Review No. 114: Hardee’s
1055 Dave Ward Drive
56.4 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants
He Said: Hardee’s seems never to be on my radar. I don’t go looking for it when I’m, say, driving cross country and need to make a quick stop for sustenance. I couldn’t even tell you where it was on Dave Ward Drive, even though I have probably driven past it almost daily for the past 10 years. Yet despite my personal indifference, Hardee’s remains, according to Business Insider online, one of the 20 “most successful fast food chains in America,” coming in at no. 15 for the year 2015. The company runs some 3,152 stores in 40 states and in at least 10 foreign countries, plus another 676 Carl’s Jr. restaurants, mainly in Canada. At least that’s what it says on Wikipedia.
According to She Said, it was high time we reviewed our local incarnation of the Hardee’s brand, so I was prepared to see whether or not my Hardee’s-related apathy was justified.
She Said: I’ve neglected Hardee’s for an unknown reason ever since I used to eat at one regularly in Aberdeen, S.D., and worked at a daily newspaper until after midnight four nights per week. Hardee’s was one of the few eateries open after midnight in my town, and it was on my way home. I’ve eaten their breakfast, their lunch and their dinner, but that was 25 years ago and I weighed more then and cooked less. It was time to try them out again, though, to see how we both had changed. We should warn our readers that this is a Healthy Hardee’s review, as we both abstained from some of the caloric splurges for our own reasons.
He Said:Not much to speak of. It’s a pretty typical space for a fast-food restaurant. It’s bright and it seems clean enough. There are booths, tables, and high tables in the space. I had to search a bit for napkins, which are in containers on the tables—only our table did not have a container, so I had to steal napkins from another table.
She Said: I agree it was nothing to write home about, though it was bright and the seats were comfortable. I did think it could have used a little tidying up. There were a couple of tables I thought of sitting at, but they still had the past diners’ detritus on the tables or chairs.
He Said: They have Coke products at a fountain here, but those do not include Barq’s Root Beer. Hey, restaurant owners far and wide, I have news for you: Barq’s Root Beer isa Coke product. So stock it or stop telling me that you have “Coke products.”
Sorry for that mini-rant there. They didhave another Coke product that almost nobody ever has—Mello Yello. This, originally Coke’s answer to Mountain Dew, surprised me, and I grabbed a small paper cup-full with all deliberate speed. It wasn’t the Dew, but I would do. They call it Mello Yello quite rightly.
She Said: In the absence of Malbec or a G&T, I chose unsweetened iced tea. It was a little strong, but I could have watered it down a bit more with more ice.
He Said: Fast food is always a challenge to me and my pancreas, so of course I was on the lookout for something low-fat. The charbroiled barbecue chicken sandwich caught my eye—so it was broiled, not fried; it was chicken, not red meat; and it had barbecue sauce, not mayonnaise or any other potentially fatty condiments. I jumped at that offering which, as their posted menu advertised, had only a trim 350 calories, and, even better, when I checked Hardee’s online nutrition information, I found it had only 6 (count ’em, 6!) grams of fat. Very likely the healthiest sandwich I’ve run into yet in this quest to visit all Conway restaurants, even chain after chain.
Having done so well on the sandwich, I allowed myself to splurge a bit and order the small crispy curls fried potatoes—and their 18 grams of fat. Yes, I know it was an extravagance, but the one thing that I remembered from former visits to Hardee’s—perhaps some 20 years in the past—were those crispy curl French fries, which I could eat for twisted hour after hour.
They were just as scrumptious in their curly crispness as I remembered. And despite its near fatlessness, the chicken sandwich was far from tastelessness. Admittedly, the barbecue sauce was a little on the bland side (you’d love it, Jones!) compared with some of the actual barbecue places in town, and while the chicken might have been more obviously processed than in those same pens, cafes, houses, or grills, it was still a good head above your typical fast-food place’s chicken sandwich.
She Said: Yes, I was both post-travel dieting and pre-travel dieting so I, too, was interested in a healthier trip to Hardee’s than I enjoyed as a 24-year-old copy editor seeking 1 a.m. sustenance. I, too, looked up the nutritional information before we sped that way and knew what I wanted.
It’s a good thing I did, as I didn’t see the Low-Carb-It options from online on the menu in the restaurant. These are sandwiches that are served as wraps instead of in buns. My server was game and found my choice on his key-board, but I thought it might be something they could make more of—or at least something of—on the store menu. I selected the Low Carb It chicken club sandwich, which is a “marinated skinless chicken breast fillet topped with melted Swiss cheese, two strips of crispy bacon, sliced tomatoes and mayonnaise, packed in a fresh whole-leaf iceberg lettuce wrap.” While it was a bit messy (and it comes wrapped in paper as well as lettuce to help with the eating) and I wouldn’t eat it in a car whilst speeding down the highway if I wanted to arrive somewhere unscathed, I did find it very tasty. The chicken is, indeed, rather prefab, but the dressings are tasty, and I didn’t miss the bun at all. I did remove the tomatoes, as I hadn’t asked for them to be held given the slight delay in ordering when it seemed I was asking for something off the menu.
I sampled one of He Said’s fries, and it was delicious, just as I remembered.
He Said: This isn’t a fast-food place in the sense that you order at the counter and walk away with your food. It’s the kind where you order, get your number, and go sit down until they bring the food to you. Which has the advantage of telling you that here, unlike at, say, a certain yellow-arch-trademarked franchise with a Scottish name, what you order is probably made fresh and hasn’t been sitting around for an indefinite period of time.
I can’t say our guy was fixing to win any awards for “Most Enthusiastic Server,” but he was patient enough as I hemmed and hawed through my order, and helped She Said when her order threw him a curve. And he was prompt in bringing out our lunches. So, no complaints.
She Said: Yes, he was helpful and persistent in finding my order for me when it wasn’t immediately apparent, so I was grateful, even if he wasn’t very high energy.
What We Got and What We Paid: One barbecue chicken sandwich, a small order of crispy curls, a small fountain Mello Yello, plus one Low Carb It charbroiled chicken club sandwich and a small unsweetened iced tea, all for $16.08.
Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 8 minutes.
He Said: A cut above the fare at most fast-food joints. Hardee’s is now back on my radar.
She Said: With its low-carb lettuce wrap “sandwich” options, this is fast food for the older, more careful diner than I was when I was a Hardee’s regular in my 20s.
So… He Said and She Said: Go here for some healthier, fresher fast-food options, but leave room for curly fries!
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