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Our 5 least favorite fast food items of 2021, so far

our-5-least-favorite-fast-food-items-of-2021,-so-far

Toy versions of soda cup, burger, and fries on sky blue background

Image: Maryna Terletska (Getty Images)

At The Takeout, we’re always approaching fast food with a curious eye, an eager stomach, and open arms. Fast food is a fascinating business, after all: by the time a new menu item lands in your to-go bag, it has already undergone a process of R&D you wouldn’t believe. The flavors, the ingredients, the name, and the price point of a given sandwich might have changed a dozen times leading up to its release, and as consumers, we get to reap the tasty benefits of all that trial and error for just a couple bucks.

Sometimes, of course, these fast food and fast casual chains miss the mark. Not every new release is a winner, and some highly anticipated menu items turn out to be downright disappointing. We never want to yuck anyone’s yum, but when these businesses let us down, we’re not afraid to say so. Here are five items in 2021 that just didn’t live up to the hype.

2 / 7

Starbucks’ Strawberry Funnel Cake Frappuccino

Starbucks’ Strawberry Funnel Cake Frappuccino

Starbucks’ Strawberry Funnel Cake Frappuccino on Starbucks tabletop

Photo: Allison Robicelli

According to a press release sent to The Takeout this past spring, the Starbucks Strawberry Funnel Cake Frappuccino was “inspired by a nostalgic flavor reminiscent of carefree summer moments.” It also emphasized that “Funnel Cake is what good moods are made of, and customers are turning to nostalgic flavors inspired by past experiences like fairs, festivals and amusement parks.” Translation: everyone was so down in the dumps after 2020 that only an over-the-top, ultra-twee sugar concoction could perk us back up and usher in the summer season. Starbucks, we sincerely appreciate the effort to elevate the national mood, but the “funnel cake” flavor layered into this Frappuccino among the strawberry puree and powdered sugar tasted sharp and burnt, like it had sat in the fry basket too long. We’ll hope for better things next time the carnival comes to town. (Read the full review of Starbucks’ Strawberry Funnel Cake Frappuccino here.)

3 / 7

Boston Market’s Nashville Hot Breaded Chicken Sandwich

Boston Market’s Nashville Hot Breaded Chicken Sandwich

Interior of Nashville Hot Breaded Chicken Sandwich from Boston Market

Photo: Dennis Lee

We’ll start with the positives: the Boston Market Nashville Hot Breaded Chicken Sandwich is larger in circumference than most fast food chicken sandwiches. Its brioche bun is picture perfect. The pickles had a good amount of vinegary pickle flavor. That is sadly where the compliments come to an end, as the overall sandwich is a missed opportunity. Bland chicken with insufficient heat, watery ranch dressing, zero crunch from any breading. Boston Market’s regular rotisserie chicken is a consistent crowd-pleaser, making it easy to abandon the Nashville Hot and just stick to the chain’s family-style classics. (Read the full review of Boston Market’s Nashville Hot Breaded Chicken Sandwich here.)

4 / 7

McDonald’s Caramel Brownie McFlurry

McDonald’s Caramel Brownie McFlurry

Product shot of McDonald's Caramel Brownie McFlurry

Back in May, the Caramel Brownie McFlurry was the first new McFlurry flavor announced by McDonald’s since 2019, so naturally, we had high hopes. The fast food giant even went so far as to describe it as “what sweet dreams are made of.” Who wouldn’t be excited? But alas, the brownie chunks carried the distinctly acrid, chemical aftertaste you sometimes get with mass-produced baked goods, and the caramel ribbons were relatively flavorless. When it comes to the McFlurry, there’s a whole menu of superior varieties to choose from, so feel free to avoid this newcomer and stick to your old favorites. (Read the full review of McDonald’s Caramel Brownie McFlurry here.)

5 / 7

TGI Fridays’ Whiskey Glazed Skewer

TGI Fridays’ Whiskey Glazed Skewer

Overhead view of all the food from the Under the Big Top menu at TGI Fridays

Photo: Allison Robicelli

TGI Fridays’ Under The Big Top menu was a summer promotion that had it all: show-stopping dishes, circus-inspired mashups, and an overall sense of whimsy that seemed designed to assure diners it was all right to return to restaurant dining. The new menu served up everything from doughnut burgers to cotton candy cosmos—and its offerings were hit or miss. The cheese fries and churros were decidedly excellent, while the Mozz Stick Melter was middling. But the Whiskey Glazed Skewers? Those missed the mark by a country mile. Featuring three Whiskey-Glazed Cheeseburger Sliders and six Boneless Wings on one very long stick, you’d think this menu item would be hard to mess up. But TGI Fridays found a way. (Read the full review of TGI Fridays’ Whiskey Glazed Skewers here.)

6 / 7

Chipotle’s Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice

Chipotle’s Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice

Chipotle Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice burrito bowl in white paper bowl

Photo: Dennis Lee

Back in January, Chipotle kicked off the new year (a time of many health-related resolutions!) by announcing the debut of its Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice, a product popular among people who wish to cut carbs and those observing Keto, Whole30, Paleo, etc. We should be clear here: cauliflower rice can be an awesome dish, but only if you don’t treat it like rice. You have to take certain precautions to keep it from becoming an overcooked pile of mush, and Chipotle’s steam tables just aren’t the right environment for it. But hey, at least the chain’s new quesadilla is good, right? (Read the full review of Chipotle’s Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice here.)

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