Posts Tagged ‘Fast food’
There’s the undisputed champion of fast food “roast beef” places, Arbys, which has more than 3300 units. There have been some ‘also rans’along the way, the Roy Rogers chain (once over 300 units) tried to be a national contender. Hardees, with over 3000 units, has always featured a similar product on their menu systemwide after acquiring both the Roy Rogers and Rax Roast Beef chains.
And there have been local/regional chains as well, which have somehow managed to survive, despite being outspent in marketing and dwarfed in the number of locations.
I recall visiting a Lion’s Choice, in St. Louis, (25 outlets), and this gem I visited to day, “Beef-A- Roo” in Rockford, IL. “BAR” has 7 locations and has been around since 1967, and while their initial focus was on roast beef, they now have a full menu, offering burgers, dogs, salads, wraps, soups and other sandwiches.
Like Arby’s “roast beef,” the meat at Beef-A-Roo appears to come from an emulsification process, that is, beef, a solution, seasonings, perhaps other ingredients are made into a slurry, packed into a mold, and pre-cooked. The meat has the same texture and color as Arbys, and or course, neither resemble pure “muscle meat” as one would find at a quality deli or prepare at home.
Regardless, it remains popular, and even tho Arbys has a good presence in Rockford, locals love their Beef-A-Roo, and I have to say my perception
of the roast beef sandwich was despite the similarity, I prefered this. To me, it was more flavorful than the competitions, and as I am a nut for any kind of bread, I have to mention that hands-down, Beef-A-Roo may well have one of the best buns in the industry. It’s terrific, soft yet firm, a slight buttery taste, and toasted.
I also tried the olive burger, a popular item in the Chicago area (i have reviewed others), tho different variations can be found. BAR’s closely resembles that one you will find on
most menus, with sliced green olives and melted white cheese. They added a sauce, and I really couldn’t tell what it was, resembling a mayo, and it’s not named on their website menu. The burger patty has come from the type of automation that makes it appear as if it was hand-formed (meaning not a perfectly round, “hockey puck” type patty like most fast foods) and like the roast beef, it was more flavorful than most of its competitors.
Read a bunch of BAR’s reviews and you’ll see people crow about the fries, and they are good, as good, or better, as the golden arches, which many people hold as the fast food gold standard. They are thin and crispy shoestrings, nicely salted, piping hot.
Other people think BAR is spendy, but I disagreed, came away with two large sandwiches, fries and a drink for under $10.
I wish they’d expand, at least regionally. In the meantime, you’ll have to go to Rockford, IL and try their food at one of seven locations.
I have seen the same name on other restaurants in the Midwest, no idea whether they were once affiliated, are franchises or operated by other members of the founding family.
I clearly remember my first visit to an Arby’s, it was in the area of Minneapolis surrounding the U of M, and at that time, they had a glass enclosed “oven” in the middle of the dining room where the ‘roasts’ were cooking (at least that’s what I remember).
Arby’s was founded in Boardman, Ohio, in 1964 by Forrest and Leroy Raffel, owners of a restaurant equipment business who saw a market opportunity for a fast food franchise based on a food other than hamburgers. They chose the name “Arby’s”, based on R. B., the initials of Raffel Brothers. (That’s funny, I always thought it stood for “Roast Beef”).
The Raffel brothers opened the first new restaurant on July 23, 1964. They initially served only roast beef sandwiches, potato chips, and soft drinks.
Today, Arby’s is one of the largest fast food franchises (in the US), with over 3,000 outlets, and a smattering of shops overseas as well. The majority was purchased by a private equity group in 2011, with less than 20% being held by the folks at Wendys, who had owned it in toto, since 2008.
There haven’t been that many innovations at Arby’s over the years; one exception was the addition of the “Fresh Market” sandwiches which seem to be popular, and I have maintained since they were introduced, that Arby’s onion rings are the best in the fast food, and maybe fast casual arena. They are a bit spendy, tho.
We went to Arby’s as a cheap and quick solution to needing our St. Patrick’s Day corned beef fix, as they were offering a bogo on their Reubens, no coupon needed. The Arby’s Reuben is a good value at the bogo price (around $3 each), but I don’t know if I would be inclined to pay more. I’m not the type of fast-food consumer that goes for premium menu items.
Arby’s Reuben is corned beef, swiss, kraut, and thousand island dressing on toasted marble rye. Note “toasted” and not grilled, as most Reubens are prepared. I doubt many consumers would object. They also offer the Rachel, a “Midwest” version of the Reuben which substitutes turkey for the corned beef, .(most places a “Rachel” substitutes pastrami for the corned beef, and slaw for the kraut) If you are really bold, you can get a half and half at Arby’s. Turkey and corned beef? Not for me, but you might like it! Extra hungry? Ask for the double stack, which doubles the meat portion at an additional cost.
How was it? Good for what it was, especially when you compare it to a $27 sandwich at a Manhattan deli! I do admit it was a lot better grilled, as I took half home and did that later.
The bogo was an LTO for St. Patrick’s Day, but the Reuben is on the Arby’s menu for the foreseeable future.
Find your nearest Arby’s here.
Arbys Reuben Sandwich Review
Arguably at the top of growth chain for the fast casual dining segment, the relatively new “made on demand” concept pizza places appeal to customers on three points: value pricing, quality ingredients, and fast service.
There are quite a few entrants into the category already, including Blaze, MOD, and Pie Five, which was started and isowned by the same group that owns the successful chain, Pizza Inn (I like their buffets). I think that gives them a leg up on the competition.
It works kind of like Chipotle or Subway, you walk through a line, pick one of the specialty pies, or design your own, choosing your crust (including a gluten free option), sauce, cheese, and toppings, all for one price. The pie is popped into a scorching hot oven and one in just a few minutes, as opposed to the quarter hour a conventional pizza deck or conveyor oven take to go through the same process.
I tried out two today, at a pre opening fete. The “Athenian” comes with a thin crust, olive oil, herbs, chicken, garlic, olives, onion, peppers, feta, mozzarella/provolone blend, fresh basil, and sun dried tomato puree.
The “High Five” is their version of an all meat pie, on a pan crust, with marinara, pepperoni, Italian sausage, bacon, ham, and a cheddar, mozz, provolone blend.
The “assembly line” is fast and furious, as is the oven time. At the end, they will ask you “for here or to go” and whether you want additional Parmesan or pepper flakes; if you’re eating in, those add-ons are also on the table. Pie Five has the ‘magic’ coke dispensers, when you can crank out one or a combo of a hundred beverages, and also three kinds of ice tea, as well as some bottled drinks.
The 9 ” pizzas were excellent, I preferred the thin crust, bubbly and charred, to the pan personally. High quality and kudos for the processed pork toppings.
You can find Pie Five locations here, and take a gander at the menu (also below)to see what’s in store for you. (pizza, salads, desserts). The company has about fifty units open, and are aiming for five hundred, coast to coast. Wanna own one? Inquire.
Pie Five people? Great job. Great pizza.
Pie Five Pizza Review
Wendy’s used to send gift cards to food bloggers, particularly to sample a new or LTO product. They stopped, not sure why. Couldn’t have been that significant of an expense as a line item in their advertising budget. Now they email press releases in hopes that people like me will write about something. If one asks a question of the sender (some minion at Ketchum) one (at least me) never gets a reply. Seems like in the five years I have been doing this thing, there have been at least 5-6 people in that press release sending position.
I often get free meals and food in the mail. It never affects my post about it. I do admit to trying to find something redeeming in every food experience I have, but even if I really don’t like something, I often say “but you might, so go ahead and try it.” Different strokes, you know.
Fast food fish is an homage to a centuries old tradition of fasting during Lent, the forty days prior to Easter. While the practice of fasting in Christianity dates back to 300 AD, it has evolved and been diluted over the years to become “meatless Friday,” and fish was deemed to be “not meat” by the Vatican. As a result, many Catholic churches have fish frys during lent, they are especially plentiful in New Orleans. One church there has even put in a drive thru!
You won’t find any mention of religion in fast food marketing, of course, but the tradition is why they roll out the finned creatures this time of year.
White Castle has Shrimp Nibblers, which I really like. They are prepared on the spot, hot, crispy, and decent size shrimp. You all know about McDonald’s fish sandwich, which is available year round. Not really a favorite of mine, as I think it’s more like a “tartar sauce” sandwich with a hint of fish flavored protein. Popeye’s has good catfish year around, but they substitute a bland whitefish above the Mason Dixon line. Don’t know why. The fish is (I think) available year round, and they have a shrimp LTO from time to time. (Not as good as White Castle, IMO).
When Wendy’s first rolled out their “premium north Pacific cod, hand cut, panko breaded sandwich”, I tried it, noted it, and pretty much liked it. It was made better with the new fries Wendy’s rolled out at the time, natural cut taters with sea salt, which I probably called the best fast food fries around. At least they were when they were piping hot.
Finding myself near a Wendy’s recently, I gave the panko fish another shot. It didn’t strike me as much as the first time, though it is still good. First off, I don’t think fish filets that are “hand-cut” would all end up as a perfect rectangle. Second, you can’t really tell it’s panko, as the bread crumbs have been reduced to microscopic size. Panko bits are usually bigger (and crisper).
Much as I wanted to love this sandwich, if for no other reason than the actress who plays Wendys in the TV spots is cute as a button, I just didn’t. I deem it still be better than the other fast food fish sandwiches, but not as good as the one I had two years ago. Perhaps they reformulated. Perhaps they switched suppliers. Bun was a little dry as well, cracked upon picking up. Lettuce was a little past its prime.
They slipped on the fries, as well. Thin as shoe strings, not a hint of potato peel revealed, and over salted (a statement you will rarely hear from me), perhaps they ran out of natural cut and ran next door to McDonalds to get these. They were fine for fast food fries, but did not have the ample body and (a)peel of the fries I usually get at Wendys. Another change?
Would I eat it again? Yes. Should you try it? Yes, if you’re into meatless Fridays, Mondays, or just like fast food fish. Catch it soon, it’ll slip off the menu in the next month or so.
Photos depict the same sandwich from two years ago and today.
Wendys Premium Cod
Started in Normal, IL, in 1934 by ex marine Gus Belt, Steak N Shake is so named for its focus on ‘steakburgers’ and milk shakes. The marketing slogan “in sight it must be right” referred to the fact that originally, the beef was ground in plain sight of the customers, and originally was a grind of T-bone, sirloin, and round. Gus passed in 1954, and the chain went through a number of ownership changes. It’s currently held by the diversified holding company of Biglari Holdings, based in San Antonio.
Today, more than 400 restaurants dot the Midwest, Southern, and Southwestern United States, and the company seems in growth mode. Open 24/7, the Steak N Shake menu not only includes steakburgers, fries and shakes, but has been enlarged to include breakfast items, other sandwiches, salads, and different variations of chili on spaghetti noodles, the way one might find in Ohio chili chains.
I’ve long been a fan, and stop at one when I pass through a city that has some of the outposts. I’ve written about other menu items in the past.
The occasion for my recent stop was to check out some of their new menu items. As Steak N Shake’s competitors are on a tear with menu additions, newly remodeled stores, and spin-off concepts, the company seems to be putting its new focus on increased menu items as well as value-pricing with a substantial number of “$4 dollar meals.”
I tried out their “shooters”, the Steak N Shake version of sliders, mini hamburgers with different flavors available singly or in multiples.
The “Three shooters plus fries” plate came in at the $4 price point, and I opted for the flavor choices of garlic, “Frisco,” and buffalo.
Each came with a ‘slather’ of the designated sauce, buffalo ala Frank’s Red Hot Wing Sauce, Frisco, which was described to me by the waitperson as “exactly like thousand island dressing”, and a garlic butter. The buns receive a light brush of butter, and otherwise, the burgers are devoid of condiments and cheese, unless you request same (slight charge for cheese).
I liked them all, even though I usually passionately avoid anything with thousand island.
Steak N Shake’s fries are always properly fried shoestrings, with the right amount of salt. On each table is a bottle of their “Fry Seasoning” if you want to amp up the fries or burger. It’s kinda like Season Salt, but in my opinion, much tastier. And no MSG if you care about that kind of thing.
One “secret menu” item at S n S is the 7X7, seven burger patties, seven slices of cheese. I’ll get to that someday.
Anyway – the shooter platter is a great way to try out their new flavors, or feed the kids on a very economical basis. Find a Steak N Shake near you.
Steak N Shake Shooters Review
I keep expanding my trials for “new” fast food, either out of curiosity or due to having free coupons. Today I tackled Burger King’s “Big King,(tm)” their answer to McDonald’s Big Mac.
Burger King started in 1953 as “Insta-Burger King” in Jacksonville, FL, a small chain of franchised operations. Running into financial trouble within a couple years, two Miami franchisees purchased the rights to the restaurant, and dropped the “Insta” from the name. The company grew to the number two position of global hamburger franchises (tho it has currently slipped to number 3) with 13,000 outlets in 79 countries, and has been through a host of owners (including Pillsbury) the past two decades.
The last, and current purchaser is TPG Capital, a private equity group out of Texas, from British liquor giant Diageo for $2.6 billion.
As to the Big King(tm). advertising describes it as two savory fire-grilled beef patties, topped with, melted American cheese, fresh cut iceberg lettuce, crisp onions, crunchy pickles, and featuring a sweet thousand island style dressing, all on a warm, toasted, sesame seed bun. Advertising photographs have the sandwich looking like the first picture below.
My actual sandwich today is represented in the second picture. Here’s what I thought. Although the “fire grilled” flavor came through, I didn’t note anything savory about the two beef patties – which appeared to be about the equivalent size and weight to the two patties on McDonald’s McDouble, which sells for considerably less than the Big King. The lettuce, onion, and pickles seemed fresh enough, the sweet thousand island had no islands at all, and appeared to be mayo. The melted cheese? Wasn’t.
No matter. The good thing about going to BK these days is they have the Coke Freestyle machine, which enables you to mix and match a hundred or so soft drink combinations. Yahoo! BK twice in a few months, after a couple decade drought. I popped my Whopper cherry a few weeks ago.
Would I go for the Big King(tm) again? Unlikely. BK’s fries have improved though.
Big King Review
I’ve written about White Castle several times; I never imagined I’d be reviewing a seafood offering from the purveyors of America’s favorite sliders.
Many restaurants offer seafood specials during the season of Lent; the practice has extended to many fast food outlets as well. The tradition stems from an ancient Christian practice, a variation of fasting, which started as a traditional fast at first, but was modified over time to mean forgoing meat dishes. Fish / seafood became a natural substitute, as they were both plentiful and available easily to all economic groups.
While the tradition is carried on “religiously” in some parts of society, for many it’s not as important as a conviction, but rather a quest for variety.
White Castle’s bow to the tradition is with a triad of offerings, a fish sandwich, fish bite-size nibblers, and shrimp nibblers. All are lightly breaded and fried to order. Both the fish and shrimp are available in small, medium, and sack size portions. Fish nibblers and sliders are made with Alaskan Pollock, a species of the cod family.
If you’re like me, it’s tough to imagine entering a White Castle without scarfing a few sliders, and fortunately, even during Lent, the ‘Castle has made it easier for folks like us, with the combo offering of 3 sliders, a small shrimp nibbler and a soda. That’s what I opted for.
I loved both, and wish I would have ordered a larger size on the shrimp, as I was surprised at their taste and size. I was expecting tiny little salad or bay shrimp, or even little shrimp ‘bits’, like one fast food company used to do o-rings, but these would qualify as “mediums” by any grocer’s label. The breading was light and crispy, and you had a choice of dipping sauces, traditional cocktail, tartar, or a zesty ranch.
I believe the fish sandwich is around all the time, not sure about fish nibblers, and fairly confident the shrimp is a Lent LTO. Which just means I’ll have to stop back a few times before Easter. Sack size, next time, for sure!
Started by a former exec of Potbelly and Einstein Bagels (according to Wikipedia) , Meatheads sprang to life in Bloomington, IL, in 2007 where the local college population took a shine to it. Now with a dozen company-owned stores, this ‘fast-casual’ concept is trying to differentiate itself from competitors like Five Guys and Smashburger with a model and concept closer to In n Out. Especially with the fresh cut fries, and hand-dipped shakes. The chain is also trying to create a ‘homier’ dine-in atmosphere, with localized decor.
Boasting certified angus patties, the simple hamburger is a double patty (1/3 pound), on a ‘locally baked bun’, with ketchup, mustard, lettuce, mayo, pickle, and onion. An assortment of toppings and cheese are available at an additional cost. The basic burger clocks in at around $6.
There were three things that were memorable to me when I visited their newest location tonight:
- The blond server with the rocket bod
- The cashier who advised me the large fries was too much for two people (she was correct, and I appreciate that)
- The ramekin of buffalo sauce I purchased for .75
Everything else? Eh. or Meh.
The burger patties were dry and flavorless, unusual for Certified Angus, which usually has a pretty beefy flavor. The bun was a little dry as well. While the website offered the option of “blue cheese crumbles”, my blue cheese add on was about 1/4 ounce of salad dressing, a neat dollop in the center of the patty.
Fries were ok, and were fresh-cut as advertised. A little limp, and overseasoned, I don’t think they were double-fried, the key to crispness with a fresh cut potato.
My most appalling experience in the visit wasn’t due to the shop, but the customer in front of me who ordered a hot dog with ketchup only. In Chicago? Wot wot? Must have been a tourist.
$17.73 for two burgers, 1 small fries, 1 bottle water. A little spendy.
Would I return? Maybe to try other items. Or maybe chock it up to an off-nite. As with all my reviews, the opinions express my personal taste. You may well love this place, and I encourage you to try it and form your own opinion. Menu. Locator.
meatheads burgers and fries reviews
Earlier this year, I did a compare/contrast of chicken fingers in the deep south; I had a hankering for the white bread of the poultry world tonight, and Popeye’s would be my usual choice, but the two closest were too far away.
So I went to KFC. I’m old enough to remember when that stood for “Kentucky Fried Chicken”, now the emphasis is less on fried, and increasingly, less on chicken, judging from the size of tonight’s fingers.
And I walked in excited, and came out with attitude. I dunno, maybe the workers were still on strike from that fast food protest yesterday; they were present in the building, but not really there, if you know what I mean.
It’s Friday nite, a couple hours before closing, and I
saunter, sashay, waddle, walk in. Here’s the dialogue:
Me: I’ll have the six piece strip, please.
Her: I’ll have to see if we have any. (disappears for 4 minutes, 37 seconds.
Her: Yes, ok. Did you want the meal?
Me: No thank you.
Her: It includes two sides and a biscuit.
Me: No thank you.
Her: OK. $6.99
Me: OK (hand over card)
Her: Passes back two slips of paper.
Me: Thank you, Miss. (3 more minutes pass)
Her: Here you are. (Hands me cello bag with box in it).
Me: Do you have sauces?
Me: What kind do you have?
Her: Honey Mustard and BBQ.
Me: Honey Mustard, please.
Her: (Hands me the bag back).
What’s wrong with this picture? What elements were missing?
How about these?
Is this to eat in or to take out?
Would you like a drink with that?
Original recipe or extra crispy?
Thank you for visiting KFC?
and so on…
According to the KFC website, they should have five “signature sauces” on hand. I think I would have liked “Creamy Buffalo”. In its stead, I stopped and bought a bottle of Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Sauce.
All six strips were in the box when I stopped to eat, though these are pretty scrawny strips. I should have thought to weigh it, but I doubt it topped a half pound. Anyway, it was OK. Probably no better or worse that if I had purchased tenders from the hot counter at most grocers. KFC is trying to reinvent itself with a new concept, all boneless, chicken rice bowls and the like. The first two have opened. Louisville, I think. Doubt I’l be checking them out any time soon.
YUM Brands is at a disadvantage with KFC compared to their other two brands, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, where they can take the same five or six ingredients and basically fashion it into a different shape, give it a fancy name, and voila! New product.
KFC at least needs to start thinking like that.
And start buying bigger chickens, please.
Fast food reviews
Mrs. Burgerdogboy do love her Popeye’e, especially a side of red beans, and I’m always happy to oblige her, as she’s taught me the whole “happy wife, happy life” thing, and it’s 100% on target.
So whenever I roll past a Popeye’s, or am pointed in that direction by my better two-thirds, off I go, and grab her a 2 or 3 piece combo, with an extra large side of red beans.
As for me, I’m a fingers or tenders guy (did you see my profile of tenders of the South?), and I wanted to try Popeye’s new “Wicked Chicken” Garlic/Pepper Wicked Chicken with Garlic Parmesan Dipping Sauce.
Correct me, but don’t I recall that when Wicked Chicken first arrived, it was a breast cut to look like fingers on a hand? Or was that an acid flashback?
In any case, the Garlic Pepper variety are small strips, with highly seasoned batter, crispy, the pepper was detectable, but for me, the garlic wasn’t all that present. Understandable, as I consume about 1/4 of the annual California garlic crop on my own each year, so maybe I’m not all that sensitive to it any more.
Anyway, it’s good, it’s a LTO, and it’s pretty cheap as fast-food chicken offerings go. I’d get it again.
It amuses me to no end that Popeye’s tv commercials use the tag line “Louisiana Fast”. If you’ve ever lived in Louisiana, it probably amuses you, too.
Oh, and speaking of fried fast food? One of the biggest European hamburger chains is called “Quick” and I love their little fish bites. (Pictured)