Get That Man A Chalupa!
I was a little taken aback by Danny Meyer's comments in the Sept. 10 New York Times magazine. When asked by Deborah Solomon had he ever eaten at Taco Bell, Meyer responded with this dig:
"I went last year for the first time ever. I thought it was horrible. Whatever I am going to get in terms of a lower-priced and quicker transaction would never, ever convince me not to spend twice as much time and twice as much money getting something made by someone with a more individual point of view."
Quite a classist statement. I can assure Mr. Meyer that there are many who have had meals at some of his restaurants who wouldn't pay half what he charges.
Putting his restaurant aside, I'm sure that Mr. Meyer eats at the top of the food chain, the best of everything. Eating at Taco Bell after that is going to be a horror show.
But just because he has money doesn't make that statement wrong or classist.
And before anyone says anything about my tastes, look at my profile. McDonalds is my top 5 restaurant. You'll find me passionately defending the Olive Garden or praising the virtues of the crunch wrap supreme and the McRib.
I can re-phrase that statement for the other end of the food chain.
Whatever I am going to get would usually convince me not to spend occasionally twice as much time and HALF as much money getting something made by someone with a more individual point of view.
The thing is that often what you get at a place that is made with an individual point of view ... be it the star chef or the tamale lady selling out of plastic garbage bags on the street, is so far better than Taco Bell or whatever.
I'm really a hard core McDonald's addict ... for flavor, convenience, and times in my life, price.
But this past year, I've started eating at all the mom and pops near me and street vendors. I find myself stopping by McDonald's less and less. I don't think I've eaten there this month. The other fast food barely catch my eye anymore. Yeah, Jack In the Box has their Outlaw Burger out now and not only didn't I try it, I don't even care what is in it.
When I do go to fast food joints, I'm blown away about how pricy they are compared to the mom and pop across the street.
The six bucks for a fast food fat-laden burger and fries will get me an equisite bowl of pozole or pho or name the soup. Or going burger a burger, a Brazilian x-tudo with twice the meat and overflowing with all sorts of interesting condiments between the two buns.
My $1.25 taco from a truck comes with juicy, long stewed meat topped with fresh onions, salsa and cilantro, maybe with pickled carrots, grilled green onions, radishes and chips on the side. Or I can buy the Taco Bell version with the chicken tasting like it was marinated in lemon Mr. Clean ... and it is more expensive ... the least expensive 99 cent special at TB don't come with chips and fresh radish.
Yeah, I'll still defend fast food and eat it, though less and less often. The virtue in most fast food is consistancy, maybe a synonym for mediocrity. It is neither really good or really bad. It is the same.
In my area, the Carvel chocolate soft-serve cone is better than all the prissy, over-priced ice cream and gelato. But that could be because these places, whatever the pedigree don't have soul. They have marketing machine and their point of view is making a name and a buck.
Food made with the point of view of deliciousness is another thing.
And it doesn't make the statement untrue or even elitist.
"I can assure Mr. Meyer that there are many who have had meals at some of his restaurants who wouldn't pay half what he charges."
What happened when the bill comes and they only paid half?
At least for me, it's not the decor.
Fast food's appeal is generally it's convenience, sameness (or consistency), relative inexpensiveness, and should IMO be part of any well-rounded culinary rotation for a chowhound.
Look at it this way, while you might own several nice 3-piece cashmere suits, it would be absurd to think that a person should/would/could wear these suits all the time. There are times when a pair of jeans and a t-shirt will do just fine ... this is when McDonald's or any other fast-food chain fills the niche.
You think sweetbread raviolis (The Modern at MOMA) is "health food"?
Or what about a dish like the pig's feet croquette at Eleven Madison - that isn't exactly heart healthy I'd imagine.
And, really, not all fast-food is unhealthy. Subway subs, say what you want about them, can be quite healthy if customized properly.