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The One Menu Change That Every Fast Food Chain Needs to Make

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Photo: Jorge Isaac MC (Shutterstock)

McDonald’s breakfast is delicious, but it’s not gonna keep you full for long. Yes, you’ve got your Sausage Biscuits and Egg McMuffins, but the breakfast sandwiches’ meager protein content is no match for the carb-laden sleepiness that ensues shortly after you peel out of the drive-thru line. Not so in Costa Rica, where McDonald’s customers are lucky enough to greet the day with a nutritious, meatless entree: gallo pinto. It’s a simple but tasty dish involving rice, beans, and add-ins like spices and peppers. Behold, a hill upon which I will gladly die: All fast food menus should incorporate a rice-based side dish.

Which fast food chains serve rice dishes?

Mashed explains that the aforementioned McDonald’s gallo pinto, served in Costa Rica, is officially dubbed “McPinto,” featuring rice, beans, and warm tortillas. If you’re unfamiliar with gallo pinto, it’s a dish commonly served in Nicaragua and Costa Rica centering on seasoned rice and beans. I can’t speak for the Costa Rican version, but Nicaraguan gallo pinto is the business.

Alas, Costa Rica is approximately 3,500 miles from The Takeout’s Chicago headquarters. Fortunately, I can get my kicks at a number of other fast food joints that have the foresight to offer rice to the screaming masses. Pop over to Jollibee, and you can score some very tasty adobo rice. Meanwhile, Taco Bell offers black beans and rice as a side dish, and Popeyes serves red beans and rice (RIP, Cajun rice). Here’s the question: How do we, members of the unofficial rice lobby, get rice onto other fast food menus?

How rice could fit into existing fast food menus

Rice is on the menu at Jollibee, Taco Bell, and Popeyes locations across the United States. But I’m here to argue that rice is also a no-brainer for burger chains like Burger King and Wendy’s. How? Two words: Rice pilaf.

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Pilaf, baby! Pilaf!

Rice pilaf is a staple on steakhouse menus, offering a buttery side that goes perfectly with beefy, savory entrees. With this in mind, it’s a natural fit for fast food menus. Sure, you can have your fries like always—but you can also have rice if you’d prefer something a bit less greasy. Rice also doesn’t require the use of hot oil, making it ostensibly faster and easier (and maybe even safer) to prepare than fries or onion rings. Finally, depending on the preparation, rice can serve as a neutral vessel for a chain’s signature sauces.

Is rice easy to eat on the go? No—but it’s not like you’re eating a Wendy’s baked potato behind the wheel, either. Ultimately, rice is a staple food for more than half the world’s population for good reason. It’s time for North America to embrace rice as a fast food staple, too.

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