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Photograph: Lauren SpinelliParticipants in Time Out New York's guilty pleasures taste test.
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Photograph: Lauren SpinelliSbarro vs. Williamsburg Pizza Big chain: Sbarro (right)Overall mark: 6.4/10Taster comment: “Sweet sauce, crust a little flakey. Generic-ish. Reminds me of home.” New York royalty: Williamsburg Pizza (left)Overall mark: 6/10Taster comment: “I love pizza, so, ‘pizza is pizza’… but this one was better.” Winner: Mall king Sbarro makes a bold start at the beginning of the competition. Artisanal toppings be damned! We'll take our slice 1980s-style.
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Photograph: Lauren SpinelliAnnie's vs. Sigmunds pretzel Big chain: Annie’s (right) Overall mark: 6.8/10 Taster comment: “Very buttery, in a good way”New York royalty: Sigmunds (left)Overall mark: 5.2/10 Taster comment: “Can I have some pretzel with my salt? Way too salty!” Winner: And again! Corporate America steals the show with its just-right salty snacking staple.
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Photograph: Lauren SpinelliWhite Castle vs. Comodo sliders Big chain: White Castle (left)Overall mark: 5/10 Taster comment: “WAS THIS WHITE CASTLE?!” New York royalty: Comodo (right)Overall mark: 7.2/10 Taster comment: “So good! Real meat and a firm bun.” Winner: Comodo takes it, hand-crafted fare trouncing mass-produced nosh. Because who doesn't like real meat and nice, firm buns?
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Photograph: Lauren SpinelliDunkin Donuts vs. Dough Dunkin Donuts (left)Overall mark: 3.8/10 Taster comment: “Tasted stale”Dough (right)Overall mark: 6.4/10 Taster comment: “Pretty gooey, interesting spice of some sort. But what flavor is it?” Winner: Dough K.O.s Dunkin with its rich, mysterious flavors. And, ah, non-stale-ness.
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Photograph: Lauren SpinelliStarbucks vs. Blue Bottle coffee Big chain: Starbucks (right)Overall mark: 2.6/10 Taster comment: “More like water than coffee.”New York royalty: Blue Bottle (left)Overall mark (out of ten): 4.6/10 Taster comment: “Really acidic but strong, which gave it positive points.” Winner: Starbucks' weak brew takes a beating from Blue Bottle's robust contender, though the local champ doesn't exactly score high.
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Photograph: Lauren Spinelli7-Eleven vs. Kelvin Slushie Big chain: 7-Eleven (right)Overall mark: 6.8/10 Taster comment: “This was just right! Refreshing!”New York royalty: Kelvin (left)Overall mark (out of ten): 5.6/10 Taster comment: “I’m not a slushy fan in general, but this one was a bit like Pine-Sol to me.”Winner: Congrats to 7-Eleven, whose neon beverage (invisible to our blindfolded testers) surprisingly tasted less sugary than Kelvin's all-natural slush.
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Photograph: Lauren SpinelliBudweiser vs. Evil Twin beer Big chain: Budweiser (right)Overall mark (out of ten): 5 Taster comment: “Tastes like High School”New York royalty: Evil TwinOverall mark: 3.8 (left) Taster comment: “Nice zingy aftertaste.”Winner: Budweiser slam dunks it, the easy-breezy beer equivalent of the Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff's "Summertime". Overall winner of the guilty pleasures taste-test: Processed chain-store food takes the crown, winning four rounds to artisinal food's three! Raise a genetically-modified glass of something and let's toast the return of mall culture to New York (albeit sheepishly).
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Photograph: Lauren SpinelliParticipants in Time Out New York's guilty pleasures taste test.
 (Photograph: Lauren Spinelli)10/10
Photograph: Lauren SpinelliParticipants in Time Out New York's guilty pleasures taste test.

Food fight! Artisanal vs. junk food

Is mall culture invading NYC? Five blindfolded taste-testers sample the city's most lauded and derided refreshments. The results may surprise you.

By Time Out editors
Many of us moved to New York City precisely because it’s not the suburbs. There’s cool shit here—indie shops, the best restaurants on the planet and weird characters who don’t exist anywhere else. But something’s changing. When Dairy Queen opened in Manhattan last month, the lines stretched a block down 14th Street. A block. For ice cream. From one of the biggest chains around. And it wasn’t an isolated incident: Similar hysteria cropped up around the new Steak ’n Shake in midtown. So what the hell is going on? Do we prefer mall eats to lovingly crafted delicacies?

We're finding out which foods really come out on top in a blind taste test from our panel of (non–food-critic) volunteers in the office. Check out the results in our slide show below—you may be surprised to discover the victors of this most serious contest. Let the battle commence!

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