Indigestion: Battle of the Fast Food Combos

Setting the bar. Photo by Anne Marie Panoringan

Over the course of one work week, we ate from five different fast food brands to see which meal reigned supreme. A new lunch was delivered each afternoon, and, except for the final day, we had no idea where they would be coming from. It was a challenge we were ready willing to accept. Here’s how the idea was pitched,

We’ll send you four days of the competitor’s food, followed by a tasty ‘X’ meal, and you get to be the judge. ‘X’ recently launched $5 (insert marketing phrase) Meals. The combos offer hefty, real meals that are a game changer in the $5 value meal box world. Our meals are too big and too satisfying to be ignored. But who are we to judge? We’ll leave that to you. So, get ready to dig in and know that we value your opinion on value meals.

The only input we had on this experiment was 1) what time to schedule delivery and 2) what we wanted to drink. And since we can count on one hand the number of times we’ve had food delivered to us, it was going to be an interesting week.

McDelivery. Photo by Anne Marie Panoringan

Monday – McDonald’s

We’ll be honest: If we knew what our meals would be, we’d predict this as the favorite (Disclaimer: Filet-O-Fish meals are a guilty pleasure). However, this ranked lowest, based on the judging criteria: Tasted like an American classic should; Left me good and satisfied; Came with a delicious cookie; Included a solid variety of tasty items; and Had a badass star on the box. That last criteria isn’t even fair, but we digress. As our first competitor, our only score above a ‘1’ was for Tasted like an American classic should. We grew up on golden arches. There’s an excellent movie starring Michael Keaton about it. It’s every third exit on the 5 freeway between Grapevine and Gilroy. We blame the supbar fries, which we believed was a timing issue.

 

Bowling for chicken. Photo by Anne Marie Panoringan

Tuesday – KFC

We were in good spirits the next day, until we realized they sent us a bowl from the people who “do chicken right”. What the hell? Not even crispy tenders. Of course mashed potatoes would fill me up. Plus the cookie didn’t suck. We didn’t hate it; we just didn’t love it. It was an unfair comparison, in our opinion. This also needed hot sauce.

 

Dead. Photo by Anne Marie Panoringan

Wednesday – Taco Bell

One crunchy taco, one double decker taco supreme (we think), chips with nacho cheese, and some burrito. This meal had potential, compared to the previous two lunches. Yet sodium overload took us down quick. We had a major headache afterwards. We were starting to understand Morgan Spurlock’s disposition in Super Size Me. Thankfully, only two more days of this.

Seriously. Photo by Anne Marie Panoringan

Thursday – Subway

Okay. This was weird because it was the first and only meal we actually finished. A very simple ham sub and potato chips. It reminded us of the deli sandwiches we used to split with our classmate at least twice a week in high school. No cookie, but no headache, either. All things considered, this ranked reasonably well. Things were looking up.

 

Spot the inconsistency. Photo by Anne Marie Panoringan

Friday – X/Carl’s Jr

Finally, it was time to meet the one who instigated this comparison. The day McDonald’s was delivered, we received a package with score cards, a stress ball in the shape of a burger and the laminated photo you see next to the meal. Now while we can tell you the contents were technically correct (Charbroiled double cheeseburger, spicy chicken sandwich, fries, drink and cookie), there was a major flaw. All the fries pictured were boxed exactly like that. No cardboard sleeve or anything. It was like they said, “Oh hey, have a few fries!”. That was messed up. We need fries with our burger and sandwich, plain and simple. Even though it ranked the highest, the whole experience left a salty taste in our mouth. Excuse us while we get some Vietnamese iced coffee. 

A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.

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