Frank Bruni, dining critic for The New York Times, today posted the results of his nine-day, 42-stop, 3,650-mile journey to review and rate the best fast food in America. From the McDonald's in Piscataway, New Jersey, to the El Pollo Loco in Torrance, California, Bruni subjected his stomach and the seats of his rental cars to the best and worst road food available at outposts of car cuisine that caught his eye from the freeway. Some, such as Mrs. Winner's in Douglasville, Georgia, and Rax in Parkersburg, West Virginia, we've never heard of. Others--Sonic, KFC, Dairy Queen, and Tacos Cabana, Loco, Bueno, Villa and Bell—we've eaten at more than we'd care to admit.
Bruni imposed several limitations: no pizza, no subs, and the restaurant had to be car-accessible. (Sorry, Chipotle.) Of his top 10 favorites, Bruni acknowledges some of the obvious: tater tots at Sonic, chili at Wendy's and Blizzards at a Dairy Queen. But out of the 42 cities he visited, three of Bruni's top 10 were eaten at Dallas-area establishments. Not bad odds for you fast-food junkies.
There's the Cheddar Burger at Culver's in Rockwall (a patty with "real beef taste, a delectable char and an expansive circumference, draping over the buttered and toasted bun"). The Observer's fast-food aficionados could have told him that. Also on the list was the frozen vanilla custard from Culver's ("utterly creamy and fantastically thick without being too rich").
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And, finally, there's the Burrito Ultimo from a Dallas Taco Cabana ("one of those everything-but-the-kitchen-sink burritos, it held together, kept flourishes like sour cream in check, and had beef, diced tomatoes and beans with real flavor"). He rates it "three Wet Naps." It's amazing what adjectives can be applied to fast food when a true artist puts his mind and mouth to it. --Glenna Whitley