The 6 Worst Fast Food Items Of 2023, So Far

We're halfway through 2023. Which meals have left us with a bad taste in our mouths?

With 2023 half over, it's time to take stock of what the fast food landscape has offered us so far. The good news is that most promotions have been stellar, with a few knockouts restoring our faith in fried foods. But not everything can be a winner, and in an industry of ceaseless innovation, there are bound to be a few flops.

Here are the six fast food releases in 2023 that have proven the most disappointing to our team of taste testers. It's not necessarily that they taste bad; sometimes we just let our expectations get too high, or the product didn't live up to its lofty promises. Whatever the case, these items are a good reminder that not all limited-time promotions are destined for the permanent menu.

Arby’s Bourbon BBQ Sliders

Arby's has a menu full of signature hits: the curly fries, the Horsey Sauce, the classic roast beef. Even its first promotion of 2023, the Steakhouse Garlic Ribeye Sandwich, was an impressive showing. But the Bourbon BBQ Sliders released in May just didn't quite cut it. Making a good thing smaller is nothing to get excited about, and the lack of melty cheese meant these sandwiches were missing that crucial bit of Arby's essence. Hey, at least the pickles were great. Read our full review here.


McDonald’s Strawberry Shortcake McFlurry

McDonald's has been responsible for some of 2023's best menu items so far this year, not to mention some fun frozen treats—so this seasonal Strawberry Shortcake McFlurry seems like a baffling misstep. Instead of crumbling up some cake bits in there or blending in chunks of frozen fruit, or even adding a strawberry-flavored syrup (as we saw here), McDonald's chose to flavor this McFlurry with... dry, crispy strawberry-flavored clusters. The result is muted and skippable, as there are far better McFlurry options on the menu. Read our full review here.


Dunkin’ Breakfast Tacos

In March, Dunkin' chose to add Breakfast Tacos to the menu, and despite the tantalizing ingredient lineup—scrambled eggs, sharp white cheddar, fire-roasted corn, lime crema, and optional bacon—they sadly fail in execution. The filling is minimal, the tortilla offers little in the way of structural integrity, and the balance of sauce leads to an overwhelmingly sour flavor. Luckily Dunkin's new wraps are the perfect antidote to these tacos, the latter of which should be a highlight of the menu but simply aren't. Read our full review here.


Starbucks Cinnamon Caramel Cream Nitro Cold Brew

A nitro coffee should be defined by a rich, smooth taste, yet this March release from Starbucks tasted somehow acrid and bland at the same time. The cream tasted too thin, and the dry cinnamon heaped on top didn't complement the bitter cold brew beneath. Ultimately this limited-time drink failed to impress, unlike its winter menu counterpart, which was divine. Read our full review here.


Panera Smoky Buffalo Chicken Melt

Panera Bread has been trying all sorts of new approaches in recent years, so it was no surprise then it announced a fresh lineup of three new Toasted Baguette sandwiches to kick off 2023. The one we were most excited to try, the Smoky Buffalo Chicken Melt, ended up being the biggest letdown. The chicken had an unappealing slimy quality, and the sandwich as a whole had too much moisture and not enough cheese. That said, the other two offerings, the Green Goddess Caprese Melt and the Pepperoni Mozzarella Melt, had some definite upsides. Read our full review here.


Burger King Mexican Original Chicken Sandwich

As far as chicken sandwiches go, this Burger King offering, released in January and featuring both ghost pepper queso and fried jalapeño crisps, tastes perfectly fine. Its biggest failing is that its "Mexican" flavors feel more like an afterthought than a flash of inspiration. The queso, which seems to be the sandwich's sole nod to Tex Mex cuisine, was sparsely applied, and its flavor was oddly tangy rather than spicy. Not bad—but certainly nothing special. Read our full review here.