Thursday, June 22, 2017

Fast Food BBQ Sauce Tasting


Only twice in my life have I carved out time to sit down and pay attention to the NBA draft.

The first time was 1992. I had my mom pick me up early from basketball camp at Pasadena High School because I wanted to watch. Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Christian Laettner... there was a lot of talent in that draft.

(I was such a big Shaq fan that I had his name silk-screened onto my practice jersey on my middle school basketball team that spring. Seriously. Other kids had their last names on the back of their jerseys; mine read "Shaq.")

I was also hoping that Harold Miner would fall to the Lakers at the 15th pick because I bought the hype. I was wrong, but at any rate he went to Miami and the Lakers took Anthony Peeler.

The second time I sat down to watch the draft was 1999. I don't remember exactly why I wanted to watch that one. (Maybe to see where Baron Davis went?) My friend Troy came over to watch it, but the whole thing ended up being so boring that after an hour we headed out to see South Park in the theater.

Today is the third time. Obviously, I want to see what the Lakers do with the #2 pick. But there is also so much talent in this draft - it might be the most loaded in 20 years - that I'm curious to see where everyone ends up. As well as what trades might be made.

Something this fun requires something great to eat. I considered a few things before deciding to attempt something that's been on my mind for a couple of weeks: determining which fast food joint makes the best barbecue sauce.

So, on a day that I was not particularly busy, I decided to go for a drive and acquire as many fast food barbecue sauces as I could.

This evening I fried up some waffle fries - more surface area for dipping, you know? - and ranked the sauces.

Note: I considered whether the BBQ sauces from pizza joints count. Is pizza fast food? If you go to a local pizzeria where they make their own dough and cook their own meats, I would say no way. But Domino's and Papa John's don't make anything in-house, it's all put together in a central location and delivered to the stores.

And, while it might take a little longer than "fast" food, it certainly is a much shorter wait than In-n-Out (or my local Del Taco on a weekend night, which can easily take more than 30 minutes to get through the drive-through when you're behind several cars full of stoners).

So I'm including them here.

  • #1 Popeyes. This was delicious, with a little bit of spice - not necessarily heat, but spice. I would love to put this sauce on a pulled pork sandwich. 

  • #2 Carl's Jr. The thickest of all the sauces, almost paste-like. It has a taste that I could see some people disliking - a bitter, slightly vinegary tang - but I love it. 

  • #3 KFC. I was ready to write something snarky about the name "Summertime," but then I took a taste. Remarkably, I was hit with the deep flavor of an all-beef hot dog fresh off the grill. This stuff actually does taste like summertime. Who knew? I now want to cook a hot dog and top it with bacon, cheddar, and this sauce. 

  • #4 Arby's. At my local Arby's, there are several pump dispensers full of condiments - Arby's sauce, horseradish sauce, pepper sauce, and honey mustard. There is no dispenser for BBQ sauce, you have to ask for it at the counter. Now I see why: the BBQ sauce isn't as good as all those other condiments. But it's still good.

  • #5 Sonic. This was definitely the smokiest of all 13 sauces, the kind of thing that would be delicious on a burger. The trip to acquire this was only the second time in my life that I have ever been to a Sonic. I doubt there will ever be a third trip.  

  • #6 Church's. On one hand, it's too sweet. On the other hand, it's called "Honey BBQ Sauce." Obviously, they were trying for a sweet sauce. They hit their mark. This would probably taste better with some of their spicy chicken than just french fries. 

  • #7 Chick-fil-A. Last year, Chick-fil-A introduced something called "Smokehouse BBQ Sauce" and fans threw a fit, prompting Chick-fil-A to bring back their original sauce. I loved the Smokehouse sauce and thought it was vastly superior to this version, which I found much too sweet. 

  • #8 McDonald's. I enjoy McDonald's barbeque sauce with their McNuggets. The "tangy" sauce (their words, definitely not mine) works well with those beautiful tempura-battered pieces of chicken. It's not as good with fried potatoes. 

  • #9 Jack in the Box. I've never eaten Jack's BBQ sauce by itself. I don't think I've ever had it on anything except their spicy chicken sandwich (which used to be a favorite of mine but I haven't had in more than half a decade). I did not enjoy it. The dominant flavor was "burnt."

  • #10 Domino's. I don't believe I've ever had a more bland barbecue sauce. Maybe this would be good on a barbecue chicken pizza. It's not good with fries. To be fair, it's not bad with fries. It's just... nothing, really. 

  • #11 Wendy's. More than a decade ago, Wendy's came out with some new sauces like "Sweet & Spicy Hawaiian" and "Buffalo Ranch." They were good. Then they disappeared. Now Wendy's offers bland sauces to accompany their bland food. This was watery and flavorless. 

#12 Burger King. My senior year of high school, my two best friends and I ate at Burger King at least two or three times per week. I hated their BBQ sauce back then, though I found that if you mixed it with ranch dressing, you got a somewhat respectable sauce. All these years later, I still hate their sauce. 

  • #13 Papa John's. This was one of the worst barbecue sauces I have ever tried. I would eat a gallon of the Burger King sauce before I dipped another french fry in this acrid, watery crap. How can their garlic dipping sauce be so delicious and their barbecue sauce so atrocious?

NOTES ON THE GAME (er, Draft): 
  • First things first: for the record, I hope the Lakers draft Lonzo Ball. Is his defense questionable? Yes. Might he have a hard time finding his shot in the halfcourt? Maybe. But his ceiling is sky high. You have to go back a quarter-century (to Jason Kidd) to find a guy who saw the floor in college the way Lonzo did. He sees plays unfold a split-second before anyone else. When your ceiling is "a bigger, better-shooting version of Jason Kidd"... how can the Lakers pass on that?
  • 12 minutes into the telecast and I'm already sick of Lavar Ball. If I never, ever hear from him again, that would be just fine with me. 
  • Commissioner Adam Silver is explaining what goes on when a team makes a draft pick. He says the team calls in their pick and the person who takes the call then "makes sure that person is draft-eligible." It never occurred to me that a team might try to draft a player who isn't eligible. WTF? Would a team try to draft LeBron James and see if they can get away with it? Would they try to draft a player who is still in college? 
  • And, since we're on the subject, what team would be most likely to do that? When Sterling owned them, no question the Clippers. But who now? The Kings? 
  • When writing about the Angels-Yankees on Tuesday, I mentioned that I lived in New York for a couple of years. I was about a mile and a half from Barclays Center and I walked by it almost every day. It's nice enough on the inside, but the outside looks like a pile of rusted razor blades. 
  • Adam Silver comes out and announces that the 76ers have 5 minutes to make their selection. I always get a kick out of the first team being put on the clock. Are they going to change their minds? Are they going to get a trade offer with 5 minutes to go? 
  • Fultz goes #1. No surprise. Pretty much everyone seems to see something in him that I just don't. Then again, Jay Bilas just called him a "James Harden clone," and there has never been an NBA player whom I underrated coming out of college more than I did Harden. 
  • And there it is. Lonzo is a Laker. Now I can go catch a movie. (Just kidding, I'm gonna watch the whole first round. And anyway, that theater Troy and I went to 18 years ago is now a Trader Joe's.)
  • Jimmy Butler is traded to Chicago for Zach Lavine and the #7 pick? That's it?
  • De'Aaron Fox to Sacramento. I really, really like Fox. He's one of the most well-spoken kids you will ever see at the draft. 
  • That's 5 freshman in a row to start the draft. That's never happened before. Can we please get rid of the one-and-done rules?
  • Oh boy. Minnesota - picking for Chicago after the Jimmy Butler trade - just selected Lauri Markkanen. I'm not sold on him at all. He's got a nice touch but he's quite slow. I can't see him guarding anyone. After Dirk Nowitzki went 9th in 1998 - and then went on to become an MVP and the sixth-highest scorer in NBA history - teams scrambled to find the "Next Nowitzki." That's why we saw Darko Milicic drafted ahead of Dwyane Wade and Andrew Bogut drafted ahead of Chris Paul. These days, everyone is trying to find the Next Porzingis. Markkanen just benefited from that. 
  • The Knicks are on the clock. What are the odds Phil Jackson is napping and misses the pick? (Nevermind - they took an 18-year-old French guy named Frank who ESPN's analysts say has a 59% chance of being a bust.)
  • Malik Monk goes to Charlotte at #11. Would anyone like to bet me that New York will regret taking the French guy named Frank instead of Monk? Am I the only person who remembers him dropping 47 points on (eventual national champion) North Carolina?
  • A goofy-looking guard from Duke just went in the first round, which is every bit as much a draft day tradition as the fans booing the commissioner.
  • Three Kentucky players have now gone in the top 14. Another draft day tradition. 
  • Two guys named Justin were just drafted back to back. I bet that's never happened before. I like it. 
  • ESPN is doing a John Calipari commercial - er, I mean interview - so I'm changing the channel to baseball for a few minutes. 
  • T.J. Leaf to Indiana. So predictable. Scott Pollard, Tyler Hansbrough, Josh McRoberts, Austin Croshere, Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Jeff Foster... do you sense a pattern? It's why I'm shocked they haven't traded Paul George for Kevin Love already. 
  • Brooklyn is picking at #22. This is the first time ever that the team with the worst record didn't have a lottery pick. I'm gonna say Brooklyn screwed up that trade with Boston all those years back. (Shortly after the trade, in 2013, a cabdriver in Brooklyn told me that the 2014 NBA Finals would be between the Nets and the Clippers. I told him there was no chance in hell and he told me I don't understand basketball. I wonder if he still thinks about me the way I think about him. Probably not.)
  • The Lakers take Kyle Kuzma with the 27th pick. That doesn't excite me, but doesn't upset me one bit. 
  • I was hoping they would take Semi Ojeleye with their 28th pick, but they've traded it to Utah for the 30th and 42nd picks. 
  • With the 30th pick, the Jazz (meaning the Lakers) select Josh Hart from Villanova. I'm not a huge fan of that pick. He seemed more like one of those 22-year-old guys who looked much better than he is while playing against 18 and 19-year-olds. But, whatever, it was the last pick of the first round, it's not like that was gonna be a franchise player. 

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