Looking back at 2020, it feels like we’ve lived a thousand years in one. And that’s doubly true for the fast food industry, which didn’t let a pandemic stop it from innovating all sorts of new and delicious creations to distract us from reality. Why, this was the year that breakfast finally came to Wendy’s, KFC gave us a new dipping sauce, and Taco Bell brought its house wine into the world! Truly amazing times. Here are five of the best fast food items that The Takeout taste tested in 2020.
In February Papa John’s jumped into the lunch game with the Papadia just in time for the Great Office Exodus of 2020. These “sandwiches” are essentially just small pizzas folded in half, which would be terrible things to eat in front of coworkers, but excellent if your lunch plans are stress-eating in your pajamas. In our review, we called this “the breakthrough pizza technology you’ve been waiting for,” and we even ranked each flavor from worst to best.
Hardee’s introduced a burger topped with a big thick slab of deep fried cheese back in February. The BFC was more than a meal—it was a multisensory experience that lasted for days. To quote our original review: “The Hardee’s BFC Angus Thickburger is a young man’s game. For anyone over the age of 30, it’s a grease-soaked reminder that death is coming for us all.” But oh, what a delicious omen it was.
The launch of Wendy’s breakfast in early March was one of the most anticipated fast food developments of the century, and eating one of everything on the menu makes you a part of history. Alas, while it had its bright spots, Wendy’s breakfast menu was not as legendary as we had hoped. But it taught us all a valuable lesson in tempering our expectations for fast food breakfasts. Not everything can be the McDonald’s Steak, Egg, & Cheese Bagel, which was the best thing on their entire damn breakfast menu until coronavirus killed it.
When we first tasted this cozy, creamy drink in January, we had no idea how important life’s simple joys were about to become. It’s by no means the flashiest entry on this list, but it’s been a reliable bright spot on the Starbucks menu as the coffee chain cycled through a lineup of less inspired seasonal offerings. “The oat milk had a mellow flavor that mixed nicely with the espresso,” we wrote of the Oatmilk Honey Latte. “The honey was sweet but not cloying. The whole thing was very balanced.” Even better: it’s a drink that tasted like normalcy.
Shortly after Wendy’s breakfast debuted the entire world went to hell, and the fast food industry decided to direct most of its focus toward survival instead of developing new ways to shove bacon into things. Then after six whole months, a light emerged: McDonald’s Spicy Chicken McNuggets. We steeled our hearts and braced for disappointment. But, lo, an angel came upon us in the form of Mighty Hot Sauce, which improved upon an already respectably zesty nugget. “The sauce is vinegar-based, which adds some complexity to the hotness and some welcome sourness to the usual—and highly addictive—McNuggets combo of salty and sweet,” we declared. We’ll continue to buy these as long as McDonald’s continues to sell them, and that’s the greatest compliment we can give.