What is the best chain fast food restaurant?

What is the best chain fast food restaurant?


payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
I worked there for two years while I was in high school...started out at the register, then transitioned to drive-thru. When I quit to go to college, I held the records for number of cars served per hour (88) and lowest average time per car (0:48). This was before debit cards and the Internet, so I imagine those records have long been beaten.

Here's what I remember about their food. As a matter of company policy:
  • Their french fries are cooked fresh every 3 minutes. When you pull them, the machine automatically sets a timer and it goes of after 180 seconds. At that time, you are required to throw out any unsold fries and start another batch. If you don't, you will be fired. (They take their fries very seriously.)
  • Chicken nuggets, chicken patties, etc., can be cooked ahead of time and kept in a warming bin for up to 30 minutes before they have to be wasted (again, automatic timers are used. They aren't as strict with this as they are with their fries, though...you will just be written up if you get caught ignoring/resetting the timer.) However, their fish patties must always be cooked to order, every time, no exceptions...they cannot be kept in a warming bin for any amount of time.
  • Coffee is brewed fresh every 30 minutes (more automatic timers, ugh, I still hear them beeping in my sleep.) Decaf is almost always brewed fresh to order, because it is so rarely requested and it isn't economical to brew something twice an hour only to end up throwing it away.
  • The fountain drinks are recalibrated twice a day to ensure they use the correct amount of syrup, water, and CO2. The ice bin, however, isn't cleaned very often...maybe once a week.
So. If you want the freshest food at McDonald's, order the Fillet o'Fish and a side of fries, decaf coffee or a fountain drink with no ice, and do it at the drive-thru. Do not order the chicken nuggets or the hash browns; they have been sitting in the warming bin the longest.
Oh the beeping... I remember once I was at I think Arbys one evening. It was unusually busy and I was waiting for my food. There were all kinds of buzzers and beeps going off as the crew scampered about. Finally, this fella sitting with his family just loses it. "Shut up, SHUT up, SHUUUUUUUUUT UUUUUUUP!!!" Everyone in the place went quiet and just stared at the guy for a moment, then descended back into chaos. Man, that fella had had enough.
 

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Parmandur

Book-Friend
Oh the beeping... I remember once I was at I think Arbys one evening. It was unusually busy and I was waiting for my food. There were all kinds of buzzers and beeps going off as the crew scampered about. Finally, this fella sitting with his family just loses it. "Shut up, SHUT up, SHUUUUUUUUUT UUUUUUUP!!!" Everyone in the place went quiet and just stared at the guy for a moment, then descended back into chaos. Man, that fella had had enough.
I can definitely sympathize with being overestimated like that.
 

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
I can definitely sympathize with being overestimated like that.
I couldn't believe it and found it a bit comical. The man had this look on his face that was part embarrassment for losing it, but also part relief because he really had to let it out. He didnt seem angry after that.
 

Gradine

The Elephant in the Room (she/her)
Let me preface this by saying that I live in the ass end of nowhere, and before that I grew up and went to high school in a slightly different barely larger ass end of nowhere, so I have only ever been to just over half of the listed restaurants (12/23, by my count). Both locations basically have the basic big national food chains (and, because both are in California, the state-mandated local In-n-Out), so a lot of this stuff I've never even heard of, let alone tried.

Best Burgers
Carl's Jr.
I guess you call this Hardees in other places? Look... fast food burgers are not good burgers. But at least Carl's Jr tries. I've honestly never tried the Thickburgers though I can't imagine they meet quite the same quality standard they're going for, but the Western Bacon Cheeseburger slaps, even with the bacon being largely underwhelming. The sides are also disappointing, but at least they give a decent quantity, and the jalapeno poppers are actually spicy, and quite good! Hands down the best fast food, and it's not even close.
Runner Up: In-n-Out
So, there's a lot of caveats with In-n-Out. First, no, it is never going to live up to the hype. But for what you're paying for? It's a damn good value. The biggest trick is that the "secret menu" is full of trap options. Unless you like greasy grilled onions on everything, I guess. The burgers are small, so you gotta go with a double-double or triple-triple, but don't bother with the extra frouferole. Also? The fries are highly location dependent. Some In-n-Outs put out the best god damned fries you will ever eat in your life. Others will serve up stale cardboard. There is no in-between. I could not give a decent reason why; it just is. Apologies if your experiences have only been with bad fry In-n-Outs.

Best Chicken
Burger King
So, it's definitely true that nobody does good burgers, but nobody really does good chicken. This might be my own ignorance talking; other than KFC I've never even seen let alone set foot in any of these other chicken places. I guess looking at the results so far bigot chicken is pretty good? Anyway, traditional fast food does chicken bad. At least BK's original chicken sandwiches have no pretensions. Just a flat breaded patty in a fun long narrow bun. They even come in "spicy", which I guess in BK-land basically means "contains any flavor at all". They would be doing even better in this category if they hadn't discontinued the chicken fry sauce, which was as good as annoying internet people treat McD's Szechuan Sauce.
Runner Up: KFC
We pretty recently got a KFC where I live, and it's... fine. I mean, the chicken is fine, anyway. KFC's real strength is in the sides. The chicken mac'n'cheese bowls are solid.

Best Tex-Mex
Taco Bell
Taco Bell is something of a meme, but aside from the ground "beef" being questionable the ingredients are honestly not any worse and are in many ways better for your body than most of the crap on this list. You just can't leave it out for hours like you can with literally any other fast food. Anyway, Taco Bell is absolutely great. The tacos are great. The burritos are great. Whatever sauce they put on their quesadillas is incredible. To quote the great philosopher of our time, Doja Cat, Mexican Pizza is the pizza for you and me. And it's back, baby. Get over yourselves. Taco Bell is love.
Runner Up: Del Taco
Caveat: I haven't been to a Del Taco since I started college, so two decades ago, so this may simply be nostalgia talking, but Del Taco was my go-to for a number of reasons. Primarily, it was right down the street from the theatre I was rehearsing/performing in that last summer. But also, as I learned to my great delight, when you up-size to a large they start throwing in free burritos and stuff. That's amazing. Was the food good? No. But it was okay. And cheap. And there was a lot of it.

Best Fish
Long John Silvers
This is another one of those "not since high school" nostalgia stops for me, but I remember loving any time I would go out of my way to the strip mall where this was. The hushpuppies are my white whale, at this point. I will taste that incredible taste again, some day.
Runner Up: McDonalds
Real talk? McDonalds is trash. Yeah, their fries are consistently great, but other than that, what do they even have going for them? They aren't even dirt cheap anymore! Sadly, my wife and daughter both love their McNuggets, so I'm forced to eat there more often than I would prefer, which would be never. In those instances, when there isn't a McRib available to destroy my hunger/sense of self-worth, my go-to tends to be a McFish or whatever it's called. It's as basic as it gets; a fish patty on a bun with tartar sauce, but aside from ketchup that's really all you need. Some places try to get fancy with their fish sandwiches, and it's always a mistake.

Other Nostalgia Favorites
A&W

Look, any fast food restaurant that'll serve up root beer on tap in a frosted mug is doing something right. Shame about the food, though.
 


Parmandur

Book-Friend
I couldn't believe it and found it a bit comical. The man had this look on his face that was part embarrassment for losing it, but also part relief because he really had to let it out. He didnt seem angry after that.
Probably had a pretty rough day otherwise.
 

Gradine

The Elephant in the Room (she/her)
The only other three places on the list I've been to that I didn't mention above were Wendy's (meh), Panda Express (meehhh), and Subway (pretty good, actually). Also I've been to Jack-n-the-Box, which I would've assumed were ubiquitous and nationwide but didn't make the list for reasons? (also, meh)
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I guess looking at the results so far bigot chicken is pretty good?
You know what, even setting aside the politics for a second, the food is expensive and overrated. In-N-Out may be crazy hyped, but at least it is cheap and delicious, a winning combo. Chick-fil-A is merely OK, and costs a lot compared to similar options.

Popeyes, however, is where it is at: that is like KFC, but good and with actual flavors (also soy allergen friendly!).
 


Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Supporter
What's you idea of thick crust pizza? Kinda default option here.
DEEP dish or pan- 1/2” thick or more. Like…pizza made on biscuits or sliced bread thick.

Done right, the sauce & other toppings with liquid components soak into the bready crust. Even with LOTS of sauce, pizzas like that don’t get drippy.

When I was a kid, there was at least one chain we hit that did pizzas like that. Shakey’s, maybe? But that’s memories from 40-50 years back.
 

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