"Did we actually eat all that?!" Such was our reaction as we Lunch Guys looked back on our 50 columns of 2007, covering everything from the Aloha Burger at Applebee’s to the XL Bacon Cheesesteak at Sonic, with a couple Pizza Hut P’zones in between. Now it all comes down to this, our 2007 Noonie Awards in honor of the best and worst lunches of the year. (Please hold your applause until the end.)
Best Fast Food
Chris: For literally the best fast food — meaning zip through the drive-through and zoom away — Arby’s ruled the year with its new Toasted Subs. Quiznos-type flavor, McDonald’s-style convenience.
Tom: I hate to agree with you right off the bat but the Arby’s Toasted Italian is incredible and it’s never more than a few minutes away at one of our 3500 Arby’s here in America.
Best Eat in Your Car
Tom: Well, the KFC Triple Dip Sticks were made specifically for car eaters but was anything cleaner, tastier or easier for drive n’ dine than the great Sonic Mac n’ Cheese Snacks?
Chris: I’m with you on Sonic over those Triple Dumb Sticks. My 10 mostly greaseless fingers and crumb-free lap are all the evidence you need.
Best Worst-for-You Lunch
Chris: The KFC Big Box was bad for arteries with its brown and yellow fried cheesiness, bad for the environment with its giant package, yet oh so very good.
Tom: I’m still trying to shed the weight from eating several Burger King BBQ Bacon Tendercrisps. It has all the unhealthiness of the fried chicken in your KFC Big Box, plus it has a bunch of bacon. Their chef must be a cardiologists looking for extra work.
Best Cheap Lunch
Chris: Checkers is basically giving food away with its Sourdough Buford. Two double burgers for four bucks? I can’t afford not to eat here.
Tom: Absolutely the two for four Bufords. But it’s kind of a waste. You have to go with a friend because no one other than you, Chris could eat more than one.
Best Unusual Burger
Tom: Wendy’s Steakhouse Double Melt was like having a piping hot peppered cheesesteak sandwiched between the two juicy burger patties. That mushroom/peppercorn/grilled onion taste made me forget that mustard, ketchup and pickles are supposed to be on a burger.
Chris: A little peppercorn does not an unusual burger make. Try slapping an egg on top of a huge, juicy bacon cheeseburger. Actually, IHOP did, and that yolk-drench Bacon and Egg Cheeseburger was a revelation for me.
Tom: I thought we’d seen everything that could be done to a pizza, but Domino’s pulled one out of the hat with its Crispy Melt. It’s as tasty as a calzone and easier to eat than a quesadilla. It’s like a new hybrid, Mexi-talian.
Chris: The Crispy Melt gets my vote too, but I was amazed that the Blimpies at my local Wal-Mart could serve up a French Dip that was hot, juicy and crusty in all the right ways.
Best ‘I’m Starving’ Lunch
Chris: The Jason’s Deli salad bar isn’t just about loading up my plate with a pile of lettuce, it’s about dunking my head in the nuts and eggs and muffins like I’m bobbing for apples, then sticking my mouth under the ice cream spigot and cranking it to full power.
Tom: But that’s a salad. You’d be hungry again by 3 p.m. Chris, don’t you remember the football-sized P’Zone from Pizza Hut? That thing could have kept the entire Donner clan alive through the winter.
Best Use of Bacon
Tom: Wendy’s Baconator had and deserved all the hype, but the real treat for bacon lovers is Sonic’s BLT. This uses bacon as the main course, not some sideshow like everything else.
Chris: C’mon, IHOP deserves a second Noonie for that Bacon and Egg Cheeseburger, the only lunch we had where the bacon had the integrity to stand on its own alongside a stack of pancakes.
Worst Thing all Year
Tom: As good as Domino’s Crispy Melt is, its Oreo Pizza is bad. You wouldn’t think anything with Oreos could be bad but grind some up, stick them in a super-sweet marshmallow sauce and slather it over some cardboard crust and you’ll know what I mean.
Chris: Yeah, that was the only item this year that I wanted to spit up instead of chow down. It’s a disgrace to the Oreo name.
Lunch of the Year
Chris: OK, make it an unprecedented three Noonies, including this most prestigious honor of them all, but the IHOP Bacon and Egg Cheeseburger isn’t just about the egg, but the Romano-Parmesan bun, the cheddar and the monster patty. I’ll never forget it.
Tom: All I can remember from that was the yolk running down my chin as I bit into the burger. However, I ate Olive Garden’s Braised Beef and Tortoloni nearly a year ago and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Short ribs and asiago cheese tortolini in a basil-marsala sauce? Enough said!
Chain of the Year
Tom: Arby’s Grilled Italian was one of the best things ever and almost good enough to put them on top ... but my vote this year goes to Wendy’s. Their work with burgers like the Steakhouse Double Melt, The Baconator and the new Double Melt make them the chain of 2007.
Chris: Wendy’s kept swinging for the fences, but only Arby’s was hitting the home runs with the Fajita Flatbread and Toasted Subs. OK, maybe the Chicken Shakers were a ground-rule double, but still, I’m thinking Arby’s can do no wrong.
Tom James and Chris Tauber are Orlando, Fla.-based writers.