Most fast-food restaurants aren’t exactly beacons of health, but when you couple that with the fact that you’re placing your order through the drive-thru window, you’re also running the risk of a soggy, textural disappointment by the time you’re ready to enjoy your meal. Similar to buffets, infamous for their warming lamps and lackluster quality, drive-thrus pose the same quality concerns that can stand to dampen even the tastiest comfort food.
Much like dessert menus and appetizers, there are certain drive-thru items where this sentiment particularly applies—and which should, more often than not, be avoided if freshness is a top priority. This might explain why certain drive-thrus are falling out of favor with customers and earning much more complaints than praise.
While plenty of fast-food items have their merits (or demerits) as road trip fuel, specific orders just don’t hold up in transit. Fried items, for example, should be skipped in the drive-thru lane. That’s according to Epic Burger CEO, David Grossman, who suggests avoiding these types of orders in favor of foods that’ll retain freshness and texture longer. And the man knows a thing or two about quality, as his fast-casual mini-chain serves some of the best quality meat in the biz.
“I suggest everyone avoid items on drive-thru menus that are meant to be consumed immediately, like deep-fried cheese curds or cheese fries,” he says. “By the time you get home, the taste and texture are always off.”
Instead, Grossman suggests sticking to items that are as fresh as possible and made to order—meaning nothing is prepared before the order is placed, so everything comes out hot, crispy, and delicious.
The anti-fried cheese stigma in the drive-thru is similar to that at Italian restaurants, where things like mozzarella sticks are a huge taboo for their own reasons. They deserve a spot on the long list of drive-thru meals to skip, as deep-fried road trip items are as tragic texturally as they are nutritional.
According to registered dietitian Amy Goodson, some particular drive-thru examples to steer clear of include chicken nuggets and fried pickles, while other deep-fried offenders include chili cheese tots, onion rings, loaded curly fries, stuffed jalapeños, and cheese curds. Basically, if you’re going to indulge at a drive-thru, that’s totally fine—just make sure the indulgence won’t be a soggy disappointment.