Yum or yuck! The fabs and the fails in Southwest Florida’s fast food

Will Watts
Correspondent
Fast food colorful modern banners set labels. Fast food. Best Pizza. bacon. Hot dog, hamburger, coffee, wings, nuggets, tacos. Bright cool food sketches composition. Hand drawn vector illustration.

Fast food gets a bad rap. Sure, it can be unhealthy. Especially if you eat make a habit of it. But did you know, the quality of fast food can vary from place to place?

Growing up in South Florida, most of the fast food, well … it … sucked! There were a few exceptions. The mini-corn dogs from Miami Subs. The Big Buford from Checkers. And that summer I was addicted to Taco Bell.

Those places have diminished on both sides of Florida for more boutique-type eateries. And perhaps we’re better for it.

My editor, who grew up in Tennessee but lives here now, says fast food tasted much better there when he was a kid. He said places like KFC were super clean and the food was always top notch. It could be the location. Or the times. Or both.  

Today I want to take a brief look at some of the fantastic offerings you can often find from fast foodies; and some of the fabulous fails. We’ll call it yuck or yum!

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: Marco Prime is pure saucy perfection!

More:Hey Marco Island, looking for a place to eat?

Up and Down

Yuck! I recently tried the “Crispy Chicken McMuffin.” First, it’s not crispy. It’s breaded, yes. But there was no crispy. Second, it’s dry. There’s nothing there but breaded chicken on a toasted English muffin. No mayo or special sauce or cheese or butter or anything to add moisture. By the way McDonalds, dry is not crispy either. And while we’re at it McDonalds, bring back bagels. I prefer dry AND chewy.   

Yum! Burger King’s breakfast melts. I was skeptical at first. First come the burger melts, then the breakfast melts follow. Sourdough bread, eggs, two slices of cheese and bacon or sausage OR bacon AND sausage. While I’m at it. Shout out to the Burger King’s hash browns. Those golden medallions are legendary.

Yuck! Hey Wendy’s, I asked for no ketchup. Why!? Because you always put a whole bottle on my sandwich. Every. Single. Time. How can that be good for your bottom line? Did you hire all of McDonalds mayo people to handle your ketchup?

Yum! Sonic, you beautiful little drive-thru. If I want a hamburger in the morning, you’ll make me a hamburger. And I thank you for it! But one word of advice to potential visitors. Never get a Sonic cheeseburger without veggies. You’ll discover the patty doubles as a salt lick. Not so noticeable with all the trimmings, but definitely a different sandwich without.   

Yuck! Did you know that Taco Bell no longer serves a taco salad? No huge edible bowls. That’s just so sad. And earns my yuck award of the year. Did you also have your hand in the Choco Taco demise?!

Yum! Sometimes you want pizza for lunch. But you work from home now. And there’s no one to share it with you. I know, fast food pizza can really suck. There’s one food chain out there whose pizza literally smells like garbage. You know who I’m talking about. But I must hand it to Pizza Hut and their Personal Pan Pizza. It’s just the right size for lunch. And I actually kind of love it. There! No need for confession this week.

Double yum! Popeyes chicken sandwich! KFC’s original recipe chicken and crispy chicken. Anything and everything PDQ! And Burger King’s original sub-shaped chicken sandwich. I love you all! And we’ll see each other again real soon.

More:Grab a taste of summer, while you still can

More:Cheap Eats: Earning your just desserts

Chipotle's Pollo Asado.

New items this month

Chipotle – Pollo Asado: A marinated with garlic and guajillo chiles, then grilled, chopped, and mixed with fresh-squeezed lime and cilantro for a tangy, refreshing finish.

Taco Bell – Cantina Crispy Chicken Tacos: The cantina crispy chicken tacos were first released in February, and they include a crispy tortilla chip-crusted chicken strip, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, and either creamy chipotle or avocado ranch sauce.

Arby's – Cajun Fish Wrap: Made with fresh veggies and a zesty Cajun remoulade sauce along with hush-puppy-breaded fish strips. The strips are made with pollock and coated in a crispy hushpuppy coating and are also available in three-and five-piece containers with tartar sauce for dipping.

Pizza Hut – Oven-Baked Pastas: They’re back, with four variations. Chicken alfredo, oven-baked Italian meats, cheesy alfredo and veggie. As a bonus, all the oven-baked pastas come with five breadsticks on the side, which can be upgraded to cheese sticks.

KFC – Mac and Cheese Bowls: Back by popular demand, they were first introduced in 2019, and it's no surprise that the $5 meals would be a hit while inflation runs rampant. Each bowl is filled with mac and cheese, sprinkled with shredded cheese and topped with popcorn chicken. A drizzle of Nashville hot sauce is optional.

Oh, and everything pumpkin spice is also back this month. Enjoy!

In the 60s, McDonald's chief Ray Kroc prepared a meatless alternative to the McDonald's burger called the 'Hula Burger.'

Did you know?

McDonald’s attempted to sell chicken wings. How about the McLean Deluxe? No? How about the McDLT? One side’s hot, the other is cold.

The Hula Burger? It was a failed option for Catholics who chose not to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. The sandwich combined pineapple and melted cheese. Thank goodness the filet-o-fish came along. Intervention?

Speaking of seafood. No. No. No! I didn’t believe this one. A McLobster sandwich!? Thank goodness it was only in Canada.  

Did you ever eat a McHotdog? McPizza? I’m not making this stuff up. In the 1970s, McDonalds even introduced onion nuggets. Chopped onion in nugget form. Yum!

Do you remember Salad Shakers? A salad in a soft drink cup from Micky Dees.  

Did you ever try Burger King’s enormous omelet sandwich? How about Burger Shots, BK’s answer to sliders? Or the Satisfries, the King’s low-calorie fries that satisfied no one.

This one kills me. Taco Bell tried putting their ground taco meat on a sandwich. So much for “think outside the bun.” How about the Bell’s seafood salad? I don’t miss it.    

Do you remember when Wendy’s went all “Frescata?” It was Arby’s meets Subway at Wendy’s, yet nobody cared. I remember when Wendy’s had a salad bar. Then you’d retire to the sun lounge.

Those were the days! Happy eating!  

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: East Naples food truck serves up pupusas and more!

More:‘Watts for Dinner’: Fin to hoof – Bistro keeps it fresh