Caesar Salad, Fries and Coke Is the New Hot Girl Combo of ChoicePhoto by Chris Tweten/Unsplash Food Features food culture
Every summer for the past few years, the internet has celebrated so-called “hot girl” foods. These are the ingredients, dishes and drinks of the moment, the foods that the hot girls are ordering. (And don’t worry—being a “hot girl” has nothing to do with physical appearance or even gender. In the words of Megan Thee Stallion, the artist who coined the term, “being a hot girl is about being unapologetically YOU, having fun, being confident, living YOUR truth, being the life of the party, etc.”) In the summer of 2021, the tinned fish trend reached a fever pitch and was declared the hot girl food of the summer (and its popularity hasn’t really abated since). In 2022, the Aperol spritz had its moment in the limelight. And as we break into spring in 2023, hot girls have found their latest obsession: a simple combination of Caesar salad, fries and Coke.
TikTokers have taken to the app to post videos of the simple but satisfying meal. User @bellajubran posted a video declaring that “Caesar salad is for the girls.” It received over 850,000 likes. Type “Caesar salad” into the search bar, and you’ll find a slew of videos from other creators celebrating the salad, fries and Coke combo.
As a longtime Caesar salad enthusiast, I’m glad that this old-timey classic is finally getting its due. When done right (with plenty of anchovies), Caesar salad is perhaps the best lettuce-delivery machine ever invented. And who doesn’t like fries with a Coke? But I have a few theories about why this specific combo is gaining such traction right now.
An Inflation-Friendly Meal
It’s pretty obvious to anyone who goes grocery shopping that food prices are on the rise; you’ve probably noticed that your dollar doesn’t stretch as far as it did even a year ago. But it’s not just consumers who have to contend with the higher prices for food: Restaurants are paying a premium for their ingredients too, and many have also been facing staffing problems for a while now. This means that those higher costs are being passed along to restaurant-goers as well. According to Restaurant Business, full-service restaurant prices were up 8.2% in February 2023 from a year prior.
Coming out of pre-vaccine pandemic times in the spring and summer of 2021, people were eager to get back out into the world and back to eating at their favorite restaurants. Those who were lucky enough to get the chance to save some cash during the pandemic had money to blow at that time. Now, though, times have changed for many of us, and we’re trying to be more careful with our money.
Instead of refusing to go out to eat at all, though, it makes sense to just look for cheaper options at the restaurants we love. Whereas a several-course meal is likely to be pretty pricey at most restaurants these days, salad, fries and Coke are relatively humble options that’ll keep your costs down even at more formal restaurants. Generally, I find the combination pretty filling, even if the salad is sans-meat (which I honestly prefer).
New Ideas About What Constitutes ‘Healthy Eating’
I also can’t help but to think that the Caesar salad, fries and Coke combo is a way to culturally distance ourselves from diet culture and position ourselves as practitioners of intuitive eating, a way of eating that rejects dieting altogether and emphasizes eating what feels right to you in the moment. To me, this combo seems like a celebration of intuitive eating; sure, you’re eating a salad, but you’re also allowing yourself to indulge in fries and a Coke because, well, they taste good. You’re not forcing yourself to eat until your stomach hurts or picking at a dressing-less salad; you’re just eating something simple that tastes and feels good. What’s not to love?
A Deliciously Simple Combo
Whatever the underlying reasons for the popularity of the Caesar salad, fries and Coke combo, I truly believe it’s just an undeniably delicious lunch, and you don’t need to be on a budget or a mindful eating journey to enjoy it.
Caesar salad has such a wide-ranging appeal because of its simplicity. The dressing does most of the heavy lifting, so all you really need is some crisp, fresh lettuce, umami Parmesan and crunchy croutons to make it all come together. Fries are the perfect addition to the crunchy salad; salty fries can hold up to the intense flavor of the Caesar salad dressing, but the fact that they’re fried makes for a nice counterpoint to the veggie-heavy salad. Finally, there’s the Coke. The bubbles break up the fattiness of the fries and the dressing, and the sugary drink tastes even more refreshing when it’s paired with the salty stars of the show.
If you’re at a loss for what to order the next time you go to a restaurant and you don’t want to break the bank, act like a hot girl: Order the Caesar salad, fries and a Coke. Maybe you’ll understand what all the hype is about.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.