When a fast food restaurant discontinues a menu item, it's not necessarily gone forever. The creators of the Adult Swim show "Rick and Morty" convinced McDonald's this year to open its vaults and send a sample of its legendary (and long discontinued) Szechuan McNugget sauce -- making fast food history. It begs the question: If enough diehard fans call for the re-release of a fast food item, will restaurants oblige?
MCDONALD'S SZECHUAN SAUCE
McDonald's created the limited-time Szechuan McNugget sauce to promote the 1998 animated film "Mulan." The sauce became something of a cult favorite. Will the "Rick and Morty" samples -- one bottle went for $15,350 at auction -- be the the last time it's released to the public? Maybe not. A remake of "Mulan" is scheduled to hit theaters in 2018 or 2019, leading some to wonder if McDonald's plans its own reboot.
McDonald's offered hot dogs in some U.S. markets during the 1990s, but the item failed to appeal to enough customers. Maybe it had something to do with what McDonald's cofounder Ray Kroc said in his autobiography: "There's no telling what's inside a hot dog's skin, and our standard of quality just wouldn't permit that kind of item." Tell that to the Americans eating 7 billion hot dogs just between Memorial Day and Labor Day, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, who says food carts and hipsters have made dogs trendy again.
BURGER KING BURGER SHOTS
Burger King hasn't figured out selling tiny burgers. It's tried sliders (1987), then slightly bigger burgers called Burger Buddies (1990), and finally six-packs of mini burgers called "Burger Shots" (2009). None caught on -- yet sliders are a huge deal at White Castle and other eateries.
It seems somewhat sacrilegious for McDonald's to make pizza, but in the late 1980s and early 1990s the company did it. Customers weren't too happy with long wait times for the made-to-order pizzas, eventually leaving many stores with expensive, unused specialty ovens.
Like most fast food restaurants, Wendy's offers a handful of salads. Before that, most Wendy's locations housed actual salad bars, dubbed "SuperBars," where customers could find salads, pastas, and even Mexican food -- exactly the kind of on-the-go items people need more now than they did in 1988.
MCDONALD'S HULA BURGER
Along with the Filet-O-Fish, which was popular among Catholics abstaining from meat on Fridays, McDonald's offered founder Ray Kroc's Hawaiian-inspired "Hula Burger" -- grilled pineapple with cheese on top. It's no surprise the Filet-O-Fish won that popularity contest, but it'd be interesting to have a sample of what's probably fast food's only attempt at grilled fruit.
In the early 1990s, McDonald's tried to appease critics who attacked its unhealthy menu by inventing the McLean Deluxe -- a burger advertised as 91 percent fat free. The secret? A seaweed extract called carrageenan was substituted for fat to bind water to the beef. The burgers turned out dry, leading this sandwich to ultimately be named the "McFlopper." Some three decades later, science may have a better solution for a burger that's just as lean.
BURGER KING'S ENORMOUS OMELET SANDWICH
This morning monstrosity packed with 1,940 milligrams of sodium was geared toward a younger demographic in 2015, but apparently too few kids were craving "two fluffy eggs, two sausage patties, bacon, and two slices of American cheese on a toasted hoagie bun" as their first meal of the morning.
TACO BELL'S BELL BEEFER
Designed to compete with burger chains, the Bell Beefer was essentially a ground-beef taco on a bun – a Tex-Mex sloppy joe. It was popular, offered from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s. Today, a Facebook group named Taco Bell Please Bring back the Bell Beefer patiently awaits its return.
WENDY'S FRESH STUFFED PITAS
Filled with fresh vegetables and chunks of chicken, these were developed as a healthier alternative to the restaurant's signature cheeseburgers and milkshakes. Wendy's founder Dave Thomas called the wraps a "win-win situation," but a lack of demand eventually knocked them off the menu for good – unless the people behind this blog get their way.
The company enlisted Jason Alexander (before "Seinfeld") to promote this sandwich, introduced in 1985 in a special two-section styrofoam container that kept hot and cold ingredients separate. Aside from the hassle of getting a deconstructed burger, the containers weren't exactly environmentally friendly, but fans appreciated the hefty serving of toppings such as lettuce and tomato. The McDLT had a sort-of return around 2011, called the Big and Tasty.
BURGER KING'S FUNNEL CAKE STICKS
Burger King used to offer a bit of carnival nostalgia from 2009 to 2010 with its Funnel Cake Sticks, which was basically fried batter with powdered sugar and a sugary dipping sauce. This item wasn't necessarily healthy, but it was a steal at only $1.50 a pack.
PIZZA HUT'S TACO PIZZA
In 1979, Pizza Hut explained the complicated idea behind its Taco Pizza with a commercial that told viewers seven times that: "It's a pizza-looking, taco-tasting pizza." Pizza Hut's foray into Mexican cuisine didn't win over enough customers, but Mexican food is bigger than ever, and a New Jersey eatery's gone viral for serving a pizza literally covered in tacos.
MCDONALD'S MCSALAD SHAKERS
The name explains it all: Put salad in a cup, top it with dressing, and shake well. Introduced in 2000, it's kind of a wonder Shakers aren't around today, seeing as this has to be the easiest way to prepare and eat a salad. The 1,000-plus members of the Facebook group "Bring back the McDonald's Salad Shaker" surely agree.
TACO BELL'S SEAFOOD SALAD
To compete against McDonald's Filet-O-Fish, Taco Bell developed a Seafood Salad that mixed whitefish, snow crab, and shrimp in a taco bowl. The chain even put out a snarky commercial trying to make the Filet-O-Fish look gross, but Taco Bell seafood was a hard sell in 1986. Now fish tacos are everywhere.
Quite possibly the most revered of all discontinued fast food items, the McRib enjoyed two official stints on the McDonald's menu -- from 1981 to 1985, and from 1989 to 2005 -- until being relegated to periodical releases. Want to find one near you? Try out the McRib locator.
KFC'S DOUBLE DOWN
Decadence. Gluttony. Cholesterol. The Double Down sandwich of 2010 consisted of bacon, cheese, and sauce between two patties of fried chicken. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture standards, one Double Down would have contained more than half of your daily allowance of sodium.
MCDONALD'S ONION NUGGETS
The exact taste of McDonald's legendary deep-fried Onion Nuggets is lost to history. Well, not quite: It's reported that an archivist has preserved a sample of this cheap menu item from the 1970s in a climate-controlled room in Elk Grove, Illinois. The vegetarians of 2017 might be interested in trying a fresher version.
Originally released in 1968, Sonic decided to re-release Pickle-O's pickles in 2003. Sonic hoped the side dish would "delight billions of taste buds and millions of customers," but the chain was still a decade early. In the years since, fried pickles have become a staple nationwide, especially as bar food.
JACK IN THE BOX'S FRINGS
Ideal for the indecisive junk food eater, Frings was a simple dish of french fries and onion rings in the same package. Frings, introduced in 1979, have "gone the way of mood rings and shag carpeting," according to the Jack in the Box website -- which is a little odd, since the Jack in the Box menu still includes french fries and onion rings that can be bought separately and combined.