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Open LetterDear Ronald,
Since the launch of your recent Smurf Happy Meal promotion, my family has visited McDonald’s restaurants in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut on ten occasions in search of a Smurf happy meal toy for our toddler aged children.

This specific promotion is what lead us to choose McDonald’s over other eateries and, as a result, spend well in excess of $100 with your company.

From these ten visits, though, only once has the location actually had a Smurf toy in stock to include in our Happy Meal.


One out of ten visits — a location in Pennsylvania being the “winner”.

That isn’t acceptable.

Problem is, we don’t want any more Return of the Jedi finger skateboards or leftover Disney movie promotions from over a year ago.

There are Smurfs adorning your windows, drive-thru menus, and Happy Meal boxes — but no toys. What gives?

I won’t even go into the quality of the food or service at a couple of the locations we visited.

Okay, I will.

Your Bethel, Connecticut location needs an entirely new staff.

You might actually want to consider bulldozing the entire building and just start over.

Yeah, it’s that bad.


Oh, and if it’s not too much to ask — please bring back your Chicken Fajitas. I miss them.

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Not that I’ve ever actually eaten one, mind you, but when you choose a name like “guacamole” as an alias, well, seriously, how good can they be in either form — whole or squashed into a slimy lumpy paste?

And how dare it be considered a fruit along side things like grapes, apples, oranges, and mangos?

Avocados are more disgusting than radishes, even, and those taste like dirt. Crunchy. White. Dirt.

But this isn’t really about disgusting fruits (or vegetables)… It’s about a flyer I received in the mail this week from Subway.

Take a look at this:

Do you see what I see?

I’ll give you a hint — it’s apparently Trademarked.

No, it’s not the Subway logo. How exciting of a post would that make, I mean, really…

Okay — here’s a closer view:

The only thing that could possibly be worse than an avocado on its own is having to pay a dollar extra to have it added to a sandwich…

No, wait…

Adding radishes in addition to avocado would definitely make it worse…

So, I’m sure you see it now. Fooltong?

Really? On a national chain’s advertisement?

Things like this bother me…

Moreso than radishes…

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I was never “that” kid that always claimed that pizza was my favorite food. Sure, I like pizza but it’s not anywhere near the top of my list. Not even close.

I was also never that kid the put ketchup — and only ketchup — on everything. I’m sorry, that’s just disgusting.

Like pizza, I’m not opposed to ketchup. In moderation. On french fries. Or hot dogs — as long as it’s accompanied by mustard and relish.

Relating to the fries, I used to base my overall restaurant experience on the quality (or even availabilty) of french fries. It the establishment doesn’t offer fries as a side, well, chances are, I’m not going to like anything on the menu. It’s a good indicator, you know?

Anyway, I have an uncle who reportedly likes anything that comes on a bun. Even if he doesn’t like it, if you put it on a bun, he’ll eat it.

I’d never noticed this in the past and he hasn’t confirmed its validity, to my knowledge, but it got me thinking…

That’s just like me!

The restaurants that I prefer all serve french fries, yes, but in a more broad sense, they’re really just reatuarants that feature “bunned” food with french fries on the side.

Yep, I’m not longer counting on a side — the main entrée is what it’s all about.

And it’d better come on a bun.

Here’s a listing of my top 10 chain eateries, some regional, in three categories and in order:

  1. A&W (Fast Food — in Canada only)
  2. Famous Dave’s (Sit Down)
  3. Wayback Jakes (Quick Service)
  4. Roy Rogers (Fast Food)
  5. Swiss Chalet (Sit Down)
  6. Frankie’s / Big Frank’s (Quick Service)
  7. Steak & Shake (Sit Down)
  8. Checkers (Fast Food)
  9. Red Lobster (Sit Down)
  10. White Castle (Fast Food)

Oh, and yes, all of them have mighty fine french fries too!

Now, you’re probably not wondering but since you’re still reading, I’m going to tell you what I order and why I like each one of these establishments.

I discovered my love of A&W back in university on a road trip to-and-from McGill in Montreal.

Since 1994, I’ve only ordered one item on their menu — the Teen Burger Combo. I’ve ordered it probably over 100 times now. On our most recent vacation to western Canada, we ate there at least once every single day. Duncan even dipped his first french fry in ketchup, all by himself, just north of Calgary.

To those stateside, I know what you’re thinking, “Yeah, yeah, the root beer place — seen it a few places, might have even eaten there once, but it didn’t leave an impression.”

I’d agree whole-heartedly. But there’s a catch. North of the border, yeah, it’s still A&W Root Beer with the same old logo but, outside of that, it’s a totally different company, totally different restaurant, and sports a totally different menu.

A&W is a shopping mall food court staple in Canada. The stand alone restaurants now dot the country as well — I’d say it’s about as common as a Wendy’s is in the United States.

Anyway, the Teen Burger is essenitally nothing more that a bacon cheeseburger — except it’s freakin’ awesome. They’re seldom skimpy with the fries, they have vinegar to put on them, and who could pass up a heavy glass mug covered with frost?

I don’t even like root beer but I’ll make an exception at A&W. (They serve Coca-Cola too.)

One of the best burgers around — at it’s fast food, eh? Crazy…

Famous Dave’s:
It was probably back in 2006 or so that a new restaurant called “Famous Dave’s” opened up not far from where we live. It was connected to a hotel and plainly visable from the highway so, well, it seemed like a long shot but one weekend we headed there for lunch.

Turns out that it was a barbeque place. Always a plus, that. Anyway, on that first visit, I ordered the Georgia Chopped Pork Sandwich.

Holy crap — I’m usually more a fan of beef brisket sandwiches but this this was amazing.

Since then, that location has closed (it was never a good location anyway) so we have to trek up to Massachusetts every now and then to get our fill — and carefully plan our road trips around their other locations. The midwest is full of them. I always order the exact same thing.

It’s a sit down type of place with ribs and such but you can’t go wrong with this sandwich. Their fries are big crinkle steak fries, they have an assortment of barbeque sauces to try out (Devil’s Spit is the best), and the sodas are bottomless.

Unfortunately, though, they’re a Pepsi establishment. Bleh…

Wayback Jake’s:
We actually just discovered this chain a few weeks ago and…we’ve eaten there every weekend since.

My meal of choice is their signature Jake Burger with everything on it. Everything consists of ketchup, mustard, pickle, raw onions, lettuce, and tomato.

Again, there isn’t anything overly fancy about the food or even the menu — it just tastes great. And it looks real. Like if I had the equipment they have at my house, well, this is what I’d want my burger to look like. You know what I mean?

A better way of putting it, I suppose, is to say that, unlike McDonald’s or Burger King, their food actually looks like the picture. And it taste’s even better.

Still, though, it’s another Pepsi restaurant. I hope they get a great deal on it though cause, let’s be honest, Pepsi tastes like crap.

Roy Rogers:
Oh how I miss Roy Rogers.

There used to be one in town — long before I lived here — but it’s been a revolving door of restaurants for years since.

Roy Rogers is a roast beef and chicken fast food joint that’s on the decline. Over the past decade or so, they’ve all but withdrawn from New England and I can’t imagine why — they were always busy and their food was consistently perfect.

Not an easy task.

At Roy’s, I’d always order the regular Roast Beef Sandwich. Nothing fancy but *so* much better than anything rival Arby’s could offer.

See, Arby’s meat has that slimy mystery meat feel to it — it’s like brown ham or something. I challenge anyone to deny that.

And what’s with the bubbles in their meat? It’s like overcooked carbonated ham from a cow dipped in fake butter. Gross!!!

Roy Rogers’ meat actually has the consistancy of, well, roast beef that you’d get at the deli. Further, their barbeque sauce is the perfect compliment to roast beef. Seriously, I’d drink the stuff.

Sadly, I fear their days are numbered. Many have been replaced by Arby’s (ugh!)and those that are still in business, well, it just seems like a chain slowly riding off into the sunset.

They still have a firm grip on the rest stops on the New York State Thruway but, well, foot court style eateries are never as good as the stand alone buildings. Still… I’m thankful they still exist.

Swiss Chalet:
This is another Canadian chain. There are a few that dot the border on the US side but they’re few and far between.

Swiss Chalet is a chicken ‘n ribs themed sit down restaurant. Not all phony like a Chili’s or Outback but still a full sit down type of place.

Not being a fan of ribs, I’ve always ordered the “Chicken Carver Sandwich” where you get your choice or white or dark meat. I never offer a preference so I’m assuming that I’m always given the dark meat.

Totally fine by me — when it’s in the bun, I can’t tell the difference anyway. The fries at Swiss Chalet leave something to be desired — they’re not fast food style fries — but they have this gravy/dressing that’s unlike anywhere else. I used to hate it but now I dip my sandwich in it before every single bite.

At the conclusion of the meal — probably more for the rib eaters — they bring out a finger bowl with a lemon slice in it. Neat touch. Useless but memorable.

Frankies / Big Frank’s:
Frankies and the related Big Frank’s Big BBQ are a regional chain with locations in Connecticut and, apparently, Florida too. It’s a quick service hot dog serving greasy spoon type of place.

At Frankies I order something called a “Mondo Burger”. As you can imagine, it’s a super greasy double (or triple) patty covered in cheese with all of the toppings you can imagine. You know, the type of burger where, following the first bite, your palms are soaked in hot grease with some extra running down your forearms.

At their slightly more upscale BBQ themed place, Big Frank’s, I order the Beef Brisket Sandwich. It’s hardly beef brisket, more of a thick well done Steam ‘Um type of meat, but it’s served on an amazing fresh bun. I’d love to know where they get their buns — they’re like elongated Portugeuse rolls.

Their in-house BBQ sauces complete the meal. It’s not true beef brisket, no, but it tastes great!

Steak ‘n Shake:
Twenty-four hour dining at its finest. Having grown tired of Denny’s dated and, well, overly-breakfast themed menu, someone had to start serving better food at all hours and Steak ‘n Shake delivers!

I first ate at a Steak ‘n Shake in the wee hours of the morning somewhere in Ohio while making an overnight drive from Hartford, Connecticut to Lafayette, Indiana. Let’s just say that I was thrilled to be able to order a burger and a Coke at an ungodly hour…

Since that night, err, morning, I’ve always ordered one of their SteakBurgers. I’m not certain why they call it that — it ain’t steak, that’s for certain.

They have these tiny french fries too that you’d expect to be kinda limp and mooshy but they never seem to be. No clue how they manage.

Eitherway, it’s good food at an amazing price especially when considering that it’s still a sit down type of restaurant. Oddly enough, though, I’ve never had a milkshake there…

The first time I ate at a Checkers was back in 1997. I was on vacation in Florida and it was pretty late, we were sick of McDonald’s and Burger King, this place was open. I ordered two CheckerBurgers.

Well, let’s just say that I haven’t been to a McDonald’s or Burger King in the State of Florida since 1997.

Plain and simple, this is fast food. Most locations are nothing more than a drive through with a few concrete tables outside but, for whatever reason, their burgers are a cut above any of their competitors. You know, like Wendy’s, McD’s, BK…

They’re super cheap too. Oh, and I should also mention that unlike some of the other fast food places, their stuff doesn’t go right through you.

You know what I’m talking about…

Yep, a Big Mac attack generally leads to a Crap Attack… Not so with Checkers.

Red Lobster:
Okay, I know you’re thinking, “Wow — how can seafood make this list?”

Well, guess who’s fries are awesome?

My menu item of choice at Red Lobster doesn’t come on a bun — I *always* order a double portion of Alaskan Snow Crab legs — with fries as my side.

I’ve always managed to clean my plate and though a lot of seafood snobs rate Red Lobster about as high as Long John Silvers, well, they’re wrong and should give Red Lobster another try.

It’s just as good — and I’ve found better — than the more expensive (an imaginarily exclusive) seafood restaurants out there.

White Castle:
Laugh if you like but there’s just something about those tiny burgers… They shouldn’t taste good but they just do…

Yeah, the service usually sucks and the atmosphere is pretty McDonald’s like but there just something different about a fast food place with crinkle cut fries.

In some ways, it’s a shame that they’ve expanded their menu so much over the years but you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do, I suppose.

And thankfully they’re a Coca-Cola establishment!

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McDonald'sI’ve recently rediscovered my love for McDonald’s hamburgers.

At one point in high school I was convinced that I could eat two McDonald’s hamburgers for every meal indefinitely.

Not to date myself too much but back then a McDonald’s hamburger was 59 cents. Two of them came to exactly $1.25 including Connecticut sales tax.

That meant that the quarter that I pocketed each weekday from the lunch money my mother gave me was enough to buy a late night weekend meal with my friends after an evening spent at the video game arcade.

Okay, if that doesn’t date me, I’m not sure what will…

Seriously, how did video arcades survive into the 1990’s?

Anyway, for a few years there in my twenties, I was starting to think that maybe my father might have been correct in avoiding McDonald’s like the plague during my childhood while repeating something along the lines of “Someday you’ll stop wanting to go there…”

I still visited McDonald’s now and then — usually because their fries are the best around if you’re lucky enough to get a fresh batch (a rare occurrence) — but I really hadn’t ordered a hamburger in quite some time…

So a few weeks ago, I had a craving for a McDonald’s hamburger… Wow — I’d venture to guess that I had my very first hamburger there in the late 1970’s and today, in 2010, they taste exactly the same.

There’s just, well, I don’t know what to call it, but there’s something about the texture of those bland and flavorless little onion bits and the piping hot pickle and the less than fresh bun that looks like it’s been stepped on.

It’s like peculiar form of perfection.

They’re not 59 cents anymore but they’re still a pretty decent bargain.

So last weekend I introduced Duncan to McDonald’s:

Here’s to hoping he continues to enjoy their signature item for years to come…

…and avoids the cheeseburger.

That thing tastes like cardboard.

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Moo!Every now and then while at work, I have to hop onto the internet to “look something up”.

Seriously, I’m not making this stuff up. It really is part of my job.

So, today, I happened across a website — the one I was looking for, actually — and was horrified by what I saw.

Here’s the link.

Check out their “featured” products at the bottom.

Don’t be fooled by the little link to the shoe-shining machine… (Besides, do people even have their shoes shined anymore? Seriously…)

Plain and simple, and I don’t care how they sugarcoat it, they manufacture torture equipment.

They even have video?!

More frightening, the company isn’t that far from my house…

Yeah, that’s right… There’s actually company not far from my house that boasts a product line with items with names like “Spinal Cord Remover” and “Kill Floor Robot”.


Now before anyone goes all anti-PETA on me, I think there’s something that I should clear up.

I’m a meatatarian.

No doubt about it, cows are delicious.

See, I’m fully aware that all of my favorite foods come from animals with cute furry faces.
I know that.

But after watching a couple of the videos, well, honestly, it made me feel sick to my stomach.

There… I’ve given you fair warning.


Don’t watch the product videos.

For the record, I’m still having a 100% beef hot dog for dinner tonight. Maybe I’ll even eat two.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Pants in a Can Bovine Factoid:
The eighth annual Strolling of the Heifers parade in Brattleboro, Vermont is fast approaching! This year it will be held on Saturday, June 6. That’s barely more than a month away!!!

My complete recap of last year’s, ahem, “Cow Parade” can be re-read (assuming that you read it the first time) here.

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Chili'sSo we “broke from the routine” today and ate somewhere that we don’t usually eat — we’ve got this thing going where we’re trying to change things up a bit and, well, ‘discover’ the town we live in.

For our first meal out on the town we selected Chili’s — yeah, I know, really daring, huh? — partly because their television ads have such attractive hostesses but also because their food looks oh-so-good…on television

Actually, it just made the most sense — we’re going to canvas our hometown starting from the east and head west one restaurant at a time.

So we walk in and I’m hoping to be greeted, you know, like in the commercial, but instead we end up standing there for a few minutes. No hostess to be found…

I’ll admit, I was a little sad inside.

Eventually a fellow named Michael came over to greet and seat us. He was a little light in the loafers, if your catch my drift, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but he was also a little too eager to convey that, yes, he was indeed very light in the loafers and pretty damn proud of it too.

Not really being a fan of Mexican food or even the Americanized Tex-Mex variety, I knew that I might struggle to find something on the menu to suit my picky appetite.

My wife happily ordered some fajita/quesadilla platter thing and I opted for their “Triple Dipper” dinner where you get to select small portions of three different entrees.

I picked the mini-hamburgers, the chicken crispers, and the sweet chile glazed wings.

Then we waited. And waited. And waited.

I was beginning to remember why we pretty much never eat at Chili’s (or Friday’s, Outback, Ruby Tuesdays, etc…). I mean, if it’s not the line out the door just to get it, it’s the wait to get your food once you’re finally sitting down. No — I don’t want an appetizer.

So the food finally arrives and it looks pretty good. I start digging into my sweet chile glazed wings and come to the conclusion that they don’t taste like Mexican at all.

They taste exactly like General Tso’s chicken from any Chinese take-out place — the only difference is that you get less and pay more if you get them from Chili’s.

Next, I wolfed down a mini-burger.

Now maybe I’m an oddity but I like my meat cooked.

Especially hamburger. You’d think that it’d be impossible to not fully cook a burger the size of a Ritz cracker, but this thing was rare.

Moo!I should’ve known better… The last time we ate a Chili’s, years ago, I specifically asked for my Big Mouth burger to be well done.

When they brought it to the table, it moo’ed at me. No joke.

Some people may love that. I’m not one of them.

Thinking that the chicken crispers could act as a chaser for the rest of the disappointing meal, I saved them for last.

Big mistake.

If there’s one thing that I detest more than rare beef it’s mooshy chicken.

Mooshy chicken could be undercooked chicken. It could be fatty chicken. Either way, if it’s mooshy, it’s nasty. And this chicken was mooshy. Borderline gooey, even…

Seriously, how could they screw up chicken fingers?

So, needless to say, our first meal wasn’t a winner in my eyes but that’s okay, I’m not discouraged yet.

Get back to me, though, when we eat at the Ruby Tuesday’s across the street from the Chili’s…

It’s next on the list.

I can almost guarantee that I’ll have a few tales to tell about some undercooked beef on my plate.

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Picked this up off the wire:

Neither “New” nor “Classic,” Coke is simply itself again.

Two decades after adding the “Classic” designation, the Coca-Cola Co. is removing the word from its prominent location on the flagship cola sold in the U.S.

The reason for the label “has all but disappeared,” said Scott Williamson, a company spokesman.

The “Classic” tag line was added in 1985 when the company introduced a formula that consumers called “New Coke.” New Coke never caught on, and it was dropped in 2004.

Well, it’s about time… Sheesh…

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Arizona CardinalsBeing that I’m not a fan of either team or even NFL football in general, you might think that this Sunday would be just like any other Sunday during the year.

Well, you’d be wrong.

First off, I haven’t missed a Super Bowl in 23 years… dating back to when my Chicago Bears thumped the hometown New England Patriots.

Yep, 1986 was a good year to be a Bears fan in New England.

Since then, though, I can’t really say I’ve been all that interested in the end result of the game itself.

Yeah, I had high hopes a couple of years ago when the Bears made it to the Super Bowl — even wore a Bears jersey to watch the game — but when it became apparent that Peyton Manning and the Colts were the dominant team, I tuned the game out and focused more on the commercials.

Yep, I’m one of those people who actually watches the game for the commercials. Everyone hears about people like me. A lot even claim to watch strictly for the commercials. I actually do it.

This year, as we’ve done for the last three or four years, we’ll go to our local sports bar, pick up a bucket of wings, bring them home, and settle in to watch Puppy Bowl V on Animal Planet.

That’s our Super Sunday tradition.

It’s not about the football.

It’s about the food, the puppies, and the commercials.

Anyhow, in the real game, I’ll rooting for the Cardinals…

The used to hail from Chicago.

Oh, and for the record, this is my favorite Super Bowl commercial of all time:

Can You Dig It?


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