Beach Burritos

Last week, I was unceremoniously exiled to the toasty shores of Destin, Florida for a seminar - “panhandling,” I call it - along with what appeared to be America’s living population of paunchy, middle-aged men wearing baggy Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops. Due to cosmic circumstances beyond my control, my exile was of the solo variety, so the whole excursion had the whiff of some sort of tropical, strip-mall-infused walkabout, one that would eventually send me ass-first into a deeper understanding of myself, or maybe into a hot tub if I didn’t watch where I was going. The good news is, after three days spent wandering The Beach in a daze, I came out the other side in one piece; the bad news is I’m no closer to self-actualization than I was when I arrived. I did find my spirit animal, though: it’s a monster reuben from a touristy-looking, neon-green-lit “Irish Pub” called McGuire’s, and it’s fucking delicious. Or am I mixing up my existential journeys? Do spirit animals show up on walkabouts? Maybe I’m thinking of patronuses. My patronus is a reuben.

To my maybe unfair surprise, I actually had a pretty positive food experience in Destin, although it did feel like the city was using a t-shirt cannon to fire neverending hamburgers into my mouth like I was an especially hungry Wimpy. Dude LOVES hamburgers. At least one of those burgers was truly great (courtesy of The Craft Bar), but my virgin experience at Whataburger was a little disappointing. I don’t know why; maybe I just expected more. I wanted to leave the restaurant and rip my shirt and scream “WHATABURGER!” at the sky like my mind had been blown to smithereens by the beefiness of it all, but when the time came, the enthusiasm wasn’t there. I don’t cover Whataburger in this blog, so I’ll just say a few quick things about it and move on: 1) the burger is really just a humongous McDonald’s burger, as in “WhatahumongousMcDonaldsburger”; 2) spicy ketchup is a great idea, but it doesn’t really taste like anything more than unpleasantly burned regular ketchup; 3) Five Guys is way better and not appreciably more expensive.

Anyway, seeing as how I was all by my lonesome in Destin with no eating companions other than a few sand gnats (and my reuben-patronus, when and if I decided to summon that), I spent more time at fast food restaurants than I probably should have. In relatively short order, I located a Chick-fil-A near the resort complex (the complex was stuffed with obscenely overpriced and somewhat depressing “party” restaurants and beachside cabanas selling fourteen-dollar slushy drinks full of 151 and Everclear), and it was then that I knew I’d be able to dodge at least a few hamburger missiles from the watchful eye of the beef-cannon. On the morning that I packed up my dunebuggy and Got The Hell Out Of Destin, I figured it might be time to continue my breakfast explorations, so I gathered my cojones (I have a bunch) and ordered a Breakfast Burrito. It’s not easy for me to get my my lips to say something other than “Chicken Biscuit” before 10:30 AM at Chick-fil-A, so this was no easy feat. I think the cashier could sense my struggle from the way I groaned out my words.

After I ordered, I had to wait, but not by the register area. The cashier handed me a colorful little Chick-fil-A traffic cone for me to take to my table and display, I guess so that I could pretend to be a burrito-traffic-cop and direct confused burritos into my mouth as they came near. I don’t especially like Chick-fil-A’s trend toward table service - the person who shows up with my food is inevitably a tiny old lady who should probably be darning socks for her darn grandkids on a fat green armchair somewhere instead of puttering around Chick-fil-A with my Breakfast Burrito, and it makes me sad. Then again, they’re probably all Truett-bots anyway, so what’s the difference?

Eventually, I got what I deserved - a swift kick in the face. After that, though, I got my Breakfast Burrito. And you know what? It wasn’t that great. Maybe this will be the post that proves once and for all that I’m not on Chick-fil-A’s payroll, because I’ve got nothing particularly positive to say about my Breakfast Burrito experience. It isn’t bad, exactly (if you’re wrapping eggs and cheese in a tortilla with almost anything except batteries or a filthy blanket or something, it’s probably going to turn out at least okay), but I’ve had a lot of breakfast burritos in my life and almost all of them were better than this one. One note of particular weirdness in the Breakfast Burrito is the inclusion of the usual signature fried chicken (although you can choose sausage) - this is one of the few corners of the Chick-fil-A menu where the unexpected addition of fried chicken doesn’t enhance the underlying product. Instead, it just feels lost, like a crying, sunburned toddler at a waterpark who wandered away from his parents straight through the No Trespassing fence and now his mom is frantic and they’ve sent out the waterpark police force to track down any confused-looking toddlers and eventually they’ll find him and he’ll be fine but even when he gets older he’ll always remember that time he got lost at the waterpark. That’s what the chicken in the Breakfast Burrito is like.

The salsa packet is a laudable inclusion, albeit not as spicy as I’d like, but sour cream would have been just as appreciated, and there’s not enough shredded cheese jammed in the tortilla to really ring my cheese-bell. Maybe I’m too particular in my breakfast burrito preferences to be objective; I like them spicy, creamy, and cheesy, and Chick-fil-A doesn’t make them that way. It’s all just a little too bland for me. I could have requested spicy chicken instead of regular chicken, though, so maybe I’m to blame for whatever disappointment I feel. On the other hand, I’m also lucky:  if I do come across any unexpectedly magical breakfast options, that’s going to create serious conflict with my old friend-with-benefits the Chicken Biscuit. I don’t want to get caught in the middle of that cyclone of jealousy and chickens and feathers. For now, the Chicken Biscuit continues to reign supreme, and with the perfect score I gave it last week, it’s going to take something truly special to break the ratings scale and usurp the throne. Frankly, I don’t see it happening, but I’d love to be proven wrong. A little birdie whispered a rumor about secret breakfast items in my ear, so I’ll need to solve that mystery and see if any real contenders are wrapped up inside of it. I’ll also need to figure out who taught these little birdies to talk. It’s damn creepy when they whisper in my ears.

Breakfast Burrito (Chicken): 4/10

Weather: 90+ degrees

Destin: 5/10

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