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10 Fast-Food Restaurants That Didn't Stick To Their Original Plan

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Ben & Jerry's Bagels? Sonic Steakhouse? Be glad that some of our favorite quick-service places evolved into what they are today. Check out what could have become of these 10 places if fate hadn't intervened.

1. TACO BELL

Taco Bell restaurant
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Glen Bell, the founder of Taco Bell, started his career in the fast food business with a meager hot dog stand. It did so well that he sold it and opened a bigger and better stand, and he started selling tacos for 19 cents out of a side window. Before long, the hot dogs were playing second banana to the tacos, and Bell decided to switch the business. Which is probably good—Hot Dog Bell doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

2. DUNKIN' DONUTS

Dunkin' Donuts employee places a 'croissant doughnut' in a box
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Can you imagine if Dunkin' Donuts had a fleet of vehicles that drove around like the ice cream man, selling sweet, glazed carbs to anyone who could scrounge up some change? Well, they used to, sort of. After working for just such an ice cream company, William Rosenberg used his war bonds and borrowed some money to start a mobile catering business that delivered breakfast and lunch to factory workers. He noticed that his best sellers by far were coffee and doughnuts, and decided to base the whole business around them. 

3. POPEYES

Popeyes restaurant
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Al Copeland, who created Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, started out in the doughnut biz and ended up in poultry. As a teen, he sold his car to purchase a Tastee Donut franchise from his brother and, after a decade, decided to fry chicken instead of crullers. The first one, Chicken on the Run, failed, even with the tagline "So fast you get your chicken before you get your change." But the second version, which featured spicier chicken, succeeded, making him a multimillionaire. The name, by the way, came from Popeye Doyle from The French Connection—not Popeye the Sailor Man.

4. BEN & JERRY'S

employee of Ben & Jerry's scoops ice cream into a cone
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

When Ben and Jerry decided to go into business, they really wanted to make bagels. But the equipment required to make bagels was rather expensive, so they researched a cheaper product. "[The bagel-making equipment] was more money than we had between us," Jerry said last year. "When we found out ice cream would be cheaper, we picked ice cream." Although they've released plenty of other breakfast-related ice cream flavors—Cinnamon Buns, Coffee & Biscotti, and Maple Grape Nut among them—they have yet to create a lox and bagel-flavor.

5. SONIC

How about a Sonic Steakhouse? The founder, Troy Smith, had big plans for an upscale steak eatery when he originally entered the restaurant business. He opened a small diner called Troy's Pan Full of Chicken to generate revenue for the bigger steakhouse and realized somewhere in the middle of things that he was making a load of money selling just root beer, hamburgers and hot dogs every week. He decided to stick with the low-brow menu and scrap the sirloin.

6. Hardee's

 Hardee's Monster Thickburger
Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images

Wilbur Hardee, obviously the founder of Hardee's, ran several inn-style restaurants in North Carolina and took that time to study the habits of his patrons. He got rid of the inns and opened his first quick-service place, selling 15-cent hamburgers under the Hardee's name until the chain was purchased by Carl's Jr. in 1997.

7. Carl's Jr.

Carl's Jr. location in Fort Collins, Colorado
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Speaking of Carl's Jr., Carl Karcher came from similar humble beginnings. Like a lot of the great fast-food giants, Karcher started with a hot dog stand he and his wife purchased by taking a $311 loan out on their car. They also sold tamales. Somehow, Paris Hilton biting into a big, juicy tamale wouldn't have quite the same effect as Paris Hilton biting into a big, juicy Six Dollar Burger, right?

8. Tim Hortons

Tim Horton's cafe in Manhattan
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

What if Tim Hortons' Timbits actually referred to chicken nuggets? It could have gone that way—the hockey player originally focused his side business on hamburgers and opened a few burger joints in Toronto and North Bay. But they didn't do so well, and he retooled the concept and reopened as a small doughnut shop housed in an old gas station, selling coffee for 25 cents and doughnuts for 69 cents per dozen. Today, Tim Hortons is all over Canada and is on U.S. expansion.

9. Chick-fil-A

The exterior of Chick-Fil-A,
Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

Chick-fil-A started out as Dwarf Grill (now Dwarf House), a full-service restaurant housed in a tiny little building with a tiny little door. The original can still be found in Hapeville, Georgia, complete with diminutive door (it has a regular door as well). What might be shocking to Chick-fil-A diehards is that the Dwarf Houses offer steakburgers and hamburgers. What would the "Eat Mor Chikin" cows think?!

10. McDonald's

old-style McDonald's restaurant
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Finally, of course, there's McDonald's. Like our other frankfurter entrepreneurs, Dick and Mac McDonald started with a mere hot dog stand in Monrovia, California. They upgraded, but burgers weren't really their main focus—they planned to capitalize on their delicious BBQ. They were mistaken. Several years later, they noticed that burgers were the item keeping the store alive and decided to switch exclusively to burgers, shakes, and fries. Seemed to work out well for them.

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How to Choose the Best Watermelon
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Buying a watermelon is an experience one can grow to resent. The 92 percent moisture content of Citrullus lanatus means you're basically buying a giant ball of water. On the plus side, they're delicious and packed with enough vitamin C and D to keep you from getting scurvy.

But how to select the best of the batch? Food blogger Emma Christensen over at kitchn recently offered some advice, and it involves a little weight-training. When you examine watermelons in the produce section of your local grocery, you want to look for the heaviest one for its size. The denser the fruit, the more juice it has. That's when it's at its most ripe.

Next, check the underside of the watermelon for the "splotch." That's the yellow patch the watermelon develops by resting on the ground. If it's a creamy yellow, it's also a good indicator of being ripe.

Finally, give the underside a little smack—not aggressive enough to draw attention from grocery workers, but enough so that you can determine whether the watermelon sounds hollow. If it does, that's good. If it sounds dull, like you're hitting a solid brick of material, it's overripe; put the watermelon down and slowly back away from it.

If you're not confident in your watermelon evaluation abilities, there's another option: Local farmers markets typically have only choice product available, so any watermelon you pick up is likely to be a winner. You can also ask the merchant to pick one out for you. Pay attention to what he's doing and then try to emulate it the next time you're forced to choose your own produce.

[h/t: kitchn]

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Wine
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by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Between the vine and the liquor store, plenty of secrets are submerged in your favorite bottle of vino. Here, the author of Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma spills some of the best.

1. DIGITAL EYES ARE EVERYWHERE IN VINEYARDS.

Certain premium estates in Bordeaux and Napa are beginning to look a little more like an army base—or an Amazon.com warehouse. They’re using drones, optical scanners, and heat-sensing satellites to keep a digital eye on things. Some airborne drones collect data that helps winemakers decide on the optimal time to harvest and evaluate where they can use less fertilizer. Others rove through the vineyard rows, where they may soon be able to take over pruning. Of course, these are major investments. At $68,000 a pop, the Scancopter 450 is about twice as costly as a 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon!

2. THERE ARE ALSO LOTS OF COW SKULLS.

They’re not everywhere, but biodynamic farming techniques are on the rise among vintners who don’t want to rely on chemicals, and this is one trick they’ve been known to use to combat plant diseases and improve soil PH. It’s called Preparation No. 505, and it involves taking a cow’s skull (or a sheep’s or a goat’s), stuffing it with finely ground oak chips, and burying it in a wet spot for a season or two before adding it to the vineyard compost.

3. FEROCIOUS FOLIAGE IS A VINTNER’S FRIEND.

The mustard flowers blooming between vineyard rows aren’t just for romance. Glucosinolates in plants like radishes and mustard give them their spicy bite, and through the wonders of organic chemistry, those glucosinolates also double as powerful pesticides. Winemakers use them to combat nematodes—tiny worms that can destroy grape crops.

4. WHAT A CANARY IS TO A COAL MINE, ROSES ARE TO A VINEYARD.

Vintners plant roses among their vines because they get sick before anything else in the field. If there’s mildew in the air, it will infect the roses first and give a winemaker a heads-up that it’s time to spray.

5. VINTNERS EXPLOIT THE FOOD CHAIN.

A trio of wines
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Small birds like blackbirds and starlings can clear out 20 percent of a crop in no time. But you know what eats little birds? Big birds. Falconry programs are on the rise in vineyards from California to New Zealand. Researchers have found that raptors eat a bird or two a day (along with a proportion of field mice and other critters) and cost only about as much to maintain as your average house cat.

6. THE BIG PROBLEMS IN TASTING ROOMS ARE VERY SMALL.

Winemakers are constantly seeking ways to manage the swarms of Drosophila melanogaster that routinely gather around the dump buckets in their swanky showrooms. You know these pests as fruit flies, and some vintners in California are exploring ways to use carnivorous plants to tackle the problem without pesticides. Butterworts, sundews, and pitcher plants all have sweet-sounding names, but the bugeating predators make for terrific fruit fly assassins, and you’ll see them decorating tasting rooms across wine country.

7. WINE NEEDS CLEANING.

Winemaking produces hard-to-remove sediments. Filters can catch most of the debris, but winemakers must add “fining agents” to remove any suspended solids that sneak by. Until it was banned in the 1990s, many European vintners used powdered ox blood to clean their wines. Today, they use diatomaceous earth (the fossilized remains of hard-shelled algae), Isinglass (a collagen made from fish swim bladders), and sometimes bentonite (volcanic clay). Irish moss and egg whites are also fine wine cleaners.

8. ATOMS HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS.

About 5 percent of the premium wine sold for cellaring doesn’t contain what the label promises. So how do top-shelf buyers avoid plunking down serious cash on a bottle of something bunk? Most elite wine brokerages, auction houses, and collectors use atomic dating to detect fraud. By measuring trace radioactive carbon in the wine, most bottles can be dated to within a year or two of the vintage.

9. FINE WINES GET MRIs.

Even with atomic dating, there are certain perils involved in buying a $20,000 bottle of wine. Leaving a case in the hot trunk of your car is enough to ruin it, so imagine what can happen over a couple of decades if a wine isn’t kept in the proper conditions. Back in 2002, a chemistry professor at University of California at Davis patented a technique that uses MRI technology to diagnose the condition of vintage wines. Not planning any $20,000 wine purchases? This is still good news for the consumer. This technique may soon be used at airport security, meaning you’ll be able to carry on your booze.

10. THERE’S A TRICK TO AGING YOUR WINE.

If you end up with a bottle of plonk, Chinese scientists have developed a handy solution. Zapping a young wine with electricity makes it taste like something you’ve cellar aged. Scientists aren’t quite sure how it happens yet, but it seems that running your wine for precisely three minutes through an electric field changes the esters, proteins, and aldehydes and can “age” a wine instantly.

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