In the new episode of the world famous Jeff Kay Show podcast, I made a half-assed attempt to rank the Big Five fast food chains. You can listen here, or wherever you harvest your podcasts. Here’s the summary:
In this one I talk about the Polar Vortex, our younger son’s upcoming visit to my parents’ place in Florida, our older son getting his bank card number stolen and used to buy shoes in California, a bit of exciting fast food news I heard last week, some crazy shit that happened to me in a local Taco Bell, and my controversial rankings of the Big Five fast food chains. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for listening!
I’d like to invite you to also rank them from favorite to least favorite. I chose what FEELS like the Big Five, but I did no research. I mean… let’s be serious. No, I just went with five fast food joints that seem to be located off every interstate exit with a food cluster. You know what I’m talking about, right? The food cluster? And I came up with these five, in no particular order:
- Burger King
- Taco Bell
There might very well be others that are bigger. Like Subway, for instance. Or maybe even Domino’s. But I don’t really put them in the same category for some reason. Also, I left out Chick-fil-A and Five Guys, and places like that. Again, they don’t feel like they belong alongside McDonald’s. I completely forgot about Arby’s, and they might be worthy. But I don’t see as many Arby’s as I do the others. Am I wrong?
In any case, I could be a complete hack and require you to listen to the podcast to get my rankings. But I’ll share my list here, and if you’re interested… you can listen for the rationale. Oh, I have thoughts and opinions. There’s other fast food news and anecdotes in that episode too. I think it’s pretty good. You know… relatively speaking. Anyway, here’s my ranking:
2. Taco Bell
3. Burger King
If I were to add Arby’s I’d probably put it at #3, and shove BK, McD, and KFC downward. What do you have on this important issue? And if you feel the need to post “I haven’t had fast food since 1987” or whatever, just save it. Sheesh. I don’t need any shaming, goddammit. I do that to myself automatically and by the hour.
And before I pull the plug on this quickie, I’d like to know about your favorite DEFUNCT fast food chains. I’m not talking about some local place, I mean true chains that attempted to compete with the big boys. One jumps immediately to my mind:
I mean, Burger Chef was a real player. They were all over the place and considered (in my mind, anyway) to be on the same level as the Big Five. Their Big Mac was called the Big Shef, which is admittedly questionable. And they had a “works bar” where you could add whatever toppin’s you wanted. They were good… not great. Just like everything else on the list — except maybe Wendy’s.
The only downside to Burger Chef? Their cartoon spokesmen, who appeared in all their ads, were named Burger Chef and Jeff. So, that didn’t bode well for a Jiffy-Pop haired youngster also named Jeff. I heard that shit all the time, at least once a week. You know, ’cause people are simpletons?
Another largeish and very real chain that legitimately competed with the big boys was a place called Rax. They were like Arby’s, almost exactly, and possibly owned by the same people that owned Hardee’s, which I also forgot about until right now. Anyway, I used to eat at Rax sometimes. Their restaurant had a sunroom if you can dig it. It’s hard to explain… But they weren’t bad.
OK, I’m running super-late and need to call it a day here. If you’d like to rank the Big Five, please do so. Also, if you have anything on defunct fast food chains, the ones who truly attempted to take on the big boys and lost, please tell us about that as well.
And I’ll be back on Thursday.
Here’s to a great week for all of us. Cheers!
Now playing in the bunker
Support us by doing your shopping on Amazon! In Canada? Here’s your link. Thank you, guys!
I actually went by where the Burger Chef use to be in Fairmont yesterday. I can sort of recall eating there when I was a kid.
don’t know of any defunct ones…was Mighty Mint a chain??
Two thumbs up to the Sonic, but do NOT try to eat an ‘all the way’ burger and drive at the same time. There WILL be spillage.
Wendy’s food was so much better in the 1990’s, on the very rare occasions I eat there now I am disappointed. They have messed up their food. Only eat Sausage & Egg McMuffins from McDoanld’s and that’s very rare. Haven’t eaten KFC or Taco Bell for at least 15 years.
Roy Rogers back when it was real steamship round. Their Double R Bar burger was Dad’s favorite. We have a few here over here in the EP but it’s not the same.
There was still an operating Burger Chef in Hagerstown, MD into the ’90s.
I think Burger King is not long for this world. Two or three have closed up here recently and the remaining ones are more depressing then a Kmart. In fact I think all fast food places are pretty depressing nowadays. Last time I went to Hardee’s I felt like nobody wanted to be there. Seems like as recently as college or shortly thereafter fast food was not a number one go-to but you could go there and not feel squeamish and slightly dirty. Maybe just me.
Phil Jett says
I wonder it is a locality thing because all three BKs that are within ten miles of our house have all been completely remodeled in the last 18 months. I believe they are all owned by the same franchisee so they must still be doing well. I stop by once a year for a Whopper with cheese and nothing else just to get that smokey taste without having to fire up my Weber.
Eugene B. Sims says
Long John Silver’s
Hardee’s / Carl’s Jr
BK surprised me. Their fries suck and fries are the cornerstone of the fast food experience. They changed the fries nearly 30 ago and I’ve visited a handful of times since. Remember the one near Peaches? I ate there at least once a week. But when they introduced those new fries, I bailed.
I wanted to have Cook-Out in second, but it may be too regional. I suggest a stop for anyone going through NC.
Another good call by a Surf Reporter. Cook-Outs shakes are worth the trip.
Steve in WV says
I miss Rax. I know they are still around but there’s not many left, and they aren’t around here. I also miss Shoney’s. The old Shoney’s, anyway. Not this new “fallen on hard times” version of what’s left of Shoney’s.
As far as ranking the fast-food places, I like them all pretty equally except for Taco Bell. I am not a Taco Bell fan at all. Ocasionally, I will pop in for a soft taco supreme combo, but that’s about all I will eat on their menu. I do like tex-mex style food, just not Taco Bell.
Defunct fast-food place: Red Barn. Though at a market penetration in only 19 states, it never had a chance against McD’s.
Joe T says
Wendy’s – The Double Stack is a fine burger, just the right size.
Taco Bell – People joke about this place, but everything IMO, is delicious.
McDonalds – Consistent. And their Steak Egg and Cheese bagel breakfast sandwich is great! (Must use moderation, 3 maybe 4 a year. Those things will kill you.)
Burger King – not as good a we remember from our youth.
KFC – Seems like a good idea at the time.
The Qweezy Mark says
I agree on the KFC. Always seems like an option, never as good as you remember. I don’t really care for their particular “7 herbs and spices.” Good slaw, though.
Phil Jett says
Wendy’s – Just good and greasy
Burger King – Just for a Whopper with Cheese
McDonald’s – Still like the fries
KFC – Prefer Popeyes for sure, the mashed and gravy at KFC is perfect for wallpapering
Taco Bell – haven’t been in YEARS (the wife goes at least once ever time I’m on night shift)
I went to Burger Chef every Saturday when I was in high school after finishing 9 holes of golf at the Vermilion Country Club. Great memories with my buddy Jim.
Whataburger (in particular Russellville, AK off I-40)
Wisey McD says
Whataburger kicks ass. It beats Mickey Ds’s and Burger KIng going away
Native Texan and I love Whataburger, but Dairy Queen and Braums are as good in my opinion.
Sebastian Valmont says
1. Wendy’s. Not as good as they used to be, but still the best quality of the big chains (remember .99 cent junior bacon cheeseburgers? Now they’re over double the price!)
2. Taco Bell, mainly for their weird limited time offerings.
3. McDonald’s. Solid breakfast, and I still down a couple McDoubles on occasion as a snack.
4. KFC. Decent box deals, but overly greasy and gross. I much prefer Popeyes.
5. Burger King. Every one I’ve been to in the last five years looks like a scene from a depressing 70’s urban decay film. I used to love them, now I avoid them.
Regionally I love Whataburger, In N Out, Chick Fil A and Del Taco. Not a fan of White Castle, and Arby’s is fairly underrated.
In the early 2000’s I was talking to a Wendy’s corporate person (on a flight I think) and when I commented that Wendy’s had downgraded its food she agreed. I guess they were saving money somewhere? I used to eat at Wendy’s once a week (at the very restaurant with the human finger in the chili too), and now I might have a Wendy’s once every few years.
I would, and do, choose Chick-Fil-A or Five Guys over any of the national 5.
Sebastian Valmont says
It seems after Dave died in 2002 that the quality started to really go downhill. Funny enough, I actually went to a Wendy’s last night in the suburbs and it wasn’t half bad for the price ($5 for the Giant JBC combo.) I think the issue is that people don’t want to pay a ton of money for fast food, even if it’s high quality, so they have to lower the quality to meet the demand for fast and cheap. Or it’s greedy corporate shills that want to suck the company dry now that Dave is dead and can’t fight back.
2-5. Don’t care for anything else.
I believe Roy Rogers is still operating in Hagerstown, MD.
Yeah, and I understand Smiley Burnette continues to ride just down the road in Martinsburg and Pat Brady is whoopin’ it up with Barbara Frietchie on down Highway 70 in Fredrick town.
I gotta agree that the King of the Cowboys was an operator.
Looks like everyone except me loves Wendy’s. Their fries are the best and I used to like the Frosty until they forgot to rinse the soap out of the dispenser after a washing. They always tasted like soap every time I’d give it another try, so I quit trying.
My husband remodeled something in the kitchen of our KFC and he never wanted to eat there again. He still won’t tell me why.
I don’t like the BK burgers because I don’t like the funky taste of the grill marks. I stop in for a frozen Coke once in awhile.
Is A&W considered a defunct fast food place? I haven’t seen one in years. I’ve hated root beer my whole life and my granny thought it was a great treat to drive 50 miles to drink it. She had a huge collection of those little glass mugs. I don’t remember anything about the food…just that nasty root beer.
To be fair, that would be “everyone” who commented. It’s remotely possible that there are other Reporters who, like me, dislike corporate fast food. You might as well roll up a hundred dollar bill, inhale the contents of the saltshaker, then tear up the Century and pretend you just snorted an 8-ball. The vascular system results are not dissimilar, but, on balance, the coke is a better high.
However, Jeff asked non-sodium fans to refrain from commenting, so I shall.
Root 66 says
Wendy’s–It’s hard to beat their 4 for $4 deal!
McDonald’s–still the best fries (when they’re done right!)
Burger King–I hate to hang this ranking on just one menu item, but their Chicken Fries are awesome!
KFC–Don’t really go enough, but everything seems very salty, but I do crave their “Bowl” on occasion.
Taco Bell–Again, I don’t go here very often, because there are too many other better choices. We really like Arby’s, even though they’re on the more pricey side of things!
I really do miss having Rax around. Although it seemed like an Arby’s knock-off, I do believe it was more popular at one time. There is still one in existence in Circleville, Ohio. It is in an old Wendy’s building, and is just a ghost of its former self, but their “BBC” sandwich is still one of my favorites. Whenever I pass through ’round-town’, I try to make it a point to swing by Rax!
I just noticed something…after reading my comment, I feel like I know WAY too much about fast food!
Philip A Rims says
Gino’s giant beat big mac hands down, and their chicken was good too.
Taco Hell…because i need the fiber
McDonalds..they just give you the same shit they have given you for years
Burger King i dig the onion rings
KFC…5 dollar box is a snack, but only with original recipe
Wendys..went downhill when management allowed the south of the border people to think that putting tomato end pieces on the burger is ok.
Rax… the pink castration sandwiches were very good, if you put enuf sauce on them
Arbys..where did the goddamn dollar Arbys Juniors go?
Long John Silvers…loved it, until i watched a guy with a nub for fingers make my hush puppies. Never was the same after that.
No way mentions…
5 guys…although good, but im not spending Rockefeller money on a goddamed hamburger.
Chick fil a…sad when i can pass in front of the truck in the drive thru to go inside, come out…and walk in front of the same truck to go to my car.
Lets talk pizza! Dominos sauce changed…not like it used to be
Littles Caesar’s…did away with buy one get one, hence, Pizza, Pizza.
Jets…now we’re talking… Detroit style, and worth the wait.
This just in, tonight’s SOTU will be Ruthless.
Funny this topic should come up. My mom emailed me just a couple of hours ago, saying that a Big Mac costs $9.49 in NYC where she lives. (That was not the only reason for the email.) When I was in high school, Big Macs were 85 cents, which was above my price range.
BK has better burgers and McDonald’s has better fries, so it depends on your priorities. Five Guys’ fries are better still, especially the “cajun” flavored ones. But FG’s burgers are nothing special. What’s a lardass to do?
I was in a Wendy’s the other month for the first time in years. It wasn’t dirty or anything, but it just felt like despair. I used to be a regular at Taco Bell, and it was pretty good, but it’s no longer convenient. McDonald’s breakfast is righteous; when I was going to job sites every day, I would get a Sausage McMuffin with Egg and two hash browns on the way in. Wash it down with a coffee+espresso brought from home. That would hold me for the day.
I don’t have enough KFC experience to have an opinion, but a couple of years ago I discovered Popeye’s. That is excellent chicken. And there’s a local (?) chain around here called Bon Chon Chicken, which is really astoundingly good.
What’s weird is seeing commercials for chains you’ve never heard of. Well, I’ve heard of them now. But I see commercials on TV for Sonic, Checkers and Rally – I’ve never seen any of these, let alone set foot in one.
Wisey McD says
I miss Der Weinerschnitzel. I know they are still around, just not close to me. I know this doesn’t qualify as fast food but I miss Steak and Ale. They had really good food at reasonable prices. Good salad bar too.
When I was a wee lad, my mom used to take us once in a while to Zum Zum. This was a chain that sold German sausages on buns, hot dog style. Bratwurst, knockwurst, weisswurst etc. In hindsight I’m surprised anyone thought that would be a successful business. But I loved the place.