No excursion to the land of gleaming alabaster cities is ever without a dégustation of the fast food delicacies that we poor Limeys miss out on. So when we headed over recently, we ate a fucking bunch of it.
McDonald's Mighty Wings / Horse Cave, KY
Given his penchant for things 100% edible, it is strange to think that Ronald would trouble himself with anything as annoying as bones.
But hats off to the face-painted one, he has finally relented to the national fixation with flightless bird arms and replicated some pretty standard crispy coated wings. Whilst not the prettiest, they are surprisingly less greasy than your average Chicken Cottage, and have a particularly rugged-thick breadcrumb coating that is more a sombre savoury and understated flavour than the MSGelightful taste of the Colonel's.
At over a dollar a wing, it is a pretty pricey menu item comparatively. However, they are pretty darn big, you can barely get the fuckers into the dipping sauce containers, where they get their chickens from we just do not want to know.
There are a variety of sauces, but the Buffalo version you can get with them is gratifyingly thick, almost luminous, and pretty decent with the desired hotness and tang. But be warned, it is very fucking tricky to get out of a rug when you trample a container of it into one.
Worth getting over nuggets? For the novelty, yes. Regularly, doubtful.
We also gave the Double Grilled Onion Cheddar a once around, and it is weirdly un-McDonalds: Soft, moist caramelized onions paired with a very mild, melty cheddar results in a more delicate flavour unlike the usual bombastic saucy items the Arches bang out. It is rather decent.
Taco Bell's Doritos Locos Flamas / Chicago, IL
If Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch are the 'standard' Doritos flavours used in Taco Bell's bonkers successful Locos taco line, then the new Fiery version is the batshit crazy Cousin Eddie of the gang.
Based on the Flamas chips (a flavour we don't even get over here) the friable shell is a frighteningly vivid deep, finger tarnishing, red. It is nigh on impossible not to lick the thickly powdered surface, brandishing an abundant tangy heat and spice and a sweet citrus aftertaste.
When you douse a taco shell with something as close to snack crack as you can get, you could give shit about the contents anymore, merely acting as a squishy, cheesy, and unnecessarily healthy understudy to the bouquet-laden top billing.
It's fucking awesome. Obviously.
The White Castle 'Crave Case' - Louisville, KY
If you have read our initial reaction to visiting this pearly food fortress, you may remember that we mused their cheeseburgers "must taste incredible after a bunch of Miller Lights".
Being the fastidious research professionals we are, come Rob's birthday in Kentucky we got fucked up on various light beers and went: All thanks to our taxi driver who, having driven us to our local Papa John's which was closed, mentioned in passing that White Castle was two blocks away.
Revelatory celebrations and a short jaywalking sprint later, we were in front of the counter:
'One Crave Case of cheeseburgers please.'
There is no feeling more synchronously adult and childlike than walking out of a White Castle with an actual cardboard suitcase full of thirty burgers, giddy glee and imagined proud maturity engaging in an expression fight on a contorted mush.
Back at the hotel, uninhibited face stuffing and scenes of content drunken moans followed. Unabashedly Harold and Kumar-esque. Each soft, moist, meat and cheesy morsel tasting better than the last until, at around 12 burgers in we had to relent.
It is possibly the greatest drunk food to ever exist.
And the next day, they taste just as good after a thirty second blast in the microwave. Believe.
Popeye's Po' Boy - Nashville, TN
The Po' Boy is another classic American that has failed to materialise in any decent form in London town yet. The few efforts that have surfaced have been poor, with one gaff having the fucking stones to serve it in a wrap. Mugs.
Yet fast food chains in the States deliver shit like this with scary competence. And where better to sample one than the original 'Louisiana Kitchen'.
A pleasing supple and spongy toasted french-style baguette houses a tangy tartar sauce, lettuce, pickles and a truck load of crispy, breaded shrimp. It's slightly heavier on the breaded than the shrimp, but it is an in-no-way greasy, satisfying sandwich.
You could do worse than adding their ketchup-based cocktail sauce if you want a sweet and hot zingy spiciness to the mix.
London pretenders take note.
Wendy's Baconator / Can't Remember, USA
Is the Baconator the best named burger ever or what? Seriously. Just try saying it without putting on an awful Austrian bodybuilder accent.
It is the first stop burger for Epic Meal Time, and probably the best fucking bacon cheese in the fast food market: A half-pound of signature square(ish) patties are banged into a surprisingly soft bun, with super crispy smoked bacon and a couple of slices of American. That sticky meat ménage a trois is adequately lubed up with ketchup and mayo on the top, so it avoids becoming dry.
It's a bigg'un, so if you're looking for an après-entrée like we were one night, the smaller (and also awesomely named) Son of Baconator is still bang on.
Five Guys - Manhattan, NY
When in New York, we couldn't resist popping in to double check that the recently added London locations were keeping up appearances for the brand.
And the result was a reassuringly indistinguishable one: The smashed patties, super-crisp bacon, soft grilled onions and mushrooms are replicated on both sides of the Atlantic as convincingly as Idris Elba's American accent.
They could do with easing off the Cajun seasoning over here though, the fries are huffing choked on it, whilst the American locations uniformly keep the dose more subtle, giving the potato more tastebud time.
Calm it down guys.