Musings I Will Probably Regret on The Doppelgängers of the Food World

Wisdom acquired at a cost.

September 27, 2018 ● 2 min read

By Richie Nakano | Illustration via iStock and ChefsFeed

Recently, while navigating through the magical trash pile of social media, I learned something that shook me to my very core: Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. are the same restaurant.

Now you may be thinking, I, a smart person, knew this already. You, an idiot, obviously can’t recognize that their logos are exactly the same, and this is extremely embarrassing for you and you should probably delete your entire presence online.

But hang on just a goddamn second: The food world is full of brands with bizarre, dual identities. Hellman’s Mayo and Best Foods. McCormick Spice Co. & Schilling. Dreyer’s Ice Cream & Edy’s. And Breyer's. Remember when we reposted a video of Chef Matty Matheson joyfully jumping into a pool on Instagram and 10% of you were like "GUY FIERI"? Hard, isn't it?

Food, in general, is confusing. For example: are tuna poke and diced watermelon just different sides of the same coin? If Boston Market mixed up tapioca pudding and mashed potatoes in your order, would you even notice what with the chicken grease running down your forearm? One time I mixed up lobster bisque and Thai curry sauce during service—the guest did not notice, and BINGO, I had a new set for the halibut.

I mean, is there even a difference between naan and good pita? Why does chicken Parmesan have mozzarella on it? Is there even a difference between different tofu firmnesses? Don’t even get me started on broccolini and its bitter cousin, broccoli raab.

I was born on the East Coast. Growing up, we ate fast food semi-regularly, but we were a McDonald’s family—six-piece chicken nugget Happy Meals and getting spooked by dead-eyed plastic clowns was my thing. Occasionally, we would stray from the path and go to like, Burger King and eat their weird gasoline flavored hamburgers. We did not go to Hardee’s, partly because they didn’t have a spooky clown mascot and also because they sponsored a Nascar team, and my parents didn’t let me watch Nascar. I knew that Carl’s Jr. was a place you can get a wildly expensive fast food burger that has bacon, cheese, AND onion rings on it, and makes creepy ads with half-naked women loudly eating fast food in what looks like a low-or-very-high budget Aerosmith video.

When we moved to Northern California in the late 80s, I had never even heard of Carl’s Jr. Eventually I became vaguely aware of the place, as a teenager in the late 90’s—although most of my attention at that time was devoted to smoking weed, failing math, and mourning the loss of Tupac, SO: let’s just say that when Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. merged in 1997, it wasn’t exactly on my radar.

But now that I know this, what’s my next embarrassing food world revelation going to be? As I stare out my bedroom window in the early morning hours before the sun rises, I wonder what might happen to my pizza clout if I’m forced to publicly choose between Domino’s and Round Table. Is activated charcoal ice cream actually good? What if I survive a massive head trauma and suddenly that decide that Chipotle is good? All horrors, lying in wait.

A comfort: At least I know where to get a Western burger next time I’m on the East Coast, I guess?