Archives for posts with tag: Cheese

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.

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.

After checking in on the Reese’s Peanut Butter Square, it’s time to continue Dunkin’ Donuts week with their Belgian Waffle Breakfast Sandwich. As someone who went through most of my life ignoring the fact that breakfast existed and only eating it when absolutely necessary, the revelation that a well-made and constructed breakfast sandwich is truly an amazing thing came to me later in life. While I still can find quibble with portions (there’s never enough bacon to justify ordering bacon as the meat instead of sausage and it’s amazing how many calories are packed into a reasonably sized sandwich), I look forward to any chance when I can eat a good breakfast sandwich (or burrito).

When I saw that Dunkin’ Donuts had rolled out a waffle sandwich, it was only a matter of time before I gave it a shot. While the sticker on the door also showed a non-breakfast option with chicken*, I knew I’d be going breakfast on this one.

*I have actually eaten a chicken patty from Dunkin’ Donuts. I would not advise others to do so. It’s not terrible, but because they don’t have a fryer in-house, it tastes like a frozen chicken patty that you decided to microwave instead of bake because who the hell has 45 minutes to bake a frozen chicken patty just so it can be crispy?

The Dunkin’ Belgian Waffle Breakfast Sandwich contains “Cherrywood Smoked Bacon, American Cheese and Egg, between two delicious Belgian waffles.” The sandwich is priced at $3.99 on its own. It is available as a meal with your choice of beverage, but because there’s so much variation there, I didn’t write the price down. I got mine with a large iced coffee, pushing the cost over $7.

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When unwrapping the sandwich, I had two immediate impressions: 1) the sandwich was kinda small and 2) it smelled absolutely fantastic. Like better than McDonald’s hotcakes fantastic, and I think McDonald’s hotcakes (or do they call them pancakes now?) are probably the best smelling fast food. If they tasted half as good as they smelled, I’d eat them at least once a week. Anyway, back on topic, the sandwich smelled great. A sweet aroma, without being too sweet, with a hint of bacon. They could sell this as a cologne. People would buy it and be hungry all the time.

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Examining the sandwich… the waffle was floppy, which was disappointing. This comes back to my discussion of Dunkin’ chicken above: because they only have limited appliances with which to cook food, it’s tough to get things crispy. While I wouldn’t have wanted a super crispy waffle, it would have been nice if it had some resistance and maybe changed the texture of the sandwich, instead of relying solely on the bacon to do so.

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Floppiness aside, my first bite was pretty good.  The waffle was very good, it had a sweet taste that was definitely satisfying. The egg certainly tasted real and I had no complaints. I did get bacon in that bite as well, but there wasn’t a lot of bacon on the sandwich. The bacon was thin, so you could get some porky smokiness, but the dominant flavor of the sandwich was the waffle, egg, and cheese. It had a good taste, but the sandwich really would have been better served with more bacon. Considering the size of the sandwich, they could probably have a sufficient amount by using two full slices and cutting/folding them to cover the whole interior. There’s no good reason why they couldn’t add more and keep it around the same price.

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As I continued eating, the cheese melted and adding some moisture to the sandwich, but I think it would have been better served with an actual sauce. I could see a little drizzle of syrup and/or some hot sauce really livening up the experience. The flavors would go well, and the sandwich wouldn’t be as dry.

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I would eat the Belgian Waffle Breakfast Sandwich if I was at Dunkin’ and smelled those damn waffles. Surprisingly, considering its size, I was satisfied after I finished. I ate around 11am and wound up skipping lunch that day, which I didn’t expect. I liked the egg, the waffle had a great taste and smell, and the bacon and cheese added just enough salt and texture to make this a win. I’d probably add my own syrup or hot sauce, but that’s an easy fix, and I’d rather add my own syrup than see the sandwich drenched in it. The only qualification is the price. I have a hard time seeing value in a sandwich and iced coffee costing over $7, but if that doesn’t bother you and/or you’re feeling particularly flush in the wallet, then I’d give this a shot.

 

Oh boy, this is exciting. Usually, fast food restaurants use Columbus, Ohio and other middle America locations as test markets for new concepts. I don’t quite understand why, but I’m sure the marketing department says the demographics are favorable, or something like that. Sometimes that changes to California or New York if it’s more upmarket. But Boston never gets new products before they’re available to the general public, which is unfortunate because it would really help this blog (and pique my own personal interest) if we got to try products before they were available to the general public. Well, today the fast food gods have smiled upon your humble author and Wendy’s is using Massachusetts and Tennessee as the test market for their Truffle Bacon Cheeseburger.

I originally went to Wendy’s to try the new Grilled Chicken Sandwich, but as soon as I saw the large placard advertising the Truffle Bacon Cheeseburger, as well as Bacon Truffle Fries, I knew my true dinner destiny. I don’t have an official description of the burger since it is not listed on the Wendy’s site, but this article mentions the limited release as well the as the ingredients which are “a beef patty topped with mixed greens, Applewood smoked bacon, truffle aioli, Parmesan cheese sauce, tomato, and cheese” on “a buttery croissant bun.” A meal cost $7.09 and the burger alone was $4.99, so this isn’t cheap. The Bacon Truffle Fries were $2.29 as a side and were offered as an upgrade to a meal for an extra $0.75, which I thought was a great idea, and almost led to me ordering just the fries and getting that Grilled Chicken Sandwich, but of course I didn’t.

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The food came out pretty quickly and my first impression was that Wendy’s now puts burgers in boxes! Usually they come in that weird foil that always gets greasy (and I like Wendy’s burgers but they’re insanely greasy and come with mayo so I rarely eat them), but the box is a nice touch to keep it neat. The only problem with the box is that this sandwich is so big that I had a hard time picking it up because there wasn’t enough space for my fingers. I don’t have tiny hands, folks!

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After I figured out how to pick up the sandwich, I could examine it. The croissant looked flaky and smelled like butter, but wasn’t greasy or slippery, a huge bonus for someone who needs to use his phone to type notes as he eats. Thanks to Wendy’s for looking out for us fast food bloggers. Anyway, the croissant also had enough heft to it to stand up to the burger and not fall apart as I ate, which was a distinct fear of mine before I ordered.

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My first bite was weird. I don’t usually eat croissants and I definitely have never had a croissant burger, so the croissant taste/texture combined with beef was unfamiliar. My second bite was better as I got used to the beef and croissant combo, and I seemed to get all the ingredients. It tasted like a fancy bacon cheeseburger, and everything seemed to come together well.

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On its own, the Parmesan cheese sauce tasted like a Caesar dressing, which I can’t believe I’ve never had on a burger before. I’m guessing the truffle aioli was also represented in that taste, since I couldn’t see two distinct sauces, so I assume they were the same color. I don’t know what specific leaves actually composed the mixed greens, but I know they seemed like things I would normally put into a sandwich. They looked and tasted fresh and made the burger feel fancier. Usually fast food places don’t pay much attention to the lettuce, putting a crappy piece of Iceberg which doesn’t belong and tastes terrible, if it has a taste, on a sandwich. But the inclusion of these greens was a great choice especially if, as the linked article above mentions, Wendy’s is going for an upscale bistro burgerish vibe. The tomato also didn’t fall apart and added heft to the sandwich. I’ve now written more words on vegetables here than on every post on this site combined.

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Going back to the croissant, as mentioned before, it did not fall apart as I ate. I’m not usually a big fan of croissants, but it worked for me here. It was light enough that I didn’t feel gross eating which is essentially butter bread with a bacon cheeseburger. I’m not sure how people who like croissants would feel, but it worked for me.

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The beef patty itself is a generic Wendy’s burger. The beef is fine and well seasoned. The Applewood smoked bacon is also a standard Wendy’s feature at this point. The put a good amount of bacon on the burger, so almost every bite had some bacon. It had a good smoky taste and was cooked perfectly for me: it wasn’t burnt to a crisp, but also wasn’t floppy. The few bites without bacon definitely suffered from a lack of bacon.

This is a limited item which may never see a wider release, but I hope it does. If the aim here was for an upscale pub style burger at a fast food price, I think they hit a home run. If you swapped out a Wendy’s patty for some high quality beef, I would absolutely pay $10+ for this burger. Every ingredient complemented each other and added to the experience. The burger just felt fresh and good.

There are only two downsides that I saw. First, it was sloppy. Wendy’s burgers just can’t stay composed and by the end it was definitely messy and I was working to keep everything together. Second, this is a bacon cheeseburger on a damn croissant. It may as well come with a defibrillator. Adding on a small box of fries (plus some spicy chicken nuggets…), and I definitely needed to walk most of the way home after finishing my meal. But if you grab some extra napkins and plan a workout session, the Truffle Bacon Cheeseburger is definitely worth your time and stomach space if it appears near you.

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Moving on to the Part II of the Taco Bell Cheesy Core Burrito Series, now we’re focused on the Spicy Cheesy Core Burrito (see the Crunchy Cheesy Core Burrito review here). Pricing is the same for the Spicy Cheesy Core Burrito as it is for the Crunchy Cheesy Core Burrito: $2.29 (ground beef), $3.09 (chicken), and $3.29 (steak). It can also be ordered in a box for $6.39 and comes with a Doritos Locos Taco, a crunchy taco and a soda. To make the comparison easier, I also selected the ground beef option for this offering.

I went to Taco Bell’s site to get the official description, but the page has already been taken down, so perhaps they have already moved on from the Cheesy Core Burrito series. I’ll focus on the ingredients which made an impression, which should hit everything important.

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The first impression upon picking up the burrito was its heaviness, similar to the Crunchy Cheesy Core Burrito. My first few bites were heavy on the seasoned beef, which was a nice departure from the other burrito. I got a few hints of jalapeño in those bites. I wouldn’t describe it initially as spicy, but just the taste of the pepper itself. I finally grabbed a jalapeño to taste it on its own, and it was a typical pickled jalapeño that you can find in any supermarket. If you like jalapeño peppers or eaten basic stadium nachos before, you know what these taste like. I was a little disappointed, but I’m not sure why I was hoping for fresh jalapeño peppers at Taco Bell. The only textural difference in the burrito came from these jalapeños. I wouldn’t call them crunchy, but there was some bite to them.

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As I continued eating, I realized this burrito is pretty spicy. I never felt like any bites were too hot for my palate, but eating a bunch of pickled jalapeños in one sitting will raise your temperature a few degrees, so the burrito definitely delivered on its spicy promise. When I put down the burrito to jot down some notes, I actually felt a little flush and needed my drink to cool off.

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Unfortunately for the Spicy Cheesy Core Burrito, any bites which didn’t include either beef or jalapeño pepper was quite bland. It seems like the rice and cheese should be the same as in the Crunchy Cheesy Core Burrito, but they didn’t really have a taste. Maybe the spice from the jalapeños masked it? Luckily, the ingredient coverage on this particular burrito was good, so I didn’t get too many of those bland bites. I also didn’t really have any bites that were only tortilla.

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One problem, which the Crunchy Cheesy Core Burrito also suffered from, was that the ingredients weren’t really blended together, and I think this is a problem with the basic concept of what they’re selling. By wrapping the tortilla to create this cheesy core, it pretty much divides the burrito. When eating, I can have a cheese and rice bite, or a cheese and meat bite. Bites containing every ingredient were rare. Though they were good, I had way too many bland cheese and rice bites.

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The Spicy Cheesy Core Burrito was fine. I know that’s not much of a conclusion, but I don’t have too much to say about it. When everything came together, I thought it was good, but that didn’t happen often enough. It also greatly suffered in comparison with the Crunchy Cheesy Core Burrito, which I ate right before. The chips were a big difference and I really liked eating that one more. If you really want spiciness, then I’d just order the Crunchy Cheesy Core Burrito and get some hot sauce on it. Maybe sneak in some pickled jalapeño in your pocket if you’re feeling particularly frisky.

 

I interrupt the scheduled Taco Bell post because of the huge anticipation for Burger King’s newest creation: Cheetos Chicken Fries. These seemed to take inspiration from the Doritos Locos Tacos: a junk food mashup that would add an extra layer of flavor to an already existing product. They’ve currently featured in an ad campaign and mentions of this creation are all over social media, and not just because people now send me fast food news (thanks!). Once I learned these were soon to be sold, they immediately jumped the line and had to be the next item I ate. The eating experience also prompted me to jump this post to the top of the pile because… well, you’ll see below.

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I’m a huge fan of fried chicken in pretty much any form. My default order at most fast food locations is nuggets/tenders/fried chicken sandwich. That being said, I’ve never been a huge fan of Burger King’s Chicken Fries. Birthed from a type of food that is generally processed and doesn’t feel natural, Chicken Fries stand out even more. They don’t particularly taste like chicken, they aren’t well seasoned, and eating them gets kinda boring. Chicken Fries exist to serve as a vehicle for whatever dipping sauce you want to consume and to provide a satisfying crunch. My hope was that the Cheetos dust would actually make the Chicken Fries good. More care should be put into making the chicken taste like chicken, and cheese dust is good! Taco Bell proved that, right?

Burger King says that “Cheetos Chicken Fries are made with white meat chicken like original Chicken Fries, and are covered in a crispy Cheetos-flavored breading.” I opted for a medium sized meal, which was $5.39 and came with nine Cheetos Chicken Fries. You can order the fries alone for $2.99. I was a little disappointed that nine is the minimum amount. I’d prefer an option for six, but maybe since this is a limited time item, BK is going for volume. I also chose to get BBQ sauce, just to see how they would pair with a sauce.

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I got to my table, sat down, opened my special Cheetos Chicken Fries box and my initial reaction was… CONFUSION! Based on the commercials and having eaten Cheetos more than once in my life, I expected these to be a bright orange. I also expected Cheetos dust like the Doritos Locos Taco. These were dark brown. There was no dust. I actually thought they had given me the wrong order. I double checked my receipt, then Googled Cheetos Chicken Fries to see a photo to make sure I actually received the correct food.

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I bit into my first Cheetos Chicken Fry and my initial reaction was … CONFUSION! It did not taste like Cheetos. I really thought there was a chance I had the wrong order. Still. I decided to keep eating, and I started to at least get a salty-ish taste, which I’m guessing was the special breading. Still didn’t taste like Cheetos, cheese, or really anything other than salt. I bit into the breading alone. Salt. It did have a slight orange hue though, so I guess that proves that Cheetos at some point were used in the product. They also kinda smelled like Cheetos (Yes, I sat in a food court smelling Chicken Fries. Don’t judge me.).

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The Cheetos Chicken Fries also suffered from the same issues as original Chicken Fries: they were incredibly dry and at no point did I feel like I was eating chicken. When I used the BBQ sauce, these were okay, but that’s only because the BBQ sauce was okay, it was all I tasted.

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I ate all the fries, chicken and potato, and was still a little hungry afterwards. Eating was a monotonous experience. All the bites taste the same and all the bites are mediocre at best. The problem with both concept and execution: Original Chicken Fries are terrible! We’re starting with a flawed concept, then Burger King and Cheetos half assed this concoction. No Cheetos dust. No real Cheetos taste. No real cheese taste. No fake cheese taste. If executives at Cheetos actually tasted and signed off on the product I ate, they should be embarrassed by this blatant cash grab. How can this food item be so dispiriting when they had a positive example in front of them from Taco Bell, which has been on the market for years! There’s no need to rush this out to capitalize on their buzz! Make a good product, or at least try to make a good product.

I sat in a food court with Taco Bell, Panda Express, D’Angelo’s, and Sarku Japan and ate these things. I’m still angry they ruined what could have been a perfectly good lunch. These were terrible and are a waste of menu space as long as they last.

Taco Bell, along with Jack in the Box, have done the heavy lifting in pulling fast food chains towards more inventive fare. They had the Doritos Locos taco. Their breakfast menu changed the fast food breakfast game. In short, they’re always looking to push the envelope and see how far people can go. Sure, some of that is pandering towards millennials and looking for that perfect Instagram/Snapchat worthy food, but there is a certain nobility in going crazy and seeing what tastes good, as opposed to ideas that need to be sent to the glue factory. There is no Whopperito, without Taco Bell, and do we want to live in a world without the Whopperito? Instead of going upmarket and seeking to cater to a more health conscious clientele, Taco Bell doubles down on what they know best.

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That being said, I was happy to see commercials for the new Cheesy Core Burritos, giving me an excuse to head to Taco Bell and get some solid #content for the blog. The Cheesy Core Burritos come at three price points, depending on your choice of protein: $2.29 (ground beef), $3.09 (chicken), and $3.29 (steak). You can also get a box for $6.39 which includes a Cheesy Core Burrito, Doritos Locos Taco, crunchy taco, and soda. I opted for the ground beef individual burrito, since I was eating two… and going to Burger King after this. In the interest of full disclosure, I also ordered a crunchy taco, which was delicious but completely unnecessary (Taco Bell also has a new Diablo sauce, which seems to have replaced fire. I’m not a fan. It tastes bitter.).

Taco Bell describes the Crunchy Cheesy Core Burrito as “a warm melted 3-Cheese blend, warm Nacho Cheese sauce and Crunchy Red Strips. With a melty, cheesy center surrounded by Seasoned Beef, Premium Latin Rice, Reduced-Fat Sour Cream and a flavorful Red Sauce.” Yes, they did capitalize all those words. My first reaction upon picking up the burrito was realizing that it was pretty hefty. Then I looked at all the food in front of me and realized I’d committed to consuming way too much in such a short time span. Never say I’m not dedicated.

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Anyway, this looked and was sized like a normal burrito you could get at any normal Mexican place, i.e. not an enormous way too big for one sitting Chipotle burrito. A sensible portion. My first bite was all tortilla, which is a terrible first impression, but also typical of Taco Bell burritos so it wasn’t surprising. The Crunchy Cheesy Core Burrito also had the common issue of improper distribution of ingredients. It actually felt like two different burrito experiences: half had all of the toppings, and the other half was just tortilla. I’m not sure if this meant that the tortilla was too big, or just a poor wrap job, but I wouldn’t have been pleased if this was my main food of a meal.

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Moving on to the actual taste, when I took one of those bites with all the fillings, it was good! The red chips are the differentiator between this and the Spicy Cheesy Core Burrito, and they make a huge difference. Because a burrito can run into the problem where everything has the same general texture, having the chips to provide crunch breaks up the monotony and works really well. I also made sure to eat this first, so the chips would not get soggy. If you are a slow eater, soggy chips will be a problem towards the end of the Crunchy Cheesy Core Burrito experience. The problem may have been exacerbated because I paused between every bite to take notes.

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As for the rest of the burrito, there was a lot of cheese and rice in here. Rice is a natural filler, and it was fine, if a little bland. I like rice in burritos though, so as long as it doesn’t taste bad, then I’ll view it favorably. For the cheese, I really only tasted the Nacho Cheese. As someone who is a fan of Nacho Cheese and thinks it should appear in more menu items, I liked it. I’ve never had it in a burrito before, but now that I’ve experienced it, I would not be opposed to seeing it again. The cheese gave the most flavor to the burrito because it’s in every bite. It also dominated because it seemed to be light on ground beef. I couldn’t get many composed bites because there was ground beef at the top, and at the bottom, but not really in the middle. As mentioned before, bites with all the ingredients were good! There were just too few of them.

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There was sour cream. I’m not sure why, and I don’t think it was necessary. I also made no note of the “flavorful” red sauce, so I have no comment.

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The Crunchy Cheesy Core Burrito is basically a standard Taco Bell burrito with extra cheese, so if you’ve eaten one before, you already know if you’ll like this or not. Taco Bell isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel by stuffing some more cheese and some chips inside a burrito, but I’m not complaining; it hit the spot. While I wouldn’t say one of these made me full, if you order the box or get some more items to go along with it, I think you’ll be happy. The only real complaint is the composition of the burrito, but that’s a general risk when ordering a burrito.

Finishing up Classic Connoisseur before I dive into some new eats, we’re going to talk about Checkers’ Bacon Roadhouse Burger.

The Bacon Roadhouse Burger fits the current trend of jamming a lot of ingredients into a burger to make it stand out. While I tried this shortly after it had been released, it is still a regular part of the Checkers menu today. Checkers describes it as “double seasoned beef and cheese, crispy onion tanglers, BBQ sauce, and crispy bacon. Going in, I knew this thing was going to be fully loaded.

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Upon first glance, the burger actually looked like it’d be manageable. For all of its ingredients, it was packed well together. However, looking more closely, I realize that I’m going to be handling Texas Toast, which was not in the description! I understand the appeal of adding grilled buttery bread, but it makes the sandwich almost impossible to handle. It’s going to be slippery, hands are going to be extremely greasy, and I’m going to need a mountain of napkins to get through this thing.

I also noticed mayo. There is no need for mayonnaise on this monstrosity. As mentioned before, I’m not rational when it comes to mayo, I actively dislike it. The Bacon Roadhouse already has BBQ sauce, and mayo doesn’t even fit the flavor profile of the burger. It’s just there to add calories.

Digging in to the burger, the first bite tastes like the Rodeo Cheeseburger from Burger King, which makes sense since they share many of the same ingredients. Except Burger King doesn’t add mayo. The first ingredient to stand out was the onion tanglers. They were not fresh and tasted like they’d been under a heat lamp for a while. No real crunch, and they tasted overwhelmingly of onion, without any breading or seasoning.

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Luckily, the BBQ sauce was more of a dominant flavor. It was tangy and luckily not too sweet. It would have been fine to use this on its own to dress the burger, and not use any mayo. The burger itself was also pretty good! It actually tasted like beef and wasn’t just a filler to deliver the toppings. Between the good burger and not gross cheese, I’d be fine eating a regular cheeseburger at Checkers. I also really liked their bacon. It was crispy and salty and smoky and really added to the burger.

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At this point, I should note that the burger itself was sloppily put together, so I was having a hard time getting a bite with all the ingredients. I should also mention that the burger was incredibly greasy, almost to the point of being a turn off. Eating outside in humid weather was not helping. The burger was also falling out of the Texas Toast, which I felt detracted from the sandwich. I didn’t think it added enough flavor to make up for its slipperiness and likely addition of several hundred calories. A regular bun would have been fine and made the burger easier to handle. When I finally got a bite with everything, onion tanglers aside, it was quite good! The problem was I got too few bites like that.

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Overall, the Bacon Roadhouse Burger has some serious potential and is something I’d consider ordering again. Topping a cheeseburger with bacon, BBQ sauce, and onion rings/tanglers is hard to screw up, and Checkers did a pretty good job here. I’d prefer this with a regular bun and no mayo, and would probably specialize my order in the future to make the eating experience better. Also, better execution from the kitchen in properly putting it together and using fresh onion rings would bump this up a few notches.

On our next stop of Classic Connoisseur, we’re visiting a Checkers in Florida. This trip provided two foods for me to sample. This post will tackle their Grilled Cheese Strips.

I should note that while I’ve known of Checkers pretty much my whole life, this was my first experience actually eating at one. Our location did not offer indoor seating, so the meal was eaten outside in Florida. Oppressively muggy weather and greasy food is not the best combination, but work had to be done. My first impression upon getting the bag of food was that I’d been handed a bag of grease. The bag was almost soaked through, and we did not receive enough napkins for the amount of food ordered. Also, a medium soda is 32 oz (or I was given the wrong soda size). I appreciate value, but that’s too much soda. Checkers experience aside, let’s get to the food.

The Grilled Cheese Strips are an ode to their more popular cousin, the mozzarella stick. Checkers probably figured that they could swap in some different cheese and create a familiar item, but one which is more likely to catch eyes than a traditional mozzarella stick. It did the trick for me. I’m not a huge fan of mozzarella sticks, which are really just a cheese delivery vehicle, but I like fried things and Checkers has good seasoning on their fried things, so I figured it was worth a try. I originally ate these in December 2014, and they do not appear to be on the menu any more. They had been available in four ($1.99) or six ($2.99) strip portions, which makes no sense. Most places, especially fast food restaurants, give you a discount when you order more of something. Regardless, since you can’t purchase them now, that information is irrelevant.

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The Grilled Cheese Strips were served piping hot. When looking at them, they resembled flattened mozzarella sticks, almost like someone had sucked out the cheese and just fried the breading. They had a nice golden brown color and looked crispy and well-seasoned. When I finally felt they were safe to bite, I was wrong. The cheese was basically liquefied instead the strip and I burned my tongue. Of course, that also meant my first bite was basically tasteless as I was concerned more with my scorched tongue than the cheese concoction.

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After a brief break, I tried them again, and it really did taste like a grilled cheese. The gooey orange cheese tasted like the cheap stuff you’d put on a grilled cheese you made yourself, and I mean that as a compliment. Because the strip is so thin, it maintains its crunch so it doesn’t become a gooey formless mess, like a crappy mozzarella stick. The seasoning was a bit of a let down because I really only tasted salt. If they had aggressively seasoned this with some pepper. I think that would have worked really well.

The first strip was fine to eat on its own as a curiosity, but after that the strips really could have used some sort of sauce, especially since they weren’t particularly cheap. The taste was a little monotonous and one note, and some marinara or hot sauce or dip would have elevated the side dish.

As a side item, it would be perfect to split the 4 piece with someone else. It’s a good little snack, and I think eating two without sauce is a fine portion, but I could never see myself wanting to eat six Grilled Cheese Strips at once.