Archives for posts with tag: Value Menu

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.

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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.

 

For the sake of completion, now that we’ve run through all of the sandwiches on the Taco Bell breakfast menu, I figured I may as well do quick posts on the sides. First up, the hash brown! 

In case I haven’t mentioned this before, I love fried potatoes in all forms and the fast food hash brown, when done right, is a great disc of crispy potato goodness. Taco Bell’s retails at $1 (once again, using Google for that price), which is actually pricy for a hash brown. I seem to remember McDonald’s offering two for $1, though I can’t currently say if that deal is still on the table. Regardless, this is a decently large hash brown, and if you don’t want to pay $1 for it, it is an option as the side when you order a breakfast meal.

Taco Bell PR really let me down with this description. All we get is “a crispy, shredded potato patty?!” No flowery language, describing the virtues of the potatoes, or how its fried to a perfect crisp and is a perfect compliment to a meal or snack on the go? For shame Taco Bell! Hash browns deserve respect!

Now that I’ve defended the honor of hash browns, how about I actually talk about the eating experience? One of the downsides of ordering so many foods at once is that some things wind up sitting around for a bit before they can be eaten. I’ll be reviewing the hash brown on a curve because it sat in a bag for fifteen minutes before I could eat it (Fast food tip: if you like crispy non-soggy fries but they need to sit in a bag before you can eat, open the top of the bag and ensure that the fries are under the opening to let some of the hot air escape. They won’t be as hot as possible when you eat, but the ventilation prevents them from becoming a disgusting soggy mess).

The hash brown smelled fantastic, which reminded me of McDonald’s, which is my standard for best fast food hash brown. As I mentioned in the AM Crunchwrap post, this was a broader, flatter hash brown. This allowed for more surface area for crunchy batter, so I’m not complaining. And it did remain crunchy even after sitting for fifteen minutes. Luckily, even with it being flat, it still retained some potato taste. It could have used some salt, but that’s my only complaint here. This is a solid hash brown, and it definitely will be the side item I order for any future Taco Bell breakfast purchases.