February 06, 2004

Cheap Lunches

I have been meaning to post on this for some time, and PossumPapa once again jogged my memory. He related his gastronomic journey to a place called "Sneaky Pete's", since he had a hankering for lunch but only four singles in his wallet. Decorum prevents me from repeating his choice from Pete's menu, but he made it sound better than it probably tasted. When someone has $4 clenched in their fist, shouldn't they be able to get a decent lunch?

I can understand paying more for a sitdown waiter-served meal. For get-up-and-go get-it-from-the-counter most places should be able to supply something edible and filling for $4 or less. A few years ago you did not have to worry about that, but nowadays if you're not careful you end up handing over a five dollar bill plus another single or pocketful of change.

About ten years ago in the small NC town I lived in, there was a Texaco station that provided self-serve hotdogs. I fondly remenber my $2 lunch (yes, $2) from there: two-for-a-dollar dogs with chili and slaw, small bag of chips, generic can of soda and Little Debbie.
(pause while I wipe slobber from chin - mmmmmm, chili dogs)
If I was feeling wealthy I would get another dog for about fifty cents more. Those were the days my friends. Nowadays the best I can do for that type of lunch is about $3.50 or so.

Wendy's is still hanging in there with the 99 cent menu. I wonder how much longer they can offer that loss leader and get enough people to order their other sandwiches and salads. They have recently advertised my favorite cheap combo as one of those "Atkins-friendly" lunches, but I've been getting it for years: chili, plain baked potato, side salad and water for a little over $3 (with tax). I spoon the chili over the potato, where the combination is a little easier to force down than eating them separately.

As long as you don't get a drink from most fast-food joints then you can usually keep the tab under $4. Even with letting people get refills the soft drink dispensers are a huge profit center. I would estimate that for a $1.29 cold drink you are looking at, oh, 32 cents cost. They took away most of the labor cost by having you get it yourself. How many times have you clenched your teeth when you find only one type of soda worth putting in your mouth, and then find out that the dispenser is not working properly?

One more rant: as a citizen of the South, I would like to think that we could hang onto at least one genteel tradition - serving decent iced tea. I'm not insisting on lemon wedges (although those are nice!) but could they at least make sure the tea is appropriately sweetened and not stale!!?! They should have one of those "Candid Camera" segments with a hidden camera in front of the tea dispenser, showing the faces people make as they decide whether or not to get the tea, whether or not to try a little before filling their cup, and whether some keep the tea rather than dumping it out and getting something else. And a pox on those establishments which use cheap corn syrup to sweeten tea and end up making it taste like cough syrup. Yuk.

Posted by MarcV, 9:07 AM link

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