If you read my content with any sort of regularity, you’re aware that I’m an unabashed lover of fast food. I get mad at other people for getting mad at me for eating it. I take pictures of most of my meals so that others may see. I make sure to eat at McDonald’s when I travel overseas. I try every new item that comes out at Taco Bell, and then I get sad and wistful when they go away.
While I enjoy eating fast food immensely, I’m aware that it’s not exactly the most healthy habit. Choose a health metric — calories, sodium, saturated fat — and it’s terrible for both your figure and your inner organs. On top of this, the quality of the individual ingredients is not as high as it would be at nicer restaurants. I don’t mean this as a complaint, but it is objectively true–you can’t expect to pay $1 for a double cheeseburger or $10 for a large pizza with no tradeoff.
While I have no proof, I believe that when all nutrition label numbers are equal, food made from lower quality ingredients is cumulatively worse for our bodies. This may be completely misguided, but I’m almost certain that it’s the case, and have shifted my greasy food consumption habits accordingly in recent years.
Unfortunately, “real” restaurants aren’t always as creative as fast food establishments. Some are, and they should be applauded, but I’ve never seen anything like Pizza Hut’s ‘crazy cheesy crust’ pizza anywhere else and I’ve never found a Mexican restaurant that has something like Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap Supreme. The culinary culture can do more, and we need to demand it of them.
Here are 14 fast food items — some of which have been discontinued — that I wish I could order at real restaurants. If there’s anything you feel like I overlooked, please link to it in the comments.
1. Pizza Hut’s Crazy Cheesy Crust Pizza – the crust is stuffed with a combination of asiago, romano, fontina, provolone, and mozzarella cheese. Why is the pizza shaped like a crown? Because it’s fit for a king.
2. Jack in the Box’s Bacon Milkshake – People are putting bacon on and in everything nowadays. We are in a brave new world. It feels pretty nice to live in such an advanced society. As my friend Craig always says, everything that tastes good tastes good together.
3. White Castle’s Chicken Rings – How bomb would these be if you got them at a greasy spoon diner and watched from the counter as the bold ranch and buffalo flavors were hand-breaded and dropped into a deep fryer that hasn’t been replaced since the 1940′s?
4. Dunkin Donuts’ Pancake Sausage Bites - In all fairness, these are also awesome at Dunkin Donuts. The subtle hint of syrup in the outer pancake layer really does tie the whole dish together. I’m not sure if Dunkin Donuts has these right now or not. If they don’t, though, it’s only a matter of time until they’re back and better than ever.
5. KFC’s Double Down – I’m gonna be honest here: I never even tried this. The thought was just too much to bear, especially since I’ve never really been that fond of KFC. That being said, if this sandwich were made with care at a place with deliciously seasoned fried chicken, smoked applewood bacon, and zesty pepperjack cheese, I’d be all in.
6. Domino’s Bread Bowl Pasta - Y’all probably missed these, which is a damn shame because they were actually incredible. There must have been two sticks of butter in each one, maybe even more. THEY WERE SO GOOD.
7. Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap Supreme - It’s a crime against humanity that this doesn’t exist at some hipster taco stand yet. DID WE LOSE A WAR?! We should be able to eat one of these made with grass-fed beef, organic vegetables, and artisanal hot sauce.
8. Denny’s Fried Cheese Melt - See this sandwich? It looks sort of gross, right? Wouldn’t it be awesome if it were made with fresh mozzarella sticks and Wisconsin cheddar instead of industrial frozen motz and crappy, processed American cheese? With a generous portion of dank waffle fries? YES WE CAN.
9. Wendy’s Baconator - This probably does actually exist in similar form at like 10 places in Chicago. Even if it’s not specifically on the menu, we could ask the server for a double cheeseburger with bacon between and on top of the patties and probably accomplish the mission. This looks so good, though, that I just couldn’t omit it.
10. Chipotle’s Quesarito – Chipotle is great, and I have no qualms with their food quality. I’m including this on the list more as a way of letting the world know that the Quesarito is a real thing that exists. If you ask Chipotle to have a layer of melted cheese and an extra tortilla, they’ll do it. How can one deny that God exists?
11. Taco Bell’s Cool Ranch Doritos Taco Loco Cheesy Gordita Crunch - This is pure fantasy since Taco Bell would never allow another establishment to serve Cool Ranch Dorito Tacos. There would be all sorts of lawyers involved. But since this is all in my imagination anyway, I can dream. Right?
12. McDonald’s McGriddle - I love McDonald’s, but imagine this sandwich made from fresh, farm-to-table fried egg and sausage in between home-cooked buttermilk pancakes. So good. SO Good. SO GOOD.
13. Dairy Queen Thin Mint Blizzard – I’d settle right here, right now on Dairy Queen’s carrying this all year instead of in one-month increments. However, if a great frozen custard stand wanted to go ahead and permanently serve Thin Mint concrete mixers, I’d be ecstatic to indulge.
14. Sonic’s Frito Pie – I may be a hater, but I don’t think I’d serve this to my dog. I don’t have a dog. Yet. This looks like it could be sooooooo much better if it were made by an establishment that actually cared about serving satisfying food. There’s nothing more devastating than squandered potential.