By CHARLES FERRUZZA
So just how inexpensively can you eat in today's economy? If you don't demand perfection, pretty well. Let's start with breakfast, the so-called "most important meal of the day."
Almost every fast food outlet in the city is currently offering some kind of $1 menu featuring low-cost sandwiches, beverages, breakfast items -- even desserts -- for a buck or less.
The Wendy's chain, which was recently purchased by the Triarc Companies (the new corporation is called the Wendy's/Arby's Group), has added several new products to its Super Value Menu and is definitely beefing up its breakfast product line, which includes grilled panini breakfast sandwiches. The 39-year-old Wendy's was one of the last national burger chains to start serving breakfast -- it did make an ill-fated attempt to roll out a breakfast menu in the 1980s, but only last year did the chain put a renewed focus on competing with McDonald's for the lucrative breakfast business.
Those panini sandwiches -- which sell for more than two bucks each -- are not on the 99-cent Super Value Breakfast menu. But there are some interesting options: three finger-sized slices of deep-fried "French toast," an egg-and-sausage burrito, hash browns, and a coffee cake muffin.
For $3.26 (including tax), I ordered the burrito, french toast and muffin. There were no other cars in the drive-through line at the midtown Wendy's when I stopped this morning at 8:20. The line of cars waiting to order at the McDonald's across the street was much more impressive. Of course, the service at McDonald's is consistently faster; Wendy's drive-through service -- morning, afternoon or night -- is notoriously slow.
I asked the manager, as I forked over my $3.26, if breakfast business was good at this Wendy's. She wrinkled her nose and shrugged. "Not great," she said. "OK."
The food's not bad, though I'm not agile enough to have juggled the french toast sticks and the packet of maple syrup dipping sauce while driving. I took the bag home. The burrito wasn't very big, as breakfast burritos go: It was barely five inches long, and the egg-and-sausage filling was extremely salty. Still, it was thicker than the McDonald's version.
The golden brown french toast fingers were greasy but crisp (for whatever it's worth, my dogs loved them) and the good-sized muffin was warm but loaded with sugar.
Would I go there for breakfast again? No. It was comfortingly cheap, but emotionally unsatisfying. Was I asking too much?