Bill Oakley, who’s been called “The Gordon Ramsay of Fast Food” by The Wrap, is known for the work he’s done on popular television shows like The Simpsons. But more and more, he’s becoming known for his bite-sized fast food reviews, almost always filmed from the driver’s seat of his car, via his Instagram page. He’s affable, always open to new things, and honest in his appraisals, which is why he’s always a trustworthy source for fast food opinions.
Because the car is so often his dining domain, he’s written a guide on how best to tackle the logistics (and the potential messes) at Car and Driver. Personally, I hate eating in my car, from the messy hands and clothes, down to the smell of food that lingers for a day or two. But during the pandemic, I’ve eaten plenty of meals in my Camry and I’m slowly coming around to its joys. Remind me to bring that roll of paper towels into my car next time I go out, wouldja?
This one is a no-brainer, but Oakley says that the best time to eat is while you’re parked. Distracted driving kills people—and guess what? Eating is a big-time distraction. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people on the highway eating while driving, not just burgers and fries, but soup and salad on separate occasions, too.
Consider purchasing things that are made specifically for eating in your car, like french fry holders and dip clips. I’ll add to Oakley’s suggestions and tell you that a sheet pan stowed away in the car makes a great tray for your lap.
If you’re eating in the car, you can hedge your bets a little by ordering food that will cause a minimal amount of mess. These are handheld items generally best held in their wrappers. He suggests items like cheeseburgers, sandwiches, and nuggets (don’t forget to check out the whole list in the Car and Driver piece).
Anything involving a fork and knife or a generally messy item is considered your worst option, like say, McDonald’s Big Breakfast with Hotcakes, or Wendy’s baked potato.
Drips and crumbs are the car diner’s worst enemy. Anything drippy is bound to leave a permanent stain on your shirt, since it usually involves some kind of hot grease. Get any of that on your car’s upholstery and it’s game over, man. Oakley suggests things like re-wrapping your food or doin’ the ol’ napkin-in-collar-tuck, or even taking off your whole shirt (?!) while eating. (Pssst. This is where my sheet tray trick really shines.)
You know, as much as I hate it, there’s no way to avoid it: The smell of food is going to linger in your car, far beyond the food’s existence (since you’ll be plowing it down with reckless abandon). It’s just part of the deal.
Now that many of us are vaccinated, we’ll be returning to fast food dining rooms little by little, but we’ve learned a lot of tricks for eating in our cars during the pandemic. Next time I’m on a road trip and ordering in a drive-thru, I’ll be sure to ask myself, “What would Bill Oakley do?”