Special Report

The Most Iconic Items at America's Biggest Fast Food Chains

Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images


1. McDonald’s
> French fries

You could argue that the Big Mac — perhaps the ultimate fast-food burger, with its double patty, sesame bun, American cheese, and pickles, lettuce, and onions — is the icon here. Or maybe it’s the Egg McMuffin, which launched the breakfast sandwich craze when it was introduced back in 1972. But the one thing almost everybody seems to agree on — even people who’d never admit to eating a McDonald’s burger — is that the fries are great, and maybe reason enough in themselves to pull into the drive-thru. Their secret? Good potatoes, to begin with. But the spuds are treated with dextrose and sodium acid pyrophosphate for color, various preservatives, and…”natural beef flavor.” Whatever they do to them, it seems to work.

Source: Courtesy of Starbucks via Facebook

2. Starbucks
> Pumpkin Spice Latte

Starbucks is famous for its many specialty coffee drinks, most of all its blended Frappuccinos and its various lattes. But the one item most strongly associated with the chain — the one it first offered in 2004, and the one that has gone on to become its most copied creation by far — is the autumnal specialty called the Pumpkin Spice Latte, or PSL. The day on which this drink, with its cinnamon-based spice mix, goes on sale each year is eagerly anticipated, and Starbucks is said to sell as many as 350 million cups of it annually.

Source: Courtesy of Subway

3. Subway
> Italian BMT

This combination of Genoa salami, spicy pepperoni, and Black Forest ham, typically served on Italian bread and garnished with various vegetable additions (lettuce, onions, pickles, tomatoes, etc.) is Subway’s best-selling sandwich. BMT originally stood for Brooklyn Manhattan Transit, the name of one of New York City’s original subway (get it?) lines. Now, says the chain, it stands for “Bigger, Meatier, Tastier.”

Source: Courtesy of Burger King

4. Burger King
> The Whopper

In 1957, 11 years before the appearance of the Big Mac, Burger King launched this oversize flame-broiled burger, served with mayo, ketchup, and the usual lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onions, on a sesame seed bun. There are myriad ways to customize the Whopper by adding or subtracting ingredients, asking for light or heavy servings of the additions, choosing a variety of sides, etc. (the company website says there are 221,184 possible variations, though that seems unlikely). The size and packaging of the burger have changed several times since its birth, but the Whopper remains Burger King’s trademark item.

Source: Courtesy of Taco Bell

5. Taco Bell
> Crunchy taco

Authentic Mexican food is becoming easier and easier to find around the U.S. these days. This isn’t it. But Taco Bell has brought at least some hints of Mexican flavors and ways of presenting food to a wide audience across America, even if they are in the form of such never-in-Mexico offerings as the Crunchwrap Supreme, the Quesarito, and the Fiery Doritos Locos Taco Supreme. The basic Taco Bell order, though, is the crunchy taco — a staple of the chain’s menu since founder Glen Bell is said to have invented the pre-formed crispy taco shell in the 1950 and filled it with seasoned ground beef, shredded lettuce, and shredded cheddar cheese.

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