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Fast food nation 

Burgers to fish

Life is a matter of perspective. While some may argue that the half-mile strip of fast-food joints on Moreland Avenue between I-20 and Glenwood Avenue is a disgusting trap of cheap gluttony, I see it as a safe haven from tasteless health food and overpriced gourmet cuisine. Even in a world that places more and more value on instant gratification, the fast-food industry is plagued by haters. Well, $3 meals got me through college, and I have no intention of forgetting where I came from. With a McDonald's, Wendy's, Krystal, Long John Silver's, Checkers, Mrs. Winners, and Louisiana Seafood and Gumbo and Chicago Barbecue all within spitting distance of one another, that path of deliciousness on Moreland Avenue is one of the best locations in Atlanta to get fed, full and fat for five bucks.

Battle of the Burgers: Being broke sucks, but at least it gives you an excuse to eat crap guilt-free. For only $1, McDonald's Double Cheeseburger will give you the most calories for your buck. Wendy's Junior Cheeseburger Deluxe tastes less like old grease, though, and still fills the belly. If you're feeling a little more frivolous, head to the ingenious dueling left-side/right-side Checkers drive-thru and order the Steakhouse Double Cheddarburger. Get two for $4, each loaded with two patties, a couple slices of cheddar, bacon, lettuce, pickles, onions and A1 Steak Sauce; your heart might hate you, but your taste buds won't.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner: For chicken, the best bet in the area is McDonald's Southern Style Chicken Sandwich -- which really is tasty enough to justify dressing it with nothing but two pickles -- or Krystal's infamous Krystal Chiks; although I'm not sure what's more dangerous ... their calorie count, or the fact that their size (or lack thereof) dares you to eat them all in one bite and risk death by chicken choking. If strips are more your thing, head to Mrs. Winners. For just more than $5, you get three crispy chicken strips -- fried to artery-clogging perfection -- served with a side of mac and cheese and a biscuit. Nugget lovers should go with the consistently savory ones at Wendy's (five for 99 cents). Wendy's might not brag that its nuggets are all white meat like McDonald's, but whether they're white meat or just ground-up chicken beak, they still taste better than everyone else's.

Something's Fishy: Although all of these places have some form of fish sandwich, if you're gonna go deep-sea diving you should float on over to Long John Silver's. I don't know what kind of fish John uses in his strips, but it's covered in fried batter, it's not overly fishy and it tastes good with tartar sauce. You might run into fried gristle sticks in the mix, but quit whining -- they are delicious and life is an adventure. Speaking of adventure, I dare anyone to order food from Louisiana Seafood and Gumbo and Chicago Barbecue. That's right, that's its name and it does serve Louisiana seafood and gumbo and Chicago barbecue all in one spot, that is, if it's actually open -- it's hard to tell. When you get to the drive-thru, notice how there's no speaker to order from. Then drive around to the window and notice the "Honk for Service" sign. I honked and honked on a few separate visits but never got served, so I can't say whether or not the food is any good, but from buffalo wings and shrimp platters to hot dogs and catfish, it certainly has variety -- the spice of life.

The fact that the neighborhood gas station sells hot wings and cell phones is an indication that you're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. But act quickly -- gentrification is coming to town, so enjoy the grit while you can. Have fun ordering food on the right and refusing panhandlers on the left. It's not the restaurants so much as the people that make the experience. Don't worry about the Mrs. Winners staff rolling their eyes when you order, instead pay attention to the guy coughing up a lung on the corner table. Only those willing to check their pedestal at the door should brave Moreland Avenue. When it comes to food, you are what you eat, and I'm proud to be fast and cheap.

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