After Sprecher Root Beer was recommended to me by a Wisconsin native, I was curious. It didn't place too highly in a Serious Eats taste test of regional root beers. Did the recommender's Wisconsin upbringing bias his taste for a hometown favorite? Maybe Sprecher is the Dan O'Brien of root beer, anxiously awaiting the next taste test to win gold. Needless to say, I was intrigued.
I can't get enough of Manhattan Special's Espresso Coffee Soda—but I only recently discovered its sister soft drinks, the Black Cherry, Vanilla Cream, and Gassosa.
You know how when you're having a bad day, you're likely to hate whatever you come across? A wrong-way-over-the-bridge day, can't-believe-this-traffic day? When you're in that sort of mood, you're not exactly predisposed to love whatever's handed to you at the rest stop McDonald's. But the Cherry Berry Chiller I had this weekend was surprisingly good.
What was your preferred method of Shirley Temple–making when you were a kid? My recipe: 9 parts grenadine to 1 part Sprite, with a cherry. Why? Because I wanted the sweetest, cherriest thing I could possibly guzzle down. Having consumed more than my fair share of them as a child—I was the kind of kid who'd want cherry Coke without the Coke—I was happy to see Saranac, a New York brewery I like, marketing a Shirley Temple soda.
There is a magical sandwich shop in Philadelphia called Paesano's; I can't drive through Philly without stopping by. But almost as much as those sandwiches (the Arista is my go-to), I look forward to Hank's Gourmet Soda, a brand local to the Philadelphia area.
If you watch Breaking Bad, you may have seen Walter, Hank, and Skylar sitting around a table of white fast food bags, munching on burgers. Those bags come from Blake's Lotaburger, a chain that doesn't exist outside of New Mexico's borders. They're my favorite fast food in this country. And I've written about the burgers before, but it's not only the burgers they do right.
It's hard for me to call Whataburger's breakfast anything but "Whatabreakfast"; really, why don't they market it as that? The burger chain is wildly popular in Texas, and just about every friend I asked before my week-long trip there told me to stop in. But my buddy Dave Blend (an editor at Thrilllist) went one step further, sining the praises of their breakfast menu. In a smart recognition of when you actually want to be eating piles of bacon and cheesy eggs, you can get breakfast at Whataburger from 11pm to 11am. None of this McDonald's 10:30 bullshit.
We got our hands on Polar Seltzer's Christmas Flavors: Granny Smith Apple, Candy Cane, and—prepare yourselves—Eggnog. No kidding, Eggnog flavored seltzer.
Change is tough. When I learned that Wendy's intended to introduce new burgers, I felt a mixture of excitement and trepidation. "It seems like they're trying to make thicker burgers to compete with Five Guys," someone said to me. Wendy's has struggled with new products like their breakfast, so I was very interested in trying their new Hot 'N Juicy burgers.
You can't go to New Mexico without eating green chiles—so it's no surprise that the Green Chile Burger is the calling card at Blake's Lotaburger, a chain exclusive to New Mexico. When I surveyed some locals about chains in the are, Blake's was the first suggestion out of anyone's mouth. Consequently, a Green Chile Burger was the first thing in my mouth when I arrived.
CPK's newest pie is the Habanero Carnitas pizza. It features "slow-roasted pulled pork, red onions, cilantro pesto, mozzarella and Queso Quesadilla cheese with spicy habanero salsa." I love pork, so I'll admit I was slightly excited at the prospect of my own 13-inch pork covered pizza.
I love Buffalo Wild Wings—enough that I'm considering having my birthday party there. They have a great beer selection for a chain restaurant (I usually go for an Abita or an Arrogant Bastard), solid wings and sauces, and Naked Tenders for when I'm feeling marginally health-conscious; that's enough to make me a happy man. But how are the burgers?
Nothing makes you feel creepier than walking into a Chuck E. Cheese, as a single adult male, with an SLR camera. I've been in some awkward situations, such as eating every cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory as patrons looked on in horror; though I have to say, this was a new low. The things I do so that you folks can have an honest opinion about fast casual pizza.
Cold Stone Creamery claims you can get anything smashed into their ice cream. Plenty of people order cookie dough and brownies and Butterfinger, say, mixed into their scoop. They pledge to make your sundae however you want. But what happens if you order every topping? No limit exists on their website, so my interest was piqued further. Could I do it?
Ever since I moved away from New Jersey, I've missed Wawa. Last weekend, while driving through Pennsylvania, I stopped at a Wawa gas station. That's right, a Wawa Gas station. The best place to buy gas, just about anywhere. I said aloud to myself, "God, I miss Wawa." Hearing my prayers, the Lord answered by killing my battery.
It's hard to go to a place you like and get served something awful. It's harder still when you walk into a place you like, fulling expecting that the thing you order is going to disappoint you. But at Serious Eats, when we hear that Wendy's is making new shakes, we've got to try them—even if their Frosty-based parfait desserts disappointed us. So we ventured back to our nearest Wendy's to give them a shot.
Back in June of last year, I ranked the Twisted Frosty as my favorite of the three national chain milkshake-like desserts that I tried. I love the Frosty's texture, not quite liquid, but like slightly runny ice cream, air-lightened. But is it a good vehicle for add-ins?
Few have attempted to try all 33 different flavors of cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory; fewer have succeeded without medical assistance. But we've boldly gone where no others have gone before.
This week, we checked out the drinks at On the Border. Chips and margaritas: perfect for Cheap Buzz. What we found: some mediocre drinks but one surprise winner.
Wendy's Bacon Mushroom Melt has garnered somewhat of a cult following. Dating back to the '90s, it has disappeared and reappeared from menus across the country. I found this one in Orange, New Jersey, not more than three weeks ago. As it turns out, there's no information on the Wendy's website. Hopefully, this post will flush out some more data on a burger as elusive, it would seem, as the McRib of yore.
Papa John's has a way of being convenient and consistent but nothing remarkable. And so it didn't come as a surprise that their newest specialty pizza, the Sausage Sensation, wasn't anything remarkable, either. It's a regular pizza with three kinds of sausage (spicy Italian, sweet, and smoked sausage), red and green peppers, onions and Italian herb seasoning. And when they say herb seasoning, they mean garlic.
White Castle limited-time Bacon Sliders featuring bacon bits with cheddar or cheesy ranch sauce take their original burger to another level.
Typically, the chain restaurants that I visit serve up watered down punches full of sugar and artificial coloring. They don't have bitters, they don't muddle much, and they count on America wanting a sweet, diluted elixir to make a little bit of hooch go down. But the drinks at Dave and Buster's stand out a bit from the pack: first of all, they're mighty strong.
Hardee's pitches their turkey burgers as "just as indulgent as our other burgers, but all under 500 calories"; each sandwich, they claim, "is prepared with a thick, juicy turkey patty." Don't believe a word of it.
Ever been to a Roy Rogers? Chances are, if you don't live in the Northeast, you haven't. Once a thriving Northeastern chain, most Roy Rogers locations are now found in highway rest areas. The Western-themed restaurant has always served fried chicken, charbroiled burgers, fries, and chicken fingers, and I don't think I've seen a new menu item from them since I started eating the Gold Rush Chicken Sandwich. But now, they've got a new Spicy Chicken option.
Rumors circulated this week that the McRib had been released early in certain locations. A reader confirmed that it was, indeed, available in Brooklyn and Queens. So I headed out to McDonald's to get my first taste of a McRib in almost two decades.
From the moment I bit into it, I knew the sandwich was good. Really good. The breast has a lot of heat, more than the comparable Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich. The poultry portion itself is smaller in size than Wendy's, but tastes much more like chicken—you really have the impression of eating a fried-up chicken breast, as opposed to some manufactured McBreast.