Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Better Late Than Never

From elementary school through graduate school, my mother and I would vacation in San Francisco each summer to get away from the heat. One day, we dined at a Carl's Jr for our first and last time. I do not recall the reason for my disgust, but it left a lasting impression that we never returned.

~30 years later...

Each time we have passed the Hardee's in Willoughby, their sole presence in the region, it has always appeared unloved. It doesn't look like a dirt hole, just lonely. Finding out Carl's Jr was its sister company wasn't much of an enticement either.

One day recently out of the blue, Bug mentioned his desire to try the place.

After running several errands in the area, we walked in at 11:15. The restaurant didn't smell of stale grease and the dining area was clean.

I gawked at the menu, pointing and babbling what I'd like to try without killing my recent 'lifestyle change' (diet). There was a man standing ahead stealing glances at us as if we were aliens. Or was it just me?

The Jalapeno Thickburger was whispering at me through a cardboard display on the counter. The fish sandwich sounded all right but I wanted to cut out the calories from the bread. Heh. In small print, I noticed an option to turn the sandwich into fish and chips.

Bug was entranced with the biscuits and gravy, chicken, and other items. He wanted a double Thickburger, but reluctantly ordered a Jalapeno Thickburger, large Curls (seasoned curly fries), and a large drink ($6.79). My Jedi mind tricks worked! Or maybe it was my hopping up and down pointing excitedly at the Jalapeno Thickburger display. He also ordered a Big Chicken Fillet ($3.99).

I ordered the Fish 'N' Chips Basket with Curls instead of regular fries ($5.29 + $1.79).

After paying, we were instructed to have a seat in the dining room where the food would be delivered. In the 7-8 minutes we waited, 5 cars drove through the parking lot. Business must not be suffering too badly, or people were just cutting through...

Three baskets were delivered to our table, sandwiches half-wrapped at the bottom making them easy to grasp without dribbling. I gasped at the sight of the sandwiches. This was the first time seeing fast food sandwiches prepared as advertised. Oh, how I cursed not having my camera.

The bread didn't look like it was used as a punching bag and the whole leaves of lettuce were crisp, without brown wilted or squishy edges, on both sandwiches.

Freshly cut red onions were eye catching on the burger. Unlike your average restaurant bucket o' jalapenos, theirs retained their crunch. The Sante Fe sauce tasted like taco seasoning mixed into mayonnaise followed by a faint zing.

Bug was impressed by the freshness of the vegetables but felt the patty could have been better. The meat tasted as if it was reheated in a microwave oven.

The Big Chicken Fillet was a cut of meat instead of a ground and shaped fried chicken patty. It was crispy, moist, and slightly peppery. Bug liked the sandwich, but it was too salty for me.

When I laid my eyes on my basket of fish and chips, I was surprised to see two ~3"x5" fish fillets and a heap of fresh out of the fryer Curls. There was a generous serving of tartar sauce nestled in the basket which made me giddy because I love tartar sauce with my fries.

My first bite of the smooth beer battered fish was met with a crunch, followed by a firm yet moist fillet. It didn't taste very salty nor did any particular flavor stand out, which is sometimes a good thing, but I also tend to go overboard with tartar sauce. One fillet was enough to sate me so I handed the 2nd fillet to Bug and scarfed down the rest of the crisp Curls. Bug, also pleased with the firmness, happily accepted.

I would eat the Fish 'N' Chips Basket again in a heartbeat, but my heart sank after reading the nutrition facts. Verifying my suspicion, the Basket consists of 1150 cal, 80 g of fat, 80 carbs, and 2320 mg of sodium. The Fish Supreme (sandwich) is 620 cal, 38 g of fat, 40 carbs, and 1310 mg of sodium.

Bug felt the price was justified for what he received -- neatly prepared fresh (fast) food. However, the total cost ($18.97) was more than he prefers to spend for a fast food meal so it will be a little while before we return. The next time we do go, I will try a sip or 20 of their peach shake.

- Cassaendra

36900 Vine St
Willoughby, OH 44094-6341
Tel: (440) 953-9722

3 deep thoughts:

Tipa 23 June, 2010 08:16  

More than sister companies, Carl's Jr is the west coast name for Hardee's. Same restaurant :P

I loved Carl's Jr when I lived in California; took the kids there a lot. Then Ally became a vegetarian and I could no longer eat fatty hamburger, so that was that.

Never really had a bad experience, nothing like the last time I ate at McDonald's, 20 years or so ago.

Mrs. L 23 June, 2010 15:00  

Fast food places are hit and miss for me. Where one might be clean and the food fresh, the next, even if it's the same chain, is a dump and the food tastes reheated. Carl's though, is last on my fast food list (I'm an In-N-Out person). Never been to a Hardee's.

Cassaendra 24 June, 2010 08:57  

Hi Tipa~

For me, it almost seems like a lifetime ago that you lived in CA that it had slipped my mind you lived there!

What happened at McD? :O

Hi Mrs. L~

Ah well, you have access to the famed In-N-Out. When I head west, I have to check them out based on all the rave reviews that I've come across! What do you normally order?

I think that is the bane of chains -- consistency.

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