Fast food feud: why Americans do it better

We may be in the midst of a grease-soaked love affair with the States here in Australia, but having just returned from a US road trip, it pains me to say we’ve still got a way to go in the fast food stakes. Particularly when it comes to slapping things between bread. From New Orleans po’boys to chilli cheeseburgers in Albuquerque and New York’s fattest sandwiches, here are nine carb-loaded delights from the streets of America.

 

America’s over-the-top portions are the stuff of legend, and that lusty lack of restraint translates to their sandwiches. Whether it’s a soft burger bun, slices of rye or a crusty baguette, the bread is happy to play second fiddle to the juicy burger patty, hunks of pastrami or fried fish within. Liberal saucing and lashings of cheese take things to the next level. Skipping from New York to New Orleans, Austin to Albuquerque, we’ve rounded up nine of America’s top take-outs.

1. Cheeseburger, In-N-Out Burger
We skipped the not-so-secret menu offerings of the 4 x 4 burger (that’s four beef patties, four slices of cheese, people) and the souped-up Animal Fries, and settled on a regular cheeseburger, whipping off the slab of raw onion before tucking in. Two slices of sunflower-yellow American cheese and creamy ‘Animal’ sauce make for a tasty burger. Note the bible verses on the packaging – this is a righteous fast-food experience. 49188 Seminole Dr, Cabazon, CA

2. Pastrami on rye, Katz’s Deli
Sure it’s a tourist trap, but no food tour of New York is complete without a pastrami on rye from Katz’s Deli. This mountainous sandwich boasts a hefty 10cm of blushing-pink pastrami, with a lick of mustard and a side of half-sour pickles. Classic. 205 E Houston St, New York, NY

3. Lotaburger with cheese and green chile, Blake’s Lotaburger
The standout burger on our Southern US roadtrip, this unassuming diner in the northern ‘burbs of Albuquerque delivers the goods. The regular Lotaburger is simple beef patty and salad combo, so pimp it up with cheese, chopped jalapenos and the awesome sauteed green chile. Skip the uninspiring chilli cheese fries though. Various locations, lotaburger.com

4. Meatloaf po’boy, Killer Po’Boys
Tucked out the back of the Erin Rose pub, this pop-up-turned-permanent offers a creative take on the classic NOLA po’boy. We worked our way through the five-spice meatloaf with mustard and chilli choy sum; glazed pork belly with ginger and lime slaw; and a bahn mi-inspired version with seared Gulf shrimp, daikon radish, carrot, herbs and Sriracha mayo. Clever stuff. 811 Conti St, New Orleans, LA

5. Fried catfish po’boy, Liuzza’s by the Track
While the contemporary offerings at Killer are mighty fine, they’ve got nothing on the old-school appeal of Liuzza’s. The foot-long pistolette (baguette) comes filled with fried catfish, garlic shrimp, oysters or roast beef, with shredded iceberg lettuce, a slice of tomato and mayonnaise, and a side of sweet potato fries. 1518 N Lopez St, New Orleans, LA

6. Breakfast taco, Veracruz All Natural
We’re not sure how all-natural the bright-pink sausage in our breakfast taco was, but we’re not complaining. Arrive at this no-frills food truck early for freshly made tortillas crammed with scrambled eggs, potato, cheese and bacon, anointed with your choice of hot sauce and salsas. 1704 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX

7. Guinness dog, Dat Dog
Set in the bustling jazz hub of Frenchmen Street in Marigny, this busy little hotdog joint serves everything from alligator to turducken sausages. The grilled beef Guinness Dog comes slathered in a wickedly rich andouille sauce, Creole mustard, chopped onions and crisp bacon. There’s a dusting of parsley to add a gratuitous hint of green to the meaty madness. 601 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA

8. ShackBurger, Shake Shack
There’s no denying the allure of Shake Shack, with its sleek eateries, luscious frozen custards and spot-on burgers. Zero in on the ShackBurger, with a squishy bun, a ruffle of lettuce, token tomato, tangy Shack Sauce and golden cheese melting into a prime beef patty. Various locations, shakeshack.com

9. Lobster roll, Clam Bar
An obligatory stop on the way back from the Hamptons, Clam Bar dishes out steaming cups of clam chowder, plus this chock-a-block lobster roll, loosely bound with mayonnaise and celery. It’s bare-bones alfresco dining, with no-nonsense service and plastic tables set at the edge of the highway. 2025 Montauk Hwy, Amagansett, NY

For more tasty bites from Eat My Words, discover Melbourne’s best burgers, or join a food tour of New York.

Sarah Gamboni is an Australian food, drinks and travel writer. Sarah writes for leading lifestyle magazines and websites, and produces content for a range of clients spanning tourism bodies, beauty products, food and fashion. She is currently based in Dubai with her husband, Simon, and daughter, Francesca.

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