I don't often eat fast food, but when I do, it's in situations like this one. Not as a meal plan, we rarely eat out and when we do it tends to be pizza. No, most fast food that I have eaten in my adult life is as the result of a late afternoon hunger that is caused by eating a small breakfast and then downing my lunch a couple hours earlier than I should. Most days, I am stuck at work and fill that craving with chips or something equally banal from the vending machines, but since I had the car I knew that a cheapy drive-through burger would hit the spot far better than some Doritios or a Snickers bar. Typically in this situation, I'd go to a Burger King or Jack in the Box. As much as I prefer locally owned establishments, you aren't going to find a burger for a buck at Westside Drive-In. But as I drove down State Street, I noticed a sign hanging below the scrolling LED reader at Fanci Freez. "Budget Burger 95 cents, always!" How could I pass this up? Nowadays, even the mainstream fast food places don't have food that cheap, their dollar menus all sneakily becoming "value" menus with everything starting at $1.20 or more.
I decided to park on the street and walk up, the better to take pictures. I used to live in this part of town, and went frequently to Fanci Freez for ice cream, but I hadn't really had many burgers there. Not that it necessarily matters--in the time since I lived off of State Street, Fanci Freez merged with another local burger place, Big Bun. The whole outer facade is different too, the owners taking advantage of a drunk driver's accident to remodel the building.
|Not how it looked in 2000.|
I didn't have memory to compete with. Neither had I eaten at Big Bun before the merger, so I didn't have that establishment's glory days in mind. Really, I didn't have the cash at hand or the appetite for a full review--I knew going in that this would just be a quick bite, and the comparison would have to be against the other burgers in this weight class.
Fanci Freez actually has quite an extensive menu, especially if you include the ice cream options, so I stared at it for a long time before ordering. I may have been looking to order the budget burger, but that doesn't mean I wasn't open to other selections. However, the burger is in a class by itself--the next cheapest sandwich was almost three dollars--so I settled on two burgers and a small fry. I was happy to see that I had the option of gems (tater tots, to normal people,) but went with the fries anyway. Although I didn't mind the weather, I grew a bit antsy during my wait. Not a lot of people or cars were there, and I hoped the food would be super fresh to account for the time it took.
The burgers were about what I expected size-wise. I felt like the fries were a decent amount for a small. My biggest disappointment walking back to the table was the fry sauce--it was prepackaged in a generic cup from some distributor. To be fair, I don't really care for fry sauce in general, but the few times I've enjoyed it were due to a restaurant adjusting the recipe. This was standard pink stuff. At least they had squeeze bottles of ketchup and mustard on the table, and I went with the same ratio (2 parts ketchup 1 part mustard, sprinkle of black pepper) as I do when I eat corn dogs.
As for the fries themselves? I liked them quite a bit. They were almost hybrid fries, having a bit of skin and a seasoned coating (more than just salt) like a potato wedge would, but still being slender and crisp like your typical fast food fry. All in all, they were quite satisfying, even if they were salty enough to turn the 32 cent surcharge on water into an annoyance. (I'm not usually that cheap, but my decision to get two burgers instead of one during this "snack" put water 28 cents out of my price range.) And I got a free gem besides! Joking aside, I know it bothers some people but I am actually happy when my fried foods mingle, and if/when I come back I might just see if they'd do a 50/50 split--removes dread of making the wrong decision.
So that leaves us with the burger itself. It was OK. Not great, not good, but not bad either. It tasted good, and they use a good pickle. The bun is toasted, and the ketchup and mustard are evenly distributed. I've heard complaints that the patty is too small, and it is rather thin, but it is also 95 cents. I think a bigger issue is that the buns are the same buns used for regular burgers, and they dwarf the small patty as well as swaddling it in bread. But all the same, I was pleased with my purchase. I can see why a burger for a buck wouldn't have lettuce or tomato, but I thought it could have been improved with the addition of little minced onions like McDonalds had on their regular hamburgers/cheeseburgers, but aside from that and the bun issue I felt like my money was well spent. Nothing I ate was fantastic, but in the long run there was enough quality in the meal to justify going with the local option next time I need a cheap hamburger, and if I feel the need for a milkshake one day, I might take the family along and do a full review.