With fast food, it's all about timing — the quicker the better. Sure, a counter request that's ready in five minutes or less is admirable, and a drive-thru order time of two minutes and thirty-six seconds is the McAverage mark of efficiency, but it's not the fastest.
What if Fry Girl told you there's a place where the grub's waitin' on you? A place so fast you could scarf it down standing up. A place where plates of goodies pass you by, then pass you by again, and again, and again.
Interested? Well jump in the kitsch car, my fastest food friends; we're goin' to get conveyor-belt sushi, or kaiten-zushi — at Teharu Sushi in Tempe. And if you're a sushi snob, your best bet is to stay the hell home, because Teharu ain't for purists. As for Fry Girl . . .
9845 South Priest Drive, Tempe
In the time it takes a drive-thru speaker to bark, "Welcome to Jack in the McWhopper . . ." I'm bellied up to the Teharu sushi bar, packing away colorful platefuls of spicy tuna rolls, rainbow rolls, gyoza, and spicy-crispy Haru poppers rolling by me in a steady stream of "Yes, please!" and "Oh, why, thank you — yes, I will try one!"
Menu? Don't need one. It's rolling by on dual conveyor belt that surrounds a three-sided sushi bar, small white signs announcing the next parade of plastic-covered fare. Sure, you could special-order from the chef, but where's the spontaneity, where's the speed?
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The scene at Teharu sushi is bewitchingly wild: platefuls of standard sushi favorites gliding by as Japanese pop plays on the PA, ESPN is on the TV, and someone's calling out to Hernando, the Latino sushi chef, but once you've broken the spell, it's all about playing the time-saving game. Pudding and diced peaches? Skip those, too much work and way weird. Want to avoid lukewarm shrimp tempura? Watch for the chef to lay the fried goods on the track, and then snatch it up before the guy sitting next to you does.
Teharu's system of color-coded plates (proudly displayed as a set on the far wall) is a genius. It's easy to tally your total (third-grade math skills may be required) and it's crazy-cheap because no plate is more than $2. You can stack those plates high and proud, pigging out for pennies.
Until Fry Girl gets around to submitting her patent for a revolving belt of burgers and fries, when it comes to fast track convenience, I'll be riding the sushi train at Teharu.