The Takeout's fantasy food draft: Best fast food menu item

Photo: happy_lark (iStock), Graphic: Natalie Peeples
Takeout DraftTakeout DraftFood. Fantasy sports. Debating over Slack. Welcome to The Takeout Draft.

Welcome, dear readers, to The Takeout Draft, our recurring feature that combines our love of food, fantasy sports, and arguing on Slack.

Every week, we will select a topic of conversation from the food and drink world. Takeout staffers will then field a team via the snake draft format. After five rounds, The Takeout commenteriat will vote on who they believe was victorious in that week’s draft. At the end of the year, the staffer with the most weekly victories will select a charity of his/her choice that The Takeout will make a donation towards.

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The winner of last week’s Takeout Draft: Best Chocolate Candy, as voted by readers: Kevin Pang!

Joining us this week is The Takeout’s social media director and human food guinea pig: David Anthony! For our Week 3 draft, we’ve chosen a fitting topic for David’s presence: best fast food menu item.

We entered our names into a randomizer and this is the draft order it spat out:

  1. Kate Bernot
  2. Gwen Ihnat
  3. Kevin Pang
  4. David Anthony

Let’s go.

Round 1

Kate Bernot: Alright, I choose: Taco Bell Cheesy Gordita Crunch

David Anthony: GREAT PICK!!!

Kevin Pang: Not expected, wow

KB: To me, it’s everything I want in a fast food item: Amazing texture, totally salty, massive amounts of cheese.

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It is what I picture when I picture fast food.

DA: I co-sign all of that.

KP: I can sense what the cheap seats will complain about, Kate: Of all the fast food items, there’s nothing better than a Cheesy Gordita Crunch?

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Gwen Ihnat: They can pick when they get their own drafts.

KB: It’s my favorite.

GI: Hence, it is the correct choice.

DA: As a person who likes Taco Bell more than most anything else, I stand with Kate.

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GI: I ALWAYS stand with Kate.

KP: And with that, Gwen gets the overall No. 2 pick:

GI: McDonald’s Quarter Pounder With Cheese

Photo: Kevin Pang
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KB: Classic

GI: When I was a child, I remember that McDonald’s had cheeseburgers and the Big Mac. Nothing in between. The Quarter Pounder (in styrofoam at the time, yes I am 100 years old) was the perfect in-between sandwich, and remains so. The sesame seeds. The pickles. The onions. The perfect amount of ketchup. I loved it then, I love it now.

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And with that, I’m bound to win the game, thanks for playing everyone.

KP: For my first-round pick, I’m going with Wendy’s Junior Bacon Cheeseburger.

It’s as close to a perfect sandwich in the fast food realm. It’s one of the few burgers where the lettuce and tomato compliments the sandwich as a whole. It’s not overbearing, it’s cheap, and I find it almost perfectly engineered (if only the Giant JBC is on the permanent menu.)

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DA: Kevin, that would have been my pick. It’s one of the few fast food burgers I can eat and then not immediately regret.

KP: Regret is such an overlooked criteria in fast food consumption.

David, You now have both the 4th and 5th overall draft picks. Let’s hear your first pick.

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GI: (holds breath)

DA: Well, I’m throwing a bit of a curveball here and going with… McDonald’s Sausage McMuffin with Egg

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GI: Love it

KB: Ooooo, don’t sleep on breakfast. Good call.

DA: It’s what I measure all fast food breakfast against. I know that is partially informed by nostalgia, but it’s the reason everyone wants to get into the breakfast space.

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GI: It really kicked the original Egg McMuffin’s ass

Later, Canadian bacon

Also: more grease for hangover cure

KP: It truly is the greatest breakfast sandwich extant

Round 2

DA: Who needs canadian bacon! But you know what I do need? A complement to the McMuffin. And for my money, nothing is better than my next pick: McDonald’s hash brown.

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KP: Oh dangit

GI: yum

How many do you usually get at a time?

DA: In my younger days, I’d go with two. But now, with my aching body, I just get one.

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KP: You old-ass mid-20 something, David

DA: I am pushing 30 and have eaten the Meat Mountain. You can’t undo that.

Arby’s ravages us all.

KB: Meat Mountain is the Agrocrag of fast foods.

KP: I’m not sure we predicted three McDonald’s picks in a row, but for my second round pick I’m going with McDonald’s French Fries.

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It is the French fries in which all other fast food fries are measured against.

GI: Yeah, that was bound to come up sooner rather than later

KP: I will agree that McD’s hash browns barely edges out its French fries, but those fries—especially straight from the frier—is the most consistently delicious.

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DA: I felt like picking a side in the first round would have been bold, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider that move.

Photo: John Shearer (Getty Images)
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KP: Okay, your pick, Gwen.

GI: Pushing outside the burger/sandwich/fried box a little bit, I’m going with: Wendy’s Frosty.

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The Frosty is a game-changer. Is it a shake? Is it ice cream? Both? Who can tell? All I know is that it is delicious and my fave frozen drive-thru item

KP: Kate now has the next two picks.

KB: Okay. I choose KFC Original Recipe chicken thighs.

GI: Specific!

KP: A tie for me between KFC thighs and wings

KB: Thighs are objectively the most flavorful chicken part for me.

KP: It’s all about skin-to-meat ratio

Round 3

KB: For the next pick: Taco Johns Potato Olés, which I am on record stating are my favorite fast-food potato. 

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DA: As a lover of all things potato, you’re dead on with that one.

GI: Lent is now over, but this legend lives on:

McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich

Also pretty low in the regret department, and goddamn delicious

I have someone else’s thesis!

DA: I have to admit, I’ve never had the Filet-O-Fish. I guess I’ve been missing out?

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GI: DAVID

I am surprised

DA: The thing is, if I’m stepping into a McDonald’s, I’m going to hurt myself with beef. It’s just what happens.

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KB: The singing Billy Bass commercial didn’t convince you, David?

KP: For my next pick: Auntie Anne’s Pretzel Dog. The favorite of weary airport travelers. You’ve got that buttery, vaguely-crisp exterior, spiraling around a Nathan’s Famous wiener — arguably the most flavorful of the sausaged meats.

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DA: Genuinely didn’t see that coming.

KB: I definitely haven’t had this.

KP: I also travel quite a bit and there’s always people getting this at airports

To me it’s a borderline first-rounder.

DA: For my third pick I have to go with the fast food item I’ve ordered more than any other: Taco Bell’s Spicy Potato Soft Taco. The beauty of The Bell has always been the versatility, and this highlights that perfect. It costs a buck, has nicely fried potatoes, some chipotle sauce, and some shredded lettuce. It’s not fancy, but it’s a utility player that can be added on to any meal and still make an impact.

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KP: And, the first entree that is vegetarian

KB: Oh, I like a fast food potato that isn’t a fry or hash brown.

DA: Let me tell you, Taco Bell is a great equalizer when you have vegetarian and vegan friends in tow.

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KP: We’ve written about this before but Taco Bell does have some excellent hot sauces.

Complex, and legit spicy.

DA: The diablo sauce is one of the best there is.

GI: Also, saves lives

Photo: Kevin Pang
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Round 4

DA: And for my fourth pick, I’m going back to the beef realm. And though I’ve besmirched their name, the Arby’s Beef ’n Cheddar gets the call.

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GI: Good one

KB: I can never fully get on board with Arby’s meats.

KP: Drenched with cheese and Horsey sauce it’s pretty great

DA: I don’t go to Arby’s much, but there’s something about the softness of the meat mixed with the melty cheese and the slight onion flavor on the bun that is enchanting to me.

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GI: The beef-and-cheddar has excellent meat-to-cheese ratio. Also, onion roll.

KB: Enchanting is not a word thrown around in fast food discussion much. Respect.

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KP: For my 4th round pick: Popeyes’ Spicy Fried Chicken Wing 

GI: I’m just surprised it took you this long to get to chicken.

KP: That KFC original recipe seasoning is nostalgic, but as fried chicken goes, there’s few things as satisfying as that crunch of Popeyes’ batter with a few swigs of Crystal hot sauce

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DA: Popeyes’ has always been my preferred fast food fried chicken and I’m glad it’s getting represented here.

GI: Also the biscuits are spectacular.

GI: Okay, can we get some BK love up in here? What about The Whopper?

DA: I feel like The Whopper doesn’t get the love it deserves.

GI: Agree. Flame-broiled! Customized, so I can get my preferred lettuce, tomato, mayo ratio! And its name is spot-on, it’s ginormous

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KP: Sorry, you just negated your otherwise excellent first three rounds, Gwen :-)

GI: I think I cemented them.

KP: I honestly thing the only thing going for a Whopper is that chargrill taste. Everything other component, to me, doesn’t work. The tomato/lettuce always ends up soggy, in my opinion.

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But hey, it’s one of America’s best-selling burgers for a reason!

GI: I suspect operator error at your BK, then. The Whopper rules.

KB: Alright, Gwen stole Frosty from me so I plant my flag squarely in: Dairy Queen’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard.

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GI: Oh, ask David about the time he ate like 50 Blizzards.

DA: I will never forget. And neither will the internet, apparently.

KB: Blizzards are wondrous. Way more substantial than a milkshake, good textural contrast with the peanut butter chunks in there.

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And by know the commenters know peanut butter is my catnip.

Round 5

KB: Last pick: Culver’s cheese curds

GI: NICE

KB: I really love those little guys.

They’re... springy? And really, not enough cheese-based sides on fast-food menus that aren’t liquidy/nacho cheese.

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DA: When it comes to fast food sides, they really break up the monotony.

KP: The favorite term among food writers in describing cheese curds is, I believe, squeaky

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GI: Damn guys, I swear I go to more than one fast food place, but have to get this one in: McDonald’s Big Mac.

Perfect combo has never been changed for a reason. Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun. Some 1970s kind of wizardry alchemy created the ideal burger combo to really put McDonald’s on the map.

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DA: Aside from the sauce, the Big Mac has never really done it for me. It’s not bad, I just never feel compelled to get it.

GI: But isn’t it nice just to know that it’s there, and will always be there?

I may only get it once or twice a year, but those are happy days.

Photo: Joe Raedle (Getty Images)
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KP: My very last pick: Chick-fil-A’s Waffle Fries with Chick-fil-A sauce

I know having two potato sides isn’t the best for team construction, but those fries with that sauce is a magical combination.

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DA: Honestly, I’d just take the sauce. The fries are good, but the sauce is the star.

KP: When you get a really fresh waffle fry, where it’s crisp around the edges but fluffy in the middle? <chef's kiss>

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Okay David, you have the honor of closing our draft with the final pick of the day.

DA: I am so honored!

I find fast food dessert options somewhat limiting, but not Potbelly’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie. Unlike other sandwich chains that sell cookies that have the consistency of cement, or other fast food spots that basically just mix ice cream and candy together, this feels distinct. It’s soft, gooey, and the perfect addition to any meal.

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KP: Wow, what a finish!

KB: Ooo, kind of a wild card. I like your style.

Week 4 Draft Results

Kate Bernot

  1. Taco Bell’s Cheesy Gordita Crunch
  2. KFC Original Recipe Chicken Thighs
  3. Taco John’s Potato Olés
  4. Dairy Queen’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard
  5. Culver’s Fried Cheese Curds

Gwen Ihnat

  1. McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese
  2. Wendy’s Frosty
  3. McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish
  4. Burger King’s Whopper
  5. McDonald’s Big Mac

Kevin Pang

  1. Wendy’s Junior Bacon Cheeseburger
  2. McDonald’s French Fries
  3. Auntie Anne’s Pretzel Dog
  4. Popeyes’ Spicy Fried Chicken Wing
  5. Chick-fil-A Waffle Fries with Chick-fil-A sauce

David Anthony

  1. McDonald’s Sausage McMuffin with Egg
  2. McDonald’s Hash Brown
  3. Taco Bell’s Spicy Potato Soft Taco
  4. Arby’s Beef ’n Cheddar
  5. Potbelly’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie

Your vote matters. Vote now!

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About the author

Gwen Ihnat

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.

Kevin Pang

Kevin Pang was the founder and editor-in-chief of The Takeout, and director of the documentary For Grace on Netflix.

Kate Bernot

Kate Bernot is managing editor at The Takeout and a certified beer judge.