Denny's "Baconalia" is back, completely and utterly ruining one of my favorite foods, and again offering a hideous reminder of all the chain restaurant meals I wish I'd never eaten. There are plenty of decent, good and even great restaurant chains that serve up above-average food for reasonable prices, and I'm grateful for them. But there are also too many deplorable crap-shacks that dish out things that should never be served to humans.
There are some meals even bacon can't help. Here are five chain restaurants I avoid at all costs.
See also: - Hobbit-themed menu at Denny's: Five reasons one onion ring will rule them all - Five things Arby's should do to improve its image - Top five cheeseburger abominations, inspired by Carl's Jr.'s footlong cheeseburger
5. Carl's Jr I have tried to like Carl's Jr. over the years, wooed by its clever advertising and the promises of gargantuan, cheap, delicious hamburgers slathered with guacamole and crowned with bacon. But when you actually get a hamburger there, the beef patties are flavorless and dripping with salty grease, the lettuce wilted, the tomato slices tough and edged with green, the uneven bacon hunks chilly and plastered to the half-melted cheese, and the buns unevenly toasted with crunchy outsides and doughy middles. While the shakes are actually tasty, there is less shake than you think if you scoop off the gobbets of wilty whipped cream. The fries are stubby and undersalted, and the one time I ordered something off the menu that wasn't a burger I got the nastiest strips of breaded fish I've ever seen -- or smelled. Carl's now has a new, charbroiled Atlantic cod fish sandwich that looks plump, moist and well-garnished -- but I figure if the place can cock up pre-made, freezer-to-fryer fish sticks, it can do a lot of damage to a fish filet. 4. Church's Chicken I have never understood why some people are devoted to Church's Chicken and go out of their way to eat there, when there are far better fried chicken joints -- like, all of them. Church's is a lazy chain that doesn't do anything particularly well. The original-style fried chicken is bland, the signature spicy chicken not spicy at all, and those house honey butter biscuits taste like they're made with straight-up sweetened margarine. I have asked fans of Church's why they like eating there so much, and every time they answer with this: They give you peppers.
Yes, you get a couple of whole pickled jalapeno peppers with every chicken order, and yes, you can give those peppers a hearty fist-squeeze to produce droplets of pepper juice that might give the chicken actual flavor -- but why should you have to do the work? I have heard tell that Church's has a strawberry shortcake dessert that's not bad, but I'm leery of any fried chicken restaurant that can't even get fried chicken right.
3. Domino's Pizza Domino's made a big deal about changing its crust recipe a while back, and I temporarily -- and insanely -- gave the chain another chance to earn my attention, as well as my $20. And to my complete lack of surprise, the new crust wasn't much better -- or much different -- from the old crust recipe. Domino's has always been my extremely-starving-desperate-last-choice for ordering a delivery pie; even a Little Caesar's cardboard-crusted and heat lamp-lashed creation is superior to any pie I've ever eaten from Domino's. My super peeve is the cheese Domino's uses: It's stringy and gluey when hot, wonky and mushy when cold. The sandwiches are so disgusting they ought to be used for torturing Guantanamo prisoners, and the delivery personnel are jerks. I usually don't hold it against them, though, because I'd be a f*ck salad with ranch if I had to go home every shift reeking of bad cheese and failure. 2. Arby's I have given Arby's dozens of chances to serve me food that I wanted to eat, and every time I've gotten a white paper bag full of things that were worse than the things in the last bag. Arby's is my own, personal Groundhog Day -- but without any happy ending. I want to like the Jamocha shakes, but they are dribbly, weak knockoffs of Frappuchinos; I have attempted to appreciate the implacably arid, probably-meat sandwiches by dousing them with Horsey sauce, but it takes an enormous amount of effort in the dead-wrong direction. I did find a scion of hope in the loaded potato bites, but they are awfully expensive for a tiny order. And I have no idea what a bronco berry is, or how they are made into a viscous, magenta sauce -- and I'm not sure I want to know bad enough to ask.
The current hot item at Arby's is a Reuben sandwich, but judging from the way the company is pelting people with coupons for free ones, these sammies probably aren't the long or short-term solution for Arby's vast empire of suck.
1. Denny's How Denny's restaurants can be so good in certain parts of the country and so devastatingly rotten in others is a mystery that I have yet to solve. I've had crisp, fresh salads at Denny's, as well as perfectly cooked sunnyside-up eggs, gooey brownies topped with vanilla ice cream, and pot after pot of passably good coffee -- but those meals were a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. When I first dined at a Denny's location near where I now live in Denver, I found a run-down, filthy dining room that reeked of old fryer grease and burnt meatloaf. It was during Denny's first year of Baconalia, and despite the ghetto-shambling surroundings, I was looking forward to eating breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert -- all delightfully adulterated with bacon.
What I got was food so terrible it stilI gives me nightmares. Denny's uses low-quality bacon rolled in black pepper, and the gimmicky maple bacon sundae was no more than badly freezer-burnt balls of ice cream soaked in pancake syrup and littered with crusty nibbets of sub-par bacon. This year the Baconalia menu includes some new items, including caramel bacon-stuffed French toast, a pepper bacon avocado omelet and a salted caramel brownie sundae with bacon, and I'm thinking that last thing will sell like whatever the opposite of hotcakes is.
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Thank you straight to hell, Denny's, for making bacon bad.