wake up from power nap, stomach feels prepared to continue conquest of Jalapeño Thick Burger.
12:57 - Experienced jalapeño-induced hallucination featuring Mayor McCheese, a flame thrower, the A-Team, and a talking Pez dispenser.
1:06 - Finally finished the entire burger.
1:08 - Heart stops beating, collapse to the floor.
1:13 - Resuscitated by Hardee's staff who happen to be well-trained in the use of Automated External Defibrillators (AED's) since customers go into cardiac arrest on a daily basis before leaving the restaurant.
Despite the six pounds I gained that day, I absolutely loved the burger. While I was eating it I was mentally ranking where the Jalapeño Thick Burger fell when compared to my other favorite fast food menu items. My conclusion? Fourth. After giving this topic a significant amount of thought, here is my Mount Rushmore (Top-4) of fast food menu items:
#4 - Hardee's Jalapeño Thick Burger
#3 - Subway Cold Cut Trio (with extra mayo, lettuce, and extra black olives)
#2 - Arby's Chicken Cordon Bleu (with extra mayo)
#1 - McDonald Big Mac (with extra sauce)
If you are wondering - yes, I weigh 420 pounds and there is more mayonnaise coursing through my veins than white blood cells. Oh well, whatever doesn't kill you only damages important internal organs. Because so many of the people who read this blog fit the fast food demographic [on-the-go with young kids, possibly in college, and frugal (read: cheap)], I thought it would be interesting to get your take on your Mount Rushmore of fast food menu items.
Please post a comment with your top-4 fast food menu items. Based upon the results, I will set up a poll sometime over the next few days to let everybody vote until we ultimately determine the most popular fast food item in the world.
And if you have never tried the Jalapeño Thick Burger, you really should. If nothing else, the hallucinations make it totally worth it. Just watch out for the burly construction guys. They'll have your head in a toilet faster than you can swipe your debit card. Believe me, I know.
***** MY COMMENTS ABOUT YOUR COMMENTS *****
(On occasion a comment gets posted that deserves to be highlighted or instigates a response from me. In order to help these side conversations not get buried in the usual comments section, I'm going to post about them here.)
-Pappy Yokum: I think you are right that Training Table and other sit-down restaurants do not qualify as fast food. I should have clarified that better in the beginning. I think the restaurant needs to have a legitimate drive-thru or be a small mom-and-pop to be considered.
-Carolyn: YAMMCUALLSH (that is the acronym for "You almost made me caugh up a lung laughing so hard). I'm hoping it replaces ROTFL, we'll see. Your account of the drive-thru attendant answering your question with, "Ma'am? It's flame broiled", was hilarious. It made me think of an old episode of Dr. Katz where his patient tells him, "In Quebec, the fast food workers are all bilingual. In the States, they are not even lingual. One time I had to draw a picture of a hamburger before they understood what I wanted. When I tried to tell the worker I wanted it 'to go', I had to draw feet on the bottom of the bun." Good times.
-Bracken96: You make a great point about the under $2 vs. over $2 menu items. I had actually thought about putting some sort of price stipulation in there, but concluded that it may lead to too much confusion. There is something to be said for the whole cost/taste/full-stomach dynamic. When I go to a fast food joint, I am almost always weighing those three factors. Would I rather spend $3 at McDonalds for 2 Double Cheeseburgers and a Chicken Nuggets, or spend the same amount on a single Big Mac? If you factored in price, the Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger and Whopper Jr. would run away with the contest. However, I really wanted to focus more on "best tasting", not necessarily best overall value.
-Another Quick NMH Comment: It was really, really hard for me to leave Wendy's Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger off of my Mt. Rushmore. That tasty little sandwich has been there for me through thick and thin. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone straight from work to Bishopric with two dollars and some change in my pocket and grabbed two JBC's before our meetings started. I almost consider it a family friend at this point, but I think that my four selections in the post actually taste better.
The other item that was hard to leave off was a random menu item called a Mushroom Thing served at a place called Scott's in West Valley City, UT. Scott's shut down when I was a teen-ager, but I can still taste a mushroom thing dripping in fry sauce as if I had one yesterday. Mmmm...fried mushrooms on a stick....