Friday, October 29, 2010

The McRib is Back!

The four greatest words in the fast food language. I couldn't believe it myself when I found out that THE MCRIB WAS COMING BACK! What is the McRib, you ask? You are a mighty pinhead to be asking such an inane question.

Well, okay, you're not. You're not mighty at all. The McRib, as a whole, is the "Bigfoot" of fast food lore, achieving a cult status that arose from its rarity. Much like the In-N-Out Secret Menu, Herb from Burger King, and Pepsi Blue, some people just plain doubt their existence, but none of them have achieved the level of infamy that is the McRib. But being serious and all, there have been a surprisingly large amount of people that I've run into that...DIDN'T KNOW WHAT THE MCRIB WAS!

To educate you all, I'll offer up the McRib's delectable life story from the most reputable source I could find: The McRib's Wikipedia Page:
The sandwich was originally created by McDonalds employee Derek Plowman. The only thing that hasn't changed from the original sandwich is Derek's BBQ sauce. test-marketed very well in Nebraska and other Midwestern markets and was added to the restaurant's permanent menu throughout the United States in 1981. Sales were mediocre,[citation needed] and it was removed in 1985 after several years, only to be brought back as a limited time offering.
So you see class, the only reason why the McRib is popular in the first place is only because The Suits at McDonald's just takes it away from us whenever we start to get sick of it, then brings it back whenever we say to ourselves "Hmm, I haven't had a McRib in a while." Then everyone goes into a frenzy, then they take it away again to start the process anew.

Were it not for the underground tribunal that consists of The Grimace, HR Pufnstuff, the Corpse of Colonel Sanders, Hillary Clinton and the San Diego Chicken, the McRib would've joined Fast Food Obscurity much like the Arch Deluxe, Wendy's SuperBar, and a less-creepy version of The Burger King.

But thankfully, this proved to not be the case. The last time that the McRib was distributed nationwide was in 1993-94 as promotion for the live-action Flintstones Movie, and has been seen in various parts of the country up until 2008 after the conclusion of its third Farewell Tour. Yep, the McRib is not only the Bigfoot of fast food, it also has the Rolling Stones' concert promoter!

The newswires kept saying it was coming back November 2nd, but last Friday I found this sign on my local McDonald's:

YES, LONG ISLAND GOT IT EARLY!!! Okay, it's from the link I posted a few paragraphs ago, but it was on the sign and I had to check it out for myself! (Also, I tried to get a good shot of mine. I tried. But nighttime glare is the only thing that sucks about my phone's awesome camera.)

That night I sauntered into my local haunt to look the girl (at least I think it was a girl) behind the counter in her(?) eyes and told her "I want a McRib this time, baby." Five grueling McRib-less minutes later, and this appeared on my tray:

"Your Old Friend is Back." Pretty much says it all, doesn't it? Let's open up the box and ogle at the contents, shall we?

Ooh, that's a sandwich! But here's a better view of the goodness inside the bun:

To you, this might be sickening, but to me, it's sweet, tangy goodness. Sure, it's authentic letter-graded meat pressed into the shape of a small rack of ribs, but they exist and it went into my mouth, dammit!

My Verdict: Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh it's orgasmic. Well, let's let this Simpsons clip speak for what I'm talking about:

So good, you can almost imagine that everyone is mirror-flipped and speaking spanish! (Yeah, it's the only vid out there that DOESN'T have an annoying music track over it. But, still.)

Yeah, it's not "real" barbecue and we can all name about 10 different places besides our own home that can make a better and/or healthier sandwich, but it's good! It tastes just like pulled pork, smothered in a special BBQ sauce that ISN'T the classic McNuggets dipping sauce.

As a whole, it's a pretty good sandwich and like most of McDs offerings, it's easy to get sick of it. It could explain WHY there's such a frenzy that pretty much justified my thesis statement back at the beginning: It's a good sandwich that makes your taste buds go through horrible withdrawals within 24 hours of eating one. And after 16 years, that withdrawal could very well develop into a bloodlust, or at least a slight jonesing whenever you hear the word "McRib."

I heartily recommend trying it if you can manage to find it before it goes nationwide on the 2nd. As for me? I'm blogging from a McDs right now. Oop, my next McRib's ready! Gotta go, gang!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Summer Burger Challenge: Results Edition!

Well folks, Summer seems to have come to an end. I know so because, much like Punxatawney Phil, I caught Jerry Lewis attempt his annual warbling on "You'll Never Walk Alone" on my TV box back during Labor Day. And since then, the air had started to get chillier, then unusually warmer, then chillier again.

With this in mind, along with the fact that the temperature dropped a solid 20 degrees in a single day, I think it's high time I post my results of my long-awaited Summer Burger Challenge.

If you remember waaaay back in this entry, I told you that the challenge involved me going around to burger joints that were exclusive to Long Island. It's just to give you, my loyal readers, a taste of the regional delights that can be found here. But I'll tell you right away that there were a few...cheats that I'll get into when I get to them. Let's begin!

Our first entry is from Frank-N-Burger, a little hole-in-the wall burger joint on Route 25 in St. James. It might not seem like it in the picture, but this thing was pretty damn big as far as normal burgers go. That big pink thing spilling out under all the lettuce? That's ham, baby, and it's the only burger place on the entire list where you can get it as a topping. So, in essence, you can actually eat a Ham Hamburger.

My verdict: It's Good! The ham made the overall taste seem a bit off, but that's ham for you. It's been a while since I had this one, but I thought the burger was pretty good & juicy. You'll have to visit for yourself, which I highly recommend.

By the way, you'll see a recurring theme here with pickles. I never really warmed up to pickles until about last year, and even now I still can't stand them on burgers. I personally think it adds a rubbery, salty texture that shouldn't be in the way of my chewy burger, so I just take them off the burger and eat them at my leisure. Case in point: this pickle slice was pretty thick, and while it tasted like an average pickle slice would, I didn't want that damn thing on my burger.

This little beauty comes from a place called All-American Drive-In that sits on Merrick Road in Massapequa. A Long Island institution, this thing has been standing around since the 1950s. It's roughly around the same age as McDonald's, except this place never sold out or significantly raised their prices since the place opened.

Sadly, I didn't take an exterior shot, but here's one that I did find on the place's Facebook Page:

The place sells the regular fast food fare: Burgers, Fries, Onion Rings, and Knishes. Like I said above, they're pretty damn cheap. Seriously, the most expensive thing on the menu is an order of fried butterfly shrimp for $5.25, followed by a Quarter Pound burger with cheese at $2.55! They also have Krusty Partially-gelatinated Non-dairy Gum-based Beverage, I mean shakes that only run you $1.65. Hell, getting the typical meal of Burger/Fries/Drink will run you under eight dollars, and that's pretty much awesome in this economy.

My Verdict: As I said above, it's like McDonald's if they never sold out, so it's pretty good for what it is: A cheap fast-food burger joint. It's miles above any typical fast food chain, but far from the best burger in the challenge.

The last of the Long Island exclusives is from American Roadside Burger, which can be found on East Main Street in Smithtown. They have a special burger called the "Roadstar," which is a 4-patty burger that, when eaten, gets your name on the wall. As the double cheeseburger pictured above is average size for a burger with two patties, this is not a difficult feat to pull off as the walls are literally covered with names. Hell, I've done it and it's not so bad. There are entire little league teams on the wall for god's sake!

This brings me to My Verdict: Awesome. They're tender, juicy, and the toppings compliment the burger instead of overpower it like a bunch of other places do it. They offer a great sauce that they refer to as "Pink." What's that, you ask? I didn't know, but one of the nice folks there told me that it was a combo of ketchup, mayo, and Worcestershire sauce. I gotta say, it tasted awesome and definitely gave the burger an extra oomph of flavor. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Check that place out, yo.

This burger is from Bobby's Burger Palace, whose only location on Long Island is in the SmithHaven Mall in Lake Grove. Before I go any further, the mall was named for the fact that it's bringing the towns of Smithtown and Brookhaven together, yet it's technically in Lake Grove. That's like a football team saying that they represent New York, but play in New Jersey! That would be silly.

But back on track, there are only FIVE of these things around, with the only NY location being where I said it was. Two of them are in New Jersey, one's in western Philadelphia, and the other one's in Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. I don't know WHY that part of Long Island was chosen, but here we are. Yep, we're heading into the Franchises now.

The burger shown above is the Dallas Burger, which consists of a spice-crusted patty, bbq sauce, Monterey Jack cheese (Cheese? CHEEEEESE?!), and coleslaw. Of course, this is Overinflated Ego Chef Bobby Flay we're talking about, so every ingredient has to be the best it can be, as hot as it can be, and as expensive as it can be. Seriously, the burger is not that big, and it alone runs you $7.50. However, it also happens the be the only burger place on here that sells beer. But, like everything else, it's overpriced.

My Verdict: Bobby got lucky, this burger is GOOD. Good meat, good ingredients, good fries, but too expensive for what you get. There's great selection of sauces, though.

Any of those are good, especially the Chipotle Ketchup. But I don't recommend trying the sauce they give you for the fries. I can't really put my finger on what it tasted like, but I didn't like it that much.

Remember when I said there were a few cheats? Well, this is one of them. Behold: Fatburger! I included this one because they USED to be on Long Island, but they disappeared from here a little less than a year ago for some reason. This one was hit on my vacation to Atlantic City. It's located in the Borgata casino, where it's open 24 hours!

My Verdict: PRETTY DAMN GOOD. While the burger looks small, you can get bigger sizes than this. Either way, very awesome taste and I shake my fist at Fatburger for moving out of Long Island! I really wish I didn't have to go that far for good burgers! By the way, this is also the only burger chain that offers a fried egg for a topping, along with selling steak fries! Those things are equally as great.

This here is the other cheat. This is from Johnny Rockets, a 50's-style sit-down Burger joint usually found near tourist traps. Again, I got this one on my trip to Atlantic City. BUT, with an uppercase and emboldened "B," there ARE Johnny Rockets in the NY/Long Island area. The closest ones to me are in the Tanger Outlets in Deer Park, and in the food court of the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City. (BTW, awesome mall. It's Long Island's Mall of America, but not as big!)

Keeping with the 50's theme
, the entire restaurant is sparkling white, much like America in the 50s itself if stuff like Leave it To Beaver, I Love Lucy, and 50s Nostalgia Cafes lead you to believe. And there are awesome old-fashioned jukeboxes at every booth and every place seems to have its own "song" that the staff are required to dance to, should someone shell out the nickel to play it. As I mentioned here before, the one in Cedar Point was "Love Shack." The one in Atlantic City had "Stayin' Alive," and the one in the Tangers had a few girls sing and dance to "Respect."

They also decorate a cup or plate with a smiley face made out of ketchup, so there's that.

My Verdict: It tastes nearly diner-quality, but it's nowhere near as greasy as you would think it is. So, in a sense, it's pretty awesome. Not the BEST thing ever, but it's only because of the awesome competition that I'll get to in a moment. But also worth mentioning are awesome milkshakes (Strawberry Banana FTW), and the fact that they refill your fries! Let me reiterate that: ALL YOU CAN EAT FRIES. And they're freaking good!

Here we have a burger from Cheeburger Cheeburger, found in Farmingdale and other places around the country. If you're thinking about that old SNL sketch where everyone keeps saying "cheeseburger cheeseburger, no coke, pepsi," then get out of my head. But in all honesty yes, they named the restaurant after the sketch, pepsi and all. The Pepsi there? With shots of vanilla? To die for. By the way, Johnny Rockets does that, too, and they're also to die for.

The theme here? Much like Johnny Rockets, it's a 50s/Early 60's Burger Joint, and they go all-out with it. The music, the crap on the walls, even black people have to eat in their own separate section. Okay, I'm seriously joking about that part. But unlike Johnny Rocket's sparkling white Everything, there's lots of little nostalgic tidbits everywhere! Lots of old ads, Elvis memorabilia, and 50's neon to make your eyes bleed! Also of note is the fact that while you're waiting for your food, they got stacks of trivia cards at every table, so you can impress your date by proving how better you are than her with your memory of obscure facts from yesteryear.

But before I move on to the burger, I gotta talk about the shakes. Oh yes, there are shakes here. While Johnny Rockets up above has a good selection of many staple milkshake flavors, Cheeburger Cheeburger prides itself with having 75 flavors. I need to repeat that number in bold on its own: 75 flavors. Sure, they count "Strawberry" "Banana" and "Strawberry Banana" as separate flavors, but hey, you gotta love having the option of having all three at once or in separate shakes. Not only does it stop there, but you can combine any and all of those flavors into some unholy mikshakey concoction. The menu itself claims there's over 378,000 combinations. (What, 378 thousand?! But that's impossible!!)

I got a lot of catching up to do, folks. Suffice to say, they're pretty awesome. You got the milk, you got the shakes, and you got tiny little marshmallow-sized ice cream chunks in the mix, too. Definitely recommend it.

My Verdict: Well, see that fork and knife in that picture above? You're gonna need them. While I'm strongly against the notion of people eating burgers with utensils and acting like their nose is 5 feet above my eyebrows, the burger tends to fall apart. The thing is quite juicy, sure, but it's also kind of dry at the same time with lots of good ol' burger grease to help it slide into your stomach and blood vessels. It's a good thing you get your choice of an assload of toppings, because they improve the taste of the already good burger.

The burger in the pic has my default toppings of lettuce, raw onions, pickles, coleslaw and ketchup, but they also got 20 other toppings along with eight kinds of cheeses to satisfy your dairy fancy. The more whacked-out toppings include Worcestershire sauce, artichoke hearts and peanut butter. I've always wondered what peanut butter on a cheeseburger would taste like, but I figured that my taste buds would forcibly tear themselves off my tongue before the burger even hit them. With all the choices, I keep wondering why they don't offer fried eggs like Fatburger does, but I guess they just want to be "those guys" and be against the burger topping train.

Sure, this one's not from Long Island, but rather Midtown Manhattan, but checking out The Shake Shack was too good to pass up. A Manhattan landmark since its opening in 2004, there are only six locations in the entire country (with two more on the way), with 4 of them in Manhattan itself. There's one in Citifield (ugh, the Mets), and the other is in Miami for some reason.

After opening in Madison Square Park (unlike Madison Square Garden, there's an actual garden there), it became well-known for its burger and shakes, not to mention its long lines. Yes, no matter which Shake Shack you go to, there will be a line out the door, regardless of the time of day. Fortunately, if you want to know just how popular the flagship location is, the main site has a webcam that gives the tubes a 24 hour broadcast of its line. Who knows how many people there are now? Maybe there's a dancing taco or some bears doing aerobics? Anything can happen in Manhattan, and no one will even bat an eye.

Let's get to the food. You can imagine a place called "The Shake Shack" would have good milkshakes, right? YES. By far the best strawberry milkshake I've ever had, and this comes from someone who loved Johnny Rockets and Cheeburger's and is a frequent drinker of Friendly's Fribbles. Sure, it's five bucks for what is essentially a small, but you have to remember that everything edible is two dollars more expensive in New York City, even the penny candy. That stuff is surprisingly overpriced there.

My Verdict: VERY good-quality burger. Like I said, it's jacked up in the city, so it SEEMS expensive at $5 a pop, but it, the shake, and the fries (which are pretty good, but nothing to cheer about) are completely worth waiting a half-hour for the deal that you're getting.

Last but not least, we come to Five Guys. These guys have places all around the country, and there's a simple reason why: THEY'RE AWESOME. Yes my readers, I saved the best for last. This is most likely the best fast food-like burger you'll ever have outside of your local mom & pop burger joint or even your own home.

Just look at that picture, isn't that the sexiest burger you've ever laid eyes on? I should know, because I've been to five of them in the LI/NYC/NJ metro area multiple times at various points around the summer and they have yet to disappoint me. Sure, the folks there give me dirty looks for attempting unspeakably dirty acts of eroticism around their burgers, but it's nothing they haven't seen before.

A few things you should know about this place: The default size is the double cheeseburger (pictured above), so if you choose the "Mini Burger," you'll just get a single patty and be declared a wimp for life. Company policy, folks. Also company policy? The Fries. Not only are they awesome in a sense that you're eating awesome salty fries that have that perfect french fry texture of "not too crunchy, but not too soggy," they give you a ton of them. Well, they give you the amount that's in your order, then they take another scoop of fries and stick them in your bag that all of the food is served in just because they love you.

Wait, it gets better. While you wait for your order, there are boxes of peanuts available for you to scoop out and eat. Yes, the kind you crack open and eat like the petting zoo squirrels you are. You gotta love those things, even when the food is ready about 10 seconds after you eat half of your stash.

Along with all those things, you have the burger. My Verdict: Surprisingly juicy for a double cheeseburger cooked well-done. Yes, it's probably the only minus I have for this place, but you honestly can't tell it's well done and hints of dryness are only detected if you force yourself to look for it. If in the event the burger is slightly dry, the toppings make up for it. The one I always get? Lettuce, onions (raw, of course), pickles, ketchup, and sauteed mushrooms. They also got the standards, like bacon, relish, tomatoes, mayo, jalapenos, and whatnot, but I don't really care about those (well, except maybe the bacon now).

Let's see what an entire meal looks like, shall we?

Again, incredibly sexy. Great burger meat, great toppings, awesome fries, and all the peanuts you can stomach. So, in short, WHY AREN'T YOU EATING THERE RIGHT NOW?!

This concludes my Summer Burger Challenge. The main quest, anyway. I went to a few more places around the summer, but I plan to assemble those in a future entry as I have yet to get to the places that were recommended to me by close friends, along with places that I've discovered in the past few weeks and have made a mental note to check out sometime.

Now that my last summer post is finally completed, it's on to October-centric entries! Be sure to read my coming fall entries, expected to be posted sometime in January at my current rate.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Minor Monsters Tribute

I'll be honest with you folks, I haven't been feeling the Halloween Spirit™ this year (I'll go into specifics in a later entry), but yesterday my good friend Matt over at X-Entertainment posted a Halloween entry giving tribute to minor monsters, and dammit, it got my spark all lit up again!

"Minor monsters" in a sense are just ugly bad guys who get aren't usually the first things you think of when you think "Halloween Monsters." Everyone knows the Major Monsters, like Vampires, Werewolves, Mummies, Zombies, Ghosts, Frankenstein Monsters, Jason, Freddy, Chucky, and the occasional Leprechaun in space.

But what about...everyone else? The spooks and monsters that you love or scared the everloving crap outta you, but just don't get the invites to the mad monster party. They might be the stars of some forgotten movie, an awesome creature that got outshone by the main players, or just some creepy thing. These are the monsters that I want to focus on today. Since Matt's entry focused on six monsters, I'll do the same with this list.

NOTE: This list is in no order, nor does this list specify my favorite monsters ever. These are just six creepy beings that deserve their pedestal on the grand Monster Mash of life.

#1: Hedorah (Godzilla vs The Smog Monster)

Gotta give some love to one of the most obscure Toho monsters out there. Surprisingly, as a living pile of sludge, he isn't the STRANGEST monster in Godzilla's rogues gallery (Gigan, anyone?), but he's certainly one of the most fearsome. Yeah, just breathe your atomic fire breath on him, Godzilla, that won't cause him to explode and pollute the atmosphere much more fiercely than just letting him wobble along Japan.

Because it won't work, he's completely immune to it! Yeah, he's one of only two monsters that are unaffected by the Atomic Fire Breath (the other being Destroyah). He can also spit acid onto his enemies, shoot lasers from his eyes, Superior Japanese Military Weapons pass right through him and by the way, he can fly! While flying, he sprays sulfuric acid, so he's pretty much powered by farts. Godzilla's fire breath would STILL cause massive explosions.

Why I love him is because he seems to be the neglected Toho monster. EVERY other monster has a lovable fanbase. Yes, even Battra. But Hedorah's fans seem slim to least when it comes to his action figure. Hedorah was the literal garbage toy of the Godzilla action figure line, living a lonely life on the toy shelf in a Long Island CVS where no one would love him or buy him to take him home to fight their Godzilla or their iPhones or whatever kids have these days. No, he was doomed to live his life on the clearance shelf because he was the villain of a one-off Godzilla movie that promoted an environmental moral to the story without having one of the mecha versions of one of the other monsters in the mix somehow.

The fact that he looked like a walking vagina did not help his cause.

#2: That Violin Playing Girl from Courage The Cowardly Dog

(moment starts at the 3 minute point)

Kids who grew up in the 90's know what I'm talking about. In the episode "Big Stinkin' City," Courage has to stop a giant cockroach from killing his owner Muriel before she can play her sitar concert at Radio City Music Hall (don't ask). There was a sequence where he climbs up a building and looks through all the rooms to find someone to give him an important package, which of course hold all sorts of nightmare-inducing sights like a shark and King Ghidorah.

But then he opens one door to find a girl with her back turned to him playing the violin. Yeah, you think you're safe for once, but then she turns around...


In one fell swoop, she became the Large Marge of Generation Y.

#3: The Harlequin Demon

This little bugger is from The Nightmare Before Christmas, a bonafide favorite movie of mine. Out of all the monsters in the movie, his overall design is my absolute favorite. The torso scales, the teeth that wrap around his entire head, his hair being made from the sandworms from Beetlejuice. Basically, I just love any creature whose upper head half is completely separate from the lower half. I love watching such a complicated movement being animated, and I've had several sleepless nights pondering how such a head can function in real life. I love him for it.

Plus, he's voiced by Greg Proops of "Whose Line Is It Anyway" fame! A winning package if I may say so myself.

#4: Thog (The Muppet Show)

Ever watch the Muppet Show and wonder "what the hell is that huge blue thing called?" Well, fret no more! He has a name, and it is Thog! Specifically created for 1970's The Great Santa Claus Switch, he was partnered with a green lookalike named Thig, who disappeared into Muppet Obscurity long before Thog did.

While Thig never lasted past the one Christmas special, Thog would go on to serve as one of the Generic Giant Muppets whenever the show called for a huge monster that wasn't Sweetums to dance along with Alice Cooper. What I love about him is his size. At 9 1/2 feet tall, he was the biggest Muppet of his day, and no one dare screw with him. But thankfully, he's a gentle giant who only wants to hug the nearest girl he can find until they fall limp in his arms.

#5: Shellshock (Power Rangers)

If I were to name my favorite Power Rangers villain off the tip of my head, I would definitely say Lord Zedd from the original Mighty Morphin seasons. But if I were held at gunpoint to name my favorite Monster of The Week, I'd immediately go with Shellshock from the first season episode "The Trouble with Shellshock."

How can you not love a giant turtle with a traffic light embedded into its back that can make people speed up, freeze in place, or dance?! Answer: You can't. To this day, I'm quite sad that out of all of the awesome monsters from this show they could have made toys out of, they never made one out of this guy.

Sure, I could do what Baboo and Squat did in the episode: Attach a traffic light to a Ninja Turtle figure and magically bring it to life, but it wouldn't be the same!

#6: The Gremlin from Terror at 5 1/2 Feet (Treehouse of Horror IV)

It comes to no surprise that we end the list with a Simpsons reference. Created as a spoof of the gremlin from the famous "Terror at 5000 Feet" segment from the Twilight Zone, this thing slowly broke apart the school bus for no reason but its own amusement as Bart can only look on in horror.

Yeah, judging from that picture above, it's no surprise that it's the only Treehouse of Horror segment that legitimately scared the utter shit outta me as a kid. Oh man, not only seeing Ned Flanders' severed head, but also the exposed spinal cord? Add the fact that it was still able to talk? My seven year old mind turned to goo so quickly that I couldn't watch that again for a good ten years. It's one of the reasons why I love this show.

What are YOUR favorite Minor Monsters? Tell us in the comments! Difficulty: No More Than Six!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Happy 42 Day!

Today is 10/10/10, the requisite "Jackpot Day" of the year. We only got 2 left before the next Century! (11/11/11 and 12/12/12). Hopefully, I'll live to see those two days.

If y'all know your binary, 101010 is 42! And if y'all know your Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy, 42 is the answer to the question about life, the universe, and everything.

BUT. 42 is only the answer, the question itself is still unknown. Even after aliens built the Earth as a giant supercomputer to figure this out, the question is still not known. There's a long-standing theory in the Guide itself that states that if the universe knows both the question and the answer, it would blink out of existence and an even more ridiculous universe would be created in its place. There's another theory that states that this already happened.

So, if anyone accidentally finds out the question, we're all doomed. But, as the guide says: "Don't Panic." And that's good enough for me.

I'll leave you with some more good advice: Don't forget your towel!