Second Helpings

Fast food

"Second Helpings" offers tasty, bite-sized restaurant listings compiled from new and previous reviews, guides, and poll results. This week's entries were updated by Erin Mosow. For quick, reliable info about Austin eateries, check here.

Burger King

Various locations
Various hours (late-night drive-through at some locations)

If you're cruising for flame-kissed meat but you don't have time to get out of the car, Burger King is the place. The Whopper starts with an all-beef patty that is carefully charbroiled on a slow-moving conveyor belt. Additional flavor comes from freshly sliced tomatoes and onions, along with a sublime concert of ketchup and mayonnaise slathered across the bun. Burger King's "taste-test-winning" fries are disappointing when not straight out of the fryer, but you can always try their passable extra-crispy onion rings instead.

Jack in the Box

Various locations
Various hours (late-night drive-through at some locations)

Jack in the Box couldn't ignore the national epidemic of "healthy alternatives" taking up an increasing amount of drive-through menu space, so it added the "pannido." It might look like a salami-wrapped hot dog on TV, but actually it's a part of the new line of deli-style sandwiches called "classics on a roll" everywhere but Texas. But paper-thin slices of turkey and roast beef can't compete with the most infamous item on their menu: the deep-fried taco, two of which can be had for just 99 cents. A lot of people put down the Box's unique mix of spicy meat paste, lettuce, cheese slice, and hot sauce all wrapped up in a corn tortilla transparent with grease, but once you're a fan, you're a fan for life. No fast-food item goes better with cheap beer. Well, maybe a Sourdough Jack Bacon Cheeseburger.

KFC

Various locations
Various hours

You could get better fried chicken, but sometimes only the Colonel's secret blend of 11 herbs and spices will do. KFC's unique Original Recipe combines old-fashioned saltiness with a slight undertow of zesty zip that is revered from Korea to Kuwait. Often paired with WingWorks these days, fried chicken is no longer your only option at the counter, just the preferred one. Buffalo wings or a Roasted Chicken Sandwich are available when you're not in the mood for a bucket of deep-fried food; or if you are in the mood but also on the go, grab a minibucket of deep-fried food: the Jason Alexander-endorsed Popcorn Chicken. Notable side dishes include perfectly consistent mashed potatoes with mellow brown gravy and succulent corn on the cob that comes complete with a stick for easy, one-handed eating.

Schlotzsky's Deli

Various locations
Various hours

This Austin-based sandwich concern makes excellent turkey and pastrami sandwiches, but the Original is Schlotzsky's true standout. I happen to despise black olives, but I'll eat them happily if they're part of the three-meat, three-cheese masterpiece that is the Original. Add a few dashes of the in-house Louisiana-style hot sauce for extra spice, and don't forget to try Schlotzsky's better-than-average deli-style potato chips on the side.

Sonic

Various locations
Various hours

In small towns across America, cruising around the Sonic drive-in is a Friday night rite for the youngsters. Sonic's urban locations aren't exactly hotbeds of action, but you can enjoy oldies radio through tinny loudspeakers as modern-day carhops bedazzle you with fast food's finest array of fountain drinks, minus the roller skates. The shakes and malts taste almost hand-dipped, and a Route 44-sized limeade is just the ticket for caffeine-free thirst quenching. Foodwise, Sonic's foot-long chili cheese dog (onions on request) with a side of piping-hot Tater Tots is always a good bet.
Taco Cabana
Taco Cabana (Photo By John Anderson)

Taco Cabana

Various locations
24 hours

San Antonio-based Taco Cabana brought the combo-plate aesthetic of Tex-Mex to the fast-food arena. Although the drive-through waits are almost unbearable in the late-night hours, oft-inebriated revelers jonesing for enchiladas, fajitas, and breakfast tacos line up anyway. Taco Cabana's fresh flour tortillas are good enough to eat alone, so don't throw away any extras. If you're inside, be sure to go hog wild at the extensive condiment bar. All the salsa, pico de gallo, chopped onion, and cilantro you can carry is available free of charge.

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