Chain Reaction: Hooters

Of course we love our mom & pops, and our favorite burger joints around the country are pretty much all independently owned, but there are certain times in life—overnight layovers, hungover Sunday mornings, all-day shopping trips at the outlets—that the only options around are the chains. Our column Chain Reaction is here to help you decide when to go for the burger, and when you're better off sticking with the chicken fingers.

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[Photographs: Todd Brock]

Hooters

795 Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell GA 30076 (Map); 770-992-4540; visit hooters.com for 430+ other locations
The Schtick: Buffalo wings, burgers, and boobs
The Burger: Four varieties, including a build-your-own option, but a plain-jane American cheeseburger was best on this visit
Want Fries with That? Yes, the curly fries are a staple, but you'll inexplicably pay extra for them
Setting: Beachside snack shack: think heavily-lacquered wood, string lights, lots and lots of cleavage
Price: Hooters Burger, $6.99 (all toppings [including cheese], add $0.49 each); 3 others, $7.99 each

Obvious alert: my job totally rocks. I'm paid to eat cheeseburgers and write what I think. That alone makes me unspeakably fortunate. But then there are moments so you-must-be-joking surreal that I wonder what sort of karmic lottery ticket I won in a previous life. Like when I told my wife with (almost) a straight face, "I have to go to Hooters. For work."

Started in 1983, Hooters now has over 430 locations in 44 states and 28 countries. Along the way, the chain known for skin-tight tank tops, push-up bras, and flimsy orange track shorts has somehow convinced the world that they're a family restaurant. (I know someone who held a birthday party there for her six-year-old son.) Menu-wise, they're famous for wings. But on this night, with 600 pounds of hungry Brock boys on the prowl, we ordered every burger that Hooters offers.

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...But were stymied by sides. Order a burger at Hooters, and you can get coleslaw, baked beans, or potato salad...but not French fries. "We have to charge extra for that. It's not a substitution," Christina informed us. Huh?!?

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The chain's website actually calls Hooters Girls "all-American cheerleaders" and compares them to national icons like the Radio City Rockettes, but not offering fries as a standard option with your burg is decidedly un-American. So there. Now on to the burgers.

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First up, the Mushroom-Swiss, our least favorite of the bunch. The patty was cooked way past the requested medium-rare, and the double layer of not-really-melted Swiss looked gross. Not one I'd order again.

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Next, the Western BBQ. That ain't even close to medium-rare, pardner. There's cheddar, bacon, and barbecue sauce on top, plus onion tanglers, although I can't find them in this picture...or even remember them. Personally, I think barbecue sauce usually overpowers a burger unless it's done with a sensational sauce and a light touch. Hooters has neither.

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The Bleu Cheese. Good stuff. The burger showed just a hint of pink, putting it closer to "medium" than "medium-rare," but the generous helping of bleu cheese crumbles saved the day, adding a welcome creaminess and tangy bite to this juicy burger.

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The Hooters Burger was the sexiest thing I saw all night. A build-your-own burger, ours was streamlined with American cheese and basic lettuce/tomato/onion. This was the best-cooked burger of the four, certainly the closest to medium-rare. Juicy beef, wonderfully-melted cheese, and proportional toppings. The bun didn't fall apart and wasn't obnoxiously oversized, perhaps the best thing you can say about a chain bun. Not only would I order the Hooters Burger (at least the American-only version) again, I'd actually seek it out over most chain burgers.

About the Author: Todd Brock lives the glamorous life of a stay-at-home freelance writer in the suburbs of Atlanta. Besides being paid to eat cheeseburgers, he's written and produced over 1,000 hours of television and recently penned Building Chicken Coops for Dummies. When he grows up, he wants to be either the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the drummer for Hootie & the Blowfish. Or both.

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