I tend to think there is a certain age where you realize that McDonald's is nothing but fluff, with uninspiring quality food, equally uninspiring atmosphere, and you realize you're made to believe that their burgers and fries are good because of the toy that comes with your happy meal. Yeah, by age 7 or 8, I realized McDonald's wasn't all that was cracked up to be. Happy meals hardly made kids full back in the day (at least I thought so) and with McDonald's fast food shrinking gradually over the years, well, you can imagine that McDonald's and the whole McDonald's experience just doesn't satisfy.
I haven't visited Wendy's that often just because in the L.A. area, you just don't find them as often as you do with Burger King, McDonald's, or Jack in the Box.
I'm not too keen about Burger King. Back in high school, as a senior privilege, you can only go off campus for one thing: to eat at the Burger King that's practically next door. Darn Catholic schools, but I digress. Surely, their burgers are a step up over McDonald's (I suppose because they're flame broiled and that's supposedly a big deal, a gigantic deal of differentiation), but I'm not crazy about BK's fries. Back then, the new BK fries came out, which promised that they would be hot off the fryer and crisper than other fries. For one thing, I'm not too crazy about my fries being too crispy and second, I don't like them too crispy to the extent that they become stuck with neighboring fries and become mushy!
I tend to think McDonald's fries are a little better than BK's because sometimes when they get it right, you have a variance of textures in the fries (and no, I don't mean biting into a severed finger every now and then), but remember when there were toy sets that replicated tools from a McDonald's restaurant? There's one in particular that made fries out of white bread (yeah, think Wonder Bread). I reckon they use the same exact contraption at McD's to make fries out of drywall or petrified wood. McD's fries are a tad better, but they're just dreadful especially when they're too flimsy in texture.
I think Carl's Jr. is great and the same can be said for Jack in the Box. You get what you pay for there. In-N-Out is king of the fast food burger joint in California, but it's too bad for you folks back East or in the Midwest because In-N-Out only stretches as far east as Nevada and Arizona. Makes me hungry for a Double-Double animal style with some fresh cut Animal Style fries, and a Neapolitan milk shake.
Arby's? I vaguely remember Arby's. I think I had only a couple of them when I was 8 or 9, but thought the roast beef was lacking in taste. Same with Subway. I've only been there a couple of times in my lifetime, but always leave unimpressed. I like the Mom and Pop sandwich sub shops/delis better, especially a Jewish deli where I get an honest-to-goodness Pastrami on Rye. Wonderful. I'm a fan of Quizno's and I like how it seems that they're popping up like a Starbucks on every other street corner.
Taco Bell, give me a break. I tend to think you're more likely to die from food poisoning at Taco Bell than fishing for piranhas. I like Baja Fresh. Now, there's a great Mexican fast food joint that makes high-quality, filling burritos, tacos, enchiladas, and the like.
I like fried chicken places to some extent, but I'll easily get bored with KFC and Popeye's. They're good every once in a while, but c'mon, it's just chicken, granted that both make a satisfying product. I do have a slight paranoia that KFC's chicken is made with squirrel fillers. Popeye's makes some awesome mashed potatoes and red rice and beans. It can be tricky to find an amazing cajun food spot in L.A. off hand (but they're there if you try hard enough to find one), but it's a good place for "Cajun Food for Dummies", I suppose.