It never fails: Just when I become emotionally -- and occasionally physically -- attached to a certain fast-food item, the corporate overlords snatch it away like fiendish villains in a Joss Whedon movie (or one of his TV shows that hasn't been cancelled prematurely). Okay, so some items don't sell as well as others, but what's that compared to the disheartened inconvenience that we faithful fast-foodies are forced to endure when we all have to learn to love new things? What about the delicious cheesy, beefy, crunchy, oniony and frozen-yogurty old things?
Here's my list of five discontinued fast-food items that I want back. And why not bring them back? The chains can just market them as "retro," which will make them very hip.
5. Burger King's Yumbo. Back in the 1970s (when I was a zygote), and the early 1980s, when I was mostly sentient, Burger King had the Yumbo: a hot ham-and-cheese sandwich that was a godsend for latchkey kids whose parents couldn't fry a f*cking egg to save their lives even when they were home. The aptly named Yumbo filled a white, seeded hamburger bun with sliced ham and two slices of perfectly melted American cheese. The result was hammy, cheesy and delicious, and if anyone ever digs a Yumbo out of a time capsule, even in its degraded state it would still be better than anything similar that Arby's slops out now.
4. McOnion Nuggets from McDonald's. McDonald's had some genius food ideas in the 1980s. McD's deep-fried its pies, used beef-flavored oil to cook its fries, and as more proof that its corporate bigs didn't even pretend to give a fat sh*t about health or nutrition, it offered its own take on onion rings: McOnion Nuggets. They were breaded and deep-fried onion chunks, kinda like the bastard children of hush puppies and onion rings. Things fried in nugget form are déclassé these days, but I guarantee if McDoo brought these back as a special item -- alongside the McRib sandwich, maybe? -- people would drop their bowls of hummus and celery sticks and stuff those McOnion Nuggets down like they were fueled on pure fryer grease, which would then be true.
3. The Breeze from Dairy Queen. Dairy Queen Blizzards are one of America's fast-food staples, largely because there are few toppings that can't be buried in soft-serve ice cream and sold to eager masses. M&Ms, Snickers bars, raisins, croutons and chicken bones -- it doesn't matter so long as they are embedded and served in one of those colorful little cups with a spoon and a straw.
The Breeze was a different take, though, with the thick vanilla ice cream swapped out for lighter, frozen yogurt. It was introduced in 1988, right about the time I was old enough to ride my bike to places to get things. I still recall ordering a Breeze with vanilla fro-yo, fresh bananas and that cherry pie filling-goop. It was satisfying and happened to be lower in fat than the regular Blizzard -- and believe me when I say that that may have been the last time I cared about anything low-fat, mainly because '80s TV commercials said that I should. I have no idea why the Breeze isn't on DQ's menu today, especially since fro-yo shops are spreading like STIs nowadays.
2. McDonald's McDLT.
Over the years, McDoobers has produced some seriously good creations, as well nas some ass-failingly rotten ones. I remember my dad telling me about something called the "Hulaburger" that McDoo made in the 1960s -- apparently this was a cheeseburger minus beef patty, with a slice of grilled pineapple instead; I can't imagine why that didn't catch on. I was a kid when McDonald's came out with the McDLT: a quarter-pound burger with lettuce, tomato and mayo, served in a double-sided polystyrene container to -- as the ad campaign want -- "Keep the hot side hot, and the cool side cool."
I'm guessing that this burger didn't survive the 1990s because unwieldy foam containers were destroying the environment, and besides, customers didn't appreciate having to make the supreme effort of assembling the burgers themselves. But I liked not having to eat warm, oily lettuce, and I remember enjoying the sense of accomplishment I got from marrying the hot and cold sides, usually while sitting in the back of my dad's Subaru hatchback, which was already littered with petrified McDonald's fries. We were a loyal McDonald's family.
1. The Bellbeefer from Taco Bell.
When I was a kid, Taco Bell was my favorite fast-food restaurant. I remember the stores being smaller, more fake-Mexican adobe-looking, with greasy red-tiled floors and a menu that had just a dozen or so items, including the Bellbeefer, which dates back to the original Taco Bell menu in 1962. This magnificent construct was a white hamburger bun filled with a scoop of taco meat and topped with shredded cheese, lettuce and diced tomatoes.
I used to order one with a side of Pintos & Cheese and exactly six packets of mild sauce -- two for the Bellbeefer, and four to make cheesy bean soup. The Bellbeefer was a lot like a taco-seasoned sloppy joe; it was messy as hell, so I'd set the cup of beans underneath it to catch the falling lettuce shreds and meat glops. But it was fast, cheap and filling, and with a fountain soda it was the perfect meal for a kid like me.
My educated guess as to why the Bell axed this treat? In the 1990s it went all "think outside the bun." And the Bellbeefer was the only thing on the menu actually requiring a bun.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
I try to recreate the Bellbeefer at home -- I made them last week for Taco Tuesday at Casa del Jenn -- but I genuinely miss Taco Bell's version, especially since no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to effectively recreate that hot, oily taco shell reek unique to Taco Bell, the essence of which manages to permeate everything on the chain's menu. My "Jenni-bell-beefer" is just not the same without it.