Archives for posts with tag: Chicken

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.

 

 

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’ve made my feelings on Subway very clear. Somehow, the people of the U.S. disagree with me and Subway seems to be everywhere, including one right around the corner from my old office. Of course that meant that as soon as they put up posters (and aired TV ads) advertising their new rotisserie style chicken and the Chicken Caesar Melt, I was compelled to give it a taste. Going into the experience, I was cautiously optimistic: the new chicken hopefully would taste like real meat, and it’s difficult to make a bad chicken Caesar sandwich, right?

Checking Subway’s site now, it appears the Chicken Caesar Melt is no longer available (I ate it five weeks ago!). However, the new chicken is still at Subway, so this post isn’t wholly gratuitous (like this one). The new chicken is “hand-pulled all white meat chicken, raised without antibiotics.” I don’t have a description of the sandwich itself, but I can vouch that it had chicken, Caesar dressing, and vegetables, all contained within bread. It was a sandwich.

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Before I get into the actual description, I do want to compliment the worker behind the counter who took my order. When ordering, I mentioned that I was there to try the new sandwich, he enthusiastically told me he ate it yesterday and really liked it. Yes, he seemed as if he was high, but I don’t think I’ve ever received such an enthusiastic thumbs up on an order from a fast food employee before and that deserves to be recognized.

Anyway, I ordered my sandwich, but then arose a common Subway problem: the customization issue. I went to order the Chicken Caesar Melt as they intended it to be made. I don’t want to customize anything to suit my tastes, I want the company to decide on the contents of a sandwich and sell it to me. Subway does not do this. I was able to list my ingredients by looking at the picture, but I didn’t know what bread to order. I got Italian bread, which felt wrong, but I was under the gun and no natural pairing with the sandwich jumped out at me. Also, I customized the sandwich because I wasn’t going to eat raw onions.

Lastly, the price seemed expensive. It was $7.06 for a 6-inch sub and a 21-oz. soda. The sandwich itself was $4.75, but at $7, I’d like to think they could throw in a bag of chips or something.

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Now onto the sandwich! Opening up the paper wrapping, the bread looked slightly unappetizing. The bread was toasted, but didn’t look like it had any crust and it looked a little greasy. Sauce also seemed to be overflowing. I could smell the Caesar dressing, and hot Caesar dressing has a certain smell to it which is not appealing. I opened up the bread to look at the inside, and I have to say that the chicken looked like actual chicken!

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My first bite was lettuce, tomato, and dressing. It made me eat my words because the bread did have a crusty texture. My second bite actually contained some chicken. It had the correct texture and I felt like I was eating an actual chicken sandwich, as opposed to a low grade meat sandwich. When tasted on its own the chicken was a little bland. Rotisserie style isn’t necessarily the most flavorful chicken style, as it usually needs something else (seasoning, sauce) to carry the flavor. Here, Subway was heavily depending on the rest of the sandwich to impart flavor. I should also note that they did not skimp on the chicken. I’ve been critical of their meat portions in the past, but I felt like the amount of chicken was appropriate.

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As I was eating, I ran across a sandwich construction problem. If I took a bite on the side of the bread with the cut, I really only ate lettuce and tomato. If I took a bite at the heel of the bread, I had a fully composed bite. So I’d alternate between bland and better bites which was disappointing. And the better bites weren’t quite good. The sandwich itself was a little bland. It needed salt or pepper or hot sauce. Something. Maybe this is my fault for taking off the onions or not taking advantage of the customization options, but it’s also a failure of Subway where they’re selling a sandwich which needs to be altered to have more taste.

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The cheese situation on this sandwich was a little weird. They put on provolone slices, but at the end, they also sprinkle on some Parmesan. I really liked the Parmesan addition. I could always taste the Parmesan bites and they were the best part of the sandwich. It made the sandwich taste more Caesar-like, and it was a subtle add on that I wouldn’t expect a chain to nail perfectly, so legitimate kudos are in order. The provolone was fine. No strong taste, but the melty texture fit the sandwich.

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While eating, something about the sandwich felt slightly off. I think the problem was the dressing. It could have been caused by the toasting process, but the dressing smelt weird and tasted slightly bitter. I generally like Caesar dressing, but this was off-putting. I’m honestly not sure what the problem is. Does Subway normally have a Caesar dressing as an option? I hope not and that this was them not working out a scalable recipe.

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As I continued to eat, the bread started falling apart which was disappointing. As a chain which uses bread as a selling point, there should have been a stronger performance here. I wasn’t expecting the best Italian bread ever, but it should have stood up to the sandwich, or at least imparted more flavor. Instead, I was barely holding together the sandwich as I finished. At least those bites were fairly moist and had some good flavor. Lastly, the veggies were mainly filler. I had spinach, which didn’t have much taste. The tomato also was tasteless, but at least added some texture to the sandwich.

If Subway still offered this sandwich and I was forced to eat a sandwich at Subway, I would eat this sandwich. Yes, those are heavy qualifiers, but they’re true. The Chicken Caesar Melt is legitimately the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten at Subway. The bites with the Parmesan were good! Unfortunately, too much of the sandwich was bland or had that weird Caesar taste.

I question whether this appeals to a typical Subway patron though. At $4.75 for a 6-inch, this isn’t cheap and it’s not a big sandwich. If you opt for the foot long, then you’re at a price point where you’re close enough to just going to  restaurant for a legitimate meal which would include a side, and would taste better. If Subway’s big appeal is food for a cheap price, this doesn’t fit the bill.

Also, in that same vein, I wouldn’t say I was full after the sandwich. I didn’t feel hungry, but I was in that in between where I definitely could have and wanted to eat more, and I definitely felt hungry in the middle of the afternoon.

 

 

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.

Continuing our swing through my past eats, next up is McDonald’s Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken, which no longer appears to be available. The McChicken was originally brought back to the McDonald’s menu as a cheaper alternative to the Deluxe Chicken sandwiches with the introduction of the Dollar Menu. There was a distinct difference between the sandwiches. While the deluxe sandwiches had a piece of chicken breast that you could imagine eating in a restaurant, the McChicken never conjured such an image. It reminded me more of a dining hall chicken sandwich. Not that that’s a bad thing, but it was a distinctly different experience when you chose the lower price point, as opposed to ordering a double cheeseburger vs. a Quarter pounder (another dollar menu v regular sandwich distinction).

As McDonald’s raised prices and attempted to move away from the Dollar Menu, they needed new ways to induce people to spend more than a buck on a cheap chicken sandwich. Thus was born the Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken. Though it had been available for some time, I ate it as I was driving across the country, somewhere on I-40 in Southern California. I ordered it as a supplement to my regular meal. The price at the time was $2, so those extra accoutrements were not cheap.

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Opening up the paper wrapper, it looked like a regular McChicken. It’s an unassuming sandwich. Seedless bun, chicken patty thin, not very greasy. Taking a sample of the chicken patty before digging into the sandwich as a whole, it already had some spice in the breading! I was taken aback because I figured this would just be a regular McChicken with some new toppings slapped on top, but McDonald’s actually made some effort here, and it showed. In addition, the patty itself was juicy and crunchy. Honestly, if you took away the bread and the toppings, I’d have eaten the chicken patty on its own.

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As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a huge fan of McDonald’s bacon, because they make it but too crisp for my liking. However, it worked on this sandwich. I didn’t get the texture as much, so the smokiness just paired well with the overall spiciness of the sandwich.

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When I first saw that the sandwich included buffalo and ranch flavors, I assumed there was a buffalo ranch sauce. Nope. Instead we had two sauces added. I generally like buffalo sauce and am not a fan of ranch. However, on its own, the buffalo sauce was too spicy for the overall sandwich and it took over the taste. When I had a bite with both sauces, they combined really well. Still, it’s a little odd that McDonald’s didn’t spring for a single sauce.

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The only ingredient which detracted from the sandwich was the lettuce. To use the McChicken vs. the deluxe sandwiches as a point of comparison again, the Deluxe sandwiches usually have a large piece or two of lettuce, whereas the McChickens have cheaper shredded lettuce. Whether by design or worker indifference, this sandwich had too much shredded lettuce. I kept picking it off the sandwich because it was taking up too much of each bite. This would have been better served with one piece of iceberg lettuce to cool off the sandwich a bit. Nothing more.

Judged in isolation. the Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken was a worthy addition to the menu. They didn’t shy away from heat. The Bacon was good. The ranch paired well with the buffalo sauce, and I wish McDonald’s didn’t discontinue the spicy chicken patty

I think if McDonald’s wanted, it could pair the toppings with one of the premium chicken breast fillets and charge more for the sandwich. It’d be a worthy competitor to Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich.

The drawback was its awkward price point. It’s a fine snack, but it’s too small on its own to serve as the focal point of a meal, but also a bit too much sandwich to supplement a regular meal. As someone who always gets a value meal at McDonald’s, I’d need to juggle my usual ordering pattern if I wanted to order this particular sandwich, and I’m too set in my ways to do that. Maybe for the person who regularly picks and chooses items off the value meal, that’s a viable option, but I’d probably pass on this in the future. You know, if they still sold it.