Popeye's fried chicken Michael Roberts


Readers contact me from time to time with questions, and a recurring theme in their correspondences goes something like this: “Michael, you’re a rakishly handsome food writer with a singular wit, but don’t you think you’re a bit of a food snob?” And sure, I can see why people would think that — we tend to focus a lot on high-end food here on Eat Arkansas. I don’t, however, think I’m much of a food snob, and to prove it, here’s a list of some decidedly non-snobbish things I love to shove into my facehole on a regular basis. The title “guilty pleasures” is a little misleading, though — I’m not really all that guilty about any of these.


*Popeye’s Fried Chicken: For years now, Popeye’s has been the consistent winner of “best fried chicken” in our reader polls, and there’s a good reason for this: Popeye’s chicken is delicious. The pieces are large, and generally pretty juicy, and the spicy breading is crisp and flavorful. I think Gus’s downtown might edge Popeye’s out in this year’s poll, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the fast food chain reign supreme for another year. I’m not a big fan of KFC or Church’s, but I can eat Popeye’s any which way you serve it.

*Tazo Chai: Long-time readers will know that I really hate Starbucks. Perhaps somewhere in the chain’s history can be found good coffee, but I’ve always found their brew to be over-roasted and bitter — something that holds true even in their original store in Seattle. When I do find myself with a group of people who have to get their Starby’s fix, there’s one item on the menu I always go for — the chai tea latte (or a chai frappe in warmer months). It’s always been a bit annoying to pay over $3 for something that consists of hot milk and bottled concentrate, but the taste is undeniably good. Now, for just around the price of a grande, that same concentrate is available from Tazo on the shelf of your local grocer. I’ve taken to adding it to my nightly kava-and-milk, and I can easily burn through a whole box of concentrate in under a week.


*McDonald’s: Liking McDonald’s is a cardinal sin among foodies. I like McDonald’s. I probably eat there more than I should, but since I pass two of their restaurants going to and from work every day, it’s very easy to slide into the drive-thru and get something cheap and quick. Because here’s the think about McDonald’s — they have drive-thru down to a science. Wendy’s, Taco Bueno, and (god forbid) Subway always seem a bit confused by drive-thru, but not Mickey D’s. My favorite things? The McDouble, minus the pickles and reconstituted onions, and the Chicken McNuggets. I don’t get nuggets these days since they discontinued the hot mustard dipping sauce, but a double cheeseburger for a buck is always good.

*Wonka Pixy Stix Candy Canes: I discovered these last week when Kroger put all their Christmas candy on sale for 75 cents a box. Take a cherry-flavored candy cane and stuff a thin ribbon of Pixy Stix powder in the middle. Like the Nerds Rope before them, the Pixy Stix candy canes are an unholy Frankenstein’s monster of a candy, but I just can’t stop eating them — it’s to the point where I think my tongue might be permanently stained red.


*Nachos: And not just any nachos, but nachos from the Buffalo Grill. The chips aren’t that great, the cheese sauce is uninspired, and I can’t help but polish off a plate every time I order them. A great treat.

*Vienna Sausages: If you made it this far, I figure you deserve to hear my deepest, darkest secret. I love Vienna Sausages, despite their not actually being from Vienna — nor actually being sausages for that matter. I know all about mechanically separated beef, chicken, and pork, and I know all about the disgusting bits of various animals that wind up in those “Viennie Wienies.” I don’t care, they’re fantastic.

Now it’s your turn: what do you eat that others would turn a cold shoulder to?