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Why we keep returning to the most-hated fast-food restaurant in America

Justina Huddleston is an editor and the head writer for TDmonthly Magazine. She has been a freelance writer for several years, though her real passion is cooking. You can see the recipes she creates on her vegan food blog, A Life of Litt...

We hate this fast-food chain but keep going back — what's the deal?

McDonald's, we just can't quit you.

McDonald's ranked last in a recent report about the most-hated fast-food restaurants in America (maybe it's the terrifying clown mascot?). And think about it — when's the last time you raved about a great meal you had at Mickey D's?

But a report last month in Nation's Restaurant News showed that McDonald's is still the most-visited chain in the country. But if we hate it so much, why do we keep returning time and time again? These are just a few of the (occasionally delicious) reasons we just can't quit our McAddiction.

More: McDonald's is switching to cage-free eggs, but it's going to take 10 years

1. Nostalgia

Growing up, McDonald's was the be-all, end-all of fast food for one very big reason: Happy Meals. Sure, other chains had their spin on the kid's meal, but they weren't happy enough, amiright? It was the difference between Dr Pepper and Dr. Thunder, and I refused to settle for a cheap knockoff. What can I say? I was a classy kid.

I'm pretty sure my parents still have, like, three trash bags full of broken miniature Happy Meal toys in their basement. My sister and I collected them thinking that someday they might be worth a lottttt of money. Whether or not that's the case (it's not), I think a lot of people have been going to McDonald's since they were kids for the same nostalgic reasons, and it's a habit that carries into adulthood.

2. The potatoes

I feel like I've ranted and raved about this before, but McDonald's hash browns are the potato end game. When potatoes are born, their parents hope they will someday become a two-for-$1 McDonald's hash brown. Crispy, golden, lightly salted and greasier than any food should be, McDonald's hash browns are basically worth their weight (my weight?) in gold.

Its fries are at the top of their class too. My mom used to tell me that she and my aunt would go to Burger King for its burgers, then go to McDonald's to get fries — the difference was that pronounced. And if you're willing to sit in two drive-thru lines just to get your hands on some fries, they must be pretty special.

3. Consistency

When you go to McDonald's, you know what you're getting. Even if you're on a road trip and rolling your eyes with disgust as you pull into the Golden Arches, there's a reason you chose the haunt of the Hamburglar over the other chains scattered across the freeway. Its recipes have changed only somewhat over the years, and limited-time offers aside, you can basically get the same order in 2016 as you did in 1978. And sometimes, when you're tired and hungry, that's the sort of dependability you need.

More: Reddit proves fast-food items can seriously be McNasty

4. They're everywhere

There are more than 13,000 Burger King restaurants worldwide and more than 35,000 McDonald's. In fact, there are more McDonald's locations in the U.S. alone than there are Burger Kings in the entire universe. So it makes sense that it's the chain we visit most, even if we're not crazy about the food — when push comes to shove, there's probably a McDonald's close by.

6. Deals

McDonald's food is cheeeeapppp. I may want a Carl's Jr. $6 burger, but at McDonald's, I can get a Big Mac and a 10-piece of Chicken McNuggets for $5 on its McPick 2 menu. Sure, it's not a Michelin-worthy meal, but when you're Hungry with a capital H, the sheer volume of McDonald's food you can get on the cheap makes it preferable to ritzier chains.

At the end of the day, it makes total sense. We resent the stranglehold this mega-chain-shilling-subpar-burgers has on us, but it's everywhere, it's cheap, and if we pretend there's a kid in the car, we can get a Happy Meal for old time's sake.

The good news is that hopefully the chain will see this report and step up its game. Hate-watching a TV show is one thing, but hate-eating a cold double cheeseburger because it was the only option on a particularly rural stretch of your road trip? That's just sad.

More: McDonald’s 'secret menu' may really exist, manager tells Reddit

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