Checkers: Bacon Philly Cheese Steak – A Study in Minimalism

DCR has become well known for its footnotes ‘For American Readers’ which seek to explain the finer points of UK English and place names to our American cousins. For this remarkable letter written by Tam Tran to US fast food chain, Checkers, the boot is on the other foot.  

First, fellow Brits need to know what a ‘Philly Cheese Steak’ is. Well, it is a sandwich filled with thin strips of fried steak , smothered in melted cheese which, as the name suggests, has its origins in the wonderful city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and very nice it is too – as long as you only eat one every few years. It might fairly be described as a heart attack in a bread bun.  A Bacon Philly Cheese Steak (the subject of Tam’s letter) is a heart attack in a bun with added cholesterol.

Anyway, our new friend Tam ordered one of these artery-busting beauties from his local Checkers Drive-In in Catonsville, Maryland. Suffice to say it wasn’t quite as mouth-wateringly delicious as Tam was expecting.

Be warned, Tam isn’t one to use 5 words when 50 will do. And he likes to use pictures. Lots of pictures….

Enrique Silva
President and CEO
Checkers Drive-In Restaurants, Inc.
4300 W. Cyrus St. Suite 600
Tampa, FL 33607

Dear Customer Relations,

I am a simple man with simple pleasures.  I am not one of those fellas that go banana nut cereal crazy if service is slow, help is rude, or my fries are limp.   Yes, I would prefer erect potato sticks, but I understand people have bad days in the food service industry just the same as anyone else.

When it comes to fast food, it does not take much to make me skip happily along the sidewalk with my hands swinging side by side. I have VERY simple expectations, especially if the food is being dispensed from a restaurant the size of a Rubbermaid storage unit. 1

For years I have frequented the Checkers located at 5705 Baltimore National Pike, Catonsville, MD 21228, and have had no major issues with the food being dispensed from that particular Rubbermaid Shed.

If my chicken sandwich arrives looking similar to the ads, I consider that to be extra whipped cream on my pie, and will have wonderful thoughts of sugar  plums dancing in my head.

Otherwise, I could care less2 about the appearance of my food, so long as it is reasonable in its construction.

On many occasions, my burger patty looks like a handful of hamster poop pellets congealed into the shape of Texas, but that’s alright with meMissing a drumette or two in my 10 piece buffalo wing box?  No problem.  I’m okay with that.3 Like I said, it’s all about simple expectations, and when I order wings, I do so with an expected standard deviation of plus or minus 2 wings.4

You see, I UNDERSTAND the plight of the fast food worker.

To simultaneously maintain an accurate count of wings while operating a complex kitchen device such as a pair of tongs can be incredibly difficult, and thus, I EMPATHIZE. 5

checkers no more ecoli

I’m with you my people!  Keep the struggle alive my fat-scented fryers!


What I am NOT OKAY with, is ordering this:

chequers as it should be


Do you see that?  Do you see it?  Do you know what you are looking at?

YOU, my friend, are staring at DISAPPOINTMENT, the END of INDUSTRIALIZATION, the disintegration of GLOBAL COMMERCE, and quite possibly the cataclysmic COLLAPSE of the CIVILIZED WORLD!

When a LARGE Fast Food Chain such as CHECKERS, with its 750+ Rubbermaid Restaurants, whose primary business objective is to assemble pre-prepared, pre-cooked, and highly processed food manufactured in an industrialized manner to ensure consistency, FAILS…

And instead dispenses this sickle cell sub to a consumer then yes, the crumbling of our economic system is underway, reversing humanity back to an agrarian society.

Really Checkers?  Really?

checkers toker

The only thing high here is the employee who TOKED up6 in the freezer before making this bulimic concoction.

If this Cheese Steak was an Oil on Canvas Painting, it would be entitled “Lacking Meat” from the Minimalistic Period:

I realize7 that the pool of applicants to fry mozzarella sticks at 1.00am may consist of recent parolees, Somalian refugees, and witnesses from the Federal Protection Program, so I get it.

But the Middle School Drop-Out that MADE this sub, and the Junior High School Drop-Out Manager that ALLOWED this sub to go out, have to be the most doltish, dense, and dimwitted dummies in the town of fools.

Whether this was done on PURPOSE or in ERROR is irrelevant.  The fact that it was DONE, regardless as a prank or due to lack of attention to detail, i.e, f#cking common sense, their mental capacity definitely are a few croutons short of a side salad.

I guess I should be grateful that there is some steak that checked into the Bread Motel, because apparently its room mate BACON, never showed up!

I actually did not even notice the bacon was missing initially, because I was so appalled and shocked by the sheer ridiculousness of what I got, that when I realized the MIA 8 pork strips, I was already numb from the slap in the face your company gave me.

checkers gummy worms

And why are there gummy worms commingling with the scant pieces of scattered protein?

Hey, I applaud Checkers for taking a risk, and leading the Cavalry in the Candy-Meat Revolution. I’m just not so sure that the flavor combination of meat fat and gelatinous sugar go together.

Kudos for the effort though.

Oh wait…

Silly me, those aren’t Haribos!

They are onions!  And my, oh my, what elongated onions they are!  I sure would love to see the waistline of the mama onion that gave birth to these long, floppy, purple-ish tapeworms.

I apologize…

I shouldn’t be so critical. 

Especially since your company is quite busy defending the lawsuit from Subway for using their miniature cheese triangles.

 All is not lost!

Halt!  Hold your horses!  Discovered deep within the wreck of this Philly Submarine sinking, there may exist a survivor!

There does appear to be a beautiful sister alive among the death of her otherwise butt ugly family!  And that sibling is the SUB ROLL itself, which does appear palatable.  Unfortunately, I cannot comment on the taste.

That’s because at the time of unveiling the above mentioned piece of crap, I immediately found myself going through a range of hostile emotions, which made me lose my mind, anger, and APPETITE.

While I may sound amused, make no mistake I was OJ psychotic at the time, with thoughts of thug nation clouding me.


Make no mistake, this is a complaint letter.

If your company values consumer feedback, then this letter should be taken to heart, and overcome you with emotions.

If not, then you need to be in my shoes to fully grasp the gravity of what I felt.

chequers student

In fact, let’s put you in my shoes.

Imagine that you have a severe craving for some of that delicious original KFC chicken.

That poultry is so drool dripping addicting, that it would come as no surprise to you if it was revealed that the Colonel’s secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices, is simply just a blend of crack cocaine and chocolate.

You WANT them legs and thighs in your mouth.

You NEED those legs and thighs in your mouth.

So as you Mario Kart your way swerving through traffic, you remember your late father’s two most important life lessons; 1) a boy is only a man if he wrestles a Bengal Tiger naked, and 2) a man stays a man if he consumes buckets of fried chicken.

You can still hear his haunting last words “three piece meals…  are for… little girls” as he took his final gasp, before passing away from high cholesterol and heart disease.

So with tears in your eyes, and an 8pc bucket as your passenger, you pull over to sauna in the steaming humidity of the American Dream that lies beneath that circular cardboard top.

With the excitement of a 14 year old boy unsnapping his first B-cup, you fumble that lid off, toss the holiday tissue paper aside, and what you see….  are bones.  Chicken bones.  Nasty ass chicken bones.

It might as well have been the carcass of your dead family dog.

Like me, you may have found yourself launching an anger grenade, which is when you stare in silence at something so ghastly for 7-8 seconds, and abruptly EXPLODE in a rage of HOSTILITY that would send feral cats scampering in all directions.

So close your eyes.

Close your eyes and picture those chicken bones.

Close your eyes and picture that dead dog carcass.

can you see it

Ohh Checkers, you broke my heart.

For years, we had a good relationship.  Those were the days of yonder.

You always gave me some of that guilty goodness when I wanted it. I know I was not the most faithful, and to satisfy my needs, I would sometimes stray to SONIC.9 But when I had a late night yearning, and when every other temptation was closed, I could always count on your extended hours for those midnight visits.

“Checkers After Dark”, was my sexy name for you.

Now those rendezvous are nevermore, because you hurt me so.

You betrayed me with your latest offering of the Bacon Philly Cheese Steak.

You teased me with those sexy commercials, and you aroused me with those pictures online.

Maybe you were tired, having pleased a lot of hungry men that night.

But you are a professional.

You knew what you were getting into when you opened up shop on the street corner.

Repeat customers line up for you.

You even have 2 drive thru lanes so you can get double teamed.

When I saw your discreet ad in the upper right hand corner online, I knew I wanted to taste you.

You looked so good.  You looked so moist.  You looked so juicy.

WANTED you.  I CRAVED you.  I had to HAVE you.

I went to pick you up.

I paid upfront for you, and put you between my legs as I sped home.

You smelled so good on my lap.

I couldn’t wait to get you home and onto my table.

My hunger was uncontrollable as I undressed you, peeling off your silver foil.

But… it wasn’t you.

It was some anorexic bitch with no meat.

I pushed you aside, disgusted.

You filled me with anticipation and got me all excited, but ultimately left me yearning, backed up, and in desperate need of a release.

A man can NEVER forget that.


Shame on you Checkers.

I’m going back to Sonic.


You made it all the way to the end? Well done You!

  1. For British readers – Rubbermaid is an American manufacturer and distributor of many household items including food storage containers, trash cans (i.e. dustbins) and garden sheds (made of plastic). Tam’s Rubbermaid Storage Unit refers to what we would know as a plastic garden shed 

  2. For British readers: Tam actually means he couldn’t care less. It seems that the n’t was lost overboard when the Mayflower left these shores nearly 400 years ago 

  3. For British readers –  Buffalo wings are actually chicken wings with a bright orange spicy sauce made from battery acid. You would think that with buffaloes being so much bigger than chickens, Americans would be able to tell the difference. 

  4. In statistics and probability theory, the standard deviation (represented by the Greek letter sigma, σ) measures the amount of variation or dispersion from the average. A low standard deviation(e.g. two buffalo wings) indicates that the data points tend to be very close to the  expected value (i.e. ten buffalo wings); a high standard deviation indicates that the data points are spread out over a large range of values. The standard deviation of a random variable, statistical population, data set, or probability distribution is the square root of its variance. It is algebraically simpler though in practice less robust than the average absolute deviation. A useful property of the standard deviation is that, unlike the variance, it is expressed in the same units as the data. Note, however, that for measurements with percentage as the unit, the standard deviation will have percentage points as the unit.  Did you read all of this footnote? Why did you bother? It’s really boring. 

  5. For British readers: The letter ‘s‘ which belongs in words like empathise, sympathise, realise and conceptualise went the same way as n’t. The Americans have a real affection for the letter ‘z‘ – or ‘zee’ as they call it – for no good reason whatsoever. 

  6. For British readers: Tokeverb [I] /təʊk/ US  /toʊk/ slang: To smoke a cigarette or pipe containing marijuana 

  7. For British readers: There’s that bloody zee again! 

  8. For British readers: MIA presumably refers to missing in action 

  9. For British readers: Sonic Corp. is an American drive-in fast-food restaurant chain based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with over 3,500 restaurants serving approximately 3 million customers per day.  That’s an awful lot of cholesterol 

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