Fast food chains are always (to borrow a one-time slogan from Taco Bell) thinking outside the bun. They all have serious test kitchens and employ skilled chefs — men and women who could just as well be working at upscale restaurants (where they likely wouldn’t make as much money) — to constantly refine their offerings and come up with new items to delight their regular patrons and theoretically win new ones. (These are the restaurant chains with the happiest customers.)
Their menus, in other words, constantly evolve. In the first few weeks of March, for instance, Chipotle introduced quesadillas for the first time, Wienerschnitzel added an Aussie Dog and a Texas Dog to their array of franks, and Sonic Drive-In rolled out, as a limited-time special, a bacon jam cheeseburger.
Of course, not all the new items stick around forever. Some are intentionally seasonal or keyed to holiday periods (fish sandwiches proliferate across the industry during Lent; St. Patrick’s Day inevitably sees lots of green food). Others, though, just never find an audience, like Arby’s Fish Sandwich (seafood from a chain whose motto is “We have the meats?”), or were patently bad ideas to begin with, like the McLean Deluxe — a McDonald’s burger that was 90% beef and 10% carrageenan seaweed. (At least it was reduced in calories. Here are 30 popular fast foods that are real calorie bombs.)
Sometimes, too, fast food items disappear but then come back. Taco Bell, for instance, just reintroduced their Quesalupa, a kind of super-size taco with a puffy shell, which had been phased out in 2016. And then there’s the famous McRib, a reconstituted pork patty with barbecue sauce, first added to the McDonald’s line-up in 1981 and since then pulled off and added back on countless times. (It made a reappearance most recently in December, but is now already on hiatus again.)
Almost everything ever served up by fast food chains has had some fans, of course, and every time some creation of those busy test kitchens disappears, people mourn its absence. 24/7 Tempo has assembled a list of fast-food dishes we’d like to see return ourselves, some of them really good and others just so, well, creative that we hate to see them slip into obscurity.