When McDonald's announced the death of its Dollar Menu (which was kind of a false alarm), college students and other people with crappier excuses for being cheap began to panic.
"How will we become fatter without thinning our wallets?" we asked through mouthfuls of $1 McDoubles that would go up an entire $.49. Fear not; as our good deed for the day, we sought out nine popular chains with value menus to find out how to get the most bang for your literal buck. And by "bang," we mean "chins."
At about $0.45 a bite (or $3 a bite, if you're Gary Busey), an $0.86 Whitey's cheeseburger isn't necessarily a great value, but if you consider all the crazy taste receptors that light up in your mouth when you eat the most deliciously fake-tasting burger around, it seems almost trivial to put a price tag on such euphoria.
Mozzarella sticks, $0.99
Sonic doesn't have a dollar menu, per se, but it does have a happy hour from 2-4pm that includes dollar items like corn dogs and onion rings. Best of all, though, is an order of mozzarella sticks. Fried breaded cheese is worth its weight in gold, and that's way more than a buck.
Jack in the Box
Since they market to people who eat fried crap at 4:20am, it's appropriate that you have to be plenty euphoric to brave its two $1 items. The basic hockey puck chicken sandwich is a safe choice, but you know you want the two tacos: see-through shells stuffed with wilted lettuce, American cheese, and some weird meat/bean paste. They're as gross as they sound... yet, at 4:20am, kinda perfect.
Spicy Chicken Sandwich, $1
The West Coast's Hardee's -- which doesn't appear to have a dollar menu, the snobs -- offers up the best $1 chicken sandwich out there. You'll enjoy a mildly spicy piece of what appears to be real chicken, fresh-ish lettuce, a solid bun, and a generous, but not saturating, coat of mayo.
Junior Cheeseburger and Frosty, $0.99
Another fast-food joint that ditched a solid dollar menu in favor of a "Right Price, Right Size Menu" (see also: "menu"), Wendy's loses points for getting rid of the Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, offering, instead, a bacon-less version. But at least they kept the small Frosty. Hell, they've also got $0.99 fries that you can dip in it, if you're one of those gross people who does that.
Sure, it's the home of the Whopper, but you know what? The Whopper's just a slightly bigger version of this, but with tomatoes and lettuce. And no cheese. You're paying more -- like, $3 more -- for something that's actually somehow made worse than this cheesy, flame-broiled, simple pleasure. It's not called Whopper King for a reason.
The Golden Arches may have pared down their $1 offerings, but they atoned by adding stuff like a grilled onion burger. Still, nothing beats the overly peppered, overly mayonnaised McNugget on a bun: the McChicken. It's also a sound argument that Mickey D's should offer mayo as a dipping sauce.
Hard- & soft-shelled tacos, $0.99
Roll 'em in Doritos powder, and the plain-old tacos would be the best thing on T-Bell's menu. Since they're not, at $0.99 for both soft- and hard-shelled tacos, the second-best thing on the menu's a hell of a snag. Especially since they taste like Chipotle compared to ol' Jack in the Box.
Most filling: Carl's Jr. -- Their chicken sandwich doesn't require a side of more sandwiches.
The worst: Jack in the Box -- That these tacos are also marketed as sides is pretty alarming.
The best: McDonald's -- Seriously, the McChicken begs the question: why don't McNuggets just come with mayonnaise?!