Fry Girl's Year of Eating Dangerously

Even with the movement for organic food and farming gaining momentum, the fast food giants know that 40 percent of our meals are eaten outside the home, French fries are the most eaten vegetable in the United States, and, though the demands for healthier food may have changed the way they do business, most of us still crave a cheeseburger.




Safe 'n' scrumptious

• The Chuckbox Burgers: One of the few joints in the Valley that serves up its burgers from a mesquite charcoal grill. 'Nuff said. (202 E. University Dr., Tempe, 480-968-4712,

• Hana Dog and Lava Tots, from Maui Dog: Fresh, homemade toppings and a unique combination of spicy and sweet make Maui Dog a unique tropical treat. I think I just wrote their first jingle. (3538 E. Indian School Rd., 602-464-3063,

• Green Chili Burro con Frijoles, from Rito's: Once you find this legendary joint, grab the napkins and hang on; this fiery burro's burstin' with flavor. (907 N. 14th St., 602-262-9842)

The Gyro Picado from George's Famous Gyros: Like a kick to the Greek groin, this spicy delight is pure gyro euphoria. (7620 E. McKellips Rd., Scottsdale, 480-874-1354,

• The Jerk Chicken Sandwich, from Chaka Chaka: A huge hoagie jam-packed with flavorful ingredients including a fried banana slice — and at six bucks, it's the best deal in town. (1009 S. 7th St., 602-561-3110,

Culver's Custard: Creamy, eggy, and made fresh daily, this better-than-ice cream treat out of Wisconsin makes a Wendy's Frosty taste like chilled chalk chunks. (

Hazardous to your health

KFC's Double Down: Please don't make me go back to that scary place. (

Chocolate-covered scorpion: You can douse it with chocolate sauce, but it's still a predatory arthropod someone found in a shoe, and the taste makes you wish you'd been stung instead. (

Taco Bell's Cantina Tacos: These street tacos should not be eaten, but placed on a street and run over repeatedly. (

The Whataburger 5-3-1: A square salt lick disguised as a burger and a $5 price equals a numerical nightmare that adds up to zero. (

Burger King's Fire-Grilled Ribs: The box said, "Straight From the Grill." I would have accepted "Straight from Hell" or "Left on the Grill." Dehydrated and DOA. (

That's the response I got from a lot of folks when I told them what I did as Fry Girl. Zilch. Sometimes there was a polite smile or a laugh, as if I'd just told them a joke, a punch line akin to saying I was a shrimp blogger or a cake ninja. Some, like the woman I met at a Wendy's VIP breakfast event, felt the need to impart their negative views of fast food — "I don't eat it," "It's not good for you," "I once got busy in a Burger King bathroom" — successfully killing any chance of further conversation and moving along to more important topics, like anything else. One woman I introduced myself to at a hot dog joint simply glared at me and said through clenched teeth, "I know who you are and I know what you do."

I got a few e-mails, not as many as I would have liked. I could usually count on a few nasty-grams when I gave a joint a bad review, something I'm not fond of doing. I was called unfair, a snob, and an imbecile. I've been told that I ask idiotic questions, that I don't give new places a chance, that I'm cursed, that I reek of grease, and that I think I'm the Queen of Tempe. Passionate people, no doubt, who enjoy fast food. We're more alike than they may think.

Occasionally, I was lucky enough to receive an "Atta (Fry)Girl!" via e-mail or comment on a blog post. Some asked questions about who's got the best this or have I ever tried that. I enjoyed hearing what fellow fast food fans think is good in the Valley and of their own personal experiences with grab 'n' go grub. It's good company to keep. One time someone overheard me interviewing a restaurant owner and stopped to ask whether I was Fry Girl. After I hesitated before affirming my identity, he shook my hand — a brief moment of greasy glory.

"Do you think this would work on my menu?"

I was asked that question recently from a local fast-food owner and fry guy. We'd struck up a friendship after I'd been there a few times, something I've done with several of my local grub-hunting pursuits, almost all of them initially surprised to hear there's actually some sucker out there who wants to write about what they do. They're enthusiastic, dedicated, and usually scared shitless things won't work out for them. Some have been in the restaurant business since they were kids, others have moved their families across the country to take over a business, and still others have risked it all in the name of "screw the man, this is my goddamn dream."

Sure, Fry Girl was essentially a column about fast food, but it's the people behind the patties that make us feel more connected to our bites in a bag. Maybe, in a weird way, eating fast food is like experiencing music or art; we tend to enjoy it more when we know who its creator is. And let's face it, when you're talking about grub served up in less than five minutes, a little life story goes a long way.

Back in the examining room with my doctor, the question still hangs in the air — where did my food virus that ultimately landed me in the hospital for three days come from?

Here's what I know: In my year of eating fast food, of ceasing to follow my past good-eating habits, of consuming untold amounts of calories and crap from a gaggle of grease pits slinging everything from deep-fried butter to monster-size burgers to cheese covered in chicken, it's anyone's guess.

I look up at my doctor whose eyebrows are raised in anticipation and answer, "You know what, Doc?" and then. with a shrug, "Nothin' comes to mind."

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My Voice Nation Help

Glad you're out of the hospital. I always enjoyed your columns. I for one hope Fry Girl sticks around, as long as it doesn't kill you. Don't go the way of Booze Pig- my other favorite column.