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Weekly Alibi Speed Eater

Peter Peter Pita Eater

By Nick Brown

AUGUST 4, 1997:  The freaky thing about Wendy's is that they'll start peddling a new product several months before they begin any kind of legitimate advertising campaign. Sure, they'll get the drill team to paint up their windows and they'll slap the cracking plastic letters up on the marquee, but until you click on the TV and see Dave Thomas in an ape suit, you're wondering if some renegade franchise manager made a deal with the day-old bakery. Butcher paper and tempera paint may make the grade for Bugsy's Subs, but it's unusual for a prominent global chain to borrow marketing strategies from the Little Rascals. Nevertheless, Dave and his minions finally made a weird TV pitch about getting everyone in the world to try a pita, and my mission was clear.

So, in this episode, the feral Speed Eater, who sucks the living fat out of barnyard animals, is forced to eat vegetables. I hope it's not as disappointing as the one when Mannix got amnesia and thought he was a bad guy.

I tried all different varieties of pitas at Wendy's locations throughout the city, blazing through town in my custom built dune buggy. I leaned on my extra-loud musical horn as I peeled away from the pickup windows, watching the employees recede in the mirror, shaking my head in toothless bemusement, accepting but not understanding the maverick life I've chosen.

Wendy's employees, more than any other fast food specialists, tend to operate with a fierce intensity. That fiery gaze might be disturbing if a Wendy's employee were hiding in the back seat of your car, but to my knowledge that has never happened. Despite their zeal, they are among the most pleasant of food creatures, glass eyes and experimental orthodontics notwithstanding. For extra fun, pretend that you can't see where their business license is posted.

Wendy's pitas come in four varieties: Garden Ranch Chicken, Chicken Caesar, Garden Veggie and Classic Greek. Think salad on bread with dressing. Then you just have to wonder if the salad, bread and dressing are any good.

They are. The salad is crisp and fresh, just as Dave promised, with lettuce, tomatoes (without a hint of mealiness), little bits of purple onions, stringy shredded vegetable things and sometimes cheese and chicken. Ingredients actually vary quite a bit between Pita types, but it would be a logistical nightmare for me to try to tell you how, when I'd rather just talk about my dune buggy, and you don't want to hear it anyway.

The dressing can get a little weird. The ranch and Caesar tended to glob up at the bottom, as they do in any salad, and it's sound advice to not think about spit when you get there. The smart way to go is to order the dressing on the side and put it on a little at a time. I can't do that because I'm lazy, and I want to smother everything in sauce and eat it really fast while plotting my revenge against those who have wronged me.

The pitas themselves are a heavenly departure from those loathsome sea biscuits hanging like bats in dark corners of the grocery store. They are soft, steamy, chewy disks with no particular flavor, yet no particular need for one; imagine a super thick Frontier tortilla made by robots in a giant corporate factory. True, they lack the buttery zing of the Olympia Cafe, but you certainly don't have to trick yourself into eating them by pretending it's what army men and pirates eat.

Wendy's Fresh Stuffed Pitas are all very tasty bargains for the weight conscious set. I can't single out one type as being better than the others because they all taste about the same. I mean that in the sense that there's not one stuffed pita that tastes like a slice of pizza while the others taste like stuffed pitas. If you really want pizza, get pizza. If you're not sure you want pizza, try a stuffed pita. If you want to be really cool, get a dune buggy. Ipso facto ergo sum.

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