Burgers, dogs, burritos, fries, shakes, sandwiches, cheese curds — Fry Girl's packed her breadbasket with as much fast-food fare as one year could deliver. So what's the verdict? Dig my list of "mosts" and find out what fried food was fabulous and what flopped in 2010.
Most unique: When it comes to far-out franks with a tropical flair, Maui Dog delivers. With homemade sauces, signature sweet buns, and fresh toppings, these dogs taste as good as they look. The spicy Hana Dog is a solid bet. Get one with lava tots (Tater Tots smothered in vegetarian chili), or try a Spam-a-rific slider, for nothin' like you've ever had on the U.S. mainland.
Most tried-and-true burger: Cooking over a charcoal grill is expensive, hard to work with, and a bitch to clean. That's why hardly anyone does it. Also why the burgers at The Chuckbox taste so damn good. Order up the Tijuana Torpedo — jalapeño jack cheese, a green chile, and two patties sprinkled with the Chuck's signature "magic dust" seasoning — and you'll see why this joint's recession-proof patty perfection.
Most improved: Kudos to the little redheaded girl with the pigtails for trotting out not one, but three big improvements in the house that Dave Thomas built. Get there for a surprisingly good breakfast burrito in the a.m., then come back 'round lunchtime for one of their new Garden Sensations salads (try the BLT Cobb) or for this year's best upgrade from a fast-food giant — Wendy's new natural-cut fries with sea salt.
Most disgusting: Accidentally downing a bug in your grub is one thing, but purposely consuming a predatory arthropod, a.k.a. a scorpion whose last home was under a trailer wheel at the Arizona State Fair, is entirely different — chocolate sauce be damned. It's no lark, just loathsome. I'd rather be stung.
Most shameful: Was KFC's Double Down real, a publicity stunt, or a dark place in our live s requiring therapy? Whatever it was, it was boneless, abominable, and someone's goin' to Hell for it.
And the rest . . .
Most fantastic ring of fried dough: Bosa Donuts (the plain glazed)
Best command of custard: Culver's (Concrete Mixer or, hell, anything)
Most fast-food fun you can have for $6: The jerk chicken sandwich at Chaka Chaka
Most gyro euphoria: George's Famous Gyros (Gyro Picado)
Most soda pop that satisfies: Rocket Burger (over 200 kinds)
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Most cold-weather comfort: homemade champurrado at Nogales Hot Dogs
La experiencia más gratificante: encontrar Rito's y comer un chile verde burrito con frijoles
Most desired comeback: Ricky's Big Philly. Wherever you are, Ricky, the Valley needs your crazy-good cheesesteaks. Please bring them back to us in 2011.