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I’m not a huge fan of fast food for two main reasons: 1.) I’m not 9 years old, and 2.) I don’t want to die young. But, like many of life’s travelers, I occasionally find myself on the road or just out of options, and I’m forced to choke down moist cardboard-tasting pseudo-food created in a lab. I don’t like to admit it, but I can occasionally (read: when drunk) crave the grease-soaked artery clog of a Whataburger with cheese.

Knowing my contempt for any foodstuff with more preservatives than ingredients, a friend of mine was still floored when I told him I’d never been to an Arby’s. I’d been seeing those “We have the meats!” commercials cycle throughout my TV every 8-12 minutes for the past few months, and I asked a simple question: “Who the f*@$ eats at Arby’s?” Next thing I knew, my buddy was shuttling me out near his Lake Worth home to “try the meats!”

I feel like I wasn’t afforded a representative visit at the Clifford Street Arby’s (9441 Clifford St, 817-367-1900). It was too nice, and my understanding was the building would be shaped like a hat. This Arby’s looks like a brown box on a concrete island. Whoever branded that company loves the color brown – it’s like that person invented new shades just to decorate the franchises.

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The nice young man at the counter seemed genuinely caught off guard when I asked, “How are you?” He laughed sheepishly. As I looked around to answer my earlier question, people from all walks of life had packed into the surprisingly chic dining room, replete with framed, modern-looking art and hanging sconces that might be repurposed plastic capsules stolen from a bank’s drive-through.

The food was better than I expected. My Beef ’n Cheddar sandwich ($6.69 for the small combo) resembled something I’d use to clean pots back when I was a dishwasher. The flat, lifeless disk of sesame buns held within a thin, indiscernible layer of gray-ish meat and orange liquid cheese. (I imagined pureed Cheetos.) It looked like prison food, and it tasted … not bad, actually. The cheese overwhelmed everything, and my pal insisted that I coat a few bites in Arby’s battery-acid-like sauce. But the sandwich was infinitely edible.

Even better was the gyro ($6.29 for the small combo), with decent-looking tomatoes, shredded iceberg lettuce, red onions, more gray meat, and something vaguely resembling tzatziki sauce, all wrapped in reasonably fresh-tasting pita bread. The showstopper, though, was the order of curly fries: crispy, seasoned, and addictive.

I felt a little dirty, like I’d need to cleanse myself with duck l’orange or something, but not dissatisfied. On the way home, we passed a Taco Casa (6105 Lake Worth Blvd, 817-239-7755), and then immediately u-turned after I casually mentioned (buoyed by my Arby’s tolerance) that I should try that some day.

Why not?” I thought. I was already going to the gym the following day to exorcise “the meats!” through exercise.

If Arby’s is boxy, Taco Casa is square. If Arby’s is brown, Taco Casa is also brown. And orange. Maybe I had some synesthetic resistance to brown places. I’m over it now.

The super taco ($2.69), a novelty-sized shell crammed with actual meat-looking ground beef, sour cream, a whole cracker’s barrel of shredded cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes, was passably bland. Too bad the hot sauce tasted like red-pepper-infused vinegar.

Now I’m off to the gym and duck l’orange – or maybe a different colored flavor of duck.

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