Every city has its share of iconic places to eat. In Atlanta, one of those places goes by the name of The Varsity and has been around since 1928. They still do the paper hat thing and the people taking orders are famous for asking “What’ll Ya Have?” As far as the food goes, it’s basically what you would expect from 1928: hot dogs, burgers, fries and onion rings.
The Hat is one of those local LA fast food spots that has been around forever and seems to be in no rush to change. It has “World Famous Pastrami,” but is not limited to just one meat, because the place also serves burgers, roast beef dip and crazy big portions of sides. I mean crazy. Just look at that order of chili cheese fries on the left and try to comprehend how small the individual fries look.
It’s not often you get the opportunity to traverse the entire state of Utah, but when you do you should probably stop for Crown Burger. Or so I hear, but unfortunately that place doesn’t exist south of Salt Lake City. Yet through the magic of the internet I learned that Crown Burger is not the only place in Utah to serve pastrami burgers and one of the alternatives was Arctic Circle, which I found in Cedar City.
Freddy’s Frozen Custard has long had a place on my national to-eat list – relegated for a long time to bottom with the thought that I would never find such a place. Yet, as I made my way through the state of Kansas I found one such location in the town of Hays. I entered unsure of what I would find. And what I found was shockingly popular for what looked on the outside like any generic fast food spot.
A long, long time ago I visited Montreal for my friends’ wedding and was introduced to real poutine for the first time. I say real, because the stuff they serve at Wendy’s in Ontario is…well…Wendy’s. My friends took me to La Belle Province and I suppose you never really forget your first love, because upon my return to Montreal it was all I wanted.
Puerto Rico has its fair share of fast food chains, including probably more Church’s Chickens than I have ever seen. But one thing that I had never seen before was Pollo Tropical. Pollo Tropical does appear to have locations in the mainland United States, but I had never seen it before stopping in Fajardo.
In the land of Western New York, a great battle is being waged over Americanized Mexican fast food. In one corner there is Taco Bell, perennial favorite around the country. In the other is Mighty Taco, a local favorite with just about as much connection to Mexico as general stability (read: none). Yet, I knew I had to try it out to see what kind of competition it is to the first love of my life.
Throughout the Buffalo area is a place called Jim’s SteakOut, which is known for its subs and tacos, but mostly for servicing drunks in need of something greasy to fill their bellies. Fortunately, there is one in East Aurora that was just waiting for the right moment to get in touch with me. The moment came recently enough, and with a few drinks in me I felt it was time to get steaked out.
The moment I heard Taco Bell was testing markets for breakfast, I began counting down the days until I could have some for myself. Of course, at the time, there was no date to count down to because of the whole test market thing. Nonetheless, a date came: March 27, 2014. And when I arrived at Taco Bell at 11:01 am I was promptly turn sent packing for being one minute past the breakfast deadline. Somewhat deterred, I returned a week later, but this time before the clock could run out on me.
The fast food restaurants of the world have taken some remarkable paths. McDonald’s and Subway have infiltrated nearly every corner of the globe. Taco Bell has brought “Mexican” food across the United States and places like In-N-Out have garnered cult followings while remaining tied down to a specific region. There is a reason that people on the East Coast have heard of In-N-Out and a reason why people in the Northeast heard of Chick-fil-a before its expansion. Likewise, there is a reason I had ever heard of TacoTime.