For years, America's fast-food empires have embodied what's wrong with our eating habits: Too fast, for one thing, and too fatty. And thanks to the trend that dominated fast food in 2011, you can add another downside: Way, way too flagrantly over-the-top.
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This was the year that fast-food outlets across America took outrageous eating options to a brand-new level - one where quick lunches at times resembled unconquerable eating challenges. In 2011, greasy meat-and-cheese-laden pizza was stuffed with even more meat and cheese, layers of an overeater's favorites were combined into a giant bacon-topped bowl, and three sandwiches were crammed together and sold as one. Starbucks even got into the act, unveiling a 31-ounce "Trenta" cup.
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Food historians may one day trace the fast-food fervor back to one Southern-themed chain restaurant, which in 2010 declared that some sandwiches "didn't have room for a bun." KFC's slick marketing move spawned a new kind of fast food, one that "doubled down" on a menu item's greasiest elements. And, as food purveyors soon noted, exponentially multiplied promotional buzz and online chatter.
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"These crass, commercial foods are aimed specifically at the young, male, macho demographic," Marion Nestle, professor of food sciences at New York University, told The Daily Meal. "And they're further evidence that food companies have only one goal - selling food products."
And sell, they do. In 2010, reports circulated online that customers drove across state lines to score a KFC Double Down, and the chain sold 10 million of the sandwiches in their first month. So it makes sense that outrageous gimmicks were a vital strategy in 2011 for plenty of outlets, and will likely continue to reign over American diners in the New Year. From Dunkin' Donuts Sausage Pancake Bites to Pizza Hut's Big Dinner Box, check out 2011's most over-the-top fast-food dishes.
Burger King Stuffed Steakhouse Burger
Calories - 590
If fast food has taught us one thing, it is this: Any food item can be stuffed inside any other. Burger King's Stuffed Steakhouse Burger, introduced earlier this year, is a prime example. Not content to simply put cheese atop a burger patty, the chain stuffed bits of Cheddar and jalapeño inside the beef, for "an experience you can see and taste in every bite."
Pizza Hut's Big Dinner Box
Calories - 4,860 (for the lowest calorie options)
Pizza Hut's "epic-size" repast offers up two medium pizzas, eight wings, and five breadsticks - in one convenient box! For the low prize of $20, ravenous diners might be tempted to scarf down the entire thing themselves, but please, make this one a family affair: The items in a single box are estimated to contain around 5,000 calories.
Dunkin' Donuts Sausage Pancake Bites
Calories - 300 (for 3)
If you're craving a pancake and sausage breakfast, but just can't find the time, Dunkin' Donuts discovered a solution in 2011. An order of the chain's Sausage Pancake Bites offered diners three nuggets of flapjack dough that each enclosed a sausage link. A trio of nuggets also managed to enclose 20 grams of fat, more than most doughnuts.
Taco Bell Doritos Locos Tacos
Calories - 350 (for 1)
Think outside the bun - and the conventional taco shell. In an apparent bid to include as much junk as possible in a single meal, Taco Bell used California and Ohio residents as guinea pigs to test shells made entirely of Doritos' nacho-flavored chips. The cheesy delicacy might be introduced nationwide next year, when, presumably, the chain will also swaps burrito wraps for potato chips.
Friendly's Ultimate Grilled-Cheese Burger Melt
Calories - 1,500
Why eat one sandwich, when you can eat three? The KFC Double Down may have replaced a burger bun with fried chicken, but this year, Friendly's managed to outdo even that monstrosity. They swapped out a cheeseburger's bread with two entire grilled cheese sandwiches. This gastronomical innovation, not surprisingly, is also a caloric nightmare: 1,500 per sandwich(es). Even that doesn't seem to be helping the company - the 76-year-old family-dining brand filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Oct. 5, and is scheduled to be auctioned Dec. 22.
Click here for 4 More Over-the-Top Fast Foods from 2011
- Katie Drummond, The Daily Meal
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