Someday I'm going to stage a competition in which people go to various drive-throughs and lunch counters to see who gets through the line first. Of course, to make it a statistically significant study, we'll have to have some guidelines. For example, all contestants will enter the line with exactly 20 people in front of them, and they'll place the same order. Cell phones will be critical to the event, because you'll have to agree on a start time and then GO, the clock is ticking.
For example, Mr. Pink will go to Baja Burrito on Thompson Lane, and I'll go to Blue Coast Burrito--Baja's franchisee spin-off--in Nashville West. As soon as there are 20 people ahead of each of us, let the games begin.
Naturally, we will both order a basket of fish tacos, upsized to a combo with chips and a drink. Here's how I expect it to play out, based on my recent maiden trip to Blue Coast:
1. Mr. Pink will cross the finish line while I'm still trying to get inside the door. In my experience, Blue Coast was slow on the assembly line. Not asleep at the wheel or anything, just not up to the efficiency level of the flagship.
2. I will get approximately 15 times as much food as Mr. Pink. Maybe the scale of a suburban strip mall made the Blue Coast team feel like they had to grow the food proportionately, but while I can usually wolf down three tacos with room to spare at Baja, at Blue Coast, I found myself cherry-picking the fried fish out of my second taco, and couldn't even contemplate a third. This is not necessarily a good thing. The corn tortillas were thicker and chewier (possibly they did not get the special steam treatment) and the cabbage strands were clunkier and more, well, cabbagey. It was hard to tell whether the magic ratio of cabbage-sauce-fish was out of whack or whether, simply, the moderate size of Baja's tacos is itself the magic and can't be scaled.
3. I will linger longer at Blue Coast, where the patio borders on serene. On my visit, I took a magazine and enjoyed the shade under the umbrellas as I sipped bottomless fruit tea. By contrast, the bustling patio at Baja encourages quick turnover.
See, doesn't this sound like fun? Who wants in on the first round of lunch-racing?