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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Top 5 Regional Drive Thru’s

By Ned Hepburn


Ever wonder why there’s ads for Sonic all over the television but the nearest one is 200 miles away? Or why Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle is such a good movie DESPITE never having been to a White Castle? Or, for our East Coast readers, when you hear about In N Out Burger from all your West Coast friends?

Well, Manolith is here to answer all your questions.

1. Sonic


Anywhere you go, you see the ads. You always hear about how good the shakes are, and you know a friend that magically found one, but predominately these burger joints are found pretty far away wherever the hell you’re at. I had a roommate - true story - who drove three hours from Chicago to downstate Illinois just to get one (he was that kind of guy).

The burgers themselves aren’t that bad, the shakes are frankly amazing for a fast food place, and the fries are too puffy for my liking, but who else serves tater tots and who else serves them on roller blades up to your car, using a sort of pseudo-Jetsons food board?

The reason that the ads are so ubiquitous but the franchise themselves are so spread out (unless you’re in the Bible Belt or the South) is, according to a Sonic spokesperson who declined to give her name, is that “we’re expanding our franchise and merely building brand awareness. We’d rather have five or six locations be visited all day every day than have many locations barely visited. We’re in a huge expansion phase via word of mouth and the television ads help expand that and drive more people to try our burgers”.

2. Del Taco


A largely Southern California franchise, Del Taco retains the kind of fervor in young boys hearts of a certain upbringing best reserved for baseball cards and Radio Flyers. If you’ve were brought up south of Bakersfield and enjoy beer now and then, you’ve made a late night run to Del Taco. A spokesperson declined to give an answer as to why they had not expanded nationality, but in Manolith’s opinion its because the market is more than monopolized by Taco Bell. Taco Bell is - lets face it - somewhat of a joke; Taco Bell is to Mexican food what Madonna is to acting. Just not good. Sadly, the Bell is everywhere, and Del Taco just ain’t, which sucks, because Del Taco is three times better. They use real chunks of meat that you can actually see as opposed to the strange meat hybrid that Taco Bell uses and its a shame they’re not more widely available - during my college years in Chicago I’d have killed for a hangover-killing taco feast from a drive thru, but alas, to no avail.

3. In N Out


In N Out is another Southern California staple so fucking synonymous with the landscape of SoCal food that one particular member of the Manolith Office actually chose an apartment due to its approximation to an In N Out franchise. They’re delicious, totally delicious, burgers and fries and milkshakes - and that’s it. You’ll be pressed to find onion rings or anything else (save “coffee” and “milk” and your choice of soda) on the menu, because In N Out does just those things: burgers, fries, and shakes.

The secret, though, is the ingredients. All the ingredients are 85% local and fresh - a HUGE advancement for a fast food chain - but its quality that you can literally taste, as anyone who has been to one during lunch or dinner rush can attest to, the place is always packed. Having been in an hour long line for one of their famous Double Doubles (two patties, two cheese slices burgers) and happily waiting for it, I’ll be the first to tell you that the quality is the best part about this thing.

And also exactly why they haven’t expanded. Despite being hugely, hugely popular, the company simply hasn’t found reliable farmers for their tomatoes, lettuce, and beef, and refuses to expand until they can find somewhat that meets their high standards.

4. White Castle


White Castle seems to stop somewhere west of Chicago, which is a huge shame, because - sweet Jesus - it’s the best hangover food you’ve ever had.

Nothing can quite prepare you for the anal carnage that goes on six to eight hours after you’ve had their famous Sliders, which are basically miniature hamburgers, which live up their name if you are want to believe the urban legend as to how they got their name (about how they slide right out of you on the way out). But they’re so good going down it should be made criminal.

Speculation on as to why White Castle haven’t made it from coast to coast runs from Internet rumors about lack of money to simply the fact that they’re so well established and in the words of Alfred E. Neuman, “Why Try Harder?”. We couldn’t get anyone on the phone from White Castle, but we’d speculate on the latter. They’re so ingrained in East Coast life that moving them to the West might prove fruitless, dealing with heavyweights In N Out and Jack In The Box.

5. Jack In The Box


One of the great tragedies in life is that Jack In The Box is just a West Coast phenomenon. It is - without a doubt - a stoners paradise. Per say you want two tacos at three in the morning? And you only have a dollar? DONE. Maybe you’re really feeling on some rice bowl thing, an’ hell why not, an egg roll? YOU CAN HAVE ONE. It’s fucking beautiful; democracy at work. And the burgers and all that aren’t exactly Michelin cuisine, but hey! I’m stoned! Where else can you get mini churros, a rice bowl, a chicken pita sandwich, and a mint shake at any time of the day? It’s insane. The menu follows no rhyme nor reason but it’s the best place to go after a few hits of the Honey Bear Bong.