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Culture / Foodie Events

Truly Fresh Fast Food

New Houston Restaurant Threatens to Put Even Chick-Fil-A to Shame

BY // 09.22.15

I rarely eat anywhere with a drive-through, and when I do, it’s almost always Chick-Fil-A. For starters, the closed-on-Sunday chain’s chicken sandwich is irresistible. Momofuku founder and superstar chef David Chang even gave the signature sandwich a shout-out at this year’s SXSW interactive. In addition, the customer service is superb, and no matter how long the line is, you never really have to wait.

However, in an era in which constant attention is given to the quality and healthiness of ingredients, Chick-Fil-A still manages to miss the mark (as do most fast food companies).

After nearly 70 years in business, the franchise only recently made the decision to start serving antibiotic free chicken, and it will take five years for the plan to take full effect nationwide. The chain’s sauces also have a few issues. Though delicious (I slather Chick-Fil-A sauce on everything), many use caramel coloring (which has been linked to a number of health risks) and preservatives. Which leaves me wondering: Where can a girl get some non-processed fast food?

Enter PDQ (People Dedicated to Quality), a concept that specializes in fresh, quality fast food. The restaurant opened its third Houston location yesterday at 9440 Katy Freeway (Bunker Hill), offering Houstonians a more convenient outpost (PDQ’s other locations are in Cinco Ranch and Cypress). You won’t find any microwaves or freezers at this casual eatery. The restaurant uses only the freshest ingredients (including hormone-free, steroid-free, all-natural chicken with no preservatives), and everything is made to order. If it sounds unbelievable, think again. PDQ even has an open kitchen, and guests are always able to see how and when their food is being prepared.

“At PDQ, freshness is the name of the game,” says Bob Basham, PDQ’s principal owner and a co-founder of Outback Steakhouse. “We’re not your typical fast food restaurant; we pride ourselves on being People Dedicated to Quality. We always focus on the highest quality while providing the PDQ guest with fast, friendly service.”

This high expectation level can be seen as soon as you walk through the door. Guests are immediately greeted, then directed to digital menu boards that display a multitude of menu options, including PDQ’s signature chicken tenders (which are, of course, hand breaded) and fresh-cut fries (that are fried only once they are ordered), as well as new offerings like their 100 percent breast-meat honey-marinated chicken nuggets. But PDQ’s fresh factor doesn’t stop there. They even make their 12 signature dipping sauces and salad dressings in-house, everyday — which means no preservatives. Each sauce is stored at a particular temperature based on its ingredients and discarded after a few days.

By this point, you may be wondering if all of this quality prohibits the speediness of the whole fast food concept. It doesn’t. PDQ is also referred to as Pretty Darn Quick, and your food is promised in two minutes or less. After visiting, I can personally vouch for that time frame (it actually felt a lot faster than two minutes). The restaurant also maintains that fast food feel with a drive-through window; however, you won’t be talking into a voice box. Each drive-through customer gives his or her order to a PDQ employee face-to-face. PDQ Bunker Hill operating director Frank Wallace explains that this is to ensure that the same service one would get inside of the restaurant is transferred to the mobile experience.

My personal favorites? The chicken tenders and hand-cut fries are both a must-try, especially when they’re accompanied by the house-made sweet sriracha sauce. The blueberry coleslaw also makes a great side option, and the strawberry shake was the perfect end to my meal.

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