Among much hoopla, a new Krystal franchise recently opened in west Salem, just off exit 137 from I-81. Out of curiosity, I tried it today. Armed with a hungry tummy and ten bucks, I went in for lunch. Ambience: For one thing, the place is small. If the parking lot looks even half full, do yourself a favor and go through the drive-through. I counted exactly 20 seats, not very conducive to a dinner rush. The chairs are hardbacked, and only marginally more comfortable than an unpadded church bench. The tables are also on the small side, and annoyingly, some of them wobbled, which in my opinion is completely unacceptable for a place that has barely been open for a month, but I guess you have to cut corners somewhere. Staff Standard fastfood mix of an obviously burned out 40-something manager and a bunch of friendly but semi-literate teenagers. For a fastfood place, the service was irritatingly slow, although one of the clerks went flying into the bathroom at nearly Mach 4, probably from sampling some of her own cooking. I know this only because she knocked into me while doing so, with only a giggled "oops" to show for it. Drinks Kind of hard to screw up a Coke, but rest assured, it can be done. I must have told the clerk that I wanted a Coke-flavored large cup of ice, because they managed to fit maybe 5 oz of soda in a 20oz cup. Thankfully, refills are free, which I joyfully abused. Food Krystal is known for their small hamburgers, square roughly 3"-4" across. Thoughtfully, the menu includes a mix&match combo, where you can pick a mix of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, and chilidogs or corndogs. Corndogs are off limits for me (never had one that didn't make me sh** immediately), so I got one each of the other four, along with a dish of fries, and out of masochistic curiosity, a bowl of chili. Hamburger - the burgers are advertised as "steamed", not fried or grilled, which I suppose the cook took to mean "cooked until it's soggy and tasteless". The burger arrives in a small cardboard box, tucked in a bun resembling Wonderbread, and with a smattering of obviously reconstituted onions and mustard. The meat was warm, and resembled hamburger, but tasted like the insole from a sneaker left in the rain for a week, not that I've tried that firsthand or anything. In all fairness, the bun was the best part of it, simply because you expected it to be bland, although I was left with a longing feeling that maybe I should try eating the box just to see if anything associated with the burger had any taste. Cheeseburger - how do you try to make a turd taste better? Why you put cheese on it, of course! In this case, it's a good thing, since the cheese, which I'm taking as a weak attempt at American, actually partially ads a little gooey something to the cacophony of mediocrity spread out on the table. Chicken sandwich - or as it's called, Chik. Laying aside the obvious swipe at my beloved Chik-Fil-A, the sandwich comes in an identical bun. The cook must have set the cooker to "burntheliving****outofit", because the chunk of what passes for chicken was about as hard as the floor tiles. Burned or not, it did have a mildly peppery taste, which to me indicates they are trying to rip off the menu niche of a Wendy's spicy chicken, while trying to not be too obvious about it. Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. That, and a good way to make yourself look stupid. Chili-dog - why do I do this to myself? Picture a Sonic chilidog, then cut it to say, about 1/6th the size. This thing you can literally gulp it in one heartburning bite, not that I would ever advise that. Folks on salt-restricted diets definitely want to skip this one, and any curiosity as to what the Dead Sea tastes like has been forever satisfied. Then again, you have to oversalt pork made from pigs rescued from 3rd world slave labor camps. The chili will be described below. Chili - after a Lilliputian main course, it was time for chili, served in a Bromdignadian-size cup. It arrived in a covered cup, which I thought was to help keep it warm. Actually, the cover only serves to keep you from seeing what's in the bowl while you're still at the counter, which probably cuts down on both refunds demanded and chili thrown at clerks. I used to think that the Chili at Texas Tavern in downtown Roanoke was an all-time culinary low, but no longer. Picture the cheapest canned dog food you can, mixed with a few beans that haven't seen daylight since the Carter administration, then warmed to roughly the same temperature as a sinus infection but without the entertaining yellow color, and you have Krystal Chili. The chili comes with a small pack of oyster-type crackers, which I found bulk it up a little and absorb some of the loose oil. The crackers' effect on projectile vomiting is yet to be tested, by me at least, although I'm sure Consumer Reports has tracked it. Fries - actually one the relative positives of the experience, if you ignore that they were lukewarm and not a one of them was longer than 3". If you use alot of ketchup like I do, be prepared to get your fingers red. They could use a little salt, not to mention different potatoes, but they're not too bad. I saved a couple of them for the french fry connoisseur of the house, my dog, for when I got home, and she gave me that "are you ****ing kidding me?" look, farted, and walked away when I dropped them in her food bowl. So overall, I would give Krystal an 8. As in, I would need to have drunk 8 beers within the last 8 minutes to even think about going back there. Wanna kill these ads? We can help!