The three finalists for Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” contest have been out for a little while now. And for me, “been out” is a literal term – I first spotted all three of them at my local store and picked up the Sriracha flavor, thinking at the time that I’d review each flavor separately. When I went to the store a few days later, there was a handful of Srirachas and one Cheesy Garlic Bread bag on the shelves, which I grabbed.
After that? Nothing.
It was like they’d gotten one shipment and that was that. I couldn’t find Chicken & Waffles, the obvious crazygonuts flavor of the three, anywhere. I looked, I waited, and yet…nothing.
Just when I’d resigned myself to only reviewing two of the three flavors, leaving a large, probably-disgusting-tasting chip-sized hole in my heart, I found them. I did an actual pirouette in the store. My husband pretended he didn’t know me, which is not unusual.
So here they are. The Do Us a Flavor finalists, chosen out of 3.8 million fan submissions last summer. Lucky for me, the three people who are up for a million dollars or 1% of their flavor’s 2013 sales if they win are plastered all over each of the bags, so I get to make fun of them and/or blame them for their choices.
So let’s get to these chips, presented by coincidence in order of purchase and what I anticipate to be the best-to-worst flavors.
Sriracha is blowin’ up right now. One might say it is on fire, if one were to make puns about hot sauce. I used to only find it at the Vietnamese market, but now it’s pretty common on your everyday grocery store shelves. You’ve probably seen it – it’s the one with the rooster on the label, which gives everyone with a 5th grade sense of humor (me) carte blanche to call it “cock sauce”.
Hello, Tyler Raineri from Lake Zurich, IL. I’m not going to make fun of people’s pictures, because you can’t pick your genetics, but you can pick your words. And if these quotes were what these people decided would be the best blurbs to represent them on chip bags nationwide, you can bet I’m going to dig in to them.
Grandma’s chips and sriracha seem like an odd combination, but hell, I’d put sriracha on just about anything, so I’ll let it slide.
What really gets me is the last sentence. “Nothing’s better than old memories.” It sounds bizarre and mildly sinister, for reasons I can’t explain. We all have “old memories”, but I wouldn’t say they are literally the best thing ever. I get this weird vibe that grandma’s desiccated corpse is sitting in Tyler’s basement or something, but maybe I’ve just seen too many horror movies.
Onward to the chips. I was actually excited to try Lay’s Sriracha, because, as I mentioned, I love the cock sauce, and it seemed like a flavor that would marry well with potato chips. It’s mostly chili, vinegar, and a hint of garlic, but it has a very unique and delicious taste.
Unfortunately, my hopes were quickly dashed. Not just dashed, but obliterated. The chips had a bit of heat to them, and a faint garlic taste, but there was also the strong presence of cream cheese and sour cream flavors.
What? What the hell is that? I checked the ingredients, and, according to Lay’s, “sriracha seasoning” contains, among other things, sour cream, cream, onion powder, cream cheese, paprika extract, cheddar cheese, and swiss cheese.
What the fuck?
With my mouth expecting sriracha, all these cheese flavors made my taste buds instantly revolt. These chips tasted wrong, wrong, wrong. So wrong, in fact, that I went and looked at some other reviews of Lay’s Sriracha Chips – something I don’t normally do until after I finish a review, for the sake of objectivity.
To my surprise, several reviewers gave these chips high marks for tasting like the hot sauce. I’m not going to pull out my “I liked sriracha before sriracha was cool and I’m a cock sauce expert” card, but I have to say, these chips taste nothing like sriracha, and the addition of all that cheese flavoring was incredibly disconcerting.
I went back and revisited Lay’s Sriracha Chips a little later, after my mouth had had time to calm down. If you pretend these chips are called “Spicy Cheese Chips” instead of “Sriracha Chips”, they’re actually not so bad. But if Tyler’s grandma could taste these chips, she’d probably roll over in her grave. Or in her rocking chair in Tyler’s basement. Either way.
Cheesy Garlic Bread
With my hopes of sriracha-flavored chips crushed, I turned my attention to Cheesy Garlic Bread. I expected these to be a very middle-of-the-road flavor – take some cheese, take some garlic flavor, and there you go. However, after the sriracha disaster, I was starting to feel nervous.
Meet Karen Weber-Mendham from Land o’ Lakes, WI, a bold woman who is not afraid to hyphenate her name post-marriage and is also from a place that I didn’t think actually existed outside of the realm of butter.
Everything about Karen’s quote is hilariously stupid. First off, I’m 100% positive her “favorite Italian restaurant” is the Olive Garden. It’s just one of those hunches I feel deep down inside.
Second, she’s WAITING FOREVER. That’s just bad customer service. Plus, the breadsticks are supposed to be there for when you are waiting forever. Karen, you need a new Olive Garden.
The last sentence is the icing on the cake. “Finally, the breadsticks come & they save your life!” I can’t stop reading that and laughing out loud. They save your life, people. You are sitting in a booth at the Olive Garden for so long that you are literally starving to death. I think Karen has a fondness for being melodramatic.
One more thing to nitpick about – breadsticks and cheesy garlic bread are not the same thing. If we’re taking the picture on the front of the bag to be said bread, I’ve never been to an Italian restaurant that will rock out free garlic bread like that. Maybe I was wrong about Karen’s favorite Italian restaurant. I guess I’d be more willing to WAIT FOREVER if I could get free cheesy garlic bread like that. To save my life.
A strange thing happened with Lay’s Cheesy Garlic Bread Chips. They didn’t taste like cheese garlic chips at all. After the sriracha fiasco, you’d think this would have pissed me off. But quite the opposite.
Instead of tasting like cheese and garlic-flavored chips, these tasted like cheesy garlic bread. Seriously. I know it sounds weird and kind of stupid, but it’s damn true. Lay’s made a chip that tastes like a piece of bread slathered in strong garlic butter and topped with Parmesan.
At first, this had the opposite of the intended effect. It was so realistic, it was off-putting. Lay’s Cheesy Garlic Bread is in the uncanny valley of chips. The more I ate, however, the more I grew to accept this, and embrace it for its cheesy, garlicky, buttery goodness. Lay’s must be using some sort of dark magic, but I don’t care. It’s delicious dark magic.
Chicken & Waffles
Well, here we are. The Do Us a Flavor Finalist everyone’s buzzing about. Chicken & Waffles. Fuck.
Meet Christina Abu-Judom from Phoenix, AZ.
…Of course. Of course she’s from the Valley in which I live. Because Phoenix doesn’t get shat on enough as the asshole of the United States, and if you are to believe television shows and movies, every murderer and child molester comes to Arizona to hide out from the cops. Thanks so much, Christina, for improving our image.
Aaaaaand her quote is stupid, too. Also, either her nephew is a total dick, or Christina likes to really blow things out of proportion. Can you imagine the Abu-Judom family gatherings? Either her nephew brings up this most insignificant part of his life so much that everyone tells him to shut the fuck up, or Christina herself can’t talk about anything else. “Hey nephew, remember how you never let me live down that one time I stole a bite of your waffle?” Everyone rolls their eyes and goes back to talking about how much the construction sucks on Central Ave.
I’m sad to say that there are no surprises, here. These chips are disgusting. The overwhelming taste is that of maple syrup, with undertones of a buttery waffle-like taste and just a smidge of chicken bouillon. If that sentence grossed you out, congratulations, you have a modicum of common sense.
I ate the barest of bare minimums of Lay’s Chicken & Waffles Chips just so I could explain the flavor to you, dear reader. I’ve eaten several very disgusting things in my time as a food reviewer, and these are honestly close to the top. If taste buds could throw up, I believe mine would have, which probably would have made my stomach throw up, resulting in one of those chain-reaction vomits that would fill my entire apartment with maple-smelling bile.
“The overwhelming taste is that of maple syrup, with undertones of a buttery waffle-like taste and just a smidge of chicken bouillon.” I just wanted to repeat that sentence to emphasize how utterly repulsive these chips are. I knew I was in for a bad trip when I bought these, but this was like, bat country bad trip.
I can’t even give much credit to Lay’s for getting the Chicken & Waffles flavor right. The syrup flavor was dominant and cloying, and the chicken very subdued, for which my taste buds were thankful. You could taste a bit of butter and waffle, though, so at least there’s…that.
I feel bad for Tyler, because his Sriracha Lay’s wound up tasting nothing like the hot sauce and more like a spicy cheese chip.
Karen got her wish, because Cheesy Garlic Bread tastes eerily like what it’s supposed to taste like. I was put off by this at first, but came to embrace the accuracy and tastiness of these chips.
I hate Christina for her stupid story and her even more stupid flavor suggestion, but I hate Lay’s the most for picking it as a finalist. You know they did it just to be jerks, and they succeeded.
I find it hard to believe that out of 3.8 million submissions, these three people made unique suggestions – especially sriracha. Regardless, you can vote on your favorite on Lay’s Facebook page until May 4, 2013. If I were the Facebook voting type, which I am not, you’ve probably gathered that I would vote for Cheesy Garlic Bread. That way, Karen could keep a bag in her purse at all times and never have to worry about starving to death again.
Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Finalist: Sriracha Potato Chips
- Score: 2.5 out of 5 opportunities to say cock sauce
- Price: $3.19 (on sale; regularly $3.49)
- Size: 9 1/2 oz. bag
- Purchased at: Fry’s Foods
- Nutritional Quirks: It bears repeating: contains sour cream, cream, onion powder, cream cheese, cheddar cheese and swiss cheese,none of which are actually in sriracha hot sauce
Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Finalist: Cheesy Garlic Bread Potato Chips
- Score: 4.5 out of 5 uncanny valleys of snack food
- Price: $3.49
- Size: 9 1/2 oz. bag
- Purchased at: Safeway #1717
- Nutritional Quirks: Dark magic not listed as an ingredient, but gouda cheese is. Fancy!
Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Finalist: Chicken & Waffles Potato Chips
- Score: 0.5 out of 5 fuck you Christina
- Price: $1.99 (on sale; regularly $3.49)
- Size:9 1/2 oz. bag
- Purchased at: Safeway #1717
- Nutritional Quirks: It’s gross. Also contains “natural flavor (including chicken flavor)”, which is not a phrase I find at all comforting.