- We ate dozens of fast-food menu items in 2018, but six stood out from the rest.
- From IHOP – or IHOb? – serving up a new line of burgers to our first time tasting Torchy’s queso, we ate a handful of dishes that we just can’t get out of our minds.
- Here are the six best things to order from chain restaurants right now.
2018 was another bizarre year.
And through it all, we just kept eating – dozens of fast-food meals, in fact, as we dived deep into the McDonald’s breakfast menu, gorged ourselves on a road trip, and consumed hundreds of shrimp.
After tasting innumerable fast-food menu items, just a handful stood out. Whether they’re new menu items, like IHOP’s new burger line, or just new to us, like Torchy’s queso, we can’t stop thinking about these six dishes months after we tasted them.
Here are the six best chain-restaurant menu items we ate in 2018:
Taco Bell’s fries
In late January, Taco Bell added $US1 nacho fries to the menu for a limited time. Instead of taking the classic fast-food route, Taco Bell tops its fries with a spicy seasoning and serves them with a side of nacho cheese.
The fries were one of Taco Bell’s most successful launches of all time, and for good reason. By ditching fast-food traditions in favour of a spicier fry, paired with nacho cheese, Taco Bell crafted one of the best new menu items of the year by a long shot.
IHOP’s short-lived name change to IHOb – International House of Burgers – set the internet aflame in June. Many people were unconvinced that IHOP’s burgers could ever compare to its pancakes.
However, we found the burgers, which had been recently relaunched by IHOP, shockingly good. The Cowboy BBQ and Big Brunch burgers were both well-seasoned and imaginative takes on hamburgers in an industry stuffed with imitators.
The best new-to-us menu item we tried this year was Torchy’s queso. The entire Torchy’s menu was pretty fantastic, from the masterfully balanced street corn to its massive, unorthodox tacos.
But the thing we couldn’t stop eating long after we were stuffed was the queso. Sure, Torchy’s is more fast-casual than fast food, but to ignore a cheesy dish we’re still thinking about months later would be too sinful an omission.
Sonic’s onion rings
Picking a favourite from Sonic’s menu proved to be a struggle, as we had never visited the chain before. Should we highlight a limited-time offering, like the Pickle Juice Slush, that proved to be much tastier than expected? Or, did we need to highlight a classic, like the Ocean Water?
Ultimately, we settled on the less flashy but pleasantly confusing onion rings as a dish that epitomizes the chain’s charm.
The onion rings have a distinct sweetness that was originally derived from mixing the batter in the same tubs as the chain’s ice cream. Later on, this sweetness was kept to ensure fans wouldn’t miss the distinct taste of these delicious rings.
Whataburger’s patty melt
Whataburger, Sonic, and Torchy’s were three of the highlights on a road trip we took through the Southern US over the summer. As with Sonic, we wanted to highlight Whataburger’s menu but struggled to decide which items stood out above the rest.
The Patty Melt made the list, as it brought an old-school flair you won’t find at many burger chains. If we’re being honest, however, Whataburger left us wanting more – so keep an eye out to see if a yet-untasted menu item from the chain makes the 2019 list of the best items we tried.
Buc-ee’s breakfast tacos
Buc-ee’s may not be a restaurant chain per se, but the gas-station chain had some of the best food we ate all year. The brisket, the pastrami Reuben, the chips – it was all delicious.
The standout was the breakfast taco, perfectly packaged amalgamations of cheese, potato, eggs, bacon, and beans. The foil wrapping sealed in the heat, creating a well-melded breakfast begging to be devoured.
- Read more in our Retailer of the Year series:
- Abercrombie removed its shirtless models and turned up the lights in stores, leading to the biggest retail comeback of the year
- We visited dozens of stores this year, and these were the messiest by far
- We visited a lot of department stores in 2018. Here’s which one was the best to shop at.
- We compared the grocery-shopping experience at 6 major chains in 2018, and this one impressed us the most