American minds are at the forefront of innovation and are always coming up with something new, whether it's smart refrigerators or algorithm-driven technology that grows your money while you sleep.
While some truly fantastic fast-food items have come out of this inventive spirit, they’ve just as quickly disappeared to make way for what’s next -- leaving fans to mourn the loss of some cherished favorites.
Looking back, these are the strange and wonderful fast-food items Americans miss the most.
1. Wendy's Bacon and Blue burger
In 2010, Wendy’s introduced a gourmet bacon and blue cheese burger that created messy moments for customers pulling out of drive-thrus all across America.
The high-end sandwich consisted of a quarter-pound beef patty piled high with four strips of peppery applewood-smoked bacon, blue cheese crumbles, sauteed onions and steakhouse sauce on a brioche bun.
Reviewers praised the flavor but warned that the towering heap of toppings meant the thing would fall apart quickly and make for less-than-perfect eating in the car.
This fan favorite burger cost $4.29 and packed in 680 calories of meaty-cheesy goodness.
2. Taco Bell Volcano Burrito
Taco Bell fans lost the Volcano Burrito in 2013 — and they’re still inconsolable.
The 800-calorie burrito was stuffed with ground beef, Mexican rice, crunchy red tortilla strips, sour cream and cheddar cheese. But the "lava sauce" was the star.
It was creamy, cheesy and said to be twice as spicy as Taco Bell's regular hot sauce. Recipes for recreating the magical sauce are all over the internet, but people who've tried them say they're just not the same.
If you're desperate to get a Volcano Burrito fix, you may need to make an overseas vacation out of it. According to reports, it's still available in South Korea, Iceland and parts of the U.K.
3. McDonald’s Szechuan sauce
In 1998, McDonald’s created a sweet and tangy Szechuan dipping sauce for McNuggets around the release of Disney’s Mulan — but the sauce quickly disappeared.
Nearly two decades later, McDonald’s announced the stuff would be back for one day only for fans of the Rick and Morty cartoon, which featured the sauce.
In October 2017, thousands lined up under the Golden Arches to nab the few packets allotted to each location. Angry, empty-handed customers barely had time to start chanting “We want sauce!” before packets made it onto eBay.
In short order, a lot of three sauce packs sold for $848.88 — $282.96 each — reported CNBC. More recently, a case of the condiment sold on eBay for $179.99.
4. Little Caesars Pepperoni Crazy Bread
Little Caesars found that stuffing breadsticks takes them to another level — but you won’t find the chain's uber-popular pepperoni-stuffed breadsticks on the menu anymore.
Pepperoni Crazy Bread sticks were meaty and spicy on the inside, crispy and buttery on the outside and topped with parmesan — like a mini rolled-up pizza with an extra boost of garlicky goodness.
You got additional flavor points if you dipped the sticks in marinara sauce.
Little Caesars still has plain ol' garlic Crazy Bread sticks on the menu. For something close to the pepperoni version, you might catch a limited-time bacon-stuffed pizza crust now and then — for old times’ sake.
5. McDonald’s McRib
The McDonald’s McRib was practically made to taunt barbecue lovers. This item has disappeared and reappeared several times over the years.
The magnificent sandwich is filled with pork, smothered in barbecue sauce and topped with onions and pickles.
Supposedly, the McRib comes and goes as pork prices rise and fall. When they're low, the sandwich might show up on menus, but when they go up, it vanishes in a puff of barbecue-tinged smoke.
The Freakonomics blog has another possible explanation: that each time the McRib returns, fans flock to it — but the enthusiasm quickly fades.
6. Burger King’s Angry Whopper
The hella spicy Angry Whopper was released by Burger King in 2008 as a tie-in with The Incredible Hulk movie. Fanatics threw a Hulk-worthy temper tantrum when the burger disappeared from most North American locations in 2016.
The 980-calorie Angry Whopper featured a quarter-pound beef patty piled high with bacon, habanero or manchego cheese, plus crispy fried onion petals, jalapeños, mayo and a spicy sauce.
This flavor bomb of a burger re-emerged in the U.S. for a limited time in April 2019, and it’s still a regular menu item in Mexico.
7. Popeyes Big Easy Chicken Bowl
Invented in 2008, the Big Easy Chicken Bowl was a mess of Popeyes' best menu items heaped together in a bowl. It was last seen regularly on menus circa 2015.
The Big Easy combined white meat chicken with spicy Cajun gravy, red beans, rice and shredded cheese — plus optional hot sauce and sour cream.
Costing just $3.49 when it debuted, this low-priced potluck was not only cheap but also impossible to duplicate at home.
Sadly, Popeyes has been under new ownership since 2017, and the current management has given no hints that it's interested in going "bowling" again anytime soon.
8. McDonald’s Fried Apple Pie
Back in the 1990s, McDonald’s replaced its fried apple pie across most states (except Hawaii) with a baked version to please health-conscious consumers.
Two decades later, petition campaigns are still trying to bring back the fried pie in the continental U.S.
Its crispy pastry and piping hot filling are vastly superior to the bland baked version, say devotees.
As one Change.org petition puts it, “McDonald's, we know you're not good for us. Step up, own what you are, and put the pies back in the fryer."
9. Dairy Queen’s MySTIRy Misty
The Dairy Queen MySTIRy Misty was a color-changing slushy that hit big with tweens in 2004.
The colorless blue-raspberry flavored drink came with a special straw filled with a mysterious powder. Pulling the straw's tab released the powder so it could be stirred into the drink, magically turning it blue, red, green or yellow.
Even with this new trick, the Misty slush drinks were well past their ‘90s heyday and didn’t last long.
When 2017 rolled around, DQ boarded the ‘90s resurgence bandwagon and brought back the Misty Slush in several fruity flavors, but without the mystery — er, MySTIRy.
10. BK Cheesy Tots
Burger King’s tater tots were already popular, but they hit cult classic status after they were featured in the 2004 geek flick Napoleon Dynamite.
Hot, crispy and filled with melted cheese, the tots were a hit — but they were on BK’s menu for only a short time.
The famous tots were brought back briefly in 2016 and were promoted by the stars of Napoleon Dynamite before disappearing again.
The cheesy tater tots had one more limited-time run in 2019, this time with a little something extra: smoky bacon bits stuffed inside.
11. McDonald’s Arch Deluxe
In 1996, McDonald’s billed the Arch Deluxe as an upscale burger for adults, but it was considered too expensive (costing up to $2.49) and was quickly discontinued.
The burger was a $150 million fast-food flop, but its fans have insisted that the sandwich featuring a fresh quarter-pound beef patty topped with lettuce, tomato, peppered bacon, cheese and a special mustard-mayo sauce was simply ahead of its time.
In 2018, McDonald’s brought back the special sauce and was testing it in a new "Archburger."
The culture blog Uproxx tracked down the reboot and proclaimed it just as delicious as the original ‘90s version.
12. KFC’s Hot and Spicy Popcorn Chicken
KFC’s popcorn chicken was a revelation in toss-in-your-mouth goodness — and fans say the spicy version has never been equaled for crunch and flavor.
So, why did this bird fly the coop in the late '90s?
One theory suggests the hand-breaded chicken bits took too long to make. KFC dropped the finicky item and started shipping its products frozen.
Over the years, the Colonel’s chicken bits have returned as “Original Recipe Bites” and as high-quality, all-white breast meat “Popcorn Nuggets” — but food critics at the Brand Eating blog claim the familiar crunch just isn’t there.
13. Taco Bell’s Grilled Stuft Nacho
The Grilled Stuft Nacho was crunchy, meaty and wonderfully cheesy.
Taco Bell broke hearts when it discontinued the snack in 2014 after just one year on the menu.
The triangular, handheld Grilled Stuft Nacho was filled with flavorful ground beef, nacho cheese, spicy nacho sauce, crispy red tortilla strips and sour cream, all wrapped in a flour tortilla.
Although the Crunchwrap Supreme is similar, fans say there’s just no replacing the Grilled Stuft Nacho — which only highlights Taco Bell’s ability to remix the same ingredients over and over and still create something truly magical.
14. McDonald's Third Pound burgers
In 2009, McDonald’s went beyond its Quarter Pounder and introduced hefty Third Pound Angus beef burgers — but they were discontinued just four years later.
Third Pound burgers came with bigger fresh-cooked beef patties, bacon and red onion rings, plus they were made in tasty varieties like mushroom and Swiss, or bacon and cheese.
Unfortunately, the demand just wasn't there. The burgers sat waiting for someone to order them, which could take a while.
Though people raged about the Third Pound phaseout, that doesn't change the fact that customers often wound up with unappetizing, soggy mushroom burgers,
15. Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Nuggets
Finally, here's an example that should give hope to fast-food fans everywhere, because it shows how you can persuade a chain to bring back a favorite. But you might need a celebrity in your corner.
Customers threw such a fit when Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Nuggets were discontinued in 2017 that the company was forced to respond with an apology suggesting customers improvise, maybe by ordering “a plain spicy fillet and [cutting] it up into cute little squares."
That recommendation just didn't cut it for Chance the Rapper, who recently tweeted a prayerful plea for Wendy's to bring back the spicy nuggets.
Wendy's responded with a tweet of its own — and asked for 2 million likes in exchange for the nuggets' return. The goal was quickly reached, and now Wendy's has brought them back by popular demand.