Mrs. Newbius and I arrived home safely last night. My thanks to all of the people who supported us this past week. I treasure all of you.
A couple of observations are in order. First, fast food isn't. Some of it is food, but is not fast. Some of it is fast, but barely qualifies as food. Some of it is neither. While blasting across the country twice this past week, I got to sample a lot of fast food. The things that really stand out in my mind are these:
McDonald's is consistent. A burger, breakfast sandwich, or cup of coffee tastes exactly the same in Dickson, Tennessee as it does in St. George, Utah. They are a known quantity, no surprises. Not great, but consistent. A solid 4 out of 10 on the fast-food scale.
Sonic is inconsistent. Where they are good, they are above average. Where they are not, they are not. The Sonic in Oklahoma City was above average. This store rates a 5.5 out of 10.
Wendy's does the double-patty cheeseburger better than most, and they are pretty good nationally. I had forgotten how good they are, and the Wendy's in Parachute, Colorado was very good but a bit pricey. The produce was fresh and the meat was very flavorful. This store rates a 6 out of 10.
The regional chains generally do better than the national ones do in terms of taste. The three that stand out are: Five Guys (East coast), Steak and Shake (Midwest), and In-N-Out (West coast). In my experience, they rank (worst-to-first) Steak and Shake (7/10), Five Guys (8/10), and In-N-Out (9/10). There are no losers in this bunch. All of these chains rank far above the national chains in terms of taste and quality (although Five Guys doesn't do drive-through). You can take me to a Steak and Shake for a milkshake any time. They are very good there, and the one in Topeka was worth the stop.
Five Guys does fresh meat patties and hand-cut fries, and the few I have been to are pretty good. The finished product is at times inconsistent, but is mostly good most of the time. They are not quite as polished as some chains, and the one by my house has at times needed a more thorough cleaning. If you want a good fast-food burger and one of these is nearby, go there.
What can I say about In-N-Out? Everybody should go there at least once in their life. Fresh (never frozen) meat, locally sourced. Fresh produce on the burgers. French fries that are made from honest-to-goodness potatoes cleaned and cut right there in the store. Reasonable prices, outstanding flavor. Their slogan is "Quality you can taste", and they mean it. I went to the one in Anaheim Hills, and it was great.
(Note to the FTC: I paid for these burgers with my own cash, and sometimes with indigestion-thanks McDonald's. I have received only food value for this post...)