gross fast food
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Food Workers in the Know Share the Menu Items They Would Never Order

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Nov. 8 2019, Published 2:30 p.m. ET

If you've ever worked in food service, you've learned a few things about how the sausage gets made (sometimes in very literal sense). Working behind the scenes can make menu items that seem appetizing downright unappealing once you know how they're prepared. So sorry to possibly ruin your next meal out, but here are 15 menu items food service workers would never order after having seen what goes on in the kitchen.

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Ice cream from Sonic

sonic drive in
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An employee at the drive-in chain warns that the cleanliness of their ice cream machines leaves a lot to be desired, at least in the restaurant where they work. "Nobody cleans the machines unless they break down. Even then nobody cleans the cabinet in the bottom that the fan blows on the milk. The fan is ALWAYS covered in mold because we can not get to it to clean it." 

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The baked cod at Long John Silver's

long john silvers
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Apparently the cod is "stored in a bucket in the fridge and all we do is microwave it over rice," says PiptheMuffin. While there's nothing inherently gross from a food safety standpoint here, if you've ever smelled microwaved fish before, you can understand why anyone who's prepared this dish would have an aversion to it afterward.

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Well-done steak from a steakhouse

well done steak
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I don't know if this is standard practice or just what happens at the restaurant where TheExpandingMind works, but they say restaurants use steaks that have "aged out" for customers who want their meat cooked all the way through. "I've worked places that had a separate bin on the line for steaks that smelled sour and had turned green, just for people who asked for [well done]." And this wasn't a cheap place — "this was a legit, fancy-ass '$40 an entree' place." Thankfully, several people contradicted the notion that steakhouses are selling expired meat, but they did agree the crappiest cuts are reserved for well-done.

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A McDonald's Big Mac

big mac
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This isn't a grossness issue — it's one of frugality. Moonpaw says if you buy this McDonald's burger, you're getting what is essentially "a double cheeseburger with thousand island dressing (aka Mac Sauce) and it's usually twice the price." They advise people to order a Double Cheeseburger or a McDouble (if there's a promotion for them) to save a dollar or more.

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Wendy's chili

wendys
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Honestly, this one doesn't really bother me, but Wendy's repurposes cold cooked hamburger patties for their chili. Personally, I think it's great that they have found a tasty solution to reduce food waste, but if you're put off by leftovers, I guess this one would make you rethink your next cup of chili.

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Fish on a Monday (unless it's a nice restaurant)

menu specials
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The late Anthony Bourdain's memoir Kitchen Confidential warned that unless you're dining at a 3-Michelin-star seafood restaurant like Le Bernardin, Monday is the worst day you could order fish in just about any other restaurant. InjuredAtWork copied a whole excerpt explaining how it works, but basically, if you're having a seafood special on a Monday night, that fish has been sitting in the walk-in since Thursday. Though he later said this is outdated advice — standards have improved since he wrote the book — it's possibly still in practice at lower-quality restaurants.

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Pizza Hut Pan Pizzas

pizza hut
Source: iStock

"DO NOT I REPEAT DO NOT GET A PAN PIZZA FROM PIZZA HUT," warns Braindoesntgetdwntim, who worked for the chain a few months ago and says the deep-dish pans frequently had mold on them that they were instructed to just scrape it off. 

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Anything that isn't prepackaged at a concession stand

concession stand
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Surely the standards are higher for big stadiums, but connerbv, a part-time concessions worker for their city's sports complexes (think kids' soccer, baseball, or basketball games), says the standards for the hot foods at these stands are not where you'd want them to be. Everything from moldy buns to vermin. Stick to chips and candy!

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Movie popcorn — at least at a matinee

movie popcorn
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Most theaters, whether mom and pop or big chains — reheat the popcorn left over from the previous evening for their earliest showings. It's still OK to eat and tastes fine, but considering how much money theaters are charging, wouldn't you rather save your money for when it's freshly popped?

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Subway sandwiches — just in general

subway
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Someone who worked at Subway in high school says, "All the meat comes prepackaged and smell like farts when you open them. The veggies patties smell even worse. So my answer to this question is, don't eat at Subway. It's all nasty."

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Milkshakes (from most fast food restaurants)

milkshake
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Current and former workers at several fast food chains said milkshakes are a bad idea — the machines aren't cleaned often enough and they're rarely made from ice cream but rather a mix full of chemicals.

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A lemon with your drink

iced tea lemon
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Several former servers say if you're a germaphobe, you're going to want to avoid asking for a lemon in your drink. "Every server has touched them. No one has time to use tongs to place individual lemons on the side of glasses," says DreadfulRauw. However, ChefRoquefort argues lemons are by their nature antibacterial, so this isn't a true food safety issue.

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Burger King Big Fish

istock
Source: iStock

The BK Big Fish may have a cult following but it's not popular enough to guarantee freshness, and often the fish filets have been sitting in a warmer tray for several hours, say several BK workers. However, if you ask specifically for them to give you fresh fish when you order, the "Have it Your Way" chain's employees will comply.

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Arby's roast beef

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Source: iStock

What Arby's calls roast beef is a far cry from what you might find at a carving station at a Christmas buffet. Commenters say it's closer to a sausage-like hot dog than to an actual roast that has been thin-sliced. "It doesn't even look close to real meat," says one former worker.

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In general, avoid fried foods in places where you can smell the oil.

fryer
Source: iStock

If a restaurant smells like used cooking oil to you, that means they've gone too long between changes. You shouldn't be able to smell cooking oil from the counter or your seat — that's a sign it has been overused and isn't being regularly skimmed after use.

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