Category Archives: Fast Food

Papa John’s Fritos Chili Pizza

Papa John's Fritos Chili PizzaI wasn’t aware of the existence of Frito pie until I was an adult. I always considered it somewhat of a Midwestern delicacy, although Wikpedia tells me its influence reaches to the southern and southwestern states.

I always considered this to be somewhat of a simple-minded dish, until I once cooked up a dish of cream cheese, Cincinnati-style chili, and shredded cheese. Dip some Fritos in there and taste the delicious combination of four simple ingredients.

That said, much like many other menu items that now exist in the fast food world, one food does not necessarily translate well into another. Several other restaurants – I’m thinking specifically of Sonic and Taco Bell – have incorporated Fritos into their menus, mostly consisting of “here’s a general menu item and then we threw some Fritos on or in it”.

…Which is exactly what happened with Papa John’s Fritos Chili Pizza. Actually, that’s not entirely fair. Papa John’s at least tried to stay somewhat true to the spirit of Frito pie – the pizza consists of cheddar cheese, Roma tomatoes, beef and onions, all on a bed of chili sauce. Oh, right, and Fritos. Duh.

Upon bringing Papa John’s Fritos Chili Pizza into my home, it was immediately filled with the smell of warm Fritos. I wouldn’t want a scented candle of this fragrance, but it was actually quite pleasant.

Papa John's Fritos Chili Pizza Slice

The Fritos were obviously put on after the pizza came out of the oven, as they were not at all soggy and looked fresh out of the bag. There certainly were a lot of them, too – I’ve never seen any other pizza topping given this much coverage. Of course, you’re just chucking a few cents’ worth of corn chips on there, so why not?

A disadvantage to having the Fritos applied after cooking was that they didn’t have the opportunity to stick to the rest of the toppings, which resulted in a lot of chips flying off the slices as I took them out of the box and again as I bit into them.

Papa John's Fritos Chili Pizza Toppings

Because of the amount of Fritos and perhaps their strong flavor, a lot of the other toppings got overwhelmed by the chips. The beef seemed barely there, and I only remembered the onions were a topping because they added a different textural crunch than that of the Fritos, which obviously added a lot of crunch. Crunch that didn’t really belong with the rest of the pizza. It was too jarring of a contrast.

Of all the toppings, the one that unexpectedly struggled through all the Fritos was the Roma tomatoes. They added a fresh flavor and a slight crunch that helped out the struggling pizza.

Don’t think I’m forgetting about the chili sauce. It was actually the shining star of Papa John’s Fritos Chili Pizza. It was pretty much everything you’d want to have on a pizza that’s trying to represent Frito pie – it tasted a hell of a lot like Cincinnati chili, which is to say, thin, cheap, beanless, but yet somehow delicious.

After the Fritos, it was the first thing I tasted from the pizza, and I was surprised and pleased at the flavor. There wasn’t even an overabundance of it, but just the little amount that was there delivered the flavor.

Papa John’s Fritos Chili Pizza isn’t gross, it’s just dumb. Tossing a bunch of chips on top of a cooked pie does not a pizza make. In fact, I wound up taking the Fritos off the rest of my pizza and found it more enjoyable that way – the beef and the onions were able to come through and mix in with the chili sauce, which I really enjoyed.

The flavor and the texture of the Fritos amounted to nothing more than a distraction. They took me out of pizza mode. I just wish Papa John’s would make chili sauce an option on their build-your-own pizzas, because it really saved this pizza and I’d love mix it up with some other toppings.

Papa John’s Fritos Chili Pizza

  • Score:2.5 out of 5 Fritos flying everywhere
  • Price: $12.00
  • Size: Small
  • Purchased at: Papa John’s #1355
  • Nutritional Quirk: Fritos.

Sonic Vs. Wingstop Boneless Wings Taste Test

Sonic Vs. Wingstop Boneless Wings Taste Test Sonic Wingstop PackageWhen Sonic contacted me with the offer (challenge?) to take their Boneless Wings Taste Test, I was all about it. It’s a ballsy move, asking a food reviewer to compare their food side-by-side with another restaurant’s.

I was given the option to compare their new boneless wings to their equivalent at either Wingstop or Buffalo Wild Wings. I chose the former, only because it was closer. I’ve also never eaten at either of these establishments, nor have I tried Sonic’s Boneless Wings yet, so it’s gonna be fun and new!

Sonic Boneless Wings
Sonic Boneless Wings

Many chickens have given their boneless wings for this endeavor.

Wingstop Boneless Wings
Wingstop Boneless Wings

Of course, when a restaurant offers to sponsor your taste test, they include criteria. In this case, lots of criteria. So much so that I decided to take their criteria pretty much verbatim in this review. Things are gonna get technical up in this piece!

Let’s start with convenience.

  • Was the restaurant nearby?

Sonic wins this one, as my closest one is 0.7 miles away, and the closest Wingstop is 2.4 miles. Not exactly a harrowing journey across state lines, but hey.

  • How long did it take you to receive your wing order?

Wingstop allows you to order ahead online, and I was able to go in, grab my wings and leave in under two minutes. On the other hand, I did have to leave my car, which is a big minus in my eyes.

Sonic took a full 13 minutes from finishing my order (which took three tries; I’m not sure where the communication broke down over three orders of wings) to the end of transaction. That is not the fastest of food.

  • Were the wings still hot when you took your first bite?

Sonic’s wings weren’t steaming hot, but they were pleasantly warm when I ate them. My Wingstop wings were lukewarm at best, which surprised me, because they were wrapped inside a styrofoam container and placed inside a paper bag.

  • Did you make a big mess while eating the wings, or was it a relatively effortless and clean process?

This strikes me as a silly question. They’re wings! They’re messy! That said, Wingstop’s Original Hot were actually not very messy at all. Their Teriyaki and Hickory Smoked BBQ were a little bit saucier, but not swimming in it.

Sonic’s wings are “tossed and sauced”, and it showed. However, they also came with forks and napkins, which I would have appreciated had I been eating these in public. I like to keep it clean when other people are around.

Next, let’s go with value.

  • How was the serving size of the wings? How full were you after eating the wings

Sitting here with well over a dozen wings in front of me, it’s hard to answer this question with a straight face. However, Wingstop’s wings come in a minimum of ten pieces, which is an ample amount for one person. More than ample, really. Sonic’s smallest order is six pieces, which is just right for one person.

  • Could you make a meal of these wings with a side and a drink?

Both Sonic and Wingstop’s wing portions could easily have made a complete meal.

  • How was the price of these wings compared to the competition?

Broken down, Sonic’s wings cost $0.67 each, whereas Wingstop’s cost $0.60. However, their website advertises this as a “special”, so I don’t know if that’s their normal price or not.

Sauce! Obviously an important part of the wing experience.

  • Does the sauce flavor live up to what you expected?
Sonic Buffalo
Sonic Buffalo
Sonic Asian Sweet Chili
Sonic Asian Sweet Chili
Sonic Barbecue
Sonic Barbecue

Sonic’s Buffalo was a very straightforward buffalo sauce, having that signature Frank’s Red Hot flavor (not sure if that’s what they used, but it tasted very similar) with a little heat to it. So it did meet expectations. I had some trepidations about their Asian Sweet Chili, but I liked that the sweetness wasn’t overpowering, and they had a nice little kick. The Barbecue wings had a very mild but recognizable bbq sauce taste. So I would say they lived up to my expectations.

Wingstop Original Hot
Wingstop Original Hot
Wingstop Teriyaki
Wingstop Teriyaki
Wingstop Hickory Smoked BBQ
Wingstop Hickory Smoked BBQ

Wingstop’s Original Hot had an authentic buffalo flavor with a definite spicy kick. While not very saucy, the flavor was there. It had a different flavor than Frank’s, but was definitely flavorful. Their Teriyaki was tastier than I expected, having what I can only call the essence of umami. However, the sauce was so salty. It was like a reduced soy sauce. The Hickory Smoked BBQ totally surprised me – it was not too sweet and had a really nice BBQ flavor that didn’t taste like it was straight from a bottle (although I’m sure it was). It also had a good smoky flavor to it. In this arena, I’d say Wingstop actually exceeded my expectations.

  • Is this sauce flavor unique or different?

Wingstop’s Original Hot wasn’t really unique, but when I’m looking for a good wing, all I’m looking for is a good buffalo flavor with some heat. Teriyaki was a new wing flavor for me, so I did find it different, but just too salty to eat a whole serving. Hickory Smoked BBQ isn’t exactly a unique wing flavor either, but I did enjoy it.

Unfortunately, all three of Sonic’s sauce flavors were pretty typical. That doesn’t mean they were necessarily bad, just…expected.

  • Would you order this wing flavor again?

Sonic: Buffalo – yes, because I’m a sucker for buffalo. Asian Sweet Chili – no, because while the flavor was just fine, it’s just not my thing when it comes to wings. Barbecue – no, it was just too typical.

Wingstop: Original Hot – yeah, I like a good buffalo wing. Teriyaki – no, far too salty. Hickory Smoked BBQ – maybe, but I’ll pick buffalo over BBQ when it comes to wings, at least from a big name restaurant.

Quality: Kind of the point, right? Oh, they mean the quality of the chicken. Well, that’s also important.

  • How much meat is in each wing?

Wingstop’s wings ranged anywhere from nugget to almost bone-in wing size. I’m not exactly sure how to measure the amount of meat, but it was, uh, good? Sonic’s boneless wings measured about the same, maybe a teensy bit smaller, so also good?

  • What is the quality of the chicken?

Sonic claims they have all-white breast meat, and that seemed to be true. It definitely had that real chicken quality and not the mushed-up weirdness of nuggets. Wingstop has the exact same claim on their website, and they also didn’t have any fakeness in their wings.

  • How is the wing cooked? How is the texture?

The breading on Wingstop’s wings was nice and crunchy, but I have to say, the meat was a little dry. On the other hand, I found Sonic’s chicken to be juicier. Their breading was soggy in places, but this was probably due to the extra sauce on Sonic’s wings.

Overall taste. Now we’re getting down to it.

  • How did the wings taste?

Lordy, haven’t we covered this ad nauseum at this point?

  • Did you want to take another bite?

I did! Up until I’d eaten like, a million of them. Then I did not.

  • Would you recommend these wings to a friend?

Honestly, no, and I mean that in regards to both Sonic and Wingstop. Hey, guys, it’s nothing personal – in regards to Sonic, I just think they have better menu items on which to spend your money. As for Wingstop, it’s just that I know better places locally, so I’d wind up directing my friends in that direction.

And, finally, Sonic wanted to know my overall impression of the wings.

Well, Sonic, I have to say, I’ve never deconstructed chicken quite this thoroughly before. I think both had their highs and lows – I liked the crunchiness of Wingstop’s boneless wings better, but Sonic’s were juicier. Sonic’s sauce flavors were more pedestrian, but there was more of it, and Wingstop’s Teriyaki, while interesting, was just too salty.

And thus concludes the Sonic vs. Wingstop Boneless Wings Taste Test. I can’t say there was a clear winner, but what I can say is that I have never eaten so many boneless wings at one time. Guys I am so full.

News: Pizza Hut’s New Motto is “The Flavor of Now”; Set to Unleash Massive New Menu on 11/19/14

Pizza Hut by Roadsidepictures, on flickrOn Wednesday, November 19, 2014, Pizza Hut is adding new ingredients, sauces, crust flavors, sauce drizzles, and “Skinny” pizzas. They’re also changing their motto to “The Flavor of Now”. There’s a ton of new stuff going on. You can check it all out here, but I’ll try to break it down for you as succinctly as possible.

New Ingredients: Peruvian Cherry Peppers, Classic Meatballs, Fresh Spinach, Premium Salami, Sliced Banana Peppers

Sauce Choices: Classic Marinara, Premium Crushed Tomato, Creamy Garlic Parmesan, Honey Sriracha, Barbeque, Buffalo

Crust Flavors: Hut Favorite, Toasted Parmesan, Salted Pretzel, Honey Sriracha, Fiery Red Pepper, Toasted Cheddar, Toasted Asiago, Garlic Buttery Blend

Sauce Drizzles: Balsamic, Honey Sriracha, Barbeque, Buffalo

New Pizzas:

Garden Party – “Premium crushed tomato sauce topped with fresh green bell peppers, fresh red onions, fresh mushrooms, diced Roma tomatoes and fresh spinach. Flavored up with our Hut Favorite on the crust edge and a balsamic sauce drizzle.”

Old Fashioned Meatbrawl – “Classic marinara sauce topped with classic meatballs, fresh red onions and diced Roma tomatoes. Flavored up with our Hut Favorite on the crust edge.”

Cock-A-Doodle Bacon – “Creamy garlic Parmesan sauce topped with grilled chicken, hardwood smoked bacon and diced Roma tomatoes. Flavored up with toasted Parmesan on the crust edge.”

Hot and Twisted – “Premium crushed tomato sauce topped with premium salami, sliced jalapeño peppers and fresh red onions. Flavored up with a salted pretzel crust edge.”

Pretzel Piggy – “Creamy garlic Parmesan sauce topped with hardwood smoked bacon, fresh mushrooms and fresh spinach. Flavored up with a salted pretzel crust edge and balsamic sauce drizzle.”

BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger – “Barbeque sauce topped with classic meatballs, hardwood smoked bacon, fresh red onions and diced Roma tomatoes. Flavored up with toasted cheddar on the crust edge and a barbeque sauce drizzle.”

Giddy-Up BBQ Chicken – “Barbeque sauce topped with grilled chicken, hardwood smoked bacon and fresh red onions. Flavored up with toasted cheddar on the crust edge and a barbeque sauce drizzle.”

Buffalo State of Mind – “Buffalo sauce topped with grilled chicken, sliced banana peppers and fresh red onions. Flavored up with toasted cheddar on the crust edge and a Buffalo sauce drizzle.”

Cherry Pepper Bombshell – “Premium crushed tomato sauce topped with premium salami, Peruvian cherry peppers and fresh spinach. Flavored up with toasted Asiago on the crust edge and a balsamic sauce drizzle.”

7-Alarm Fire – “Premium crushed tomato sauce topped with pepperoni, sliced jalapeño peppers, Peruvian cherry peppers, sliced banana peppers and fresh green bell peppers. Flavored up with fiery red pepper on the crust edge.”

Sweet Sriracha Dynamite – “Honey Sriracha sauce topped with grilled chicken, sliced jalapeño peppers, sweet pineapple and Peruvian cherry peppers. Flavored up with honey Sriracha on the crust edge and a honey Sriracha sauce drizzle.”

Skinny Flavor Pizzas (250 calories or less per slice):

Skinny Beach – “Premium crushed tomato sauce topped with grilled chicken, fresh red onions, Peruvian cherry peppers and fresh spinach.”

Skinny with a Kick – “Premium crushed tomato sauce topped with pepperoni, sliced jalapeño peppers, Peruvian cherry peppers, fresh green bell peppers and fresh red onions. Flavored up with fiery red pepper on the crust edge.”

Skinny Italy – “Classic marinara sauce topped with classic meatballs, diced Roma tomatoes, fresh mushrooms, fresh red onions and fresh spinach. Flavored up with a balsamic sauce drizzle.”

Skinny Luau – “Premium crushed tomato sauce topped with grilled chicken, slow-roasted ham, fresh green bell peppers and sweet pineapple.”

Skinny Club – “Creamy garlic Parmesan sauce topped with grilled chicken, slow-roasted ham, diced Roma tomatoes and fresh spinach. Flavored up with toasted Asiago on the crust edge.”

Pizza Hut’s website notes that the calorie reduction of their Skinny Flavors is “based on a thinner crust and balanced portion of toppings”, which says to me that either their toppings are sadly sparse or their regular toppings are completely unbalanced.

Phew! Are you guys still with me?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen an overhaul this drastic from a fast food restaurant, well, ever. All of Pizza Hut’s Classic Flavor pizzas are also still available, and obviously, you can mix and match new and old to your heart’s content.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m excited to order from Pizza Hut! There are so many choices, the mind boggles. I’m also very curious to see how these changes effect Pizza Hut’s sales in the future.

As stated, all this rolls out on November 19, 2014. If you like, let me know what you think of the new menu!

McDonald’s Chorizo Burrito

McDonald's Chorizo Burrito

[Please enjoy this guest review from Robert – Not Bob, a valued sometimes-contributor to Junk Food Betty who had the privilege (or curse – read on to determine) of being in a test area for this new product. Thanks, Robert!]

In the five (!) years since Junk Food Betty first graced the information superhighway (Congrats, by the way), I’ve almost certainly read more about, and spared more thought for, fast food than I probably had in all my previous years combined. That’s a bit of a mixed blessing, obviously, but it has amused me, and on occasion, I’ve even learned a few things.

One of the things I’ve learned is that the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area is a seething hotbed of fast food test-marketing. For that reason, I find myself, once again, submitting a guest review, this time for McDonald’s Chorizo Breakfast Burritos. Well, that and the fact that your JFB host isn’t one to eat an egg, regardless of how it’s gussied up.

For those not in the know, there are actually two very dissimilar food items called “Chorizo”. One is a hard, cured European sausage, made from pork and Spanish paprika. The other is a fresh Mexican sausage made of God only knows what.

Chorizo con Huevos, which is Mexican chorizo and eggs, is a breakfast staple of taquerías, and is commonly rolled into burritos or breakfast tacos. However, it’s long been conspicuously absent from the fast food breakfast lineup. Even nominally “Mexican” fast food chains like Taco Bell, not one to shy away from mystery meat, has kept it out of their breakfast burrito offerings. I’m guessing that this is because chorizo tends to be spicy, and not spicy in a way that’s anything like the pickled jalapeño flavor that pretty much forms the basis of the typical fast food consumer’s idea of “spicy”. It has a pretty unique taste and texture, and is not very similar at all to familiar breakfast meats like bacon or ham.

McDonald's Chorizo Burrito Don't Mess with Breakfast

A quick look at the sign advertising the chorizo burritos also confirms that whoever designed it has little familiarity with chorizo. In the burritos pictured you can clearly see chunks of yellow egg and chunks of something red, which is presumably pretending to be the chorizo. As anyone that’s had it can attest, that’s not the way chorizo and eggs look. When you cook chorizo and eggs together, they basically become one homogenous mass. Perhaps that’s another factor that’s kept it off most breakfast menus. When Americans look at their meat and eggs, they want to see identifiable meat chunks, rather than a pile of eggs that just look like someone got confused with the dye at Easter.

Let’s take a look inside the real burritos.

McDonald's Chorizo Burritos

As I had two burritos to work with, I cross-sectioned one, and unrolled about the other.

McDonald's Chorizo Burrito Halved

McDonald's Chorizo Burrito Open

As you can see, these bear little resemblance to what was pictured, but we all know that that’s the norm with fast food advertising. Anyway, there’s not much to look at here. Chorizo and egg mix, a few red and green pepper bits and a flour tortilla. The strong odor of chorizo seemed pretty promising and, once tasted, I had to admit, these weren’t bad at all. The tortillas themselves left a bit to be desired – the ones you get at taquerías tend to be more flavorful and are typically pan fried before use – but the chorizo y huevos inside tasted exactly like it should. And, for two for $3, seems like a pretty decent breakfast deal.

McDonald's Hot and Mild Picante Sauce Packets

Along with the burritos I received 4 packets of McDonald’s Picante Sauce, two mild and two “hot”. Do not be tempted to put these on your chorizo burritos. Place them in the nearest trash receptacle. I tasted the “hot” and it was thoroughly vile. Putting ketchup on your chorizo burrito would be unforgivable, but would still be a better choice than McDonald’s Picante Sauce. If you do want to put some sauce on your chorizo burritos, that bottle of Tapatío in your file cabinet drawer or those old packets of Taco Bell “Fire Sauce” in your glove box are both much better options.

I do know of at least two taquerías in the path of my morning commute that offer chorizo and egg burritos that are about the same size, and are slightly better, and are slightly cheaper, so I probably wouldn’t make McDonald’s version a regular purchase. However, if I found myself in a taquerías-free zone (yes, even in Texas that can happen) and wanted a breakfast fix, I could definitely see getting them again.

McDonald’s Chorizo Burrito

  • Score: 4 out of 5 pork salivary glands
  • Price: $3.00
  • Size: 2 burritos
  • Purchased at:McDonald’s #35172

Jack in the Box Hella-Peno Burger Munchie Meal

Images courtesy Jack in the Box
Images courtesy Jack in the Box

In case you don’t remember because you were completely high when you read my last Munchie Meal review, Jack’s Munchie Meals are available between 9pm and 5am, aka Prime Stoner Time. Each one comes with two tacos, an order of halfsie fries (half french, half seasoned curly) and a 20 ounce drink to help you combat cotton mouth.

The real star, however, is always the entree. Previous Munchies have included things like the Stacked Grilled Cheese Burger and Loaded Nuggets, and the newest Munchie Meal is just as stonertastic: the Hella-peno Burger. A name that should leave me groaning, but I find myself smirking instead. Call it contact high.

Jack made more than a passing nod at the idea of their Munchie Meals being stoner-themed when the first batch came out, and this time around, I feel like they’ve embraced the idea with a vengeance.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the commercial for the Hella-peño burger. We start out with a girl sitting in a beanbag chair in what has to be the classiest room I’ve seen since I went to a friend’s kegger in college. His house was inhabited entirely by males, and the height of their artistic interior decoration was a poster of two girls making out, which was placed front-and-center in their living room.

This should give you an idea of what their garage looked like, which is pretty much what this girl’s room looks like, complete with lava lamp and Big Mouth Billy Bass. It looks like a garage sale threw up in someone’s 1970s wood-paneled basement. I’ve known many dedicated pot smokers in my day, and most would be downright offended by this aesthetic.

“Would you rather have spoons for hands…or elbows for ears?” The beanie-clad girl asks in a dreamy, disconnected voice.

The Jack puppet, who is sitting in a beanbag chair next to her, replies, “I’d rather have food,” to which I wholeheartedly agree, if only to end this commercial.

After briefly describing the Hella-Peno Munchie Meal, this whole embarrassment ends with the puppet saying, “I’ll eat it with my spooooooon haaaaands,” to which the girl replies, “What? I can’t hear you. Talk into my ellllbooooow.”

Shut up.

It’s also hella-apparent that they’re hella-stoked about the name, encouraging people to Tweet with the hashtag #hellahungry. They also describe the burger as “hella-hot” and mention that the Munchie Meal is available hella-late. Are you hella-tired of this yet?

Jack in the Box Hella-Peno Burger Munchie Meal

Now to the actual burger. According to Jack, the Hella-peño is “A burger heaped with both stuffed and sliced jalapeños, gooey cheese and taco sauce.”

Jack in the Box Hella-Peno Burger

Right off the bat, I could tell that gooey cheese was definitely present, as it had leaked all over the wrapper. You may find this gross; I find it a harbinger of good things to come.

Jack in the Box Hella-Peno Burger Open

And good things were there, indeed. Upon removing the top bun, I was so pleased to see that the stuffed jalapeños covered almost every square inch of the burger. Topping coverage – a rare sight, indeed! There were a few sliced peppers, as promised, covering the areas the stuffed ones missed. And, holding it all together, a mess o’ cheese. Lookin’ good, Hella-Peno burger.

Jack in the Box Hella-Peno Burger Cut

And, I have to admit, it tasted hella-good. (Sorry. I really am.) The combination of stuffed and sliced jalapeños meant there was a delicious amount of heat in every bite, and the breading of the stuffed ones remained, through some sort of dark magic, perfectly crunchy. So often have I seen fast food restaurants promising crunchy toppings, only to receive a soggy mess. Not the case here!

And the cheese was everywhere. I feel like half of it had leaked out onto the wrapper, which was unfortunate, but the cheese stuffed inside the poppers definitely took up the slack, adding at least double the amount of cheese you’d find on a regular cheeseburger and probably triple the calories, although I’m pretty sure you’re not concerned with that if you’re eating a Munchie Meal at 2am.

The Hella-Peno burger was not without fault, however. Jack in the Box’s taco sauce, which is a laughable approximation of hot sauce to begin with, completely disappears under the heat and flavor of the jalapeños. In fact, pretty much everything takes a backseat to the jalapeños and the cheese. I almost forgot there was an actual burger in this Hella-Peno burger.

These are minor complaints, however. I love jalapeños. I love cheese. I love the crunch that the breading added to the burger. I love that, for once, there was actual topping coverage.

I will, however, bitch about the fact that a.) Munchie Meals are only available from 9pm to 5am, and b.) you can’t just buy the Hella-Peno burger on its own. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Jack’s tacos, aka grease pockets, and the halfsies are nice, but I’d like to have a choice of when and with what I order my Hella-Peno burger.

In the end, what’s important is that if you like jalapeños, and you like cheese, and you like some actual crunch on your burger, then the Hella-Peno is for you. Putting poppers on a burger screams gimmick, but it really works. And if you scream gimmick to my elbow, I will use my spoon hand to punch you in the face.

[Disclaimer: Jack in the Box kindly provided me with a gift card to purchase this product and contacted me in regards to potentially reviewing this product. This has in no way influenced my review of said product; neither has any drug, illicit or otherwise.]

Jack in the Box Hella-Peno Burger Munchie Meal

  • Score: 4.5 out of 5 Big Mouth Billy Basses
  • Price: $6.00
  • Size: 1 Munchie Meal
  • Purchased at: Jack in the Box #106
  • Nutritional Quirk: While I couldn’t find nutritional info on the burger itself, the entire meal claims to only have 1,600 calories. This has to be either wrong, or a miracle. However, it does fess up to containing a whopping 3,644 milligrams of sodium, which sounds just about right.

Taco Bell Quesarito and Dr. Pepper Vanilla Float Freeze

Taco Bell Quesarito Wrapper and Dr. Pepper Vanilla Float FreezeSomething old, something new, something borrowed, something red, white and blue.

…Okay, that was super lame. But it seems thematically appropriate for Taco Bell’s new Quesarito and Dr. Pepper Vanilla Float Freeze. I moved a little while back and that really threw off my game, so I’m a little rusty. But I’m back! And here’s a double review for you!

Taco Bell Quesarito

Taco Bell Quesarito

Here we have the something old and something borrowed. I think you can see where this is going. While the Quesarito is a new menu item, it has employed the classic Taco Bell technique of rearranging existing ingredients into a new configuration.

In case you couldn’t figure it out from the name or the inside of the wrapper (kudos to Taco Bell for making a unique wrapper for the Quesarito, as a side note), this is a burrito snuggled inside a quesadilla.

In Taco Bell’s own words, “The NEW Quesarito is the best of a quesadilla and burrito rolled into one! It’s filled with seasoned beef, premium Latin rice, Chipotle sauce, reduced-fat sour cream, and then wrapped up in a grilled quesadilla loaded with melted cheeses.”

Taco Bell Quesarito Filling

I did not have high hopes for the Quesarito. Upon unwrapping it, I was impressed with the grilling marks. Upon cutting in half, I said to myself, oh hell yes.

Look at those globs of melty, melty cheese. Eating with my eyeballs alone, I was already sold. If that looks like an oozing mass of grease and fat, you’re right, and my heart sang at the sight. In a sort of choking, crying voice, but it sang nonetheless. I was expecting a sad, barely-visible layer of cheese hidden between two layers of too much tortilla, but I was so glad to be wrong.

There was another thing that there was also a hell of a lot of too – the Latin rice. In one of those classic cases of “who the hell made this?”, there was rice throughout, but all the ground beef was in one half and all the sour cream was in the other. In fact, by pure coincidence, the lines were drawn pretty much exactly down the line where I cut it for the picture.

The rice actually had a bit of flavor to it – it seemed to be the same rice as their Cantina rice, which has hints of lime and cilantro.

But, seriously, how hard is it to evenly distribute the meat and sour cream?

What was evenly distributed was the Chipotle sauce, and for once, there was an actual hint of chipotle flavor there, nice and smoky. Holy shit. It also had a nice kick, and they didn’t skimp on it. This paired great with the sour cream and with the gooey cheese. I’d actually like to see this as a sauce packet option in the future. I would put it on pretty much any Taco Bell item.

I want to give high praises to the Quesarito, in spite of the bizarre ingredient distribution, if just because of the surprising amount of cheese and the Chipotle sauce. However, soon after I got this Quesarito, I went and got another one, and on that one the cheese layer was almost non-existent, which really diminished the experience. So I have to knock it down a notch because, depending on who prepares your Quesarito, it’s either going to be solid or it’s going to be disappointing. It’s all about the queso.

Taco Bell Dr. Pepper Vanilla Float Freeze

Taco Bell  Dr. Pepper Vanilla Float Freeze

Here we have something new and something red, white and blue. The second part of that sentence may be confusing until you realize that Dr. Pepper Vanilla Float came out in grocery stores first, and their packaging looks like everything Americana threw up all over it.

Taco Bell took that drink and turned it into a freeze. If you ask me, this was a great idea; the soda itself is already designed to taste float-like, so freezing it should just add to that experience.

The original Dr. Pepper taste was a little toned down, allowing the vanilla taste to come through. I found the vanilla flavoring to be somewhat less artificial-tasting than some other vanilla-spiked sodas I’ve tried. Maybe it was the unique flavor of Dr. Pepper when combined with the vanilla, but I was impressed. This paragraph is dying for a synonym for vanilla.

Taco Bell  Dr. Pepper Vanilla Float Freeze Close-Up

As for the float part, I really could taste a bit of floatiness coming through in the soda. Maybe it was the slushy-freeze element that helped that along, but there was a distinct creaminess to it that went beyond just vanilla flavoring. Maybe that’s why I felt it stood apart from the plethora of vanilla sodas already on store shelves.

Nothing is going to replace an actual ice cream float, but Taco Bell’s Dr. Pepper Vanilla Float Freeze is a pretty good substitute, especially if you like soda slushies. This is probably my favorite “commercial” vanilla soda creation I’ve had in a long time. Bald eagle stars and stripes fireworks Uncle Sam.

Taco Bell Quesarito

  • Score: 4 out of 5 oozing cheese blobs
  • Price: $1.99
  • Size: 1 Quesarito
  • Purchased at: Taco Bell #029492
  • Nutritional Quirk: I’m betting the amount of cheese you get in your Quesarito will vary the calories by like, 500 either way.

Taco Bell Dr. Pepper Vanilla Float Freeze

  • Score: 4.5 out of 5 “is there another word for vanilla?”
  • Price: $1.00 (“Happy Hour” price)
  • Size: Regular
  • Purchased at: Taco Bell #029492
  • Nutritional Quirk: A lot less calories and fat than a real ice cream float!

Quick Pick: Carl’s Jr. Bacon Ranch Fries

Carl's Jr. Bacon Ranch FriesThe Good: The bacon was actually crisp. Appeared to be actually crumbled up bacon and not just sad little bacon bits. Carl’s uses buttermilk ranch, which has more flavor and is thicker than regular ranch. It also helped immensely in getting the bacon to stick to the fries, which I’ve found to be frustrating in the past when eating fries that involve bacon as a topping.

Carl's Jr. Bacon Ranch Fries Toppings

The Not-So-Good: I appreciate that my fries were hot, but that just made my ranch hot, which is not very appealing. As often is the case with fries covered with toppings, the toppings are far too sparse, with all the bacon clustered in the middle and almost nothing getting to the bottom fries. I wound up adding my own ranch. $3 is a pretty high price for some fries, the equivalent of a side cup of dressing and about one slice of crumbled bacon.

  • Score: 2.5 out of 5
  • Price: $3.00
  • Size: 1 serving
  • Purchased at: Carl’s Jr. #0828
  • Nutritional Quirks: These are really bad for you! That is not a surprise. Or a quirk.

Jack in the Box Blazin’ Chicken Sandwich

Jack in the Box Blazin' Chicken SandwichJack in the Box didn’t form a large campaign around their Blazin’ Chicken Sandwich, instead opting for a sexual harassment commercial that, while mildly amusing, I found frankly disappointing.

Normally, I would barely notice or care if a fast food place went pedestrian when it comes to sandwich marketing – after all, new menu items come out all the time, especially if you’re Jack in the Box – but as soon as I heard the description for the Blazin’ Chicken Sandwich, I was struck with the Lightning Bolt of Marketing Brilliance.

“The new Jack’s Blazin’ Chicken has spicy crispy chicken, Ghost Pepper Ranch sauce, and sliced jalapeños.”

I took two words away from this: Ghost Ranch.

Jack went all out with their Bacon Insider Burger, giving us an inside view of Jack’s farm that includes a curly fry tree and a helicopter.

But you know what’s missing? Jack’s motherfuckin’ Ghost Ranch.

Imagine the commercial: Jack’s tooling around the farm, moving hay bales or experimenting with the genetics of mutant animals or what have you, and suddenly he hears a strange noise coming from a corner of the farm that has long since been abandoned and neglected.

He parts the branches of a grove of weeping willows to find a spooky-looking ranch, complete with fog machine and maybe a graveyard for all the previous failed genetic abominations he’s created. Suddenly, he hears a loud noise…

“MOO!”

Jack jumps three feet in the air, probably not soiling his overalls since this is a rated G commercial, but then he sees a chicken with a loudspeaker!

“Aw, I messed it up,” the chicken says, looking crestfallen. “I was supposed to say ‘BOO!’”

“That’s okay, I’ll keep your secret,” Jack says amicably. “What is this place?” But as he looks back the chicken is suddenly…gone.

Flummoxed and freaked out, Jack notices a strange glowing a little ways away. He goes over to explore, and finds a whole field of ectoplasmic slime! But right in the middle of the goo, he spots it – the ghost pepper plant.

And then some other spooky stuff happens. I kind of ran out of ideas at this point.

Sooo let’s move onward to the actual sandwich!

Jack in the Box Blazin' Chicken Sandwich Inside

There’s three heat factors to the Blazin’ Chicken Sandwich, and I will address them separately first. Let’s start with the jalapeños.

Dear every fast food chain ever: Why can’t you put more than three fucking peppers on my sandwich? This is a widespread, chronic problem that continues to frustrate me. Is this some sort of rule? The three jalapeño max? Pickled jalapeños must cost, like, half of a cent each. So why can’t you give me enough to cover my whole sandwich?

That said, there was nothing special about these peppers, but they did add a nice touch of heat to the sandwich.

Next up, the spicy crispy chicken. I actually quite enjoyed my chicken – it was juicy and definitely crispy, with a thick breading that had an excellent amount of seasoning and a nice touch of heat. I’m assuming it’s the same chicken they use on Jack’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich, which I’ve never had, but I’d put it up at the top of my list of spicy chicken sandwich filets.

Jack in the Box Blazin' Chicken Sandwich Ghost Pepper Ranch

And finally, the ingredient designed to set the Blazin’ Chicken Sandwich apart: the Ghost Pepper Ranch. While my lack of jalapeños was disappointing, the amount of ghost pepper ranch on my sandwich made up for it.

I’ve come up with a scale when it comes to fast food peppers: take whatever spicy ingredient they claim they’re using and take it down about two notches (unless you can see physical evidence of the pepper itself). For example, if you see “habanero”, think “jalapeño”.

Therefore, when I saw “ghost pepper”, which is actually the first time I’ve seen a fast food place with the balls to use them, I figured “habanero”. Which is not an unimpressive amount of heat, mind you.

Jalapeño slices and spicy breaded chicken already make a great combo, but I have to say, I was really impressed by the Ghost Pepper Ranch. The base was distinctively ranch dressing, with its signature tanginess, but the ghost pepper part of the equation really did pack a punch. It hits you immediately and builds with every bite. In fact, my lips were burning after just a few bites, and continued to do so after I’d finished the sandwich.

The Ghost Pepper Ranch wasn’t just heat for heat’s sake, though – it was also quite delicious. The ranch balanced the heat, which is exactly what it should do, and the flavor of the peppers also managed to come through the spiciness. I’m so glad I got a heaping helping of it, and I wanted more even after my sandwich was done and my mouth was burning.

Jack in the Box Blazin' Chicken Sandwich Halves

Now let’s put all these ingredients together. I got some sad lettuce, as per usual, and some nice tomatoes that I didn’t feel were really necessary. The bun was pedestrian sesame, and the cheese, which Jack in the Box calls “Swiss-style”, was actually melted and added a nice creaminess to compliment the crunch of the chicken, which was not at all soggy, I might add.

I just noticed on Jack’s website that I was supposed to get grilled onions on my sandwich. They were nowhere to be found. That sucks. They wouldn’t have been necessary, but they would have been a nice addition.

By the way, maybe it was just the amount of Ghost Pepper Ranch on my particular buy, but my Blazin’ Chicken Sandwich was messy as hell. I didn’t care, since I was eating it in the privacy of my own home, but my buns were sliding all over the place (teehee) and the whole thing needed constant rearrangement to keep from falling apart completely.

All in all, I call Jack in the Box’s Blazin’ Chicken Sandwich a rousing success. I got a sucky amount of jalapeños, but Jack makes a nice spicy chicken, and the shining star was the Ghost Pepper Ranch sauce. I wasn’t exactly crying tears of capsaicin horror, but it was legit spicy and delicious at the same time. I want Jack to start offering Ghost Pepper Ranch as a side sauce. I would put it on everything.

I usually conclude a supposedly-spicy fast food sandwich by saying something like, “you suck, this wasn’t at all spicy, I hate when fast food even mutters the word spicy, blah blah blah”, but in the case of the Jack in the Box Blazin’ Chicken Sandwich, I can recommend it with a clear conscience if you’re looking for a kick from your chicken. Just ask for extra jalapeños. And extra-extra Ghost Pepper Ranch. And extra napkins.

[Disclaimer: This Blazin’ Chicken Sandwich was purchased with a gift card courtesy of Jack in the Box. This in no way influences my review or changes my mind that Jack should have had a Ghost Ranch.]

Jack in the Box Blazin’ Chicken Sandwich

  • Score: 4.5 out of 5 soiled overalls
  • Price: Free (regular price $4.69)
  • Size: 1 sandwich
  • Purchased at: Jack in the Box #111
  • Score Quirk: I’m calling this a “score quirk” because I gave it high marks despite the lack of onions and not enough jalapeños. Sometimes you can’t blame the company for the franchise. Plus I got extra ghost pepper ranch so nyah.

Domino’s Specialty Chicken: Crispy Bacon & Tomato and Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple

Domino's Specialty Chicken Crispy Bacon & Tomato and Spicy Jalapeno-PineappleThere seems to be some confusion surrounding Domino’s new Specialty Chicken. I first heard mention of it from Conan O’Brien, where he described it in his monologue as “ new pizza where, instead of dough, they’re using fried chicken.” Half-listening, I thought to myself, “Oh, that must not be in this country. The United States has gotten pretty insane with our pizzas, but not that insane.”

And yet, as I was doing my usual Internet food-trolling duties later that day, I came across the Specialty Chicken.

I love the mysteriousness of the name. What makes this chicken so special? Is it because it is, indeed, a chicken pizza crust? Domino’s themselves describes it as “100% whole breast white meat chicken covered in our toppings, sauces and cheeses.”

Well, that sounds like a chicken pizza crust to me!

At this point, Specialty Chicken became known as “Domino’s Abomination” in my household, two words I tried desperately to portmanteau. “AbDomination” was the best I could come up with, which still reeks of trying-too-hard so I don’t even know why I’m telling you this.

So far, Domino’s Abominations come in four flavors: Classic Hot Buffalo, Sweet BBQ Bacon, Crispy Bacon & Tomato and Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple. Given the concept, I only chose two, as the idea of eating or even possessing four chicken crust pizzas was too daunting for my mouth.

When my special chickens arrived, they came in the same box that Domino’s uses for their sandwiches and wings. Upon opening, I was more than a little disappointed by the size. Instead of a whole pizza, it was more the size of a slice.

I’ll discuss the basics before I get to the specific toppings. First of all, Specialty Chicken is not a chicken crust. While Domino’s description above is questionably accurate, what they fail to add is that the chicken basically comes in nugget form. Call it disappointing or encouraging, this does not a chicken crust make.

That said, the pieces were lightly breaded with a nice seasoning, and the chicken was surprisingly tender. I wish I’d taken the time to count exactly how many there were – I’d estimate a little over six per.

The real failing here was the topping coverage. The Crispy Bacon & Tomato managed to hold it together, you might say, but the Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple just looked like a disaster.

Domino's Specialty Chicken Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple

Starting with the latter, Domino’s describes it as “Tender bites of lightly breaded, 100% whole breast white meat chicken, topped with sweet and spicy mango-habanero sauce, a blend of cheese made with mozzarella and cheddar, jalapeno and pineapple.”

Domino's Specialty Chicken Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple Close-Up2

I feel like I was missing a fair amount of all of these things except the chicken. There was a lot of cheese overflow, resulting in some lovely cheese crisps, but that wasn’t the point. I had to actually work to get cheese, a piece of jalapeno and a piece of pineapple on the same piece, and I didn’t even know there was a sauce until I read the description.

That said, when I managed to get the toppings in tandem with the chicken, the spicy and the sweet worked quite well together. I’m not a huge pineapple fan, but it worked well to balance the impressive level of heat from the peppers. If there had been any trace of the mango-habanero sauce, I feel like that would have taken this Specialty Chicken to the next level.

Domino's Specialty Chicken Crispy Bacon & Tomato

The Crispy Bacon & Tomato actually kind of resembles a pizza slice. Domino’s describes it as “Tender bites of lightly breaded, 100% whole breast white meat chicken, topped with garlic parmesan white sauce, a blend of cheese made with mozzarella and cheddar, crispy bacon and tomato.”

Domino's Specialty Chicken Crispy Bacon & Tomato Close-Up

The toppings were joyously more prominent on this Specialty Chicken. The garlic parmesan white sauce definitely made its presence known, adding a creamy lubricant (phrasing) that compliments the toppings and the cheese that binds it all together.

I actually had a bit of fun pulling these chicken pieces apart, watching the cheese stretch and enjoying the smoky bacon that was actually crisp, along with the juicy tomatoes. The tomatoes were more scarce than the bacon, but I’d rather have that than the other way around. The sauce was tangy and really brought it all together.

All of this sounds overly complimentary in the face of my description of the Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple Specialty Chicken, but in reality, neither of these delivered on the toppings-to-chicken ratio. If you ordered a pizza and half of it was completely topping-less, you’d probably call Domino’s asking for your money back. If we’re treating this like a chicken pizza, that was exactly the case here.

I’m amending my initial moniker of Domino’s Abomination and calling Specialty Chicken Domino’s Disappointment. If these had initially been described to me as “breaded chicken pieces smothered in sauce, cheese, and toppings”, I would have responded with, “Fuck yeah, where do I sign up?”

While this is what Specialty Chicken was meant to be, this is not what I got. Everything was lacking except the chicken – barely any toppings, cheese that didn’t even start to cover each piece of chicken, and sauce that was meager or tasted non-existent. Furthermore, the price for these things is completely overblown – I was able to eat both in one sitting, which comes to $12 for a lunch from a fast food joint. I feel like Domino’s Specialty Chicken could be so much more if they lowered the price and upped the toppings.

Domino’s Specialty Chicken

  • Score (Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple): 2 out of 5 sad “Where’s the sauce?” jokes
  • Score (Crispy Bacon & Tomato): 2.5 out of 5 creamy lubricant jokes
  • Price: $5.99 each
  • Size: 12 pieces each
  • Purchased at: Domino’s #7602
  • Nutritional Quirks: Domino’s website tells me there were 12 pieces each, but I swear I got cheated.

News: Wendy’s Wants to “Lettuce” Introduce You to Their Asian Cashew Chicken Salad and BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad

Wendy,s Asian Cashew Chicken Salad and BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad; Photos Courtesy Wendy's

The “lettuce” pun was Wendy’s, not mine, and I can’t decide if I wish I’d thought of it. They also use the phrase “unbe-leaf-ably tasty”. I’m proud of you, Wendy’s marketing team.

Anyways! Wendy’s has two new salads involving chicken, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

The new Asian Cashew Chicken Salad includes garlic-and-onion-dusted cashews, fire-roasted edamame, red peppers, sliced cucumbers, eleven different field greens (resisting the urge to make a Soviet time zone joke here) and “a Light Spicy Asian Chili Vinaigrette made with chili garlic sauce, roasted peanuts, soy sauce, lime juice and brown sugar”. That’s…a lot of ingredients!

The BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad features fire-roasted corn, diced tomatoes, Applewood-smoked bacon, shredded cheddar cheese, the same ridiculous amount of field greens as the Asian Cashew, all drizzed with honey barbecue sauce.

You may be wondering where the ranch comes into play. Well, in addition to the honey barbecue sauce, this salad also comes with BBQ Ranch dressing, “made with real buttermilk, parmesan cheese, ancho chili pepper, honey and brown sugar”.

The Asian Cashew Chicken Salad goes for $5.99 full-size and $3.99 half-size. The BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad is $6.19 full-size and $4.19 half-size. Prices may vary depending on location.