5 best fast food chains around the world

While fast food often gets a bad rep, you can’t expect to eat all of your meals sitting in down in slow food restaurants. And, when traveling abroad, you will sometimes find that fast food doesn’t always necessarily mean greasy fries and fattening burgers. Travelers can make their quick dining experiences worthwhile by visiting these five delicious and budget-friendly fast food restaurants, located all over the world.


This chain has over 350 restaurants spread across the country and over 30 years of experience. It’s no wonder then that they’re considered one of the best, even handing out steel knives and forks for guests as well as open plates instead of cardboard boxes for those not taking their food to go. And, have you ever heard of ordering Filet Mignon from a fast food joint? Now you have.


Unlike the greasy Chinese fast food restaurants that many Westerners are used to, Mr.Lee serves lighter options, such as California Chicken, a cold meal drizzled with red and green sauce, and Beef Noodle Soup, made with a unique recipe that can be customized with various spices and sauces according to the customer’s tastes. If you’re having your soup to stay, you can expect to be served in a ceramic bowl instead of styrofoam or plastic.

Germany (and other European locations)

If you look at their website, this certainly doesn’t look like a fast-food restaurant. With an emphasis on sustainable, healthy cuisine, you can expect dishes such as Alaska pollack, grilled salmon, and sushi, all with drink recommendations to accompany your meal. For example, ordering a salmon fillet should be accompanied by a glass of light red wine.


This chain has 111 restaurants and 80 street stalls in Russia, featuring items you wouldn’t normally see on a fast-food menu. According to Sean O’Neill at BudgetTravel.com, you can get salads, soups, and porridges, as well as their most popular item, blinis. If you’ve never heard of a blini, it’s a thin pancake shaped like a triangle and wrapped around the customer’s choice of a sweet or savory filling. For example, salmon roe and red caviar are two filling favorites at this eatery. Teremok also features a low-alcoholic beverage known as kvass, which is prepared using rye flour with malt or sometimes honey beer.

South Africa

While their feature items may be burgers, these are unlike the burgers that are served at most fast food restaurants. In fact, when McDonald’s first arrived in South Africa in 1995, locals scoffed at the puny 3 ounce meat patties. In South Africa, where red meat is a food favorite, they have Steers, which offers a delicious and filling 7 ounce burger made of 100% pure beef. If you’re still hungry, you can order triple stacker burgers with fresh toppings and full racks of ribs.

SkyMall Monday: Branding Irons

I lost my meat today. It’s gone. Don’t mourn its loss. No, this is no time for sorrow. When a man’s meat is pilfered by a no-good poacher, well, that there’s a time for revenge. Time spent cryin’ is time spent dyin’. That’s what my grandpappy used to say. He was shot in the head while cryin’. Damn shame. But back to my meat. I reckon my neighbor done gone and pilfered it. I can’t be having meat just up and disappearin’ from the SkyMall Monday headquarters ranch. I’m gonna up and get me a posse and we’re gonna show that varmint a thing or two about manners. You can’t take a man’s meat and not expect consequences. He has my meat and that meat will be my meat again by sundown tomorrow. He’ll see that when you mess with a man’s meat, you mess with his biggest organ. I’m talking, of course, about his soul. That’s the heart of a man’s meat. Wait, what was I talking about? Oh, right, my missing meat. Yeah, I can’t have my neighbor thinking he can just take my meat and claim it as his meat. So, from now on, I’m going to make sure that every man, woman and child knows that my meat belongs to me and me alone. How am I gonna do that? Ha, I’m a rascally cowpoke. I went down to the general store SkyMall catalog and purchased me one of them there customized Branding Irons.You see, if you don’t put your name on your meat, then any man can go ahead and call it his meat. That’s meat anarchy. My pa moved the family out here when I was just a wee one so that we could have a better life. If he knew that people were just snatchin’ up meat like it was a whore at the saloon, well, he’d probably just up and get himself a whore at the saloon. And then he’d brand her with these branding irons. And then he’d eat a steak. I miss pappy.

And if you think that I’m just some crazy fella who’s ramblin’ on about meat and whores, well, then you have another thing comin’. You see, those rootin’ tootin’ snake oil salesmen over at that there SkyMall catalog have a thing or two to say about these branding irons. Go on and take a look-see:

Create a personalized iron to brand your steaks, chicken and burgers and show your guests the pride you take in being a great chef!

Pride. That’s a word my grandpappy’s pappy took seriously. He used to brand everything he owned. And he was damned proud of it. I know because my grandpappy had a brand on his backside that says, “My pappy’s proud of me.” And my pappy has a brand on his keister that reads, “Proud Parent of a Vanderbilt Elementary School Honor Student.” Yeah, I was real good at the book learnin’. I’m proud of that. That’s why I branded my Trapper Keeper.

Well, I reckon I best be moseying along now. I have some meat to brand and some whores errands to do. But you remember what I said today, partner: Keep your damn hands off my meat!

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

Six ways to enjoy Madison Square Park

Manhattan has a lot of great parks – but a handful tends to hog all the attention. Central Park is what it is; there’s just now way to compare it to anything else. Bryant Park has live performances and exhibitions (not to mention a starring role in Fashion Week) and is only a block from Times Square. And, there are others that would come to mind before you work your way down the list to one of my favorite open spaces in the city: Madison Square Park.

Don’t be misled – this park is nowhere near the “garden” of the same name. It sits between East 23d Street and East 26th Street and between Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue, in a small pocket of New York that most visitors tend to skip. So, catch the R or W train to the East 23d Street stop, and get ready to enjoy Madison Square Park in six different ways.

1. Take care of two buildings at once
The uniquely shaped Flatiron Building is right across the intersection from the southwest corner of the park, where Fifth Avenue and Broadway meet. What you may not realize, though, is that the northwest corner of the park (East 26th Street and Fifth Avenue) provides a great view of the Empire State Building. Crowds tend to form, for some reason, during morning rush hour (which sucks for the locals). Also, avoid lunch hour and evenings, as people who work nearby will get in the way of your shot.


2. Watch some television – live
It’s not unusual to find camera crews in and around Madison Square Park. Plenty of shows shot in New York use the space. So, while you wander through, you may be lucky enough to bump into one of your faves.

3. Go to the bathroom
If you aren’t fortunate enough to spot a celeb, drink some water. This will have the predictable effect and send you to one of only a handful of self-cleaning public toilets in the New York City. It’s on the southeast corner of Madison Square Park, and a quarter buys you 15 minutes. That should be plenty of time to take interior photos of the device that guest-starred on CSI:NY.

4. Enjoy some art
There’s always a public art display of some kind in Madison Square Park. Right now, it’s Markers, an installation by Mel Kendrick, a Boston-born artist who’s now a resident of New York. This project consists of five pieces reflect the “rippling surfaces contain the fossil memory of the actions taken over time.” Like almost all the public art in Madison Square Park, Kendrick’s installation is definitely worth a look.

5. Grab a bite
Sure, it’s tempting to head over to the storied Shake Shack in the southeast corner of Madison Square Park (near the toilet/TV star/murderer). But, if you’re looking for a substantial, enjoyable sit-down meal, go up to Ben & Jack’s Steakhouse, a few blocks north on East 28th Street and Fifth Avenue. Definitely make the ribeye your meal (it was amazing), but you’d be nuts not to start with the seafood platter. Take your time, and rest your feet for a bit, especially if you’ve been wandering around the city all day. The staff is attentive and accommodating, and they will not rush you. This is a great alternative to the long waits and hope-you-can-pull-it-off reservation situations at the steakhouses in mid-town. And, the dark-wooded interior drives home the insider feel that makes any steak dinner in Manhattan complete.

6. Grab a cigar (for those inclined)
For many, the only way to finish a hefty steak dinner is with a cigar. Go local with a stick from Martinez Cigars, a few blocks away on West 29th Street and Seventh Ave. Grab a maduro, and go back to the park (while you can still smoke there). If nobody’s around, chill for a bit on the new pedestrian area just west of Madison Square Park.

This is America, please order in English

Since 2005, a Philadelphia based cheese-steak bistro owner has been defending a signpost in his shop that said: “This is America, please order in English.” Not surprisingly, he was taken to court on grounds of discrimination, equating it to derogatory signs like “Whites Only”. No ruling has been given yet.

I wrote a post earlier about how surprising I found it that people barely speak English in a big, cosmopolitan capital city like Madrid. It triggered a debate over whether it’s necessary for big cities (where English isn’t the first language) to have basic knowledge of English, or not.

I think it is relative. In non-English speaking metropolises, as long as the tourists put in some effort, lack of basic English may not be an important day-to-day communication hindrance, but it is definitely a disadvantage in the larger scope of things. For example: Madrid is bidding to host the 2016 Olympics — surely the knowledge of English would play an important role there. How is China tackling that issue for next year’s games? Anyway, I digress.

What do you do in an English-speaking country when your customers don’t speak English? Do you put up a sign like our friend did? Hmmm, I don’t think so — it’s quite an insult. The sign reminded me of when the English ruled India and the “No Indians or Dogs” sign was not uncommon. Couldn’t they just be offered picture menus where they could point out what they wanted? Or what about bilingual menus?

There is an online poll on the article asking whether people approve this sign post. At this moment, of the 115,732 people who voted, 92% of them approve. Call me overly sensitive but I’m kinda shocked to see the response.

What do you think? Are signs like that acceptable?


The Meat of the Matter in Argentina

Years ago when I was making my way with a backpack through Argentina, I
made a stop along the road in a dusty little town whose name escapes me. I took a short stroll through the town’s
streets, which took a mere minute or so, and dropped into a run-down, uninviting-looking restaurant on a lonely corner.
When the waiter asked what I wanted, my first inclination was to have the roast chicken.

That sounded just
fine, a perfect way to get a belly full of lunch before tossing my guitar back over my should and continuing up the
road. But then the word parrilla caught my eye, and I
thought "a steak? for lunch? why not?!" Now, you might say, duh, everyone knows Argentina is steak country,
but I wasn’t thinking clearly. I’d just spent four hours on the road and a steak just didn’t seem like the thing to
order. Well, that steak, and several subsequent parillas, remain the best meat I have ever had. Even today, after many
trips to Peter Luger’s in Brooklyn, I’ve yet to find a cut of beef that matched those I had in Argentina. And I love to
eat steak.

And so I was intrigued and delighted to read this homage to Argentinean steak over at
an obscure little journal called idleword. I cold go on and on about the heavenly gustatory bliss of chewing a piece of
bloody cow flesh, but I’ll let the writer here, and the accompanying photos do it for me. Suffice it say, my belly
is rumbling as I write and my fond memories of those succulent cuts are nearly as vivid as the day of that first beefy