Last updated: 08:03 AM ET, Sat March 07 2015

Rating the Road Trip-Ready Chow Part 1: The Burgers

Features & Advice | Tom Bastek | March 07, 2015

Rating the Road Trip-Ready Chow Part 1: The Burgers

Now we will advise you here to never eat while driving. It isn’t safe at all. 

However, you might not have the time to waste sitting down and eating or even pulling over in the parking lot to chow down on your next road trip. You just want to get some grub and get back on the road. So where do you stop? Here is our ranking of the top spots to stop for road trip meal that you can grab and go without getting it all over your upholstry.

For the sake of these articles, we are taking the top fast food chains in the country minus the coffee shops and pizza joints. In part one we are going after the burger boys and in part two we will attack the rest. We are rating basic items off their regular menus with no customizations. The scale is from 1-5 stars, with the higher the better.

McDonalds – Three Stars

Just say no:  Although the rumors of the Big Mac being taken off the McDonalds menu were false, it definitely ranks up in the do-not-order category here. First, it has shredded lettuce which gets all over the place (normally with some special sauce attached). Second, even with the McSquish put on the sandwich, it is still too big to fit in most people’s mouth without two-handing it, meaning the Big Mac is a no-go.

The shredded lettuce issue will also rule out any of the McChicken sandwiches as well. Most of the premium chicken sandwiches are so big that trying to eat them one handed is a real challenge. Trying to dip anything at any time while driving is hazardous so unless you eat your McNuggets plain or you like your fries without ketchup, stay away from both of those. Plus you will have grease all over your steering wheel anyway. Salads? Please.

Good to go: The regular cheese burger, double cheese burgers, the McDouble or the Quarter Pounder with cheese are your way to go here for easy one-handed enjoyment, especially if they have been under the lamp for a little while, as the cheese acts like a binder for everything on the sandwich. 

The snack wraps work well but watch out; if you have a bad wrapper in the kitchen, the premium wraps can come apart in your lap. If you are a Filet O’ Fish fan, as flat as they squish that, you are good to go.

Burger King – Three stars

Just say no: Chicken strips, nuggets, fries and onion rings are all off the table. Let’s set a level of understanding here: Unless you have really big hands you are going to have a hard time one-handing a Whopper with cheese, especially if the guy working the burger board in the back is heavy on the lettuce. 

The good news is that BK uses more of a chop than a shred on its lettuse, so it will rarely fall out into your lap.  But keep in mind, almost every sandwich on the menu has lettuce. I am going to call any level of Whopper bad because of the sheer level of toppings that are on it. It is way too easy to lose a pickle, tomato or onion and go off-road trying to find it. The same goes for the Tendergrill or Tendercrisp Chicken sandwiches, the Big King, the Bacon Cheeseburger Deluxe or the Rodeo Burger. 

Good to go: The only exception to this would be the Whopper Junior which, when made properly, is easy to hold and doesn’t typically fall apart on you. Other great choices are any of the regular cheeseburgers, double cheeseburgers or bacon cheeseburgers outside of the aforementioned Deluxe. As long as they squish the Yumbo or the BK Big Fish down, you should be fine, and the Chicken Sandwiches including the juniors are easy to eat, too.

Wendy’s – Four stars

Just say no: Common sense, although becoming less common nowadays, should tell you to stay away from the chili, baked potatoes, salads and fries. That goes for the chicken nuggets, too. Refrain from the Dave’s Hot and Juicy Burgers as they are loaded up and big as a house. Anything on a pretzel or brioche bun is typically harder to eat as well, so steer clear. Most of the chicken sandwiches are big and hard to eat, so be careful with the Asiago Ranch, Spicy Chicken, Homestyle Chicken, and the Ultimate Chicken Grill.

Good to go: Anything that has the word Junior in it, the Son of Baconator, or the double stack should all be fine.  The regular crispy chicken sandwich or any of the wraps are a good choice here.

The Others

Sonic, Arby’s, Jackin the Box, and Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. all run right down the same line.  Stay away from shredded lettuce, too many toppings, extra patties or extra large patties, or things that need to be dipped or are too greasy.  Keep to these basic rules and you can make it to your destination filled up and in one piece.

Want to know about the other fast food joints and how they stack up?  Look for part two coming soon.  In the meantime, where do you go to get some hassle-free fast food?  How do you eat and roll?  Let me know in the comments below.


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