West Coast Road Trip: Drive Thru Guide

Lindsay Cale

California is the mecca of fast food, it’s just a fact. Meg and I eat very little fast food but since we’ve met she’s been talking about introducing me to some of her west coast favorites. In college, I was a LOYAL, Taco Bell customer so listening to her praise Del Taco had my eyes rolling all the way back. I can, however, admit when I’m wrong so, Meg Cale you know all the things, you fast food goddess you.

At the beginning of the year, we spent 3 weeks in Southern California doing all the things including road trips and finally tasting to food of Meg’s childhood. It was so much fun to finally be spending an extended period of time on the west coast. Luckily we had the  2018 Toyota CH-R XLE to get us all around. The gas mileage is so good even with LA traffic we only had to fill up once that week. Fun Fact: Before joining Meg as a full-time blogger I worked at a Toyota dealership and almost bought this car for us. It really is the perfect size for the two of us.

We came up with a list of seven west coast fast food joints that I had never tried. We’d taste test, build the “perfect order” and deliver the results. We consumed thousands of calories, told stories, shared meals with family, laughed way to hard and never got lost thanks to the Toyota Entune Navigation.

Jack in the Box

Jack in the Box was the first stop on or fast food adventure. The most memorable thing for Meg about this spot was when Jack blew up the restaurant in a commercial. Still doubting Meg and this west coast junk food hype my expectations were low. What jumped out immediately was how large and diverse the menu is. From the breakfast burritos, burgers, pitas to the shakes I loved the IDGAF attitude towards anything healthy. Overall I wasn’t wowed by the food.

The Perfect Order: Jack’s Spicy Chicken, skip the fries and get the two for 99 cents tacos and a Jumpin’ Jack Splash.

El Pollo Loco

This spot specializes in Mexican grilled chicken dishes, even staking a claim as a healthier alternative to fried fast food options. I love pretty much all things Mexican food the exception being hard-boiled eggs on hot food, I just can’t. Back on topic, the chicken was delicious and I really enjoyed the meal. Also, I know the name is deceiving but if you’re a vegan looking for something quick El Pollo Loco is a good option for you. They’ll let you sub out the chicken for avocado in any dish.

The Perfect Order: Chicken Family Meal, with pinto beans, rice, warm tortillas and avocado salsa.

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We started gaining some traction when we hit Wienerschnitzel. Meg knew her order before we even reached the door, Corn Dogs all day! With the combination of Meg’s excitement, the name, and the goofy decor I couldn’t stop laughing. They also have a wiener dog that’s part of their branding and my knees go weak for all doxies.  The east coast needs a Wienerschnitzel, I suggest starting in Hershey, Pa.

The Perfect Order: Chili Cheese Dog, Kraut Dog on a pretzel bun and Bacon Ranch Chili Cheese Fries and a root beer.  The chili is good but definitely not spicy if you like the heat add some jalapenos.

Carl’s Jr

To be fair this wasn’t exactly the first time I’ve been at Carl’s Jr, we have one in Merida and for a brief period of time, there was a Hardee’s near my house in PA. I wanted to be fair and have the full charbroiled burger experience in California. I really like Carl’s Jr, the prices are significantly higher than some of the other places on the list but I think the quality of the food is reflected. Both my burger and Meg’s chicken sandwich were a really good size and tasted great.

The Perfect Order: I copied Meg’s Uncles order and he was on the money. Western Bacon Cheeseburger, fries and a coke. The onion rings on the burger stayed perfectly crispy which is important.


I was thoroughly confused by this one, I thought A&W was just a type of root beer. My mind was blown when I saw an actual restaurant all I could think of was they probably have the best root beer floats ever!. They have all the American classics like chicken, burgers, hot dogs and of course, shakes.

The Perfect Order: It’s all about the onion rings and a root beer float. It was as good as I’d imagined.


The most iconic of the California fast food places is without a doubt In-N-Out. As a true east coaster, it didn’t really understand the cult following until we had an Uber driver who had just moved from LA to DC. He was visibly emotional talking about how hard to move had been but the real kicker was that someone had compared Five Guys to his beloved In-N-Out. I believe what makes them so special is the small menu means they have those items perfected. I wish I could call that Uber driver and tell him he’s right, there’s really no comparison.

The Perfect Order: Don’t make thing unnecessarily complicated, Double-Double, fries and a drink.

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Del Taco

Last but not least and my personal favorite, Del Taco. Saying I was a skeptic would be putting things lightly. For 20 years I was sipping the Taco Bell kool aide (aka Baja Blast) and devouring crunchwrap supreme. I simply refused to accept that fast food tacos could get better. My opinion remains the Crunchwrap Supreme is still the greatest but the Tacos from Del Taco are the winner by miles and miles. The meat unquestionably better but the amount of lettuce and cheese is really the key. We ate here more than once and I’m glad it’s only on the west coast because young Lindsay would have had no chill.

The Perfect Order: Queso Crunch Taco, Carne Asada Street Taco, and a Soft Del Taco. Make sure to load up on the Del Inferno sauce.

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