Out of all the fast food marketing currently out there, I’ve always enjoyed Jack in the Box’s the most. I feel like Jack, the walking, talking antenna ball head, should be creepy, but unlike the King, he’s not. He’s personable! And he even makes some commercials that are actually funny. That’s no small feat.
When I saw the commercial for Jack’s new Hot Mess Burger, which aired during the Super Bowl, I instantly liked it. Jack in a hair band named “Meat Riot”? Sounds like something I would make up. Naming your burger after your fake one-hit wonder “Hot Mess”? Giving your burger a derogatory name shows that you can laugh at yourself, and I appreciate that.
After showing the lovingly mocking 1989 music video, the commercial cuts to Jack and his son watching the video. Jack says to Jack Jr., “And that’s how I met your mother.” Imagining Jack and his giant ball head bangin’ some Meat Riot groupie on the tour bus is an image I’m working really hard to keep out of my mind, but it is the perfect ending to the commercial.
What really makes me love the Hot Mess marketing campaign, however, is its website. Seriously. Just click it, even though I’m going to describe it in detail anyways.
It’s cute that you can download the song, and the lyrics, etc., but my very favoritest part is the “Legendary Moves” section. There are four animated .gifs to click on, but what I care about are the names of the moves: “Sourdough Slap”, “Jalapeño Hammer”, “Onion Slicer”, and the one I fell in love with and actually laughed out loud at, “Spicy Spasm”.
I swear to god, this is all stuff my friends and I would come up with whilst sitting around shooting the shit. And I don’t even smoke weed.
It’s hard to make fun of something that’s already making fun of itself, but I will go for the low-hanging fruit and quip that “Spicy Spasm” sounds like something that happens to your colon after eating a Hot Mess Burger. Alternatively, I think I did the Spicy Spasm once when I accidentally inhaled some Tapatio sauce. Don’t ask.
The “Meat Riot Memories” gallery section also has some gems, my instant favorite being Jack rocking out on top of a volcano while lightning shoots from the sky and a dragon and a gargoyle do a little animated .gif dance. There’s a sick part of me that wants to tattoo this upon my person. Thank god I really don’t smoke weed. My decision-making skills are obviously poor enough as it is.
The last little funny part of this promo site is a section entitled “It Still Exists: MYSPACE”, with a button that will, indeed, take you to Meat Riot’s myspace page.
It’s all brilliant.
But what about the burger, you say? Fuck you, forget the burger. 5 out of 5 on the Hot Mess marketing campaign. End of review.
…Okay, fine. I’ll tell you about the damn burger.
Hot Mess Burger
The promo picture for the Hot Mess Burger deserves a two-page spread in Food Porn Magazine, but we all know promo pics are a far cry from the real thing. I still found mine enticing, though.
Jack describes the Hot Mess as “Beef patty seasoned with salt and pepper topped with mayo-onion sauce, melted white cheddar and pepper jack cheese, fried onion rings and sliced jalapenos on sourdough bread.”
I love Jack in the Box’s sourdough buns. They always look toasted, but are usually just greasy and buttery. Some might consider this a minus, but I love them. The bun on my Hot Mess burger did not fail to live up to these rather low expectations.
If I was meant to take the words “Hot” and “Mess” literally, I would definitely credit Jack in the Box for getting the second word right. The sauce complimented the melted cheeses nicely, and boy was there a lot of melted cheese. It seems almost impossibly melted, like some cheese slice/sauce hybrid. It will get on your hands. It will possibly get on your shirt. And it was the shining star of the Hot Mess Burger. There’s not much heat from the pepper jack, but it was still a gooey delight.
As you can see, the onion rings and jalapeño slices were present, as promised. They positioned the rings well, since I got a piece in almost every bite. Unfortunately, the crunchiness that should be present in a fried onion ring didn’t stand a chance against the sauce and melted cheese, so while it did add a nice fried flavor, the texture wasn’t really there.
The onion string inside also added some nice flavor, although I had some problems preventing the entire string from sliding out upon my first bite, which is a component of onion rings I’ve always found annoying.
The “Hot” part is mainly supposed to come from the jalapeños. When I got one in a bite, it did add some pleasant heat and even a little crunch. The key problem here is the word “when”. As you can see, my burger had four jalapeño slices. This is most definitely not enough.
I really liked the Hot Mess Burger – enough to order it again, even. There were some flaws – mainly the sogginess of the onion rings and the lack of jalapeño slice coverage – but the messy, gooey cheese and the sourdough bun worked so well with the burger itself that even the bites that weren’t spicy were still satisfying. I’m glad that I enjoyed this burger so much, because making a “hot mess” joke about the Hot Mess Burger would be a horrible thing to have to do.
Hot Mess Wedges
Reviewing Hot Mess Wedges is kind of an afterthought; I ordered them because I’ve always liked Jack’s Cheddar Bacon Potato Wedges, so I figured, why not?
Jack describes them as “Potato wedges topped with a melted white cheddar and pepperjack cheese sauce and sliced jalapeños.”
Notably, they use the phrase “cheese sauce” here. Since the cheese on my wedges was pretty identical to the cheese on my burger, I’m now wondering if my mouth (and my napkins) were right – is it a cheese sauce, or melted cheese? It is a delicious, gooey mystery.
Hot Mess Wedges suffer some of the same faults as the burger, and a problem all too common with Jack’s Wedges – three or four of the wedges are absolutely coated in cheese, and the rest remain sadly dry, although still crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. There were also exactly three jalapeños to cover at least a dozen wedges, which just doesn’t cut it.
Instead of spreading the sauce love thin, I’ve come to enjoy Jack’s saturated wedges on their own and then dipping the dry ones in some ranch dressing or mustard. This is obviously not ideal, since an order of Hot Mess Wedges should be able to hold their own, especially if you’re going to be eating them somewhere where extra condiments aren’t an option.
The best parts of Hot Mess Wedges are pretty much the best parts of the Hot Mess Burger – gooey sauce and crunchy, hot jalapeño slices. Like the burger, they suffer a severe jalapeño shortage; unlike the burger, however, the Wedges suffer a serious lack of cheese distribution. Maybe if I ordered some Hot Mess Wedges with double the toppings next time, they’d be more worthwhile. But also more expensive.
Despite its flaws, I very much enjoyed the Hot Mess Burger. The combination of buttery sourdough, excessive amounts of melty cheese, onions, and jalapeños all combined to make a tasty, messy burger. I would have liked to have seen more come from the onion rings as well as the jalapeños, but that crazy cheese was what really got me.
As for the Hot Mess Wedges, they suffered from a severe lack of topping distribution, which is not uncommon for Jack in the Box Wedges. The toppings that were there were just as tasty on the wedges as they were on the burger, but I’d probably opt out on them next time around.
The real winner here, however, is the Hot Mess marketing campaign. I’m scoring the food, of course, but the mythos surrounding the burger is a definite 5 out of 5. Jack in the Box’s ability to make fun of itself and create an extensive and well-crafted marketing campaign is a skill that I wish other fast food corporations would pick up. I’d like to give them all a Sourdough Slap.
Jack in the Box Hot Mess Burger
- Score: 4 out of 5 …What else? SPICY SPASMS
- Price: $4.29
- Size: 1 burger
- Purchased at: Jack in the Box #1165
- Nutritional Quirks: Get your daily recommended intake of saturated fat all in one burger!
Jack in the Box Hot Mess Wedges
- Score: 3 out of 5 Sadly absent Jalapeño Hammers
- Price: $2.69
- Size: 1 box
- Purchased at: Jack in the Box #1165
- Nutritional Quirks: 44 delicious grams of fat from one innocent box of potato wedges.