Who knows how many unnecessary, unhealthy, aorta-clogging meat patties have passed through my bloodstream, long past the hour of night that I should have been eating? Should I regret it? Maybe I would if Whataburger’s taquitos weren’t so fondly bonded in my head with sneaking pre-21 beers with friends. Maybe I’d regret it more if those late, hangover-curing conversations with my family weren’t so strong of a memory. I don’t care how bad for me it was to eat Whataburger -- when my mom called the house to ask me what I wanted from drive-through at one in the morning, I always got a beam of excitement.
It’s one of the reasons I write about cheeseburgers now as a human adult. I’ve eaten some of the best burgers in the country, from LA’s infamous Office burger, with blue cheese and caramelized onions, to the stunning cheeseburger at the Breslin in New York. Yet I still crave Whataburger bacon cheeseburgers with jalapeños. Every now and then, I still need to have a double cheeseburger topped with a boatload of green chilies. Yearly, a stash of Whataburger ketchup (spicy, please) always finds its way back into my house. Then, there’s the jalapeño cheddar biscuit, which is stupidly delicious with a slice of American cheese. I still like to smash the Whataburger burger buns down with my palm because that’s something we used to do to burgers. No idea why.
It’s hard not to love it because Whataburger has kept focused over the years. Most fast-food chains are releasing challenge dishes, practically threatening you to near-dystopian concoctions like a Hell in a Cell cage match. Whataburger is like the really great baseball player who’s played for a lifetime and you’d bet your life has never even considered performance-enhancing drugs. They’re not replacing their buns with circular hot dog patties, or inserting a full pizza, somehow, into the center of a meat patty, or deep frying a cheeseburger in a batter of Doritos (though that doesn’t sound like the worst thing) -- they’re keeping things simple and late-night delicious.
There’s no item on the menu that looks like it was created by a Marvel villain to destroy us slowly through food. There’s no quadruple-baconated menu item named after an unstoppable cybernetic organism who will stop at nothing to kill you.