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The Real Problem with American Coffee Isn’t the Beans, but the Culture

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

I’m far more of a wine connoisseur than a coffee drinker. Years ago I cut back to half decaf in order to cut back on migraines and stomach trouble. The hi-test sludge my editor prefers could never cross my lips for fear of bodily damage. The one thing I associate with brutal American coffee is brutal American stress: the need to meet a deadline, please a boss, do more, say more, be more with vim and vigor. Just as any alcoholic uses cheap trash, downing brutally burnt beans has become a lousy, albeit necessary way to get a much-needed fix. And that’s where we get coffee wrong in America.

Tel Aviv is littered with cafes and kiosks serving Euro-style coffee. I never got the hang of what to order to balance out my pathetically minimum caffeine requirement, but at Cafe Nachmani I not only learned how to order the right tasting brew, I learned how to enjoy it. I’ve never seen a windowsill in Starbucks lined with art magazines. Not Cosmo or People, literal professional art magazines you’d see in big city galleries and be afraid to touch. The Barnes & Noble cafes are filled with geeks on their laptops, chugging down brew in order to use the free WiFi. At Cafe Nachmani, patrons sipped on cappuccinos and the Israeli favorite, espresso, while lingering over literary mags heavier than half the books lining our chain’s clearance aisle.

Tel Avivans work like mad in a city that never sleeps. They’ve just learned how to enjoy a frenetic pace better than we ever could. It’s amazing how much more you enjoy life when you view it as a pleasure to be lived instead of an obligation to be fueled through.To better answer the question of what you’re drinking, you need to start with why you’re drinking it.

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The 10 Best Deals in Fast Food

Saturday, October 11th, 2014 - by Jeremy Swindle

So, you’ve come this far. You know which fast food restaurants are a waste of time, and which ones are a better deal than your local Applebee’s. But we’re not through yet. There’s still way too many options! There are so many fast food restaurants on the highway that it can get absolutely bamboozling when it comes to making the perfect choice. If only those interstate signs would provide some instructions to lead you and your road crew to the quality grease. Don’t despair: I’ve been there too, and after trying just about everything out there, it’s very easy to reduce the fast food game down to a simple “yes or no” answer.

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1. Little Caesars Pretzel Crust Pizza

Although you can never go wrong with the Little Skeezers Five Dollar Hot n’ Sweaty, an extra dollar gets you way more grease in the form of the new Pretzel Crust pizza. Wendy’s had their chance with their pretzel bun burger, but that was trash. The Pretzel Crust pizza, on the other hand, is a pizza filled with nothing but great ideas. Normally you would have to go to the mall to get a pizza pretzel along with the obligatory trip to Hot Topic, but not anymore. Little Caesars wins this round for taking mall food out of the mall.

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The 10 Most Irritating Fast Food Items You Must Avoid

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 - by Jeremy Swindle

10. Arby’s Jalapeño Poppers

Jalapeno poppers would appear to be a fine choice to side with your Arby’s meal; under ideal circumstances they could make for a decent sandwich topping. However, a more appropriate title for these little green bastards would be jalapeño exploders, because they burst open upon the first bite, searing the inside of your mouth. The spiciness is understated, but how can you taste anything when your taste buds have been burned by fried cheese? The jalapeño poppers should come with a warning that says “WARNING, WAIT AT LEAST 20 MINUTES BEFORE EATING. LIQUID CHEESE WILL SCAR AND BURN YOUR FACE.”

9. The Taco Bell Cantina Menu

If you spend more than 4 dollars on a single item at Taco Bell, you’re doing it wrong. Taco Bell should not be creating conventional food. They should stick to folding random objects in half and calling them tacos. The Cantina Menu should be banned. The idea of Taco Bell disguising their greasy brand of tacos as something gourmet is totally disgusting. Their Cantina Burrito was the only Taco Bell item that could be described as inedible. Most Taco Bell menu items are meant to be humorous; this tries to turn Taco Bell into something that isn’t funny or appetizing.

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When the Taco Bell Drive-Thru Becomes Art

Monday, September 1st, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Because this experience is so rare, not only did I visit TellTheBell.com to answer their customer-service survey — something I never do — but I just came in from the mailbox (yes, the snail-mail box) where I placed this letter, and put up the red flag for the postman. I share it with you now, as I would a visit to a fine museum, an inspiring concert, or a thrilling spectator sport.

Taco Bell 022872, 11829 Abrams Rd., Dallas, TX 75243

To the Manager,

I had such an experience at your restaurant drive-through yesterday, I had to take a moment to let you know. Over the years, I have worked in customer service, in restaurants, in sales and in customer-service training. My family frequently visits Taco Bell and other fast-food places.

But yesterday was far and away the finest drive-through experience I have had…even better than Chik-fil-A, which was the previous standard-bearer.

Laquiata H. (as her name appears on my receipt), greeted me through the speaker with a clear and cheerful voice. She immediately let me know that she was ready to serve when I was ready to order, no hurry. This little touch I found immediately endearing and comforting. Drive-throughs always feel rushed, menus are complicated and, if you don’t have perfect vision, difficult to read. (BTW, the small type on yours meant that we had to read the choices aloud to my wife in the passenger seat, inevitably fouling your speed stats.)

Laquiata was an island of peace and happiness in a hectic day. When we got to the window, she greeted us with a smile. When she handed us our food, she repeated the order clearly to eliminate errors. That little gesture made me feel like she really cared about us, and wanted us to have a terrific experience.

I don’t know if you realize how extraordinary this is in your industry. I have come to loathe drive-throughs, with their squawk boxes, fast-talking, inarticulate automatons, and frequent errors. Most folks in this line of work seem more concerned with getting rid of you, than with serving you.

Please convey my gratitude to Laquiata, and the support team that made it possible for her to be the voice and face of joyful welcome.

She singled-handedly turned a commodity into a work of art.

Thank You,

Scott Ott

One of the things that makes America great is folks like Laquiata, who bring this attitude to work each day.

Capitalism, after all, isn’t about prices, and markets, and margins, and finance.

It’s about people, and beauty, and emotion, and excellence, and human need, and joy, and love and liberty.

All of that other stuff is just mechanism.

This is heart.

This is real.


Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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The Rise of the Robot Employee

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun


President Obama’s new initiative is a higher minimum wage, and if he is successful the result will not be higher-paid employees heading off to work every day. Instead their jobs will be filled by an entirely new sort of worker: Robots.

Robots, unlike humans, don’t require pay or sick time or vacations. If they break they’re thrown out and recycled. Robots are expensive, but the threat of a higher minimum wage is now making a robotic worker more cost-effective than hiring a real person.

Across Japan the noodle-making chefs are now made of metal, and when you order a Big Mac at a MacDonald’s in Europe you do it by touch screen. A company called Momentum Machines in southern California has developed a robot that cranks out 400 perfectly-prepared burgers every hour. (Note: Robots do not sneeze. Ever. Think about that for a bit.)

Where is this going? Are we heading for a future where slinky femme fatale robots plot the destruction of mankind while wearing the perfect red dress?


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Fast Food Vigilante Flips Lid Over Wrong Order

Friday, March 21st, 2014 - by Walter Hudson


Neither PJ Media nor this author condones violence for settling commercial disputes. That said, it’s hard not to sympathize with an Oklahoma guy who decided McDonald’s served him the wrong oder for the last time. From The Smoking Gun:

A female cashier told police that a vehicle came through the drive-thru late Tuesday night and the driver picked up an order. But after discovering that the McDonald’s bag was short an item, a male passenger became upset, according to police in Chickasha, a city 40 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.

At that point, the suspect, who was in the vehicle’s back seat, pointed a gun at the employee and warned, “Don’t make me use this” and “Don’t let it happen again.”

We may never know, but it’s fair to bet this wasn’t the first time this suspect received an errant order from the drive-thru. God knows the rest of us have. While pulling a gun certainly amounts to an overreaction, we can imagine the train of thought which led to it.

How hard is it get a food order right? It seems especially egregious nowadays with all the technology and redundancies — computerized registers with pictures on the buttons, monitors for customers to verify orders, printed receipts to reference as a final check. How do you get it wrong? How?!

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We Should Have Kept Our Heads Down Rather Than Support Chick-fil-A

Saturday, August 4th, 2012 - by Leslie Loftis

Vandalism left in response to peaceful and orderly support of Chick fil A

Over the past day, I’ve seen more than a few discussions amongst Christians that we should not have done the Chick-fil-A event on Wednesday. After they ignore, reject, or exclude the free speech element of the event — which I will copy in order to counter their arguments — they have two lines of reasoning. First, this is Dan Cathy’s personal problem and therefore not “a hill to die on.” Second, the left feels like we hate them, and we are wrong to do anything that makes them feel that way. Whether we actually hate them is not the salient point. Both seem to think along the lines of one commenter, that this is a time to “keep our heads down” and practice our faith quietly.

Keep our heads down. I don’t recall such instructions anywhere in the Bible. I recall that we are to loudly proclaim our faith, that we are to offer succor to fellow Christians persecuted for our faith, and that we are to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. As if my resolve to never keep my head down needed a boost, I received the “heads down” comment in my inbox as I walked out of my second viewing of The Dark Knight Rises, which is not exactly a modern morality tale about the “virtue” of keeping one’s head down.

A prominent Christan has been ridiculed and his company banned from certain public venues because of his Christian values. He needs our support, and we are called to give it. The left may feel hatred from our actions, but whether we actually hate is the paramount question. We are judged both by God and by criminal courts of law on our actual intent, not by someone’s perception of our intent.

Furthermore, is this not all backward?  

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Someone Who Likes Gay People and Hates Fast Food in Defense of Chick-Fil-A

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 - by Andrew Klavan

I like gay people and — let me be frank — hate fast food. But this nonsense about Chick-Fil-A underscores the reason I’ve been hesitant to indulge my natural libertarianism and plunk outright for gay marriage.

In general, I have no problem with marriage for gays, if it comes about legislatively rather than through judicial fiat. I’ve listened carefully to the arguments of several social conservatives of good will who feel that changing the age-old definition of marriage will weaken a principle pillar of liberty. I’m not convinced — not even convinced that the possibility of such a moral hazard is a compelling reason to keep people from doing whatever they bloody well want with their private lives. As for the ideas that being gay is unnatural or a sin per se — that is, a sin whether it does any earthly harm or not — I reject them outright. Homosexuality seems as much a part of nature as left-handedness and is probably much less annoying when using scissors. And if it is somehow offensive to God, that’s His business: I am specifically instructed to judge not in such matters and tend to my own manifold offenses.

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Burger King Employees Should Not Upload Pics of Themselves Contaminating the Lettuce

Thursday, July 19th, 2012 - by PJ Lifestyle Humor


via Burger King Employee Stands In Lettuce, Gets Busted By 4chan.

So here’s what happened: an anonymous user posted an image on 4chan Monday night of himself standing in two tubs of lettuce along with the caption “This is the lettuce you eat at Burger King.”

Unfortunately for him, he failed to strip out the GPS tags before uploading the picture, and the anons (the nameless, faceless people who spend time on 4chan) pretty much immediately tracked down his location to Mayfield Heights, Ohio.

Related at PJ Lifestyle:

But I Love That Place: The 7 Most Overrated Fast Food Restaurants

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Burger Battle, Round 3: A Big Dog Goes Wild for Animal-Style at In-N-Out

Friday, July 6th, 2012 - by Dave Swindle

See Round 1 in Burger Battle, PJ Lifestyle’s ongoing debate to find America’s best burgers, by Bryan Preston: In-N-Out Vs Five Guys

And Round 2 by Bridget Johnson: West Coast Homer Votes In-N-Out 

Stay tuned for more installments as PJ Lifestyle’s other contributors are also invited to upload pictures and reviews from their preferred burger joints around the country (and perhaps the world?) Readers too can share their recommendations participate in Burger Battle. Take a picture of your favorite burger and email it to me DaveSwindlePJM AT Gmail.com along with your instructions for where to get it and how to order it.


At the end of their visit to PJM headquarters last week, I drove editors Bryan Preston, David Steinberg by the In-N-Out Burger at LAX before their flights back to Texas and New York. And we made a big mistake. We didn’t take PJ Washington DC editor Bridget Johnson’s advice to order “Animal Style”.

As a result, Bryan wrote in his blog post that he still preferred Five Guys. And driving away from the airport after dropping off my colleagues I unwrapped my burger only to receive confirmation of my previous opinion: The Habit is SoCal’s Best Burger. The flavor of In-N-Out just wasn’t as vivid even though in many other ways they still offered an excellent burger.

Then Bridget stepped in to remind us we’d forgotten her advice. If you don’t have an In-N-Out Animal Style then you might as well not bother.

So last night after wrapping up the last PJ Lifestyle post, I grabbed Maura, and hopped in the car. The plan: grab an Animal Style Double Double and head to the park. Here are six photos of our adventure to figure out if this could really elevate In-N-Out as high as Bridget claimed.

"Please let me have some too!"

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Burger Battle: West Coast Homer Votes In-N-Out

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012 - by Bridget Johnson

I got into L.A. a few days before Bryan did last week, and I confess that In-N-Out wasn’t the first place I headed. Since I flew into Long Beach, I swung by my old ‘hood and a fabulous dive called Casa Sanchez for some real, honest-to-God, why-doesn’t-this-exist-out-East Mexican food. What a relief to hear the person in line before me order cabeza tacos. What a delight to sip the first Orange Bang I’d had in four years. And how delish my chorizo con papas taco (a whole $1.20) and asada quesadilla were.

So I was a bit full heading into dinner, now soaking up some ocean breeze near my hotel at LAX. PJM’s Aaron Hanscom and I headed over to the In-N-Out to continue my journey through the myriad tastes of L.A. remembered but not duplicated anywhere across my new East Coast stomping ground. I didn’t even attempt the neapolitan shake — one of the In-N-Out code words (and yes, I did share some with Bryan, including the 4×4, before he and the Daves went) for the three flavors together — and didn’t finish my Double-Double animal style with animal-style fries (cheese, grilled onions, thousand island — like the burger). But as Patrick Poole noted in his pithy response to Bryan’s review, need one say more than “animal-style”?

Note the broken french fry hanging off the edge. The puppacita was sitting on the bench there, with the lovely view of planes landing at the Westchester/LAX location. Before I knew it, she had the fry sticking out of her mouth and tried to spirit it away. She’s never tried to steal a Five Guys fry, though that’s likely because I order the cajun ones just to get some flavor.

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Burger Battle: In-N-Out Vs Five Guys

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012 - by Bryan Preston

A few months back I blogged the wonders of the Five Guys burger, declaring it the best burger on the planet. Food blogging can be more perilous than politics or just about anything else; people are passionate about their palates. So that post generated quite a bit of feedback and a little bit of hate mail. People wanted to know: how could I declare Five Guys the best, when I had never even had the pleasure of the In-N-Out burger?

That was a good question, but I didn’t have an answer. I could only shrug. I grew up on Whataburgers so I could authoritatively rule them great but Five Guys better. Ditto for Sonic, despite its unstoppable cherry limeade. We all have our local haunts that can’t be topped. Around Austin, that’s Mighty Fine. Up in Baltimore, Burger Bros. is amazing and I cannot recommend them highly enough. Every town has its own best burger. But among the big chains that inspire fanatic loyalty, which is the best?

Let’s throw another bit of fire in the fight: Five Guys is an east coast franchise spreading west, while In-N-Out is a west coast franchise spreading east. They’ll meet in the middle at some point. There will be burger blood. But I’m a man from the middle of the country, and am a fair judge of both coasts in that I largely condemn the culture and politics of both.

So anyway, while I’d been to the west coast several times, until last week I’d never eaten an In-N-Out burger. Something always got in the way. But at the end of a visit to PJM world headquarters in glamorous El Segundo, CA, on Friday, Daves Swindle and Steinberg and I hit the In-N-Out on Sepulveda on the way to LAX. So now I can weigh in.

When I assess competing burgers, I look at a few basic criteria: Presentation, Bread, Meat, Veggies, Fries, and Overall Taste. So let’s break it down.

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How To Be an Amateur Wine Snob in 5 Easy Steps

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 - by Sunny

I admit it: I am an amateur wine snob. An amateur wine snob is a person who knows enough about wine to be annoyingly high-maintenance, picky, and impressive. It is someone who can get an enormous amount of sensory pleasure from a good wine and who can say things like, “I want a well-balanced Cab and if I can get my hands on a 2005 from Oregon I’ll be really happy.”

Are you impressed yet?

Becoming an amateur wine snob is not as hard as it appears to be. There may be a dizzying amount of information out there about wine, but so there is about most anything, and a small amount of information goes a long way.

As an amateur wine snob I would like to have a quality glass of wine when I go out to dinner. The problem is most restaurants in America serve crappy junk wine because most of you don’t know enough to ask for better and will drink the average swill without complaint. That $6 glass of California red you ordered probably cost the restaurant less than $3 for the bottle. Cheap. Junk. Because of the lack of wine snobbery in this country, I have to go out of my way to go somewhere that serves good wine and I HATE going out of my way. I would like wine snobbery to spread far enough so I can get a gorgeous dry red with well-balanced, ripened tannins at a McDonald’s drive-thru. (Okay, well, maybe not the drive-thru.)

For God's sake, they have it in South America. The only thing stopping us is a lack of wine snobbery!

Here are five easy steps to join the illustrious ranks of the Amateur Wine Snobs of America.

Step 1: You have to want it.

Does wine give you a headache? Not so, my friend. CRAPPY wine gives you a headache! Guess what? If you have a quality wine, you can drink an entire bottle without getting a headache. This knowledge is understood by both wine snobs and every homeless drunk in the world.

I'd like a well-aged Cabernet please. That cheap s*it gives me a headache.

Why else should you want to be a wine snob?

  • Impress your friends
  • Impress your date (This is true for men and women unless your date is Homer Simpsonish. Homer would just be annoyed and intimidated by your sophistication.)
  • Get a lot more pleasure out of a glass of wine
  • It’s heart healthy

Do you need more reasons? There aren’t any. If you are not motivated now, go have a Bud Lite and stop wasting my time.

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Are the Overweight the Next Government Target?

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 - by Helen Smith

I was sitting here this morning reading a book I picked up at the drugstore called the Flat Belly Diet! (what was I thinking??) when I turned on the computer and saw the headline at Drudge about this article: “Obesity could affect 42% of Americans by 2030″:

A new forecast on America’s obesity crisis has health experts fearing a dramatic jump in health care costs if nothing is done to bring the epidemic under control.The new projection, released here Monday, warns that 42% of Americans may end up obese by 2030, and 11% could be severely obese, adding billions of dollars to health care costs.

“If nothing is done (about obesity), it’s going to hinder efforts for health care cost containment,” says Justin Trogdon, a research economist with RTI International, a non-profit research organization in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park.

Have you noticed how everything now is about containing health care costs? I understand that obesity can cost money, though if people are dying early as the article implies, isn’t that a savings? It seems that there always has to be some target with this administration: the bankers, the rich, the 1%, now the overweight.

Pretty soon, there will be a “war on the obese” which will probably insure that more people than ever will gain weight. Excuse me while I go throw my diet book in the trash.

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American Fast Food: The Saltiest on the Planet

Monday, April 16th, 2012 - by Dave Swindle

The New York Daily News today proclaims “U.S. has saltiest fast food: McNuggets have twice the sodium as those in U.K., says study”:

What makes fast food taste all-American? Salt, and lots of it.

In fact, the fast food in the U.S. may be the saltiest in the world, according to a Canadian health journal.

Researchers found that foods from popular fast-food chains, including McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Domino’s, Subway and Pizza Hut, contain more sodium in certain countries.

For example, after analyzing McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets in the U.K., France, Canada, New Zealand the the U.S., scientists found that American McNuggets had the highest sodium content, with 1.6 grams of salt per 100 grams.

McNuggets in the U.K. contained 0.6 grams of salt per 100 grams, less than half what was in America’s chicken bites.

Those behind the study were quick to add that avoiding fast food isn’t a surefire way to lower salt intake. Foods and products with sky-high sodium levels are everywhere.

Not long ago salt and meat were cherished luxuries. (And in much of the world they still are.) Yet today they’re the foundation of our diets. And in the 21st century-style recession somehow the opposite of starvation has happened. Now instead of “the poor” starving to death they choose to save money by eating high calorie, unhealthy food.

Related: This is how much we’ve been spoiled by the riches of our freedom. “Nonprofit” “consumer advocacy” groups trying to make it illegal to market fast food to children:

A San Francisco judge has dismissed a proposed class-action lawsuit that sought to stop McDonald’s Corp. from using toys to market its meals to children in the Golden State.

The suit had been filed in late 2010 by Monet Parham, a California mother of two, and The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

The suit had claimed that the world’s biggest hamburger chain was violating consumer protection laws by using toys to lure them to eat nutritionally unbalanced meal. The lawsuit did not seek damages.

What would famished Irish families fleeing starvation at the close of the 18th century think if they could see us now?

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