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Prêt à Manger?

 
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I'm Canadian - should I be excited?

I've passed-by these in London, but have never gone in.  It sounds like they are the UK equivalent of a Starbucks.

 
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We've eaten there regularly when we're in London. Mostly for lunch, not especially coffee. Sandwiches and service are OK. But it's like Starbucks in that you can't walk four blocks without finding one.

But I was surprised to see they were partnering with A&W. Maybe I have been overestimating them?
 
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A & W as in the root beer/fast food or is this some other A&W?

What I can't understand is why no one sells sausage rolls in the USA! Closest thing you'll find is generally a "pig in a blanket" (wrapped in bread roll dough). Scotch Eggs wouldn't be taken amiss, either.
 
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They were for years the high end of the McDonald's Corporation's family, because they were a major investor.
As my experiences with them were all during that perhaps unfortunate time, I only today realized that had ended long ago:
https://www.marketingweek.com/pret-a-manger-aims-to-dispel-mcdonalds-myth/

I had one friend, a Dutch Physicist by training that was a fantastic programmer and who was exceedingly precise, deliberate and clear.

If you asked ten people to draw you a map of how to get someplace tricky, or to explain a tricky bit of code, he would pretty much always give you the clearest, cleanest, easiest to read answer.

For whatever reasons, he LOVED that place.  It was his go-to for everything.  Almost to the extent that if you wished to go anywhere else, do not expect him to join.

In the early years, they had little in the way of Vegan Options, so I just ignored them.

More recently, they now have a LOT of them, so they would always be an option.

However, the only ones I knew of were in Manhattan, where there are too many great options to count.

So I generally only stopped there when in an extreme rush.  I was more-or-less guaranteed something I considered edible, at prices that were at the high end of reasonable, and quicker than most of my other options.

Coming to think about this, it is now obvious why Great Programmer liked them.
His greatest fans as well as detractors all agreed he was eminently efficient.
Maybe I liked the food I obtained during the workday even more than he did, but I spent amounts of time obtaining it that he would have rejected as "wasteful of bandwidth".

I was in good enough shape, as were my mates that would eat with me, that we would have all kinds of interesting work-related discussions while hustling thru the crowded streets, waiting on line, etc.

He wasn't chatty enough for that to be an option for him.  He went to get his food, pay for it, bring it back and eat.

Trying to catch up on what's been going on with them, I am filled with a sense of sadness and loss being reminded how devastating the pandemic has been to all sorts of places that provided services to various office workers, most of whom have not been around.  Some of them had deeply devoted fans for decades, and are now gone or are still hanging on struggling to just barely survive.

I'd pour out a cup of coffee in their memories if I could afford it, and I drank coffee.

I'd agree that in NYC, they were thought of much more as a food/sandwich/salad place than a coffee place with some food.  The drinks are far more prominent in the profile for Starbucks.
 
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It must be some kind of exchange program because we've just gotten a Tim Hortons in my town
 
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Tim Holloway wrote:A & W as in the root beer/fast food or is this some other A&W?



No, really, the root beer people.
 
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Tim Cooke wrote:It must be some kind of exchange program because we've just gotten a Tim Hortons in my town



When I was in Madrid three years ago I stumbled on a Tim Hortons. We just stared in astonishment and didn't bother going in.
 
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Canadian A&W split-off the US counterpart some time in the 70's, and the two really don't have much in common other than the logo.  A&W here is a private company located in the Greater Vancouver area.

For fast food, the taste and quality of the food at the Canadian restaurants are quite good.
 
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Ron McLeod wrote:Canadian A&W split-off the US counterpart some time in the 70's, and the two really don't have much in common other than the logo.  A&W here is a private company located in the Greater Vancouver area.

For fast food, the taste and quality of the food at the Canadian restaurants are quite good.



I haven't been to A&W since the 70's, now that I think of it, So I was unaware of that. But from what I see in Wikipedia it's still mostly a burger joint.
 
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I do recall hearing about the A&W split, actually. The burger joints went into a decline in the US, though. We used to have a drive-in near where I lived, but from what I can tell, the chain is now just a few stores in Kentucky. They served their signature root beer in big heavy glass mugs and actually if they haven't "improved" it, it was the best root beer I know of.

It's still available in supermarkets, at least.

Question: Does UK have anything similar to White Castle/Krystal hamburgers?
 
Jesse Silverman
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Tim, would your question be best interpreted as "Are there UK-based fast-food restaurants that have multiple menu items, but primarily are sandwiches with a reduced form factor, frequently referred to in the USA as 'sliders'?"

There are a number of things that make White Castle somewhat unique in the United States (whether one likes them or not).

Some of them have to do with food selections, others their unique business model.

Wikipedia wrote:Throughout its existence, White Castle has been a private company and relied on company-owned stores. It remains privately held today, and its restaurants are all company-owned; none is franchised,[clarification needed] except very briefly in Japan during the 1980s[22] and more recently in China since 2017.[23]



They were also, by a long distance, the very first mass-chain to sell Impossible Burgers in every location in the USA.  We will never know if Burger King would have introduced them at the time they did otherwise, because that would be alternative history -- White Castle took the risk and demonstrated the viability first.

But I am thinking that the essence of your question comes down to "places famous for teeny little square hamburgers, often called sliders".
 
Tim Holloway
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Well, specifically, I was wondering if anyone was peddling sandwiches based on questionable slices of meat that look like they'd been run over by a parade of articulated lorries until about 1.5mm thick, then fried on a greasy cooktop with chopped unions then sandwiched into a steamed square bap.

While these are often called "sliders", in the US, there are those who also use the term for more wholesome constructs. Burger King, I believe was running a line of mini-burgers that they called sliders, though the meat was something more resembling actual hamburger.

Interesting if White Castle has been selling Impossible Burgers. I'd never thought of them as a place for full-sized burgers. They don't have a presence in the Southern USA for the most part - that's where you find Krystal. Although a White Castle has recently been opened in Orlando near Disney World.

Florida used to have a Miami-based chain named Royal Castle, though it's long defunct. Served Southern/Central Florida and even sponsored a cartoon show. Their claim to fame was Birch Beer. Funny, since birches don't grow anywhere near here.

Speaking of fast food chains, you may have heard that Firehouse Subs has recently been bought by the same outfit that currently owns Burger King. The original Firehouse Subs is located about 5 mile up the road from me. What was the very first Burger King is now a hole-in-the-wall chicken joint out towards the beach. I'm still waiting for someone to start a national chain of "Arabic" sandwiches.
 
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Yeah.  I managed to literally *never* eat at White Castle (I walked past one to school probably literally thousands of times without going in, it was maybe 3 blocks from my house) until they had the Impossible Sliders (about the same size and shape as their "questionable meat" ones, also, to most vegans all meat seems to some degree questionable, depending on provenance) .

So besides the business model, some things that are relatively characteristic of them are:
low variability in the outside appearance of the restaurants, high consistency in architecture/layout
intentionally small size of sandwiches (gluttons will just eat dozens of them, rather than having sandwich options that are individually very large)
cooktop preparation
square shape of the patties and buns

Was I missing out all those years?
To me, it was an impossibly huge deal for the first US chain to go nationwide with an available-everywhere faux-meat option.
I did buy a lot of them during the time they were the only chain doing this, as I think it is important for vegetarians and vegans to be able to eat crappy fast food when travelling across or up and down the country with little time to seek out better food.

We have been hitting Burger King FAR more often since they started including the Impossible Whoppers in their specials-that-cost-only-a-fraction-of-regular-menu-prices.
I actually like them much more than White Castle, but I can practically hop on one foot to my nearest BK, and there are three White Castles each a few miles away in three different directions, which makes it a hassle.
My wife wasn't vegetarian before she met me, tho she was fussy about food.
She was formerly squeamish about hot dogs and sausages, but loves certain vegan ones (she is still quite fussy and particular on either side of the divide).
I think White Castle sliders were something she didn't eat when they were sourced from "Questionable Meat" but she likes the non-meat ones quite a bit.  I will think of you the next time a Release goes late, she has no time to cook (or supervise me cooking) the meal we planned and sends me out for either BK or WC.
Especially if I volunteer to drive six times as far for White Castle's sliders.

Note: almost every single time I have ever stopped in a PaM, they had relatively healthy, vegan options labelled organic -- I never said "There's nothing here I can eat".  But since they were all in Manhattan NYC, there were also 50 other places I would prefer to get food from within five miles, so I only tend to buy from PaM when in a "Big Rush".  I remember that they seemed pricey when I shopped there, but that could be because it took a lot of stereotypically healthy vegetarian-type food to fill me up compared to Indian Food or an Impossible Whopper...

 
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A&W (Canada) was the only restaurant to have two items in this review of top vegan items of Canadian Fast Food:
https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/best-vegan-fast-food-ranked

They nailed the top spot AND #5.  Pretty impressive.

Not planning to travel for a while, but I would definitely hit them up if I found myself on a Canadian Road Trip.

As was mentioned, the brand basically wiped out here in the States, but I shed few tears because there wasn't much for me to order there except root beer...
 
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My first wife was a Krystal Junkie in High School. Then she became a vegetarian. Coincidence? Don't count on it.

Curiously, I can get boxes of White Castle sliders at the local grocers. Krystal never went that route.

The nearest BK got on the Internet a year or so back when a video was distributed with an employee cleaning a table with a floor mop there. It's closed now, I think. Don't eat out much anymore. Portion sizes are too large. Plus I keep a well-stocked kitchen and pantry.
 
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Tim Holloway wrote:I'm still waiting for someone to start a national chain of "Arabic" sandwiches.


Like shawarma?
 
Tim Holloway
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Ron McLeod wrote:

Tim Holloway wrote:I'm still waiting for someone to start a national chain of "Arabic" sandwiches.


Like shawarma?

No, we have a rather unique style of sandwich shop here. A considerable number of Orthodox Christians left the Palestinian village of Ramallah sometime around the end of the 19th century and many settled here. Also, I think in Mexico, but I'm not sure if they were the ones who invented tacos al pastor.  At one point, we had one of the largest Arabic populations of any city in the USA outside Detroit.  At any rate, Gyro-style didn't come here until malls and food courts and the Gyro Wrap chain, but locally they invented two types of sandwiches that I've never seen anywhere else.

The first one is "steak in a sack". and every shop has their own version. Some take beef patties, chop them up and grill them with middle-eastern spices and dump them in a pita pocket. Tomato and cheese are optional. One place has something more like "beef stew in a sack" and it's a little messier, but also good.

The other could only be be Arabic in a non-Muslim Arab town, since it's definitely haram. Basically a "sub sandwich in a sack" so cold cuts like ham, salami, etc. plus lettuce, cheese and so forth. And don't forget the cherry limeade and a bag of chips!

Regrettably, the shops that sell this kind of stuff are generally in older parts of town, so nothing like that is near where I currently live.
 
Don't get me started about those stupid light bulbs.
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