The minute those iconic golden arches were planted in the early 1950’s, it wasn’t long before fast food took the US by storm. Globally, it has since grown into a multi-trillion dollar industry. Love it or hate it, a meal of greasy burgers, fries, and drive-thru shakes have become a staple, and as good as our intentions might be when it comes to sticking with a healthy balanced diet, these guilty pleasures always manage to sneak their way into our lives every once in a while.
Despite all the health warnings, we can’t help but give in to a quick and tasty snack on our lunch break (and taking the kids out for a Happy Meal every now and again definitely beats cooking after a long day at work). But a far more alluring aspect than the convenience of fast food is how annoyingly tasty it can be.
Fast food chains certainly know how to keep customers coming back for a side order of guilt and grease, but these cheap and tasty eats can be just as hit-and-miss as anything else. As much as a refreshing soda and lunchtime burrito can hit the spot, certain fast food concoctions can have you reassessing your life choices (is a tuna croissant or syrup-glazed taco really your best pick for an energy boost?). Proof that it can be delicious and disgusting in equal measure, here are the menu items you decided were the best (and worst) fast foods in the US.
25 Filet-O-Fish, McDonald’s (Least Popular)
For all of McDonald's fast food talents, creating a show-stopping fish sandwich isn’t one of them.
The Filet-O-Fish ranked as the least popular sandwich on the McDonald's menu in a report by Thrillist.com, and in general, ordering a sub-par fish ‘burger’ when you have a dozen others to choose from isn’t such a great move.
Fish fillets are best left to seafood restaurants and should probably stay out of drive-thru menus everywhere, as they’re less of a delicate ‘filet’ and more of a breeze block of grease and batter.
24 Cap’n Crunch Delights, Taco Bell (Least Popular)
“Go home Taco Bell, you’re not okay” is what a lot of customers may have been thinking when this bizarre item showed its face. The Cap’n Crunch Delights are mini cereal encrusted donut holes injected with what
taco bell describes as a “milk-flavored” goo filling? Yeah, it’s not hard to see why this item wasn’t a roaring success.
There are certain foods (and we’re using that term loosely here) that make your ventricles close up a little just looking at them, and this is definitely one of them. What were they thinking?
23 Jr. Burger, Sonic (Least Popular)
The clue may be in the name that a ‘Junior’ burger is going to be smaller and perhaps less loaded than a big whopper equivalent, but the Jr. burger served at the Sonic drive-in leaves out quite a classic burger ingredient that holds everything together: the cheese.
Unless you’re lactose intolerant, most people would agree that a takeaway burger without a layer of melted cheese in between might feel a little empty, and since the Jr. burger is topped with just mustard, pickles and ketchup, this doesn't do much to balance out the flavors. Pass!
22 Waffle/Croissant Taco, Taco Bell (Least Popular)
Waffles are delicious and fattening on their own, as are buttery flaky croissants. So we’re not sure what possessed Taco Bell to turn either of them into a sweet alternative to a taco shell (other than to make it as fattening as possible perhaps?).
As part of their breakfast menu, Taco Bell thought this item was the best way to start the day – a choice between a waffle curved around layers of sausage, cheese, and scrambled eggs or a croissant stuffed with a burger patty and bacon bits. Not even once.
21 Tuna Bagels/Croissants, Dunkin’ Donuts (Least Popular)
As we’ve already established from Taco Bell’s bizarre croissant concoction, this mostly sweet breakfast food doesn’t always translate well into the savory world and there were some flavors that were never meant to go together (or even meant to be thought up together). Like, say, tuna and croissants.
In a particularly bizarre stray from the normal menu at Dunkin’ Donuts, the chain brought out the Tuna Two Ways item – giving customers the choice between enjoying tuna fish on a bagel or a croissant. Um, is neither an option?
20 Bacon Egg & Cheese Biscuit, Chick-fil-A (Least Popular)
While Chick-fil-A has plenty of tasty items on the menu, there are some that are better off skipping altogether, like their ridiculously unhealthy mish-mash of items on offer for breakfast. The worst offender of which is easily the bacon, egg and cheese biscuit which is stuffed with half of your daily fat intake – a whopping 420 calories!
For a slightly healthier drive-thru breakfast option, you’re much better off ordering an Egg McMuffin which comes in at a fatty, but much less calorific 300 calories (or waiting until lunch to sample what Chick-fil-A do best – the chicken salads!).
19 French Fries, In-N-Out (Least Popular)
When it comes to a crispy and well done french fry, the In-N-Out fast food chain hasn’t been every customers' first choice. In comparison with McDonald’s and Burger King’s crispy golden offerings, the ones at In-N-Out leave a lot to be desired.
Complaints about the less than tasty fries at the chain have been that they are either too limp or too overly done and burnt to be tasty and that most of the time, you’re better off skipping the fries altogether for a different side to your meal. Ouch.
18 Corn Dog Nuggets, A&W (Least Popular)
Regular sized corndogs are a well-loved American snack reminiscent of carnivals and theme parks, so why not have miniature versions of them? As it turns out, the mini corn dog bites or corn dog nuggets (as A&W market them) aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.
While a traditional corn dog on a stick is coated evenly in cornmeal batter and only lightly fried to a golden brown color, corn dog nuggets suggest a lot more grease and fat goes into making these, which may be why this strange fast food snack is at odds with corn dog purists.
17 Egg Rolls, Jack In The Box (Least Popular)
Egg rolls are not normally a food associated with typical drive-thru fare, which is possibly why sales for the Jack in the Box version aren’t exactly booming. Egg rolls can be delicious as part of a traditional Chinese takeaway, but coming from a place that mainly serves tacos, customers don’t have much of an appetite for these.
And that’s putting it kindly. In fact, Jack in the Box customers have confessed to Twitter that their tacos and egg rolls often taste like “a wet envelope of cat food.” Ouch!
16 Pumpkin Cheesecake Shake, Arby’s (Least Popular)
When fall comes around, a lot of major fast food places love to work a pumpkin flavor into everything they sell, and particularly in drink format. Starbucks have their pumpkin spiced lattes and Dairy Queen have their pumpkin pie flavored Blizzards, but something that probably should have stayed on the drawing board was this creation by Arby’s – because it’s more meal than drink.
Arby’s not only hopped on the pumpkin drink bandwagon, it took a ride around the paddock and went a bit nuts with this one. The Pumpkin Cheesecake Shake contains (as it suggests) “notes of pumpkin pie, pie crust, and cheesecake”. Nope.
15 Pepperoni Pizza, Dominos (Best)
While Domino’s may have a long way to go before it surpasses its rival chain for overall pizza popularity, there is one menu item that the takeaway chain has set the bar pretty high for in terms of quality and taste – the classic pepperoni pizza.
According to a report by the foodie publication QSR magazine, the pepperoni pizza is the most delivered item on the Dominos menu.
While Pizza Hut may boast a wider variety of styles and side dishes, customers know which one serves a more satisfying pepperoni slice.
14 Chicken Nuggets, Wendy’s (Best)
The classic fast food side of chicken nuggets may be more synonymous with the iconic golden arches than anywhere else, but the nuggets over at Wendy’s have proven to be just as popular over the years.
Wendy’s chicken nuggets are so popular in fact, that a retweet about them was officially the top tweet of 2017!
Carter Wilkerson, a teenage fan of the fast-food chain, asked the Wendy’s official twitter account how many retweets it would take to get “a year’s supply of nuggets”. Wilkerson managed to get over 3.6 million retweets, and while it didn't reach the 18 million mark proposed by Wendy’s, it certainly shows how well loved these nuggets are!
13 Chicken Bacon Ranch Melt, Subway (Best)
This 570-cal sandwich unsurprisingly ranks as one of the top 5 most unhealthy subs you can order at Subway – which is probably why it’s also one of the fast-food chain’s biggest sellers! The Chicken and Bacon Ranch Melt with cheese is the ultimate guilty pleasure lunch item, but with these ingredients, it’s better suited for dinner.
You can always save 50 cals by skipping on the cheese, but let’s be real – if you’re going to chow down on strips of bacon and grilled chicken for lunch, you may as well go all out!
12 French Fries, Burger King (Best)
Ssh, don’t tell Ronald! It might be a controversial opinion, but Burger King fries do actually have more fans than the Maccy D variety. While McDonald's fries have all the salty and crispy taste that make fast food fries just right, Burger King’s main meal companion is a thicker cut than their competitor chains.
Since Burger King fries are on the larger side, they don’t get soggy quite as quickly as other types and they’re almost close to restaurant steak fries.
11 Chocolate Frosty, Wendy’s (Best)
No-one can surely pass by a Wendy’s during summer and not give in to one of their chocolate Frosty’s. This signature dessert item has been a favorite at the fast food chain ever since it made its first appearance in 1969 and the delicious chilled treat is still bringing out the child in us to this day.
Made from fresh Grade A milk and rich cream, a Wendy’s Frosty – whether you prefer the chocolate or vanilla flavor – is one of those guilty pleasures that people come for time and time again. Like a 50’s diner in a cup!
10 Mashed Potato & Gravy, KFC (Best)
As fast food sides go, it doesn't get much simpler than mashed potato and gravy. It’s a dish most of us could so easily make at home, but customers can’t seem to get enough of KFC’s take on a comforting side dish.
Ordered regularly alongside its original recipe chicken platter, the creamy mashed potato portion drizzled in gravy surpasses a coleslaw or bean side dish any day of the week, and at 120 calories, it’s a little less naughty than fries.
9 Hash Browns, McDonald’s (Best)
When Mc D’s aren’t killing it with the burgers and fries, they’re winning over fast foodies with their own version of the comforting potato cake snack – the humble hash brown.
Second only to McDonald’s french fries in the race for the most popular side item, the hash browns have long been a popular item on the menu.
The perfect combo of crunchy batter on the outside and fluffy taters on the inside make these the perfect side snack, as well as a great little breakfast pick me up on a morning rush.
8 Glazed Doughnuts, Krispy Kreme (Best)
The delights on offer at Krispy Kreme chains may boast all the colors of the rainbow and all the possible sprinkles and textures known to man, but time and time again, doughnut lovers return to the original old school doughnut treat of choice – the simple glazed variety.
The classic glazed doughnuts at Krispy Kreme have been a firm favorite since they first rolled on to the scene back in 1945 and the signature light and fluffy recipe beneath a crispy, sugar-glazed exterior hasn’t changed a bit. Drool.
7 Baked Apple Pie, McDonald’s (Best)
If a cheeseburger and fries is the quintessential fast food main meal in the US, then this is definitely the ultimate fast food dessert to follow it up with. There are few things that are more traditional than Apple Pie and McDonald's take on this classic home dessert has been a winner for the last 50 years.
It may not be round and cooling down on a window ledge, but a small bite into one of these takes most of us back to a simpler time and evokes a taste of childhood and family.
6 Whopper Burger, Burger King (Best)
If the burger is the quintessential fast food item then Burger King’s iconic Whopper burger is surely the best choice. In fact,
the much-loved fast food chain even advertises the Whopper to this day as “America’s Favorite Burger”.
As popular as the Big Mac may be at the competitor chain, millions of customers in need of a mealtime burger fix are more likely to head to a branch of Burger King on a daily basis. This fast food favorite proves that bigger is often better.
5 Burrito Supreme, Taco Bell (Best)
At recent count, Taco Bells serves up around 15 different varieties of burrito at each one of their US branches, but the one to always stand out from a pack that includes the impressive 7-layer burrito and the cheese lover’s Quesarito burrito is the one and only Burrito Supreme.
The meal item that Taco Bell itself has christened “the Supreme Ruler of the Burrito Empire” is the original grand combo of beef, beans, and lettuce, smothered in sour cream and tomato sauce with generous smatterings of grated cheese. For days when a ham sub won’t provide the desired kick in the taste buds.
4 Roast Beef Sandwich, Arby’s (Best)
Sometimes, a simple fast food meal wins out over layers of fat and grease, which is why Arby’s specialty of a no-frills roast beef sandwich is still such a firm favorite with customers.
It may be against the fast food mantra to choose something with hardly any guilty pleasure element to it – drive-thru lunch means you may as well go the whole hog, right? But Arby’s has it right with a generous tower of roast beef slices in between sesame seed buns. Yum!
3 Happy Meal, McDonald’s (Best)
We’re sure a lot of people can own up to ordering a Happy Meal a little after they were supposed to grow out if it! The Mcdonald's Happy Meal was a childhood favorite for many – the bright colorful box, the tasty nibbles inside, but above all – the awesome little toy!
In recent years, the modern Happy Meal might be making kids a little less happy with the introduction of apple slices and carrot sticks. Still, at least they can have a boredom-busting toy that inevitably gets covered in grease on the way home.
2 Chicken Tenders, KFC (Best)
There’s a reason KFC’s slogan for its most popular menu item is the phrase “finger-lickin' good”. The chain’s classic platter or bucket of chicken tenders are famously
stuffed with a secret blend of 11 herbs and spices and as much as other chains may try to, the Colonel’s original recipe is hard to beat.
With its crispy skin and juicy, tender meat inside, most consider fried chicken to be the holy grail of fast food items – simple, comforting and oh, so tasty (your mouth totally just filled with saliva, didn’t it?).
1 Soft Cookies, Subway (Best)
Even those in the camp of thinking that hard, crunchy cookies are the best will admit to being tempted by a Subway cookie. There are few more pleasant aromas in the fast food world than freshly baked Subway cookies hot out of the oven when you walk into a branch – they’re almost as popular as the subs themselves in some places!
While eating a cookie on top of a fast food main would normally be a bit of a no-no for most of us, Subway sandwiches tend to be a much healthier option than at other chains, so giving in to a triple chocolate cookie (or two) is justified at Subway...sort of.