Here Are the Winners of The Fasties, Thrillist's Fast Food Awards
There’s a new best burger in fast food. The foremost French fries have been crowned. The debate over which fried chicken sandwich reigns supreme has ended.
Thrillist’s first fast food awards show, The Fasties, have arrived to bestow the ultimate honors on the best foods to come out of drive-thru windows in 2019. We rolled out the ketchup carpet for some of the industry’s biggest names and the rising stars everyone should know about. Hosts David So and Tim DeLaGhetto of Thrillist's Send Foodz presented golden burger trophies to the winners in 16 categories, ranging from Best Burger to -- and this is a big one -- Menu Item of the Decade. We also celebrated a fast food icon's decades of important contributions with the Lifetime Achievement Award, and we said goodbye to the menu items we lost throughout the year during a touching "In Memoriam" reel. The show culminated with the biggest award, Chain of the Year. Of course, there were some shocking upsets.
The ceremony at New York City's SubCulture was complete with glamorous fast food fashion statements, an enormous spread of fast food favorites, a truly astounding performance by professional competitive eater Miki Sudo, and even an adult-sized ball pit -- filled with both balls and actual adults. No, it was certainly not the first time fast food has been celebrated with awards, but it was a fun-filled party that took Thrillist's fast food expertise and our unmatched hunger for all things served in grease-stained bags to the next level.
Long before the advent of the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich and the runaway plant-based burger trend, we've had a borderline-obsessive focus on telling you about the latest from chains like Wendy's and Burger King, how to order from In-N-Out Burger's secret menu, and even how to get, say, your favorite nuggets for free. In fact, writers and editors here have been on the fast food beat for more than a decade.
Yes, handing out shiny cheeseburger statuettes to corporate chains may sound ridiculous, but that's the point. We take fast food seriously, but we also don't take ourselves too seriously. Just look at this ultra-specific ranking of McDonald's dipping sauces or this hour-long podcast all about Taco Bell.
Now, order up your favorite chicken sandwich, make yourself a rum-spiked Frosty, and join us for the show (shown above). You'll also find the winners and nominees in each category listed below.
Best Fried Chicken Sandwich
Popeyes - Chicken Sandwich - WINNER
Chick-fil-A - Chicken Sandwich
McDonald’s - Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich
Carl’s Jr. - Big Chicken Fillet Sandwich
KFC - Crispy Colonel Sandwich
This Easy Hack Is a Delicious New Twist on the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich
How can such a delicious sandwich ever be improved? We think we've found a way.
Culver’s - ButterBurger Cheese - WINNER
In-N-Out Burger - Double-Double
McDonald’s - Quarter Pounder with Cheese
Whataburger - Double Meat Whataburger
Wendy’s - Dave’s Double
Best Plant-Based Burger
White Castle - Impossible Slider - WINNER
Carl’s Jr. - Beyond BBQ Star
Carl’s Jr. - Beyond Famous Star with Cheese
A&W - Beyond Burger
Burger King - Impossible Whopper
What's the Difference Between Fast Food & Fast Casual?
Anthropologists, sociologists, and people weirdly invested in the quick service industry have long argued over a central question: What separates a fast food joint from a so-called fast casual spot?
Arby’s - Curly Fries - WINNER
Checkers/Rally’s - Famous Seasoned Fries
Taco Bell - Nacho Fries
McDonald’s - Fries
Chick-fil-A - Waffle Potato Fries
People's Choice Winner: McDonald's - Fries
Del Taco - The Del Taco - WINNER
Taco Bell - Crunchy Taco
El Pollo Loco - Chicken Taco al Carbon
Taco John’s - Crispy Taco
Jack in the Box - Taco
People's Choice Winner: Taco Bell - Crunchy Taco
Why Fast Food Chains Spend Years Working on Their Next Big Menu Item
The hurdles that stand in the way of culinary development are vast and far-reaching.
Yoshinoya - Cheesecake - WINNER
Wendy’s - Frosty
Culver’s - Vanilla Custard
Taco Bell - Cinnamon Sticks
Jollibee - Peach Mango Pie
People's Choice Winner: Wendy's - Frosty
My Family Craved a Taste of Home, and Fell in Love With Cheesecake
Yoshinoya helped me to recognize the balancing act immigrants perform in a new land, the same balancing act that my own family performed.
Culver's - WINNER
Jack in the Box
People's Choice Winner: McDonald's
Best Breakfast Sandwich
Chick-fil-A - Chicken Biscuit - WINNER
Subway - Bacon, Egg, and Cheese
Wendy’s - Breakfast Baconator
McDonald’s - Bacon, Egg, and Cheese McGriddle
Taco Bell - Breakfast Crunchwrap with Bacon
People's Choice Winner: Chick-fil-A - Chicken Biscuit
Here’s Why Ohio Gets the Newest Fast Food Before Everyone Else
While Southern California modernized the fast food industry, Ohio has served a vital role in helping shape its offerings in the decades since burgers, fries, and the drive-thru redefined America.
Best Chicken Tenders
Raising Cane’s - Chicken Fingers - WINNER
Popeyes - Tenders
Long John Silver’s - Chicken Tenders
Culver’s - Original Chicken Tenders
Chick-fil-A - Chick-n-Strips
Culver’s - Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese Sauce - WINNER
Whataburger - Spicy Ketchup
Chick-fil-A - Chick-fil-A Sauce
McDonald’s - Honey Mustard
Raising Cane’s - Cane’s Sauce
Weird Things Happen at Fast Food Restaurants. Here Are Our Favorite Stories From 2019.
Fast food restaurants are where the weirdest minor crimes, most heartwarming stories, and laughable tales go down.
Best New Menu Item of the Year
Popeyes - Chicken Sandwich - WINNER
Burger King - Impossible Whopper
KFC - Kentucky Fried Wings
Taco Bell - Black Bean Crunchwrap Supreme
Chick-fil-A - Mac & Cheese
Regional Chain of the Year
Culver's - WINNER
Stop Ignoring the Best Regional Fast Food Chain in the Country
Too many people have slept on this quiet chain with such an intense word-of-mouth love that it doesn’t even bother advertising.
Chain of the Year
Popeyes - WINNER
Menu Item of the Decade
Taco Bell - Doritos Locos Taco - WINNER
KFC - Double Down
Popeyes - Chicken Sandwich
McDonald’s - Szechuan Sauce
White Castle - Impossible Slider
Lifetime Achievement Award
This year, Thrillist is honoring ketchup, the king of fast food condiments, for its decades of invaluable contributions to your favorite cheeseburgers, fries, and more. Our video tribute to ketchup (see above), chronicles the surprising history of tomato ketchup -- from its origins to how it impacts fast food today.
Most Valuable Pickle (MVP)
There's no other pickle in the game quite like the one on the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich. This briny cucumber, which Popeyes sources fresh and always refrigerated from a Chicago-based company, makes the sandwich the transcendent fast food experience that it is, according to Popeyes Vice President of Culinary Innovation Amy Alarcon.
"That wonderful pickle," Alarcon said in a recent interview with Thrillist. "We had a pickle in the system that we were using, and I don't want to hate on it, but it was just not great. So, we worked with a group of Chicago, Chipico, and the new pickle is a fresh pickle that's refrigerated -- there's no additives. It's just a perfectly wonderful, crispy, crunchy, fresh, pickle. Plus, it's kind of big... The combination of all that together sends it over the edge. That's our secret weapon."
And if you thought Popeyes' pickle choice was the result of endless sampling and research and development, you'd be wrong. The big, salty slices the chain chose were the first -- and the last -- that Alarcon tried while creating the sandwich. It was the perfect match on day one. As she put it, "There wasn't another choice. We just had to have it."
All said, you could absolutely eat the pickles off of the sandwich and they'd be great. But if you eat the sandwich after taking off the pickles, it won't be as nearly as delicious. It won't be mind-blowing. There's a reason why the Popeyes Sandwich, unlike others in the league, doesn't bother to include lettuce and tomatoes: It has an MVP on its team.
While several fast food giants discontinued menu offerings in 2019, only one chain said goodbye to multiple -- and in some cases beloved -- mainstays. Please join us in taking a moment to honor all of the fast food menu items we lost throughout the year.
EDITORIALEditor: Tony Merevick
Writers: Kat Thompson, Ruby Anderson, Megan Schaltegger, Dustin Nelson, Gianni Jaccoma, Kevin Alexander, Wil Fulton, Andy Kryza, Ryan Joseph, and Lee Breslouer
Special thanks: Maddie Bensinger, Pete Dombrosky, Wil Fulton, Alex Garofalo, Sarah Halliday, Helen Hollyman, Meghan Kirsch, John LoPresto, Abby Maddigan, Bison Messink, Jason Pollack, Stacey Richman, and SubCulture
CREATIVECreative Director: Audra Pace
Photography Director: Drew Swantak
Sr. Photographer: Cole Saladino
Sr. Illustrator: Jason Hoffman
Sr. Designer: Maggie Rossetti
Motion Graphics Designer: Danna Windsor and John Samels
Graphic Designer: Emily Carpenter
VIDEOHosts: Timothy DeLaGhetto and David So
Competitive Eater: Miki Sudo
Red Carpet Host: Amber Sutherland-Namako
Camera Operators: Duell Davis, Sammy levine, Kyle LeClaire, and Carrie Stalk
Camera Assistant: Ian Slakas
Associate Producers: Mia Faske and Jen Osaki
Producers: Stephen Gemmiti and Debbie Wong
Editor: Aaron Rubin
Animator: Danna Windsor
Voice Over Artist: Brandon Richard
Senior Photographer: Cole Saladino
Production Assistants: Sonia Colón and Amaris Mitchell
Production Coordinator: Myra Rivera
Senior Producers: Chas Truslow and Gabrielle Williott
Line Producer: Emily Tufaro
Director of Development: Leo Fernandez
Creative Director: Audra Pace
Head of Video: Jim D’Amico
Chief Content Officer: Meghan Kirsch