Fast food isn’t just the business of engineering the biggest profit margins on a single cheeseburger. It’s an industry concerned with repeat business, and the major fast food chains will sell just about anything to keep you coming through the door—chicken sandwiches, weird doughnuts, you name it. So, what keeps you coming back? Which fast food place is your first choice when you’re out on the road, and what item (or combo) do you order more than any other? Below, The Takeout staff gets mushy about their go-to orders, because there’s nothing like pulling out of the drive-thru and taking the first whiff inside that bag.
Growing up, Taco Bell was always the ultimate fast food treat—perhaps because my sister and I understood that, as some of the worst fast food on the market, health-wise, Taco Bell was the purest indulgence. Usually we’d order a centralized pile of hard shell and soft shell tacos and a Nachos BellGrande (no add-ons) for the family to split, but then in 1999, the Chalupa came out and changed everything. The puffy, oily, golden fried exterior, the option to add gooey nacho cheese to beef piled up inside, and the sense that it was a heftier, more premium menu item made the Chalupa so alluring that I never ordered a regular taco again. I still pair the Chalupa with my beloved Nachos BellGrande, however, because it’s always a good idea to diversify your investments in liquid cheese. —Marnie Shure, editor in chief
You know those clickbait ads that suggest ways to “power-wash your insides?” That’s what happens when your family gets Taco Bell after church nearly every Sunday for your entire childhood. Your insides are power-washed on a weekly basis, leaving behind a bulletproof shell. Now, I’m completely immune to the gastric consequences of Taco Bell, which means I can hoover down 1,500 calories of dubious beans with nary an abdominal rumbling. My order used to include the Mexican Pizza (RIP), but I’ve since replaced it with the pleasantly zesty steak quesadilla. It’s stuffed with steak, cheese, and a creamy jalapeño sauce that’s just spicy enough for my Midwestern predilections. I typically chase the quesadilla with a Loco Taco, the standard Crunchy Taco’s more sophisticated twin, taking large glugs of Mountain Dew Baja Blast in between bites. I save the best for last: my signature Dry Burrito, which is a classic Bean Burrito with no sauce and extra onions. I simply chew off a little corner of the burrito and then suck the dry beans out, hoping they’ll absorb any rogue stomach acids from the first two courses. I complete my feast neatly, efficiently, and—most importantly—privately. —Lillian Stone, staff writer
My earliest memories of dining out are of McDonald’s. I was just about to turn three, and my mother was in the hospital having my sister. My dad asked me what I wanted to eat, and I said, “McDonald’s.” And so we ate all our meals there for the next three days because he loved me and because we needed comfort since our lives were about to change dramatically (we didn’t know this yet, but my sister was a wailer and none of us would get a decent night of sleep for the next year), and also because he didn’t know how to prepare anything besides peanut butter sandwiches. I could go on about the addictive properties of salt and carbs and how the evil geniuses at McDonald’s have calibrated the McNuggets combination perfectly to ensnare poor saps like me in childhood and keep us coming back till they kill us, but you know what? I don’t care. You can pry those McNuggets from my cold, dead, happy hands. They are the perfect combination of sweet and salty, especially with the creamy contrast from the ranch and the extra burst of salt from the fries. And when things in my world are shitty, you will (well, until last year) find me hiding in a back corner with adequate reading material, chewing away like a dog with a peanut butter Kong, and ignoring everything else in the world. —Aimee Levitt, associate editor
Sigh. I wish I didn’t have to pick among my favorite fast food meals. The thing is, I have so many fast food loves, like the spicy chicken from Popeyes with the red beans and rice, a Crunchwrap Supreme from Taco Bell, the cheese sliders from White Castle, a sausage $5 Hot-N-Ready from Little Caesar’s, and the Culver’s Deluxe, just to name five of them. This list goes on embarrassingly long. But my go-to is McDonald’s. The burger I never tire of is the Quarter Pounder Deluxe, and ever since it’s been out, I’ve been a huge fan. The fresh beef was already a giant improvement, and adding toppings like cheese, raw onions (not the dehydrated ones), lettuce, tomato, mayo, and ketchup makes for easily one of the most solid fast food burgers around. Overall, I couldn’t ask for a better combination, and even when limited time offerings like the McRib are out, they always fall in second place next to the Quarter Pounder Deluxe. Of course, there’s my undying love for the fries, too. The Tropic Berry Sprite is a new favorite, because I only learned about it a few years ago, but it’s a really good follow-up to a bite of burger and fries, and for a soda, is about as close to a palate cleanser as you can get. Ugh. I just made myself hungry. —Dennis Lee, staff writer