Fast Food Dishes We’d Like to See Back on the Menu

Fast Food Dishes We’d Like to See Back on the Menu

Fast food chains are always (to borrow a one-time slogan from Taco Bell) thinking outside the bun. They all have serious test kitchens and employ skilled chefs — men and women who could just as well be working at upscale restaurants (where they likely wouldn’t make as much money) — to constantly refine their offerings and come up with new items to delight their regular patrons and theoretically win new ones. (These are the restaurant chains with the happiest customers.)

Their menus, in other words, constantly evolve. In the first few weeks of March, for instance, Chipotle introduced quesadillas for the first time, Wienerschnitzel added an Aussie Dog and a Texas Dog to their array of franks, and Sonic Drive-In rolled out, as a limited-time special, a bacon jam cheeseburger.

Of course, not all the new items stick around forever. Some are intentionally seasonal or keyed to holiday periods (fish sandwiches proliferate across the industry during Lent; St. Patrick’s Day inevitably sees lots of green food). Others, though, just never find an audience, like Arby’s Fish Sandwich (seafood from a chain whose motto is “We have the meats?”), or were patently bad ideas to begin with, like the McLean Deluxe — a McDonald’s burger that was 90% beef and 10% carrageenan seaweed. (At least it was reduced in calories. Here are 30 popular fast foods that are real calorie bombs.)

Sometimes, too, fast food items disappear but then come back. Taco Bell, for instance, just reintroduced their Quesalupa, a kind of super-size taco with a puffy shell, which had been phased out in 2016. And then there’s the famous McRib, a reconstituted pork patty with barbecue sauce, first added to the McDonald’s line-up in 1981 and since then pulled off and added back on countless times. (It made a reappearance most recently in December, but is now already on hiatus again.)

Almost everything ever served up by fast food chains has had some fans, of course, and every time some creation of those busy test kitchens disappears, people mourn its absence. 24/7 Tempo has assembled a list of fast-food dishes we’d like to see return ourselves, some of them really good and others just so, well, creative that we hate to see them slip into obscurity.

Source: jeepersmedia / Flickr

1. Breakfast waffle taco
> Chain: Taco Bell

The undisputed star of the chain’s new breakfast menu back in 2014, this was a pliable waffle folded around a sausage patty, cheese, and scrambled eggs, with a side of syrup to drizzle over the thing (or dip it into). It was phased out the following year.

Source: jfmdesign / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

2. Fish McBites
> Chain: McDonald’s

You had to really be paying attention to notice these battered and fried little pieces of pollock filet (also the basis of the Filet-O-Fish) — more or less a smaller ocean-going equivalent of Chicken McNuggets. Introduced in February of 2013, they barely lasted a month.

Source: Mike Mozart from Funny YouTube, USA / Wikimedia Commons

3. Popcorn chicken
> Chain: KFC

There’s still a version of these small pieces of breaded and deep-fried chicken on the KFC menu, called Popcorn Nuggets, but the original “popcorn” was smaller, giving the pieces a better crunchy-coating-to-chicken ratio, and they were available in a hot and spicy variation, which the Nuggets aren’t.

Source: kajakiki / E+ via Getty Images

4. Acapulco chicken salad
> Chain: Jack in the Box

Jack in the Box has long been known for its American-style tacos (the Wall Street Journal reported in 2017 that Americans were eating 554 million of them a year), and in 2006 it introduced this Mexican-inspired romaine and spring lettuce mix topped with grilled chicken, shredded pepper jack cheese, grape tomatoes, cucumber slices, red onions, and cilantro-lime dressing. “Ethnic flavors, particularly Latin flavors, are becoming more popular with American consumers,” a chain marketing executive said at the time. Not that popular, apparently, as this item soon disappeared, reappearing in 2008 before vanishing again.

Source: gkrphoto / iStock via Getty Images

5. Chicken Caesar pita
> Chain: Wendy’s

In response to the wrap craze of the 1990s, Wendy’s launched four Stuffed Pita sandwiches in 1997. The ranch chicken, garden veggie, and classic Greek versions were okay, but the winner was this assemblage of white-meat chicken chunks, romaine lettuce, red cabbage, shredded carrots, shredded parmesan cheese, and low-fat Caesar dressing. It didn’t last very far into the 2000s, unfortunately.

Source: Dariia Havriusieva / iStock via Getty Images

6. Artisan grilled chicken sandwich
> Chain: McDonald’s

A good example of the extent to which the term “artisan” has been co-opted into meaningless marketing jargon, this was a grilled chicken breast filet with lettuce, tomato, and vinaigrette dressing on a “delectable artisan roll,” most likely not fashioned by hand by some craftsman baker. Nonetheless, it all added up to something at least a little better than the chain’s standard chicken sandwich offerings. It made its debut in 2015 and was discontinued last year, at least for now.

Source: jeepersmedia / Flickr

7. Double Down
> Chain: KFC

A creation that gave nutritionists apoplexy, this is a hefty bacon and cheese sandwich with barbecue sauce in which the bread is replaced with two flat pieces of fried chicken filet. After test marketing in Rhode Island and Nebraska, it was introduced nationwide in April 2010. It has been off and on the menu ever since, both here and internationally (you can find it right now in Italy, for instance), but is currently not available in the U.S.

Source: Courtesy of Taco Bell

8. XXL Grilled Stuft Burrito
> Chain: Taco Bell

A substantially sized burrito filled with meat, cheese, beans, rice, guacamole, sour cream, and avocado ranch sauce, then crisped up on the flat-top grill, this offering was once described by the chain’s chief marketing officer as one of “the most popular and portable menu items Taco Bell has to offer.” Nonetheless, it got edited out in 2019 as part of a “menu simplification.” One lover of the specialty promptly established a Change.org petition asking for it to be brought back, but so far that hasn’t happened.

Source: rez-art / iStock via Getty Images

9. Bacon and Blue burger
> Chain: Wendy’s

Wendy’s originally introduced a bacon and blue cheese burger in 2010, then relaunched it in 2015 for a limited time. This was a seriously good burger, a patty enhanced with crumbled Wisconsin blue cheese, blue cheese herb aïoli, applewood-smoked bacon, and mixed greens and served on a toasted brioche bun. It soon lost out, however, apparently at least in part because it was difficult to eat, falling apart after the first bite.

Source: spaxiax / iStock via Getty Images

10. Potato wedges
> Chain: KFC

KFC does a great job with fried chicken, but frankly their fries aren’t the best around. What they used to serve instead of fries, though, were wedges of potato, deep-fried in a light seasoned coating — unusual in the fast food world and pretty tasty.

Source: Courtesy of Taco Bell

11. Volcano taco
> Chain: Taco Bell

A crispy dark red taco shell with a filling of ground beef, lettuce, and spicy, cheesy “lava sauce,” this was an unusually fiery offering from the chain, which may explain why it was removed from the menu, not once but (after a reappearance) twice.

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12. Cheesarito
> Chain: Taco Bell

The cheesarito was a great snack — taco cheese, scallions, and salsa wrapped inside a flour tortilla and warmed until the cheese melted. Though it is no longer officially offered, fans report that it can usually be ordered as a “secret menu” option.

Source: LauriPatterson / iStock via Getty Images

13. Angus three cheese and bacon sandwich
> Chain: Arby’s

Appearing in 2011, this involved sliced premium Black Angus beef, pepper bacon, melted cheddar and Swiss, and parmesan peppercorn ranch sauce on a toasted roll from Philadelphia’s renowned Amarosa bakery — really a first-class sandwich. It’s nowhere to be found on the chain’s menu today.

Source: jeepersmedia / Flickr

14. Whopperito
> Chain: Burger King

The Whopper, of course, is this chain’s signature burger and the Whopperito, born in 2016, was basically a Whopper wrapped in a flour tortilla instead of served on a bun — the differences being that the “burger” was ground beef with taco seasoning, and queso cheese sauce took the place of the usual condiments. It didn’t last long, and though a 2017 Facebook page was devoted to encouraging its return, it is no longer available.

Source: theimpulsivebuy / Flickr

15. Brunch burger
> Chain: Jack in the Box

Introduced in 2013, the brunch burger upped the ante on the usual croissant breakfast sandwich by adding a burger patty, hash browns, and mayo to the standard filling of fried egg, bacon, and cheese. The sandwich disappeared for a time but reappeared as part of the chain’s Brunchfast promotion in 2016. It has since gone away again

Source: LauriPatterson / E+ via Getty Images

16. Pretzel bacon cheeseburger
> Chain: Wendy’s

The bacon, the cheese, and the burger in this creation were basically standard Wendy’s fare, but the bun was an innovation — a slightly chewy, reasonably flavorful pretzel alternative to the usual one. The burger appeared first in 2013, briefly, and was revived the following year. Then it went away again in 2015 and hasn’t been seen since. In its place, the chain introduced a needlessly gussied up version, adding honey mustard, beer cheese sauce, fried onions, and pickles to the original.

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17. Roast beef sandwich
> Chain: Subway

The make-it-to-order sandwich chain reformulated their original roast beef offering in 2015, roasting the meat with garlic and black pepper. To the dismay of Subway-lovers, both the roast beef and another popular offering, rotisserie chicken, have been taken off the menu, at least for now as a part of a pandemic-driven downscaling.

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18. Ciabatta Collection garlic steak & provolone sandwich
> Chain: Subway

In 2019, Subway expanded their standard bread choices to include ciabatta, used for four new Italian-inspired sandwiches. The best of them was this construction of thin-sliced steak, melted provolone, tomato, green pepper, onion, aïoli sauce, and fresh-ground spices. The entire “collection” performed less well than expected and was gone by 2020.

Source: a_namenko / iStock via Getty Images

19. Steak fajita flatbread
> Chain: Arby’s

Black Angus steak, avocado sour cream, Colby cheese, red and yellow bell pepper, red onion, tomato, and shredded iceberg lettuce inside a pita added up to a hefty, savory sandwich when Arby’s introduced it in 2015. It went away briefly and was revived the following year as a limited time offering. The limit was quickly reached.

Source: EzumeImages / iStock via Getty Images

20. Cheesy macaroni bites
> Chain: Jack in the Box

These little triangles of mac & cheese, battered and deep-fried, made a brief appearance in 2008. Last year, the chain tested a new version of the snack at several West Coast locations, but, so far at least, they haven’t shown up on the menu.

Source: rez-art / Getty Images

21. Steakhouse onion rings
> Chain: Arby’s

Big rounds of onion with a thick, crisp breading were one of this chain’s best side dishes. When they appeared in 2010, they were a replacement for Arby’s onion “petals,” which were little slices of onion instead of more toothsome rings. This year, the rings themselves were replaced, apparently, sources say, by sweet potato waffle fries.

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22. Cajun rice
> Chain: Popeye’s

Everybody loves Popeye’s fried chicken, but the sides have always gotten mixed reviews. Apparently the chain’s Cajun rice, a longtime menu item that did a decent job of approximating traditional Louisiana “dirty rice” (complete with bits of ground beef and fine-ground chicken gizzards mixed in), was one of customers’ least favorite dishes. This year it and another side of green beans were scratched off.

Source: krblokhin / iStock via Getty Images

23. Cini Minis
> Chain: Burger King

Small frosted cinnamon buns, these were an unusual choice for the burger chain’s menu when they first appeared in 1998, but they lasted well into the 2000s and after disappearing were brought back temporarily in 2018 as an exclusive through Grubhub in 32 states. A current Change.org petition is now seeking their return for one and all.

Source: hongquang09 / iStock via Getty Images

24. Fried apple pie
> Chain: McDonald’s

Sweets aren’t the first thing people associate with McDonald’s, but the original fried apple pie became an instant classic when it became the first dessert offered by the chain, back in 1968. Responding to customer concerns about health and nutrition, the company killed off the pies in 1992, replacing them with a baked version that has been refined several times since then. Fried was better.

Source: fabio_sozza / iStock via Getty Images

25. Caramel apple empanada
> Chain: Taco Bell

McDonald’s fried apple pie was undeniably delicious, but Taco Bell went them one better by producing a similar hand pie, but with caramel sauce cloaking the apples, probably on the quite reasonable theory that caramel makes everything taste better.

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