This post will conclude our KFC Conversation, which began last week with the Nashville Hot Chicken. To include the introduction again, this post is a continuation of last week’s conversation. I went with four friends (AB, AP, HJ, PM plus me [FFC]!) to my local KFC (no longer Kentucky Fried Chicken) to sample their two newest selections: Nashville Hot and Georgia Gold Chicken.

KFC’s Georgia Gold Chicken is KFC chicken topped “with its delicious, tangy honey mustard BBQ sauce.” After KFC debuted their Nashville Hot Chicken last year, I guess KFC decided it could keep the train rolling with a new creation, using their regular chicken and adding a different sauce to it. Since we started the meal with two Nashville Hot Chicken meals, I’d wanted to order just the chicken for this round of eating. I’m not entirely certain whether that’s not possible, or if the people behind the counter didn’t fully understand, but I was not allowed to order just the chicken, because they said it had to be a meal. Therefore, I ordered two more baskets, each of which come with six tenders, two sides and a biscuit, and is priced at $9.99.

What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation centered on the Georgia Gold Chicken and a comparison with the Nashville Hot Chicken. In the interest of full disclosure, we ate the Nashville Hot Chicken first.

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Act I: So We’re Eating More Chicken… plus sides!

FFC: We ordered the Georgia Gold, and I was told I cannot get just chicken so now we have two meals, each with 6 tenders, two sides and two biscuits.

AB: Let’s give it a good sniff test.

FFC: We did not get pickles with his one.

AP: Were they not offered? [Ed. Note – they were not, but they should have been added.]

HJ: So the pickles were intentional?

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Act II: This Is Not My Honey Mustard

FFC: I guess for the Nashville. It smells like honey mustard, for better or for worse.

AP: it was not what I was expecting…

FFC: AP looks perturbed…

AP: It tastes like a mustard powder or something.

HJ: Yea, that’s what it tastes like.

AB: This is not honey mustard.

PM: Is it mustard oil? Is it mustard gas?

FFC: I have not tasted it but, but the three who have tasted it so far…

AB: This is not good honey mustard.

PM: It looks semi-lethal.

AP: This is a rehydrated, dehydrated…

HJ: I think if they just gave me a honey mustard packet I’d be happy, but it’s not bad.

AB: It’s not sweet, honey mustard should be sweet.

PM: This is just mustard chicken.

FFC: I actually don’t mind it…

AB: Yea, you wouldn’t…

FFC: … because I don’t like honey mustard so this is fine.

AB This is edible.

FFC: The texture is weird.

AP: It is grainy.

HJ: It IS grainy.

PM: Yea…

AB: This is no Ma Magoos, let me tell you that.

AP: What is that taste?

PM: MSG.

HJ: Is that the chili oil? With sugar and mustard in it.

AB: Yea, if you sniff it, it almost like burns.

FFC: it does have a weirdly sharp mustard taste.

AP: Yea and the after taste, I’m getting… not good.

PM: AB really wanted this, I’m interested what he has to say.

AB: I don’t like it.

HJ: You know what it tastes like? You know those honey mustard pretzels? It tastes like that.

AP: OH!

PM: Oooo.

AP: The dust on those…

FFC: Yup.

HJ: The dust on those pretzels

PM: Mixed with olive oil.

AP: That’s what that is.

HJ: Yea, you’re welcome.

AB: Snyder’s.

AP + PMM: Yea, Snyder’s.

HJ: Here’s what I want: just give us chicken and give us honey mustard packets. Now that we’ve identified it… it tastes like. It’s like ‘oh that’s what they’re going for’.

AP: Yea (laughs). Snyder’s dust of honey mustard.

FFC: Like a Doritos Locos Taco.

HJ: I might die.

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Act III: Georgia Gold v. Nashville Hot

HJ: So who likes which better?

FFC: I like Nashville better.

AB: I like Nashville better too but I was convinced I’d like this one more.

HJ: I think I like this one better.

FFC: I feel like I’m in the top on this one also though, because with it not being real honey mustard, and I don’t like honey mustard, so for me, it’s fine.

AB: I think I was disappointed that it doesn’t have that sweetness.

FFC: Higher expectations.

AP: It’s not a good honey mustard.

AP: Nashville for me.

HJ: I Like this one better.

PM: Hahah you’re the only one.

HJ: I know!

AP: And I’m a pretty good example because I would love either flavor. The idea of them are both great to me and this one really fell short.

PM: They both could have been a lot better.

AP: Oh yes, this could have been better.

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[Ed. Note – brief discussion of the commercials, PM hated them]

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Act IV: Maybe It’s Better With the Biscuit and the Sides

AB: I can taste more of the Snyder’s.

PM: That’s all I can taste now, but there’s more of a depth to it.

HJ: There is more of a depth.

PM: Not a shock and then nothing.

FFC: It tastes sharper when you dip a wedge in there.

AB: So does the chicken itself neutralize it?

FFC: Maybe the breading, because it’s just a regular tender which is seasoned, so maybe that overtakes the honey mustard sauce.

AB: Are these pepper flecks in the sauce?

FFC: I don’t think so.

PM: It’s the breading.

AB: Does it always have those?

FFC: Yes, those are the Colonel’s secret spices!

AB: I’m full.

AP: I’m sad I ended on this one.

AB: Sorry, I thought this one would be better.

HJ: It’s like a train wreck, I want to keep eating it to examine.

FFC: I’ll probably eat one more [Ed. Note – I did.]

AP: I feel like my body is going to give out.

AB: I have dinner with my family in an hour, so I have to stop eating.

*Everyone laughs*

FFC: What are you having for dinner, is it going to be better than this?

AB: Yes. Sushi.

FFC: So not better than this.

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Act V: Bringing It Home

AP: I’m overall not happy with this meal.

FFC: That’s good. Everyone give me your final thoughts on the Gold and overall…

AB: I regret coming here.

AP: I seriously regret the Georgia Gold.

HJ: I regret it too, we could have been in a spa…

PM: I’m gonna go with that answer.

HJ: … instead of eating saturated fat.

AP: Already my stomach is upset and I regret this meal.

HJ: So is mine. Do you include that in your reviews, like how you feel after?

FFC: I feel fine.

AP: He eats this crap all the time.

PM: He feels the same after.

AB: I enjoyed the company.

FFC: That’s irrelevant.

HJ: Part of me wants to get back in there and see what happens.

FFC: I’d stop.

PM: That’d be the last thing I ever did

FFC: So the general consensus other than HJ is that the Nashville Hot was better.

AB: Yea, Nashville was better, but not sure I would order it again.

FFC: Would anyone order it again?

AP: I’m never going to come back here.

FFC: in a hypothetical…

AP: In a hypothetical I would eat the Nashville again.

AB: If I came back, I would prefer regular (consensus opinion).

 

And there you have the exciting conclusion to our conversation.  The consensus is that the Nashville Hot Chicken was better because the Georgia Gold was grainy and did not taste like honey mustard. After the meal, we had some leftovers, which I took home and ate for lunch two days later. I can attest that the grainy texture to the honey mustard sauce was gone at that point, but it did not taste any better. If you’re going to KFC, order the original (or extra crispy!) recipe. If you’re going to order one of these squirted sauces, go with Nashville Hot.

Today is an exciting day for the blog, as I’ve changed the format for the next two posts. Instead of my usual solo musings on the food I write up, these next two posts will be presented as a conversation. This will be slightly longer than usual, but hopefully the journey is worth it. I went with four friends (AB, AP, HJ, PM plus me [FFC]!) to my local KFC (no longer Kentucky Fried Chicken) to sample their two newest selections: Nashville Hot and Georgia Gold Chicken.

KFC’s Nashville Hot Chicken is “a perfect blend of spicy cayenne and smoked paprika” obviously inspired by the classic Nashville Hot Chicken, which has been having something of a moment recently. To feed five people, I ordered two meals, each of which came with six chicken tenders, two sides, and a biscuit. It also is supposed to be served with four pickles. One basket is priced at $9.99.

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What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation centered on the Nashville Hot Chicken. The second post will feature the Georgia Gold and our thoughts on the two. In the interest of full disclosure, we ate the Nashville Hot Chicken first.

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Act I: The Beginning:

FFC: So let’s open this one. Generally where I start is I kinda smell and look.

AB: Nice, should I close this to keep it warm. Did you get photos?

FFC: I got those.

PM: Did you get your thumb in them?

FFC: Not yet! I need to start eating.

HJ: I don’t remember the last time I had KFC, it may have been the 90s.

PM: The last time I had fun was the 90s.

FFC: Actually that’s good, when was the last you all had KFC?

PM: Last time for me was sometime in college, maybe?

AB: When I was in Trinidad. [Ed. Note: Mr. Fancypants!]

AP: I had Kennedy Fried Chicken in college. It was a different KFC. I cannot… I don’t know if I’ve ever had it.

FFC: Ok, so it’s been awhile for everyone.


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Act II: Our First Impressions

FFC: I don’t need a spork, I’m just going to pick it up. Also, I got mashed potatoes and wedges. How does it look to you guys?

PM: The same.

AP: Soggy.

AB: Darker than I would have thought. On the sauce there are kinda pepper chunks.

HJ: Yea.

FFC: This is all Nashville hot. These are regular tenders, then they poured the sauce on them after putting them in the box.

Everyone (yes, everyone): Ahhhh!

FFC: So [the sauce] is not baked in. They just had a squirt bottle.

AP: Interesting. It looks appetizing. It looks greasy and like yummy.

AB: Alright, interesting.

PMM: I’m not so interested in it now that I know it was a mix.

HJ: I’m excited. I can’t really smell it.

FFC: Yea, I don’t think it has a distinctive smell, but I don’t know what it smells like, we’ll have to find out.

AB: It does have a smell.

AP: Let’s see if it’s too hot for me because I don’t really do hot stuff well. Oh, its crispy, good crispy. Look at that! Oily, hot goodness is all over my fingers.

FFC: The Nashville sauce is supposed to be hot oil with like cayenne and crap in there.

HJ: It tastes like a chili oil.

AB: The kick comes in about two chews in.

HJ: are you supposed to eat it with the pickle in the same bite?

FFC: You can have a pickle bite and a non-pickle bite to get an impression. It’s kinda smoky.

HJ: I like it with the pickle on it.

AP: Really good, juicy chicken.

HJ: Yea.

AP: Just a general comment about KFC.

FFC: So it’s not disappointing then, not a dry batch?

AP: Yea.


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Act III: More Sauce Talk

HJ: is it spicy for you?

AP: Like a mild heat. It’s really good.

HJ: It is good.

AB: I still prefer regular KFC chicken.

PM: Do they have levels of the flavor like where you can get it more?

FFC: I think if you just ask for extra sauce.

HJ: It’s like a blackened catfish flavor.

FFC: it definitely crispier than I thought it would be. When you pour sauce on top of fried chicken it usually gets soft and gross.

AB: That’s probably why they wait until the very end.

FFC: That’s true.

PM: How’s the biscuit with the sauce oil?

AB: Not bad.

FFC: Is it really oily when dipping stuff into it?

AP: It’s absorbing all of the oil.

AB: The biscuit and sauce isn’t very flavorful. The biscuit is like Bertucci’s dough that they give to kids.

FFC: Dipping the biscuit into the sauce, what is it?

AB: I’m not getting any flavor. I’m not sure if the sauce is just oil and they put some blackened spice on top of the chicken…

AP: Yea…

AB: … that’s giving the flavor.

PM: The biscuit is a good theory to test that out.

Break: We spent a lot of time talking about the biscuit in the oil. Then we discussed the mashed potatoes (not good), the potato wedges (good) and dipping the wedges in the mashed potatoes (a FFC specialty- really good). We also digressed into dipping fries into Wendy’s chili.

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Act IV: Proper Spice Levels and Flavor

HJ: Maybe they should add more flavor to the sauce?

FFC: More spice?

HJ: No, it’s spicy enough and I think its salty enough, but not flavor.

AP: You’re right, I’m just getting hot, only some flavor. It’s just heating up my mouth and its salty.

FFC: I get the smoke flavor.

AP: My mouth is kinda hot.

AB: What size was this that you ordered?

FFC: I think I got ten or twelve, so everyone gets two.

AB: I’m trying to think because I’m more excited for the Georgia Gold.

FFC: I’ll get the same size and I’ll try to avoid getting the sides with that one. [Ed. Note: this didn’t happen.]

AP: Yea, you can do chicken only.

FFC Yup. [Ed. Note: Nope.]

HJ: I like the pickle though.

FFC: I like the pickle with the chicken too.

HJ: It adds more flavor and extra texture.

AB: What’s your assessment now?

HJ: It’s so much better with the pickle!

AP: I know, right!

FFC: It’s really good.

AP: I guess were getting that style..

FFC: Chick Fil A?

AP: Yea.

HJ: I’ve never eaten at Chick Fil A.

FFC: I think I’m going to like this one more than the Georgia Gold, between not liking honey mustard that much and preferring spicy food. I could see myself eating a full meal of this.

PM: Its spicy but not really flavorful.

FFC: Yea, but as opposed not liking honey mustard, I’d rather just have spice rather than a taste I’m not a fan of.

PM: I prefer regular.

AB: I prefer regular.

FFC: I’d rather regular with hot sauce on the side.

PM: It tastes like a patch of icy hot on my tongue.

AP: It’s cleaning out my sinuses.

 

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Act V: Conclusion

AB: Do you do a five-point scale?

FFC: I don’t do a number.

AB: You just do happiness? Are you happy?

FFC: It’d be too hard to give numbers and keep it consistent.

AB: Are you biased because you’re in a happier mood now than you would be by yourself?

FFC: I don’t think so, I like the food or I don’t. This is different, but I’ve brought FFC Spouse before, and sometimes she’ll try it and sometimes she won’t, but I’m not always alone when I try food.

HJ: Do you try and temper your hunger so you’re the same hunger every time?

FFC: I just try and be hungry, because if I’m not hungry, it’s going to be gross and I won’t be happy. Today was a weird time to eat [Ed. Note: we were there around 4:30]. I went to lunch at 12:30 and didn’t eat a full lunch because then I wouldn’t have been happy eating this.

FFC: I could eat one more.

HJ: I don’t want anymore.

AP: I’m good.

AB: Want to split one?

FFC: We can each have one.

FFC: A quick run through of your final thoughts. Since PM has food in his mouth, let’s start with AP.

AP: This is the tough one because I can’t really compare it to regular KFC, but delicious fried chicken. I understand why they try and keep the recipe so secret. I really enjoyed the heat. I am probably more sensitive than you guys to heat, so it was the perfect amount for me, so maybe it’s kinda mild/hot overall if I were trying to describe it someone else. I really liked it.

HJ: Like the chicken. The sauce is maybe too spicy and oily and salty but no flavor, like there was something missing and I liked the fries. I liked the pickle

AP: Oh man, those wedges.

PM: There was no depth to it. There’s flavor now.  It doesn’t last.

AB: There was spice, but it wasn’t flavorful. There was mouth tingling but it’s not like I’m still tasting anything. But the chicken was really good and with the pickle it was better. The biscuit even with sopping up the sauce didn’t have taste, which speaks to the lack of flavor in the sauce.

 

So there you have the first conversation post! The general consensus was that the chicken was good, but the sauce was perhaps not fully developed. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion where we try the Georgia Gold Chicken and compare the two!

 

This post will cover the second item from my trip to Sonic back in the fall. Sonic’s Fiery Cheeseburger interested me because I like spicy food (in lieu of a single link, you can check out virtually every post on this blog). Since I knew I was going to try the popcorn chicken, I wanted to pair that with the cheeseburger, so I wasn’t doubling up on fried chicken. Unfortunately, whether due to an ordering mistake on my part or a worker error, I wound up actually eating Sonic’s Fiery Ultimate Chicken Sandwich, the other option in their fiery sandwich lineup.

The Fiery Ultimate Chicken Sandwich was “a premium thick-cut, all-white chicken fillet with a crispy golden outside [with] pepper jack cheese, sliced jalapeños … red jalapeño spread” on a Brioche bun. Of course, I used the past tense because the sandwich doesn’t seem to be currently available. I don’t have pricing information anymore (the receipt has long since been lost to the recycling bin), but this was the most expensive part of an expensive meal (this lunch seriously cost around $30).

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To get back on topic, like the Garlic Parmesan Chicken, the Fiery Ultimate Chicken Sandwich had a pungent smell. The sandwich’s main odor came from the pickled jalapeños on top of the sandwich. It permeated the car before I even unwrapped the sandwich. As I peeled away the foil, the sandwich looked like it was going to be a mess. Sauce and cheese were already oozing out the sides, and to be honest, considering the cramped quarters of my car (plus my shock upon realizing I didn’t receive what I’d intended to order) I wasn’t looking forward to eating it.

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My first few bites had a bacon-y taste, which was disconcerting because there was no bacon on the sandwich. This taste only appeared when I had bites which didn’t have any of the sauce. As I got further into the sandwich, the jalapeño taste took precedence. It wasn’t an overwhelming heat, but I was starting to feel a tickle at the back of my throat. I should also note that sensation was solely from the jalapeño spread. Due to suboptimal sandwich construction, the pickled jalapeños were only on one half of the sandwich.

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While I normally disdain cheese as a topping for a chicken sandwich, I have to compliment Sonic here. The cheese was nice and gooey, It didn’t bunch up or congeal or get too messy on its own. While I’m not sure it added much (unless it somehow was the source of that bacon taste?), it wasn’t unwelcome.

I finally hit the pickled jalapeños on the back half of the sandwich, and things started to get a little heated in the car. And by things, I mean me. It was spicy. Swallowing was becoming a chore, and because they didn’t add any lettuce or tomato or other cooling agent to the sandwich, eating provided no refuge. I was taking gulps of my slush (Cherry Ocean Water!) after pretty much every bite at this point, as the jalapeño spread and pickled jalapeños completely dominated everything in the sandwich. I think everyone knows what pickled jalapeños taste like, but the red jalapeño spread deserves some detail. It had flecks of pepper actually in the spread, and aside from the hotness, it had some acidity (I’m assuming some sort of vinegar) to contrast the rest of the flavors in the sandwich.

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As usual with a Sonic sandwich, the chicken was juicy and had a nice crunch. I couldn’t taste if it was well seasoned because my mouth was on fire, but I’m sure it would have been fine on its own.

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The eating experience was surprisingly clean. There wasn’t much leakage with the sandwich, which had been a serious worry with eating in my car. Any dripping was going to stain my pants, and luckily they survived to live another day. If I hadn’t been eating the Garlic Parmesan Chicken with this, I wouldn’t have needed many napkins at all. And though I don’t always like Brioche buns, the bread didn’t fall apart and it kept the sandwich ingredients in place.

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While the Fiery Ultimate Chicken Sandwich had some highlights, I’m not sure this is something I’d want to experience again. It certainly packed enough of a punch for me to consider it the spiciest fast food item I’ve ever eaten. Real heat seekers may find this lacking, but amateurs like me will be more than satisfied. However, the heat become too much towards the end, and the sandwich suffered. It needed some sort of vegetable to provide a break. Also, that bacon taste never went away. That may have been a store specific problem, but it counts here. Lastly, I ordered a cheeseburger.

After the Sriracha craze a few years ago, where it seemed like half the internet was composed of love letters to the sauce, things have calmed down. It has settled in as a good hot sauce, different than a Tabasco or Frank’s in taste and texture, but good in the right amounts on the right foods rather than slathered onto everything. Wendy’s, in their laudable quest to ensure I have new content as long as I continue to update this blog, decided to utilize Sriracha on their Spicy Chicken Sandwich (IMO, the GOAT of fast food chicken sandwiches). I originally wasn’t going to try this, but after a request from a loyal reader, I decided to eat the Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich.

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The Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich is priced at $5.49 (!) for the sandwich and $8.19 for a meal with a medium soda and fries. According to Wendy’s, the Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich is their “iconic Spicy Chicken, topped with one of kind Sriracha Jack Cheese, thick-cut Applewood Smoked Bacon, creamy Sriracha aioli, spring mix, and red onion … on a toasted Sriracha-infused bakery-style bun.” The sandwich was presented in a box, but it was so large that it was awkward to pick it up, which I remember happening before at Wendy’s. If these boxes are here to stay, they need to make them larger so one’s fingers can get around the sandwich.

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Upon opening the box, the sandwich smelled great; it was that spicy fried chicken aroma which I’ll never tire of. The bun looked bland. I originally thought it was a Brioche bun, but Fortune has corrected me. I would have preferred a regular seeded bun, but Wendy’s doesn’t actually serve those, so I’m tilting at windmills here.

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I lifted up the bun and saw the inevitable raw red onion. I did my best to take it all off, but I know I missed at least part of that mess. I also saw that the cheese hadn’t really melted yet. The sandwich, in particular the chicken, didn’t taste cold, so I don’t know why the cheese didn’t melt, but maybe Wendy’s needs to raise the temperature on their food holders.

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The bun was toasted and tasted like wheat…. with spice. It was a little weird and I wasn’t 100% certain that it was spicy until I confirmed it on the Wendy’s website. It was a nice touch to add Sriracha, but it didn’t stand out unless I was eating the bun without anything else. The chicken was a regular spicy chicken patty. No complaints, it was great. That Sriracha aioli was basically Sriracha sauce cut with some mayo. Since they couldn’t just spread Sriracha on the damn sandwich without scorching everyone’s taste buds, this was the way to go. It became easily spreadable while retaining its heat.

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I did manage to get one bite with every ingredient (including the onion). Of course, the onion overpowered everything. In the non-onion bites, the bacon was a standout in the sandwich. Wendy’s puts bacon on everything, and it worked really well here. It was smoky and crispy and helped balance every other ingredient which contained Sriracha. They were also good about putting enough bacon on the sandwich so that almost every bite had some. The Sriracha Jack Cheese, as mentioned before, wasn’t full melted. The cheese didn’t have a strong taste and if it hadn’t; been on the sandwich, I doubt I would have missed it.

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Through the first half of the sandwich, the Sriracha Spicy Chicken Sandwich tasted like a Spicy Chicken Sandwich turned to 11. Even though Sriracha was the star, the heat built steadily. My mouth wasn’t on fire from the first bite. I could see anyone who is sensitive to spice not liking this sandwich, because it is more intense than the Spicy Chicken sandwich. To help make this more palatable to more people, I think adding a tomato slice would have helped. I’m actually surprised the sandwich didn’t have a tomato, considering we got raw onion

 

While on the subject of vegetables, I do need to compliment the spring mix. Wendy’s has really stepped up their game in this area recently, and I do appreciate their effort. By giving better greens on the sandwich, it feels less like a fast food burger. I applaud the move away from pale, limp iceberg lettuce. When talking about a bacon spicy fried chicken sandwich, this is a minor point, but it’s the little things that add up to create a better whole.

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One of my usual Wendy’s complaints, and a distinct worry when I started eating this particular sandwich, was that it was going to be terribly messy. The sandwiches themselves don’t stay together, sauce leaks everywhere, and I need about twenty napkins to get through the experience, not including extra napkins if I plan on typing notes for this blog. I can say that the Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich did stay together with minimal leakage. The bread was strong enough to keep everything in one place and soak up the sauce to ensure it didn’t get on my hands.

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As mentioned above, the Sriracha Spicy Chicken Sandwich was hot, but not overwhelmingly so. It was a well put together sandwich where everything made sense (except the onion) and worked together to make a really good eating experience. Though the use of the Sriracha makes this a gimmick item that will never become a permanent staple of the menu, I do hope it’s brought back for return engagements in the future so anyone who likes the Spicy Chicken Sandwich but wants something a bit spicier can give this a try. If you’re in a Wendy’s and see this on the menu, it is definitely worth your time.

Days like today are why I started this blog. Today’s item was the most requested post I’ve had since I started the blog (yes, I will take requests within reason). Even I was curious how the hell they were going to pull this off. Without further adieu, today, I review Taco Bell’s Naked Chicken Chalupa.

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I’m late to this party, since I was abroad when it was released (see the Burger King Italian Stacker post). Needless to say, I was incredibly excited for the chance to finally try this Frankenstein. I had flashbacks to KFC’s Double Down, which used fried chicken as the ‘bread’ on a sandwich. Taco Bell was going for the same experience, except they weren’t filling the ‘chalupa shell’ with any meat: just veggies and sauce.

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Taco Bell describes the Naked Chicken Chalupa as “a Chalupa shell made of crispy, marinated all-white meat chicken and filled … with crispy lettuce, diced tomatoes, cheese and avocado ranch sauce.” The Naked Chicken Chalupa is $2.99 on its own, pricy for a Taco Bell item, or $5 for a box, which comes with the chalupa, a Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos taco, crunchy taco and medium soda. I ordered the box, plus an extra crunchy taco, because I can’t help myself.

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Before we begin, a quick note: as I wrote the post, I kept alternating between taco/chalupa in describing the food. It is technically called a chalupa, but we all know this is a chicken taco. Don’t be confused.

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The tacos all came in a literal box. When I opened the box and took out the Chalupa (shiny wrapper in the picture), I was struck by how small it was. I think the price relative to the Taco Bell menu, tricked me into thinking this would be larger than it is. Upon taking it out of the wrapping, I was impressed by the breading on the chicken. It had a nice color, and it smelled fantastic. I sized it up, then tried to figure out how to eat it. Yes, I know how to eat it a taco, but it was presented in the cardboard taco holder that the Doritos Locos Taco comes in, which makes it a little awkward to eat. Also, the shell is chicken, which is stiffer than a normal tortilla. When I tried to pick it up, the tomatoes perched on top kept spilled out.

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Eventually, I took my first bite, which was only chicken. It was quite crunchy and was well-seasoned with some spice. The chicken was slightly dry, but I’m going to be grading the meat on a curve here (no pun intended) because to fashion chicken into this shape, I’m sure we’re working with some unnatural additives to the meal.

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My first two bites were only lettuce and chicken. The cheese coverage was lacking, and the aforementioned tomatoes were laying on the table. The lettuce helped to cool some of the spice, which came in handy later, but otherwise, this was just eating some good-tasting, oddly-shaped chicken. By my third bite, I got some of the avocado ranch sauce. It had a light green hue and really went well with the taco. I didn’t really get an avocado taste, but maybe it was just for color purposes. Regardless, I may not love ranch dressing, but it does well when tastefully applied to fried chicken.

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The weird part of the experience is eating a taco with an iceberg lettuce filling. As mentioned above, a lot of my tomatoes fell out, and what little cheese there was was concentrated at the top. With the sauce in the heel of the chicken shell, that meant a lot of chicken and lettuce bites. Those two ingredients are fine, and the chicken definitely carries the flavor of the whole thing, but it would have been nice to have something else in there. My immediate thought was bacon. Any other viable (i.e. available at Taco Bell) meat wouldn’t pair well with the chicken, but bacon would add a different, smoky taste, and extra crunch. I wouldn’t be shocked if this the Naked Chicken Chalupa is released with bacon at some point. The other drawback: I wouldn’t have been opposed to more of the sauce. I didn’t add any sauce on my mown, and since the chicken was a little dry for me, more sauce would have helped.

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As I continued eating, and this seems to be a recurring theme here, is the creeping spice. About halfway through the taco, I needed a soda break, and I definitely felt the heat over the last half of the taco. While on the subject of the shell, the fried chicken held its shape as I ate. It didn’t break or get soggy. The coating didn’t crack and fall to the table. It was really well done.

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Obviously, the easy comparison here is the Double Down, but this is served in a manageable portion. I can understand someone looking at the Double Down and thinking it’s too gross and they didn’t want to/couldn’t eat it. Because of the smaller size here, that’s not valid.

I mentioned at the top that my first impression was that this was smaller than I anticipated. Despite its stature, it was really filling. After finishing the Naked Chicken Chalupa, I realized that I had three more tacos to eat and felt a pang of regret. I ate those tacos, but I didn’t need to order beyond the box. This was really good and unlike other items where I’ve liked them, but they wouldn’t supplant my usual order, if I was at a Taco Bell tomorrow, this would take the place of my usual order. Go for the curiosity, the Instagram likes or the gluttony and don’t be afraid, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The Naked Chicken Chalupa is worth your time, if only to say you ate it. Also, no bread, so less carbs, you’re doing your body a favor!

Bonus Fast Food Connoisseur Spouse Review: This one is good because of the chicken.

 

 

In honor of Chinese New Year, we’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled posts to review another fast food item from China! I’ve spent far too much time in my life in Shanghai Pudong Airport, but one advantage to flying from that location is that it contains one of the few Burger Kings I’ve seen in China. Since I’m usually flying back to the United States from Pudong, it’s a tradition of mine to fill up at the local BK before hopping on a 10-15 hour flight, and this past week was no different.

Looking over the menu, there were two items which are not currently available at U.S. locations: a Spicy Whopper and an Italian Stacker. Since I guessed the Spicy Whopper was just a burger with some hot sauce, I though the Italian Stacker would make for a better post, so that was my choice.

The Italian Stacker is offered with up to four patties on the burger. I opted for the single version, which only had one burger patty. The sandwich was 23 RMB alone or 40 RMB for a meal, which came with a medium fries and medium soda. The meal price increased 8 RMB for each additional beef patty, which seemed reasonable enough.

Upon ordering the sandwich, I had literally no idea what to expect. I couldn’t access wifi in the airport, so I couldn’t do any research on the sandwich beforehand. In fact, I still don’t actually have an official description of the sandwich. A cursory Google search returned no results, and not even Wikipedia includes a mention of the Italian Stacker in its article on the BK Stacker (someone should edit that- is this blog credible enough to serve as a source?).

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Anyway, the picture on the menu looked like there was some sauce and bacon and cheese. I noticed that this location offered chili fries (which were called spicy meat sauce fries) and I hoped that this chili was not going to serve as Italian tomato sauce. I … was wrong.

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Upon opening the wrapper, the burger looked a little small, but I did order the single, which is the equivalent of a regular cheeseburger. It had the regular sesame bun and the patty looked like a regular American burger. It smelled like bacon, which gave me some hope for a good experience. I lifted the top bun, and the insides looked kinda gross. The sauce definitely looked like the chili, and the bacon was not typical American style crispy bacon: it was wide cut and soggy.

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I picked up the burger and it was a tad messy and soggy from the sauce. My first bite had an overwhelming bacon taste. I wish it had been crispy though. On the second bite, I realized the sauce was definitely chili, but it had a slightly off taste. It was a thin tomato sauce with chunks of ground beef. It could have used some more seasoning, especially salt, and maybe some spice. I thought I taste a hint of oregano, but that may have been wish casting. Instead, the main seasoning seemed to be diced onions. Perhaps it’s my personal taste in not liking onions, but the sauce seemed to get more oniony as I continued eating.

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Other than the bacon, cheese and chili, nothing else was on the burger. Luckily the bacon carried most of the taste when it was in a bite, because I was not a big fan of that chili. The burger itself had that same flame-grilled (TM!) taste you’re used to, but it was smaller than the bun. There was a good amount of bacon on the burger, and it did start to overwhelm the patty at times. I think if I’d gotten at least a double, the beef would have stood up better

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The best bites of the burger were where the sauce ended up melting the cheese, so they combined into a gooey, cheesy sauce. It helped to hide the strong onion flavor, and it paired really well with the burger and bacon. Towards the end, I tried to create as many of those bites as possible, but there was only a single slice of cheese to work with.

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As a novelty item, this was fine. I probably shouldn’t; have expected a semi-authentic tomato sauce, and I’m guessing I, and other foreigners, would be more receptive to the taste if it was marketed as a chili cheese burger, and not something with Italian flavor. I’d also prefer crispy bacon, but that’s probably asking too much. I would be interested in an actual Italian burger (free idea Burger King!), having tomato sauce paired with provolone. But until that’s a reality, I’ll probably stick to a safer choice next time I’m in China.

The first post of 2017 is also the first time I’ve visited Sonic on official blog business! Sonic’s reputation has long cast a farther shadow that its geographic reach. Sonic originated in southern areas because its drive in model was more conducive to warmer temperatures. Before this trip, I’d only eaten Sonic in places like Texas, California and Florida, because those climes were more suitable for year round drive-in sales. However, Sonic has recently made a push northward. Though we’ve seen their commercials for years, the chain has opened several locations in Massachusetts over the last several years. The franchise I visited had a much larger inside seating area, perhaps to compensate for people who didn’t want to sit in their cars in December or January, eating fast food.

My personal experiences have unfortunately been less than fulfilling. They boast an amazing milkshake and slush selection (Cherry Ocean Water!), but their insistence on slathering mayo on burgers and the discomfort of gorging on fast food while sitting in a parked car generally turn me away from the experience. This particular trip exacerbated the parked car predicament because it was cold, so not only was I in the car, but the windows were rolled up, creating a humid greenhouse of grease.

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Anyway, the first review from this trip will be Sonic’s Garlic Parmesan Boneless Wings. The boneless wings are “100% all white meat chicken … tossed in a buttery garlic parmesan sauce.” I ordered them as a side order to go with my meal, and it was $4.69 for six pieces. I thought that was insanely expensive until I actually received my order. These were not sized as a side order, so I got to overeat!

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My first impression of the wings was the smell. The odor was slightly sweet, like a packaged Italian dressing. When I pulled the box from the bag, I saw the wings were drenched in sauce, which is not how I generally like to order my fried chicken, but I should have known what I was ordering (I’m still angry at Denny’s in Reno for doing this to me unexpectedly). The problem is that it makes the wings soggy. The purpose of fried chicken in any form is that great crunch, and drenching the batter in sauce just makes it heavy and wet. It also created an acute problem with this particular meal because I had a burger to eat, so I couldn’t just concentrate on finishing the wings first. I decided to eat a wing first to get the proper experience, then alternate between the chicken and burger, which goes against my particular eating habits.

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The wings came with a plastic fork, which is weird for boneless wings; they should be finger food. I used the fork to pick up a wing to protect my hands from the sauce and make transitioning between the boneless wings and burger a seamless process. Of course, the thick breading combined with the weak structural integrity of a plastic fork to break one of the tines. That’s only the second time I’ve ever broken a plastic fork. When I finally got to eat the boneless wings, the taste was pretty good. The initial bites were still crispy, despite the sauce. The sauce itself was like a creamy Italian dressing, like a mid-range bottle. Nothing too fancy like Paul Newman, more like Wishbone. It was pleasant at first, but did get monotonous because none of the bites were sans sauce. It was tough to suss out the breading flavor from the dressing, but the wings at least looked well seasoned with pepper in the breading

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The chicken chunks were pretty big. I don’t regularly order boneless wings, but I’d compare them to thicker, more natural looking chicken nuggets. They were all white meat, and surprisingly juicy for a fast food boneless wing. In a genre of cuisine where the protein mainly serves as a sauce delivery vehicle, these more than hold their own. Of course, getting six large pieces of chicken as a side order was too much food, and I wish they had a smaller option.

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The two biggest issues with the Garlic Parmesan boneless wings were self inflicted: 1) despite my best efforts, I can only eat so fast, especially when taking notes and pictures, so they got too soggy and were kinda gross when I was only halfway through the order and 2) the burger I was also eating was quite spicy, and it definitely affected the flavor of the wings.

Overall, these were fine. It was a larger portion than I expected, but if I hadn’t ordered anything else, that would have been a plus. I initially liked the sauce, but if pressed to order again, I’d choose another flavor since I generally prefer hot sauce if I’m going to sauce chicken. I’d also ask for the sauce on the side because the chicken really didn’t need a sauce. So if you’re looking for a fast food chicken option that has good taste, decent sauce, and feels like eating real chicken, these are worth your time, though it seems the sauces are cycled every few months.

Bonus Fast Food Connoisseur Spouse Review: They looked good, but [I] didn’t like the taste. They were too salty and the sauce had a weird flavor.

I love fried potatoes in any form. Waffled and hashed, shoe stringed and tatered, you name it, I’m eating it. Tater tots, in particular, are really underutilized by restaurants. When done right, their increased surface area is optimized for crunchiness, and the insides can have more of a potato taste than regular fries. Of course, they can be done horribly wrong (re: anything frozen), but tots are amazing when done right. When I saw that Burger King was bringing them back (with cheese!), I was all in for an eating experience.

Unfortunately, Burger King’s ad campaign for this product featured the terrible movie, Napoleon Dynamite. I understand the connection since they were (grossly) prominent in the movie, but I was hoping anyone who actually liked that movie ten years ago had long ago realized it was boring and not funny and wouldn’t feel shame, not nostalgia for that period in their lives. Burger King is betting I’m wrong.

Burger King’s Cheesy Tots will not receive a description because 1) they’re cheesy tater tots, there’s no ad speak that could really dress these up and 2) there is no description currently on Burger King’s site because they may have already been discontinued. We’ll proceed as if they haven’t, because maybe they’ll come back some day. They cost $1.89 before tax as a side order, and that portion gives you seven tots. The tater tots arrive in a box, which was unexpected, and classier than the greasy paper bag that I expected to receive.

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I opened the box, and was confused. Each tot looked like a fried ball/fritter or a golden brown hockey puck, not like an actual tater tot. My first bite was not good. They somehow tasted stale, which should have been impossible since I ate them the week they were released, but it seemed as if they had been sitting in a box for the past year.

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That stale taste formed a formidable duo with the lack of crunch. An uncrunchy tater tot. The one thing you need to do right! For something that looked battered and fried, the texture was as if someone had baked these at a low temperature to get them hot. It reminded me of eating crappy leftovers.

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The cheese in the middle of the tots was a Velveeta-like product. I’m not a huge fan of that taste, so that wasn’t a compliment. Because the tot itself was limp and flavorless, the cheese overwhelmed the potato and it felt like a fried cheese ball. Once again, not a compliment.

If you’ve made it pretty far, it’s evident this was not enjoyable. Without looking back through the archives, the cheesy tots are one of, if not the worst products I’ve eaten for this blog. They somehow managed to be stale, overly cheesy, grease bombs. I did not eat all seven and barely finished half the order. It appears these are no longer available, and I implore Burger King not to return these to the menu unless there’s a new recipe.

Thanksgiving is over. There are no more leaves left on the trees. And it snowed last week. It’s officially the Christmas/holiday season. While Dunkin’ Donuts jumped the gun with the release of one of their holiday themed donuts, they can be excused. I’m a Thanksgiving aficionado, but that holiday is harder to commercialize, so it gets ignored by most stores. However, now that I’m in the holiday spirit, we can discuss Dunkin’s Candy Cane Crunch Donut.

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As with the Reese’s Peanut Butter Square , this is a premium donut, and is accordingly priced at $1.09. Upon first glance, the donut was quite bright. It was topped with white frosting, dotted with candy cane shards, as if someone had smashed a candy cane on top of the donut while somehow managing to maintain the structural integrity of a donut with cream filling. My other immediate thought was the damage those shards were going to wreak upon my teeth, because I’m an old man.

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Before I took my first bite, I inhaled, and the aroma was a mix of vanilla and peppermint. My first taste combined those two flavors. The candy cane pieces were crunchy and sweet. Luckily, they were also easy to bite through and not ruinous to my teeth. The texture to the candy was thankfully softer than a regular candy cane, giving some resistance without me worrying about yanking out my teeth.

The donut had a minty after taste, as the candy flavor outlasted the vanilla from the frosting. I tasted some of the candy cane shards on their own, and they tasted legit. This donut will fulfill your December candy cane lust, while also satiating your donut needs… if you have such feelings.

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Once again, there was a problem with the filling distribution. I can’t remember the last time I had a properly filled donut from Dunkin’, and I’m starting to think this is the new normal, and a properly filled donut would be an anomaly. I got around halfway through the donut before I reached any filling. When I finally reached the cream (or maybe it was frosting), it was incredibly sweet, with a vanilla taste. After longing for the filling, I have to admit that I actually preferred the fillingless half of the donut. Luckily, on the filling side, it was only a thin layer. The donut itself was great. It was soft and fresh and helped prevent the whole thing from becoming too sweet.

In case you couldn’t tell, I really liked the Candy Cane Crunch Donut. I walk by a Dunkin’ every morning on the way to work, and based on its prominent placement behind the counter, and its bright color, it beckons me every morning. The minty taste gets me in the holiday feeling, frosting is awesome, and the filling was tolerable. If you like the combination of vanilla and peppermint, or are intrigued, give it a shot. You probably have around another month to do so.

My earliest memories of Wendy’s was that it was different. Growing up in Massachusetts, we weren’t exactly blessed with a plethora of fast food options. While I could watch TV and see commercials of all these new and strange places, the local fare was fairly standard: McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and Wendy’s. I didn’t see a Taco Bell until I was teenager (so deprived, I know). While offering subtle differences, McDonald’s and Burger King basically sold the same thing, and KFC was the fried chicken place (when they started serving Crispy Chicken Strips, my mind was blown).

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Wendy’s, on the other hand, was always different: square burgers, the salad bar, chili. For whatever reason, I ate my first chili at Wendy’s, and then used that to experience my first chili and cheese fries. Before it became a new market to penetrate to make up for flagging sales as Americans tried to eat healthier, Wendy’s was already aboard the salad train. So when Wendy’s started airing commercial recently advertising the return of the Taco Salad, I was intrigued.

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Wendy’s Taco Salad is “topped with … chili, shredded cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, chunky salsa, and yellow corn tortilla rounds.” It looked delicious in the commercials… or at least as delicious as a fast food salad can look. When ordering, Wendy’s offers the Taco Salad in regular and half portions, which was fantastic for me, as I could sample the salad without letting my whole meal ride on liking it. The half portion is $4.29 and the full sized option is $6.29.

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I was confused when my order, which also included a grilled chicken sandwich meal (post coming soon!), came in four bags. It seemed (and was) wasteful, and I didn’t know why I needed two hands to grab my small order. Well, the Taco Salad is served disassembled. That’s right, the commercial is even more deceiving than usual! Sure, you can make a delicious taco salad, but to get it looking like the ad, it’ll take you about ten minutes, and you’re too hungry for that. I complain about this with Subway, and I’ll do it here too: serve what you’re advertising. If I want it custom made, then I’ll let you know, but I shouldn’t have to assemble my own salad.

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Anyway, the lettuce, tomatoes and cheese were in one bowl. I got a tub of salsa, a tube of sour cream, a small bag of tortilla chips, and a small portion of chili, filled halfway. I put all the ingredients in the bowl except the tortilla chips. Originally I wanted them to line the outside of the bowl, like the commercial, but I realized 1) that was going to take a lot of effort and 2) that was impractical for eating purposes. I wound up crushing them into small pieces and mixing them up with everything else.

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I’ll run through the items one by one, then go into how everything tasted together. First off, the chili was disappointing. It was extremely liquid without much meat or beans. It served as the de facto dressing of the salad… if a meat stew can do such a thing. It was a much better sauce than the salsa, which was thick and tasted really oniony. Fans of the blog already know that I generally despise onions, so the salsa was really off putting. The taste was strong enough that as soon as I tasted a bite, I immediately knew whether it contained salsa. The sour cream honestly didn’t have much of a taste, and I mainly used it to mix with the chili and salsa. The vegetables seemed fresh: lettuce was green and crunchy and tomatoes had real texture.

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Eating everything combined, the hot chili melted the cheese and made it nice and gooey. It went really well with the salad. Aside from the salsa bites, I really enjoyed this. With so many different ingredients, it was easy to switch up the flavor in each forkful so it didn’t get repetitive. Also, meat dressing is really good. I highly recommend it.

There were some issues though. It was extremely salty for a salad, which makes sense since everything in it was probably loaded with sodium. The tortilla chips were also an awkward addition. I mentioned before that I tried to crumble them into the salad, like a flat crouton, but getting pieces along with other elements of the salad was difficult, and the chip edges were sharp. They wound up being most useful when I just used them to scoop up parts of the salad, like a nacho.

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For a half a salad, the Taco Salad is a good portion. I don’t regret trying it, though to be honest, I’m not sure when I would actually order it again. If I’m eating fast food, I want fries, and I didn’t like this enough to order it as the main portion of a meal. I think if I wanted a Taco Salad, I’d go to a place that would make one for me, and not ask me to put it together. I really enjoyed this after I started using the tortilla chips as nachos, but again, if I wanted nachos, I’d go to a place that specializes in them. I also wouldn’t order chili salad nachos. So this definitely was not a fail, and if you’re curious, try it while they’re still serving it, but it does have limited appeal.