30 Nostalgic Fast Food Items from the 80s and 90s That We'll Never Forget
By Sophia Maddox | May 30, 2023
McDonald's Onion NuggetsIf you grew up in the 1980s or 1990s, you may have fond memories of fast food items that are no longer available. These menu items had cult followings and loyal fans who still reminisce about their favorite bites. Whether it was the McDLT, the McArch, the Taco Bell Enchirito, Pizza Hut's Triple Decker Pizza, the McLobster, Onion Nuggets, or the Burger King Dinner Baskets, these discontinued items were often ahead of their time or just plain irresistible. In this gallery, we will take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of the most beloved fast food items of the past. So sit back, grab a drink, and enjoy the nostalgia trip. Keep reading to see if your favorite fast food item made the list.
McDonald's introduced deep-fried onion bits, known as Onion Nuggets, in the late 1970s as part of their dollar menu. However, the item was short-lived and discontinued shortly after its release. The reason for its discontinuation is unknown, but some speculate that it may have been due to the name, which, you know, is incredibly unappealing.
Pizza Hut's Bigfoot Pizza
In 1993, Pizza Hut introduced the legendary Bigfoot Pizza, a massive creation that boasted a staggering 12 inches by 24 inches of pizza goodness, delivering an impressive 2 square feet of pure cheesy heaven. At an unbeatable price of $10.99, this colossal slice of paradise had Pizza Hut fans drooling in anticipation.
However, as much as Pizza Hut wanted to keep this behemoth on the menu, the rising costs of ingredients meant that the price would have to be adjusted to keep up with demand. Alas, the day came when the Bigfoot Pizza was retired from the menu, leaving fans yearning for its triumphant return. After all, nothing beats a slab of pizza to share with friends and family.
Taco Bell's Chili Cheese Burrito
The Chili Cheese Burrito, also known as the "Chilito," is a beloved item on the Taco Bell menu, and has undergone changes over the years. The burrito consists of a flour tortilla filled with chili and cheese, and has found a loyal following among fast food enthusiasts. The dish was modeled after classic Texan fare, and Taco Bell added shredded cheese to create a unique and flavorful combination.
Despite its simplicity, the Chili Cheese Burrito was a hit with customers due to its rich, spice-laden chili and melted cheese, combined with the convenience and affordability of fast food. Although it was removed from most Taco Bell menus in the mid-1990s, it was never fully discontinued. Instead, the burrito was only offered at select locations in the United States, leading to its mythical status and passionate calls for its return.
Thanks to these demands, Taco Bell brought back the Chili Cheese Burrito in some markets, but not all. While the current version of the burrito may not be exactly the same as the original, it remains a beloved item among Taco Bell's diehard fans, and its legacy continues to live on.
The McDLT, a pioneering burger innovation from McDonald's, made waves upon its introduction with its revolutionary packaging that kept the hot side hot and the cold side cold. The burger was cleverly assembled in a Styrofoam container that separated the hot half from the cold side, allowing customers to create their perfect sandwich. This unique offering became a fast-food sensation, drawing in legions of fans seeking a customizable burger experience.
Despite its initial success, the McDLT was eventually pulled from menus in 1998 due to concerns over its environmentally unfriendly packaging. The burger reappeared in 2005 with a new jingle singer and spokesperson, the renowned Mariah Carey, but ultimately failed to recapture its former glory. Today, the McDLT is no longer available on McDonald's menus, leaving nostalgic burger enthusiasts to reminisce about the good old days of assembling their perfect burger.
Wendy's Superbar was an iconic dining destination back in the 1980s. The self-serve buffet featured a massive spread of all-you-can-eat options, including various pasta dishes, a customizable taco station, and an array of fresh fruits and salads. While some may find the inclusion of tacos and pasta at a fast-food joint questionable, the Superbar's unbeatable price tag of $2.99 for unlimited servings quickly catapulted it to cult status.
Yet, such wild success proved to be a double-edged sword, and Wendy's was ultimately forced to discontinue the Superbar to remain financially viable. Today, the fond memories of this legendary buffet endure, and its legacy remains firmly ingrained in the hearts of fast-food enthusiasts everywhere.
Little Caesars Pepperoni Crazy Bread
Little Caesars once had a popular menu item called Pepperoni Crazy Bread sticks, which were stuffed with spicy pepperoni, crispy on the outside, and buttery on the inside, and topped with Parmesan. These meaty and garlicky breadsticks were a fan favorite and often enjoyed with a side of marinara sauce. Unfortunately, they were ripped from the menu without warning. However, Little Caesars still offers plain garlic Crazy Bread sticks which are all well and good but lack the debauchery of pepperoni.
Taco Bell's Enchirito
Taco Bell's Enchirito, a beloved burrito-enchilada fusion, was an iconic menu item that debuted in the 1960s and remained a fan favorite for decades until its discontinuation in 1993. The Enchirito featured a soft, flour tortilla stuffed with a hearty filling of savory beef, beans, and onions, then smothered with generous helpings of red enchilada sauce and grated cheddar cheese. For convenience, Taco Bell provided a unique, reheatable tin so that customers could enjoy the Enchirito hot from the comfort of their homes. Although revived briefly between 1999 and 2013, the Enchirito returned without its signature row of black olives or reheatable tins, as reported by HuffPost.
McDonald’s Fried Apple Pie
McDonald's decision to replace their classic fried apple pie with a baked version in most states (excluding Hawaii) during the 1990s was an attempt to cater to health-conscious customers. However, even after two decades, fans of the original fried pie are still campaigning for its return. Supporters of the fried pie argue that its crispy pastry and piping hot filling are far superior to the bland baked version. One Change.org petition urges McDonald's to embrace their identity as an indulgent fast-food chain and bring back the fried pie, stating, "McDonald's, we know you're not good for us. Step up, own what you are, and put the pies back in the fryer."
The McHotDog, a menu item offered by McDonald's, has found limited success in the fast-food industry despite being available in select regions around the world. Currently, the item is featured on menus in Japan, as well as certain areas of Canada and Pennsylvania, but it has not gained widespread popularity or recognition. Some have suggested that the McHotDog's unassuming nature may be a contributing factor to its lack of success, as it is essentially a simple hot dog and lacks the appeal of more unique or trendy fast-food offerings.
However, there may be deeper reasons why the McHotDog has struggled to make an impact. Reports suggest that McDonald's founder Ray Kroc prohibited the sale of hot dogs for years due to concerns over the ingredients and consistency of the product. This attitude towards hot dogs may have contributed to a general lack of enthusiasm for the McHotDog, as it struggled to shake off the stigma associated with a product that Kroc himself viewed with suspicion.
Pizza Hut's Triple Decker Pizza
In 1996, Pizza Hut enlisted the services of the legendary actor, Anthony Quinn, to promote their latest creation - a cheese-stuffed behemoth that defied convention. Unlike traditional stuffed-crust pizza, this innovative pie boasted a base made entirely of cheese, topped with a layer of dough, and then piled high with a bounty of toppings. This bold new offering was met with mixed reactions from the pizza-loving public, as some found the sheer amount of cheese overwhelming.
Despite its divisive reception, the cheese-stuffed pizza left an indelible impression on fans of Pizza Hut, with the most ardent cheese-lovers still pining for its return to this day. Perhaps it is the sheer audacity of the creation, or maybe the nostalgic appeal of the beloved actor's endorsement, but the cheese-stuffed pizza remains firmly ingrained in the hearts of pizza aficionados everywhere.
Taco Bell's Seafood Salad
During the 1980s, Taco Bell introduced a unique menu item - the Seafood Salad. Served in a large, crispy tortilla bowl, this salad consisted of a blend of shrimp, crab, and whitefish, combined with lettuce, tomato, and olives, a common topping choice for Taco Bell at the time.
While the Seafood Salad may have seemed like a promising addition to the fast-food landscape, it ultimately failed to find a foothold in the industry. One possible reason for its lack of success may be attributed to the limited appeal of fish-based fast food offerings in general. In an industry dominated by beef and chicken, the Seafood Salad may have simply been unable to compete.
Today, the Seafood Salad is little more than a memory, a forgotten menu item that sleeps with the fishes.
McDonald's Arch Deluxe
The Arch Deluxe, McDonald's $150 million gambit, remains a perplexing enigma to this day. Despite its reputation as a fancier Big Mac, the Arch Deluxe's hefty price tag left many questioning the wisdom of McDonald's massive investment in its promotion. The burger's upscale ingredients and premium quality were undoubtedly delicious, yet it failed to gain traction as a menu item, ultimately doomed by its own lofty ambitions.
While the Arch Deluxe's taste was never in question, its failure can be attributed to its inability to find a place in a menu already established with cheaper, more accessible alternatives. The Arch Deluxe ultimately became a cautionary tale for fast-food marketers, a reminder that success is not always guaranteed by upgrading a beloved classic. In hindsight, the Arch Deluxe's extravagant rollout may have been an overreach, a costly misstep in an industry built on consistency and familiarity.
Wendy’s Stuffed Pitas
In a bold move for a burger-centric chain, Wendy's introduced a chicken Caesar salad pita to its menu in the late 1990s, with a Greek salad variation also available. While these salads may look appetizing to today's consumers, their debut was met with skepticism from fast-food enthusiasts of the time. The pita salads, unfortunately, failed to gain a foothold in the market, never selling well enough to earn a permanent spot on the menu.
Despite this setback, Wendy's remains committed to offering healthier options to its customers, albeit without the added novelty of a soft pita shell. While the chicken Caesar and Greek salad pitas may have been ahead of their time, they represent an important milestone in the evolution of fast food, as chains sought to expand their offerings beyond the traditional burger and fries.
Burger King Bundles
In 1987, Burger King introduced a novel concept - Bundles - that soon disappeared from menus almost as quickly as it arrived. These diminutive burgers, what we now refer to as sliders, were perhaps ahead of their time, as their small size and multi-pack format were unusual in an era when fast-food consumers sought supersized portions.
Burger King's Bundles may have been too small, even for White Castle's standards, leaving some customers feeling underwhelmed by their minuscule size. Perhaps the idea of spending valuable time on something so small also deterred patrons from getting into this radical concept.
Jack in the Box Frings
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, fast-food chain Jack in the Box introduced a novel offering - the Frings - a curious combination of onion rings and fries served in a single container. While not particularly groundbreaking, the Frings did require customers to juggle the cooking times of two separate items, adding an extra layer of coordination to the fast-food experience.
Despite the Frings' popularity, Jack in the Box eventually dismissed them as a passing trend, with no plans to bring them back. Today, the Frings serve as a curious reminder of a bygone era, when fast-food chains sought to differentiate themselves by innovating beyond traditional offerings.
McDonald's foray into the world of pizza during the 1980s and 1990s remains one of the fast-food giant's most curious experiments. The McPizza persisted throughout the decade, as McDonald's sought to refine its recipe and capture a slice of the pizza market. Despite its enduring presence on menus, one issue proved insurmountable - time.
In the fast-paced world of fast food, where customers expect their meals in a matter of minutes, the McPizza's preparation time of 11 minutes proved to be an Achilles' heel. Unable to meet the demands of a time-conscious market, the McPizza was unceremoniously dumped from menus.
In the early 1990s, McDonald's saw fit to honor the greatest basketball player of all time with a burger creation - the McJordan. This special burger boasted a sesame seed bun, bacon, cheese, pickles, onions, and BBQ sauce, all assembled to pay homage to the one and only Michael Jordan.
While the McJordan may have been a marketing masterstroke, not all customers were won over by its charms. Some deemed it underwhelming, seeing it as nothing more than a standard bacon cheeseburger.
Taco Bell's Bell Beefer
Taco Bell's Bell Beefer, a peculiar fast-food oddity with a horrible name born in the 1970s and lingering into the 1980s, offered a Tex-Mex twist on the classic sloppy joe. Although this menu item may have seemed at odds with Taco Bell's traditional offerings, the chain was initially more experimental in its culinary approach, indulging in a looser interpretation of Mexican-inspired cuisine.
As Taco Bell evolved and refined its menu offerings in the early 1980s, the Bell Beefer lost its place in the brand's lineup, discarded like a relic of a bygone era. Today, the Bell Beefer remains a curio for fast-food enthusiasts, a reminder of a time when chains took bolder risks with their menus, unencumbered by the constraints of traditional culinary expectations.
Long John Silver’s Peg Leg Chicken
Ah, the humble drumstick - a delicacy revered by kids and adults alike for its crispy skin and succulent meat. Long John Silver's saw fit to capitalize on this love affair by offering their own fried chicken legs, complete with a side of fries and an inexplicable array of crispy batter chunks.
While the chicken legs enjoyed a long run from the 1970s through the 1980s, it seems that the rise of other chicken joints and Long John Silver's reputation as a fish-focused establishment may have ultimately sealed their fate. Alas, the chicken legs now stand as a quirky relic of a bygone era, a testament to the curious culinary innovations of fast-food chains.
Burger King's Dinner Baskets
In the heady days of the early 1990s, Burger King sought to shake up the fast-food world with an audacious experiment - tableside service via waitstaff. Enter the Dinner Baskets, a curious offering that promised to deliver a full meal to your table, complete with condiments and cutlery.
Alas, it seems that customers were not quite ready for this level of service, as the Dinner Baskets failed to find a foothold in the market despite Burger King's aggressive advertising efforts. Perhaps fast food fans preferred the familiar, no-frills approach of self-service, or maybe the Dinner Baskets simply missed the mark in terms of cost and convenience.
McDonald's McLean Deluxe
The 1990s were a transformative era in the world of fast food, as health-conscious consumers began to demand more nutritious options from their favorite chains. McDonald's, always eager to stay ahead of the curve, responded with the McLean Deluxe, a burger touted as a healthy alternative to traditional fast-food fare.
With a staggering 91% fat-free composition and just 10 grams of fat nestled between its buns, the McLean Deluxe seemed like a game-changer on paper. Alas, it appears that the burger's inclusion of seaweed as a binder may have been a turnoff for diners, as the McLean Deluxe failed to find an audience and quickly vanished from menus.
The McLobster - a true oddity in the world of fast food, beloved by some and baffling to others. This curious creation, found only on the east coast of Canada and select parts of the US, takes the form of a classic lobster roll sandwich, housed within a humble hot dog bun.
But the McLobster's journey to our plates has not been without its challenges. As anyone who's ever tried to wrangle fresh lobster can attest, the delicacy is not easy to source and distribute on a national level. As a result, the McLobster has faced significant supply chain issues, leading to its limited availability and regional focus.
Moreover, the McLobster has struggled to win over consumers beyond its core fan base. While some customers swear by its unique flavor and texture, other diners remained unconvinced, leaving the sandwich with lackluster sales and a precarious position on menus.
The mid-90s saw the emergence of a new fast-food item: the McStuffin, McDonald's answer to the popular Hot Pocket snack. Available in flavors such as Chicken Teriyaki and Pepperoni Pizza, the McStuffin offered a convenient and portable way to enjoy a hot and savory snack on the go.
However, despite its promise, the McStuffin ultimately failed to make a significant impact in the fast-food industry. One reason for its lack of success may be attributed to its similarity to the Hot Pocket, which was already a well-established and beloved product. Additionally, some critics noted that the flavor profile of the McStuffin did not mesh well with the rest of McDonald's menu offerings, further hindering its potential popularity among consumers.
McDonald's Gold 'n' Grill
In 1984, McDonald's introduced the Gold 'n' Grill, a cheeseburger that featured a unique twist - a slice of pineapple on top. Although it may have sounded appealing to some, the Gold 'n' Grill ultimately failed to resonate with consumers, much like its predecessor, the Hula Burger of the 1960s.
One possible reason for the Gold 'n' Grill's lack of success was its limited appeal. The addition of pineapple, while an interesting variation on the classic cheeseburger, may have only appealed to a niche audience. Similarly, the popular but polarizing Hawaiian pizza only appeals to certain tastes.
In the late 1970s, McDonald's decided to expand its menu beyond the classic burger offerings and introduced the McSpaghetti. This unusual addition to the fast-food chain's menu featured a plate of spaghetti topped with a meaty sauce.
Unfortunately for McDonald's, the McSpaghetti failed to gain traction with customers, and it was eventually removed from most of the chain's menus. Despite this lack of success in the United States, some international McDonald's locations still offer the dish to this day.
Dairy Queen's Breeze
From 1990 to 2000, Dairy Queen offered a new frozen treat called the Breeze, marketed as a healthier alternative to its popular Blizzard milkshake. The Breeze swapped ice cream for frozen yogurt, but it failed to garner much attention from customers. The product was so unpopular that the frozen yogurt would frequently spoil before being used due to a lack of demand.
Pizza Hut's Priazzo
Pizza Hut's Priazzo, a pizza that imitated the Chicago deep-dish style, failed to impress customers despite a massive advertising campaign and two years of development. The Priazzo was introduced in 1985, following the successful launch of Pizza Hut's Personal Pan Pizza in 1983, which saw a 70% increase in the company's lunchtime business. However, the Priazzo's large size and limited availability to after 4 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends were not appealing to customers, and the pizza ultimately failed. While the Priazzo initially boosted Pizza Hut's revenue, it disappeared from menus by 1991, and the company shifted its focus to other pizza options, such as the popular stuffed crust pizza.
Burger King's BK Shake 'Em Up Fries
Burger King's Shake 'Em Up Fries allowed customers to add their own cheesy flavor to the fast-food chain's classic fries. The fries were served in a paper bag with a packet of "Cheezy Flavor Blast." Customers would sprinkle the cheese powder into the bag and shake it up for an evenly coated snack.
To promote the product, Burger King aired commercials showcasing various fry-shaking techniques such as the jackhammer, helicopter, and boogie shake. However, the Shake 'Em Up Fries failed to gain traction with consumers. The product was discontinued, likely due to the extra effort required to enjoy the cheesy fries.
Burger King’s Cini Minis
Burger King's Cini Minis, bite-sized cinnamon rolls created in partnership with Pillsbury, were a beloved item on the fast food chain's breakfast menu in the 1990s. Served with an icing dipping sauce, these $1 treats were a hit with customers. However, by the 2000s, the Cini Minis had been discontinued.
In 2018, there was a brief return of the Cini Minis. Customers who ordered $10 or more through Grubhub were given a four-piece box of the cinnamon rolls for free. Despite their brief reappearance, the Cini Minis have yet to make a permanent return to Burger King's menu, leaving fans nostalgic for this sweet breakfast treat.
KFC's Chicken Littles
KFC's Chicken Littles have been a fixture on the menu for years, but many longtime fans argue that the current version, which was reintroduced in 2012, pales in comparison to the original. The first Chicken Littles, which debuted in the '80s, were beloved for their simplicity: a small breaded chicken patty on a roll with a touch of mayonnaise.
According to die-hard fans, the sandwich was perfect as is, and KFC ruined it by adding pickles and switching to a sesame seed roll and a chicken tender in the updated version. Despite the changes, KFC continues to offer Chicken Littles on the menu, but for many nostalgic customers, nothing can compare to the original.