Last updated: 07:00 AM ET, Sun March 08 2015

Rating the Road Trip-Ready Chow Part 2: The Rest

Features & Advice | Tom Bastek | March 08, 2015

Rating the Road Trip-Ready Chow Part 2: The Rest

This is part two in a series about rating the top fast food restaurants based on their ability to be consumed while traveling. Although it is our position that you should never eat and drive at the same time, we know there are people who are going to do it regardless. So here is our take on what is the easiest and least messy way to eat on the run. We covered the burger restaurants in part one. Here are the other three biggies that are not in the burger category.

For the sake of these articles, we are taking the top fast food chains in the country minus the coffee shops and pizza joints. We are rating basic items off their regular menus with no customizations on a scale of 1-5 stars, with the higher the better.

Subway – three stars

Just say no:  Because the whole point to Subway is customized sandwiches, I will give tips here in addition to what to order or not. Don’t overload the sandwich with veggies, always have them cut the six inch sub in half again for easier handling, and don’t double the meat unless you are getting it without any veggies. There are a couple of sandwiches that are hard to eat even with them cut in quarters. The Meatball Marinara and any of the new grilled chicken strips sandwiches are just asking for a lapfull of food.

Good to go: Some good advice here is to not shy away from extra cheese and toasting of the sandwich. The melted cheese will act as a binding agent for the sandwich and you will have less mess to deal with. Shoot for the smaller veggies. Olives, jalapenos, pickles and banana peppers are bite-size and you don’t have to worry about biting into a sandwich and pulling out a whole tomato slice. 

If you are hell bent on getting roasted chicken, go with the Oven Roasted Chicken Sandwich. The chicken on that sandwich comes in one piece, making it easier to eat. The rest of the sandwiches are pretty much good to go and the tuna is by far the easiest to eat as it is essentially a tacky food stuff to begin with. One thought on the Italian BMT: be careful if you toast it, because the pepperoni and salami has a tendency to drip oil.

Taco Bell – Four stars

Just say no: Ok, so tacos, a favorite street food items for decades, may not be the easiest to eat while navigating the turnpike. They are crumbly if you get the hard shells, and everything always falls out of the back of the taco and onto your lap. Unless of course you tilt your head to such a degree that it becomes hazardous to drive. So out go the tacos, gorditas, chalupas, and any of their flatbread stacks. Salads, nachos, bowls, tostados and quesadillas and the Mexican pizza are all pretty difficult to eat as well for reasons that should be self-evident.

Good to go: Any of the burritos are fantastic to eat with the exceptions of the smothered burritos, the XXL burritos, and the Quesarito. The Crunchwrap supreme is perfect for traveling and Taco Bell is even capitalizing on that fact in ther marketing. Don’t forget about the Crunchwrap’s siblings, the Crunchwrap sliders, which are also as hands-free and mess-free as possible. If you are looking for something small to snack on, the cheese roll up are a great quick hit to chow down.

KFC – one and a half stars

Just say no: Almost everything you are going to order here is deep fried and will pass along a napkin or ten’s worth of oil back on to the customer. That being said, it is also pretty hard to eat any of the wings or thighs.  The Extra Crispy Tenders and Popcorn Chicken need to be dipped so unless you eat them plain, they are gone the way of the Famous Bowl, the pot pie and most of the sides. The Doublicious Sandwich it really too big to one-hand as well.

Good to go: If you have to go with some kind of chicken pieces, make it the legs and make it the grilled chicken.  These are the least mess and able to be eaten one-handed. The Chicken Littles are tiny enough to be easy to grab and eat, with relatively little mess. The Go-Cups, which were purposely designed to fit in your car’s cup holder and be easy to eat, are still greasier than you one would like, so make sure you grab the extra napkins.  Remember, if you get them with the wings (tough to eat one-handed) or the tenders/pop corn chicken (they just need some of those sauces!) you are in for a tough go of it.

The Others:  Chick-Fil-A, Chipotle, and Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen are some of the other smaller, non-burger centric chains that fill out the top ten and most have acceptable choices on their menus as well.  Keep to foods that are grilled more than fried, less toppings on sandwiches, and stay away from items that need to be dipped and you are steering yourself in the right direction. Chipotle is probably the toughest there because their burrito, which is probably the most portable item on their menu, is roughly the size of your head and difficult to eat sitting down with a fork and knife, much less in a car. 

Maybe at the end of the day, it is just best to plan some extra time and enjoy a meal where yo can order something that you want, and take the time to enjoy it. Remember what mom used to say, “Don’t eat so fast! You’re going to give yourself a bellyache!”


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