Ramblings of a Tampa engineer
Photo by Jonathan Borba / Unsplash

This is my 2nd food post, joining my top ten sandwich reviews. The rules are quite simple:

  1. The fast food must be a chain.
  2. The fast food must have a drive through.
  3. The place must be a "burger" / "chicken" place.

With that, my top 8 places. Lets start at the worse and make our way up to #1.

#8 - Arby's

While mainly found in the rural places of the Midwest and encountered on family trips between Kansas and Nebraska. This was a favorite place of mine for a few years of childhood for the "pick 3" option. I could get a cheesy ham sandwich, curly fries and a Jamocha shake.

Though, as I grew older it became quite apparent this place was not that good. The idea of just steaming meat destroyed the flavor. Constantly inconsistent and the place just felt "dirty" every time I went. I don't think I've been to an Arby's in nearly a decade now.

#7 - Hardee's

Keeping the trend of Midwest we had White Castle in Nebraska, but Hardee's in Kansas. This meant the idea of learning about "mini sliders" originated at White Castle, but not living in Nebraska led to going to Hardee's more often.

This was just a burger place that I could order a bunch of little cheeseburgers from. They had this organization of little onions and mustard that had such a unique flavor. Though it sits at #7 because Hardee's did not evolve like the competition. Dirt and grime became the pattern, the store never modernized and the menu went stale. I'm sure if you find yourself 150 miles north of Arkansas in a town of 500 people - Hardee's is your best fast food, but today I won't be going there.

#6 - Burger King

While not yet breaching into the top 5 - we have Burger King. If you think about the fast food trio - you are probably thinking of McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King. I'm placing Burger King at #6 because of the Whopper, which pretty much took the Big Mac from McDonald's and actually added some flavor. The ingredients seemed like they had flavor and complemented a burger that actually looked like it was grilled (Whether this is true or not).

The pattern continues, I grew older and this place did not move with me. There were healthier options, I lived on campus and I learned to cook. It just didn't seem that "cool" to rip over to the BK Lounge for a burger as it look pretty dated in pale to the comparison.

#5 - Sonic

"SuperSONIC burger"by wfyurasko is licensed under CC BY 2.0

At the back of the top 5 is Sonic, which was the only fast food in my knowledge to have this "pull in" approach where you just parked your car, talked into a machine and then food was delivered (Not always on roller-skates) to your car.

This place was the go-to after intense soccer practices in high school, then was even across from campus in Arkansas. So my exposure to this fast food was always there - and I did indeed go. From getting Powerade slushes to mix with alcohol or picking up a burger with fries on the late drive home from campus.

I'd still go to Sonic given a chance that warranted it, but the locations aren't close to me anymore and I can't justify a 45 minute drive for a Sonic burger.

#4 - Steak 'n Shake

"Steak 'n Shake"by Blue387 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This place remains at number 4 strongly because of hours of operation. Too many times I find myself on late trips home and most places are closed by 10pm. Steak 'n Shake is not and while the burgers aren't extravagant - they are consistent. I know exactly what I'm getting and sometimes that is exactly what I want.

The burger is usually pretty smashed together and tastes the same whether eaten immediately or 30 minutes later, which has an advantage. It won't excel to #1 overnight, but this is consistent okay food and I'm happy to have that.

#3 - Culver's

"IMG_3547"by BierDoctor is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A place not often found in all locations, but excels with the ice cream portion of the business with a side hustle of burgers. So basically a Dairy Queen with actually good food. The burgers, while known as butter burgers pack a red onion that has real flavor.

The patties taste like real meat and when mixed together with lettuce, pickles and condiments give a burger that has all the characteristics of a real home cooked burger. The only reason that I can't put it higher up is the time to a completed product is far too long. Sometimes I sit in line for 10-15 minutes for a single burger. This may be due to just sheer popularity at times or the price I pay for a higher quality item.

#2 - Wendy's

Meat Poultry

Holding at number 2 is Wendy's, one of the top 3 probably known fast food establishments. The reason they sit at number 2 is for constant change with the moving market. They added steak fries, introduced a healthy option, added chicken and much more iterations of items.

The only true complaint I had was only some locations had breakfast, but now all locations offer breakfast. I can come here and get a spicy chicken sandwich or a Baconator and not be disappointed. While that isn't often much anymore, the food at least is consistent when I do visit.

#1 - Chick-fil-A

"Chick-Fil-A, Wallingford, CT,"by JeepersMedia is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Holding the crown at number 1 is Chick-Fil-A, which is spelled crazily when I just want to type "Chick Filet". The marketing went global with "EAT MOR CHIKIN" and the store was always clean and always friendly. It basically threw the norm that fast food should be dirty.

The lemonade was always fresh, the chicken tasted fresh and it had so many sauces that you could change it up every time. The breakfast resembled the normal menu, albeit in morning iterations of the items. While some days I wish it was open on Sunday, I keep them at #1 for just great consistent chicken.

With that, my own personal deep dive into fast food.

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