Everybody's broke and food still costs money. Unfortunately, we seem to care more about our wallets than our health. For years, fast food chains have been taking advantage of this disposition by saturating our media with ads for dollar menus filled with items that are appealing in terms of budget and convenience, but somewhat lacking when it comes to quality.
Recently, I went to Downtown Crossing with a dollar and some change (because dollar menus are never actually a dollar, despite the ad campaigns constantly making such a claim). I had one goal: to find a satisfying snack in this price range. The three fast food giants were all represented within a few blocks, so this seemed like an area bound to satisfy my hunger.
As an homage to Boston's history of rich Irish culture, I started with McDonald's. The choices there seemed to be the McDouble (apparently, a double cheeseburger with only one slice of cheese), a "chicken sandwich" made of breaded scrap meat and mayonnaise, or a sliver of grilled chicken and brown lettuce smothered in mystery sauce on a soft taco shell. Tempting, but I decided to move on to check out the competition.
Burger King's dollar menu items seemed to resemble food, which was nice. Their double cheeseburger looks much more appealing than the McDouble, plus they actually call it a double cheeseburger. Regardless, past experience warned me that it would leave the same ache in my stomach. The dollar menu chicken tenders almost sold me until I realized there would only be four of them, and for some reason they were uniformly shaped like the letter M, as if to remind me that no, this is not actual food. The dollar menu french fries were half the size of a small but completely covered in salt and I realized they were just a clever ploy to make me spend three dollars on a soda.
A few blocks down Winter or Summer street or maybe both, Wendy's had the most promising spread. The chicken sandwich here may once have been part of a chicken. And only one part, at that. The fries here seemed to have less salt and a lot more substance than the competition. Best of all, however, was the Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. The beef was clearly of a higher caliber (though not by much), the bun looked like it was less than a week old, and--best of all--there were actual vegetables on it! Real life vegetables! Iceberg lettuce, glistening like... like an iceberg. Slices of tomato that were still red. But the downfall of Wendy's' menu comes when your eyes wander to the right of the item names. Their value items are closer to $1.50 before tax, and that's far too much to pay for something that probably isn't going to fill you up with anything but self-loathing. I gave up.
On the way back up Summer or Winter St., I found a street vendor selling fruit. Fresh fruit. Since I had already admitted defeat, I decided to buy two apples to practice my juggling on the way home. To my astonishment, the cost was less than a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. At that price, the apples became expendable. I tried eating one. Shockingly, this food item was at once crisp and juicy. It filled me up and satisfied my thirst at the same time. And though it tasted suspiciously like candy, further research has informed me that I don't have to feel guilty about eating it. Fruit is actually healthy! Healthy and cheap!
Burger King - 128 Tremont Street, Boston, MA - (617) 556-8299
McDonald's - 146 Tremont Street, Boston, MA - (617) 778-5226
Wendy's - 71 Summer Street, Boston, MA - (617) 542-5719
The fruit stand is located at the corner of Summer Street and Washington Street, just before or after Summer becomes Winter.