"Are you sure you want to do this?" Erin asked. I stared at the brightly lit facade, eyes grim. "Yes. I'm... I'm sure. Let's get some dinner."
Lotteria is a wildly popular fast food chain in South Korea that serves American-style grease with a Korean twist. A few gastrointestinal horror stories from other westerners put us off trying one, despite the unanimous endorsement of our Korean friends. But we decided it was high time we gave the Korean interpretation of western fast food a chance.
The interior was a McDonald's clone covered in Korean characters, with a distinctly un-McDonald's menu. We spent a minute squinting at the English translations printed beneath the Hangeul, trying to make our choices. It helped that Korean restaurants made a point of giving you the calories of whatever you were about to stuff in your face, so you knew just how guilty to feel.
Erin squeezed my arm and pointed at the sides menu. "Snow Crab Nuggets! We must try them!"
I shuddered. There was a LOT of deep-fried seafood on offer. My stomach clenched in terror, working through a miniature fight-or-flight reaction, before I belted in for gastronimic combat. We placed our order, got our buzzer, and found a seat to wait.
The food came quickly, smelling like grease and salt rather than fish, for which I was profoundly grateful. Still, it seemed best to take no chances. We piled into a cab and took everything home. We get stared at enough in public. We didn't need to compound that by sitting in a booth, poking at our burgers with an air of scientific curiosity. Also, I wanted a bathroom with toilet paper nearby... just in case.
So what did we get? Two of the strangest burgers we could order, plus a sampling of fries, mozzarella sticks, an order of Squid Rings, and, yes, some Snow Crab Nuggets.
We each took a bite of our burgers, then spent a minute chewing thoughtfully.
"What the hell am I eating?" I said softly, giving my European Frico Burger a closer inspection. It appeared that someone had paired a skinny hamburger with a deep-fried cheese patty, and then dumped a load of sauce and veggies on top. It was... tasty. But thoroughly unexpected.
Erin was similarly perplexed. Her Shrimp Burger had the consistency and flavor (roughly) of a McDonald's fish sandwich... well, if a McDonald's fish sandwich were extra spicy and covered with a startling quantity of lettuce. Still, this was also kind of tasty.
We moved on to the sides.
The Snow Crab Nuggets were heart-shaped. It did not make me love them more.
The fries were pretty standard. The mozzarella sticks were pleasantly salty and also not bad. They weren't as gooey as mozzarella sticks should be, but I suspected we weren't looking at real cheese.
The Squid Rings were chewy, but otherwise had a mildly fishy flavor. Well, and a heaping quantity of deep-fried batter. Erin admited to liking them, but nowadays she's fond of any squid she doesn't have to clean herself.
We finished our glorious repast and settled back, staring at nothing, giving our stomachs a chance to recover.
"What do you think?" Erin asked.
"If I were trapped in an airport or a bus station, and I didn't have any other option? Sure. It's not bad."
"So... about like McDonald's, then?"
I sighed. "Yeah. About like McDonald's."