REVIEW: Papa John’s Philly Cheesesteak Pizza

Papa John's Philly Cheesesteak Pizza

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year and Papa John’s is getting into the holiday spirit.” – Press release for Papa John’s new Philly Cheesesteak Pizza

“What the hell do Philly Cheesesteaks have to do with the holidays?” – Me

Yes, Papa John’s has decided that the best way to show their Christmas/Hanukkah/whateveryoucelebrate spirit is to offer a limited-time Philly Cheesesteak Pizza. Rejoice! Sound the trumpets!

Or, if you’re from Philadelphia, shake your fist angrily at yet another pizza bastardization of your beloved sandwich. At least, that’s what I imagine people from Philadelphia are doing. While they can’t seem to decide who offers the best cheesesteak within their own city, they can probably all agree that Philly Cheesesteak Pizza is bullshit.

Not that Papa John’s is the first offender in this regard, and I’m sure they won’t be the last. But they do seem especially fond of taking other foods and turning them into pizzas. The Fritos Chili Pizza had barely been released before the Philly Cheesesteak came along, and earlier this year they released a Double Cheeseburger Pizza.

Papa John’s describes their Philly Cheesesteak Pizza as “hand-tossed pizza crust layered with creamy garlic sauce, steak from the Original Philly Cheesesteak Company, fresh onions and green peppers, then covered with mozzarella and provolone cheese.”

Before you oo-la-la over the Original Philly Cheesesteak Company, know that they offer bulk steak that’s been fully cooked and blast-frozen, including a Value Pack, which is described as “The economical choice—marinated with Soy Protein for maximum value.” But hey – at least it’s actually from Philly, right?

Before I get to the bad, I’ll address the good parts of the Philly Cheesesteak Pizza. Don’t worry, it won’t take too long.

Papa John's Philly Cheesesteak Pizza Slice

The steak – sorry, the Original Philly Cheesesteak Company steak – was sliced thin and was tender; I didn’t have to wrestle with it like it was beef jerky. The onions and green peppers added a nice bit of crunch for contrast. There was plenty of gooey cheese topping the pizza.

Okay! Moving on. First off, the steak, which I would consider the most important part of the pizza, was practically tasteless. It wasn’t even salty. While the onions added a little bit of their flavor, the green peppers were tasteless, and I only knew they were on the pizza because of their color and crunch.

Papa John's Philly Cheesesteak Pizza Close-Up

The real food crime that took place here was the creamy garlic sauce. From the first bite onward, it overwhelmed the rest of the toppings. I love a good, garlicky white pie, but this sauce just made me sad. It tasted extremely over-processed and bitter.

In fact, it took me a bit to figure it out, but I was finally able to pinpoint that the most off part of it was that it had the taste of bile. I know that sounds gross and extreme, but that’s the most accurate way to describe it.

All of the toppings on Papa John’s Philly Cheesesteak Pizza were tasteless or unimpressive, but the worst offender by far was that creamy garlic sauce. It took this pizza from underwhelming to straight-up unappealing. Hell, if you’re going to use a processed sauce on a cheesesteak pizza, why not just use Cheez Whiz? To state that Cheez Whiz would have improved any pizza should let you know that you should pass up on this holiday offering. Bah humbug.

(Nutrition Facts – Nutrition Facts not available on website.)

Item: Papa John’s Philly Cheesesteak Pizza
Purchased Price: $12.00
Size: Small
Purchased at: Papa John’s
Rating: 1 out of 10
Pros: Onions and peppers add crunch. Angry fist-shaking. Steak is tender.
Cons: Steak is generally flavorless. Peppers are flavorless. Creamy garlic sauce tastes like bile. Wishing there was Cheez Whiz on my pizza. Creamy garlic sauce tastes like bile.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Rolled Chicken Tacos

Taco Bell Rolled Chicken Tacos Package

Say what you will about Taco Bell’s recycling of ingredients when introducing new menu items, but I will say this – they do enjoy getting creative with tacos. Whether they’re turning a Dorito into a shell, or wrapping a taco around another taco, playing origami with tortillas is not their weak spot.

And thus, the next iteration of the taco has arrived at Taco Bell: Rolled Chicken Tacos.

“Aren’t rolled tacos called taquitos?” You’re asking yourself right now. Or maybe you’re not, but it was my first thought when I saw them. The short answer is yes. I’m glad we cleared that up.

I associate these two terms with two different things, however. Whenever I visit a taqueria, I see them listed as rolled tacos on the menu. But when I visit the frozen food aisle of the grocery store, I see big boxes of taquitos.

In fact, growing up, my parents’ freezer was not complete without a big box of El Monterey or Delimex beef taquitos. It was my dad’s thing. I think he gave them out at the hospital when I was born in lieu of cigars. They tasted as cheap as they cost, but when you’re a ravenous prepubescent, the perfect food is something you can throw in the microwave, eat with your hands, and dunk into a puddle of Pace Picante.

Strangely, beef isn’t an option when it comes to Taco Bell’s Rolled Tacos. It’s chicken or GTFO. I don’t understand this decision, given that Taco Bell has loads of ground beef hanging around that would fit perfectly into a fried tortilla tube, but here we are. I have no choice but to be poultrified.

While it seems self-explanatory, I should let you know how Taco Bell describes their Rolled Chicken Tacos: “Rolled Chicken Tacos are crispy tacos rolled up with marinated all-white-meat shredded chicken.” Again, so glad we cleared all that up.

The Rolled Tacos also come with your choice of five, that’s right, FIVE different dipping sauces: Nacho Cheese, Premium Guacamole, Salsa, Reduced-Fat Sour Cream or Taco Bell’s new Spicy Ranch.

My mouth wanted to go with guacamole, but knowing that the Spicy Ranch was new, I had to pick that. Spicy Ranch is about as Mexican as dipping your rolled tacos in ketchup, but we are talking about Taco Bell, so hey.

Taco Bell Rolled Chicken Tacos

When Taco Bell says “crispy”, what they really mean is “deep fried”, and boy are these Rolled Chicken Tacos. Upon removal from their sleeve, the delightful scent of fried tortillas wafted into my nostrils. The tacos were dark and glistening with grease. Yesss.

The texture of the tacos was indeed crispy, but not so much that they were mouth-hurty, and there was a nice, greasy give in the middle. The meat-to-tortilla ratio was pretty much spot-on; I expected them to be underfilled, but the chicken wasn’t overwhelmed by the tortilla.

The chicken itself was moist and surprisingly flavorful. When you’ve only got one ingredient going on inside a taco, it’s important to get it right, and Taco Bell did a pretty good job. Whatever marinade they used kept the chicken juicy and added seasoning and a nice little kick to what could easily have been bland, shredded meat. My favorite part were the bits on the end that had turned crunchy from the frying process. I could eat a whole stick of crunchy, deep-fried chicken.

Taco Bell Spicy Ranch

As mentioned before, dip is important when it comes to taquitos. In regards to Taco Bell’s new Spicy Ranch, I found it to be lackluster, and this is coming from a person who will dip pretty much any chicken product into any ranch product. It wasn’t bad, it was just terribly generic.

I don’t know what they used to spice up the ranch, but it had a slightly orange-ish tone with little red and green flecks. It was thick, which was good – nobody wants a runny ranch when they’re dipping – and Taco Bell was generous with their portions, as I got two cups with my four rolled tacos. In the end, though, it was just ranch with a bit of a kick, and nothing more.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Taco Bell’s Rolled Chicken Tacos. The corn tortillas were deep fried to just the right unhealthily greasy and crunchy texture and the chicken was prominent, juicy and well-marinated. While the Spicy Ranch did nothing to wow me, there are four other dip choices for your perusal.

At the price of $1.99 for two tacos and one dip or $3.99 for four and two dips, these make a fine snack or appetizer to your Fourthmeal. There’s also a “duo” (I don’t know what that means) 12-pack.

(Nutrition Facts – 4 rolled tacos – 520 calories, 200 calories from fat, 22 grams of total fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 940 milligrams of sodium, 58 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugars, and 20 grams of protein.)

Item: Taco Bell Rolled Chicken Tacos
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 4 tacos and 2 dip cups
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Tortillas were just the right amount of crispy. Origami tacos. Chicken filling was juicy and well-marinated. Makes a cheap but satisfying snack. Taquito Cigars.
Cons: Forced poultrification. Spicy Ranch was lackluster. Things that are mouth-hurty. Unhealthy amounts of grease (if you consider that a con).

REVIEW: Burger King Four Cheese Whopper

Burger King Four Cheese Whopper

The Burger King Four Cheese Whopper could have been great. In fact, it should have been great.

Everybody knows that four is the best number. There are four blind mice, four good Indiana Jones movies and four continents on the planet. So when Burger King unveiled a Four Cheese Whopper, everybody in the country yelled “Four!” at the same time like we were playing golf for the fourth time that day. We needed this, BK. Imagine it: Buzzfeed lists of “Which of the Four Cheeses are you?” or umm, “Buzzfeed ranks the Four Cheese Whopper cheeses in order,” or “Buzzfeed remembers 2014, the year of the Four Cheese Whopper.” Buzzfeed is pretty 2013, but the Four Cheese Whopper could have swung this year for it.

However. You dropped the ball, Mr. King. You dropped the ball so hard. You dropped the ball harder than the Burger King Kid’s Club playing a game of pickup. Because at some point you’re going to have to pass the basketball to the nerd or the shaggy dog. Oh yeah, and there was that dude with a Virtual Boy strapped onto his face with a rubber band. What a dummy. Did Kid Vid invent Google Glass? Now I hate him even more.

Burger King, you dropped the ball harder than I wish I could drop Google Glass onto the ground. Let’s quote your own description of the Four Cheese Whopper. It says it has “melted American cheese, a creamy three cheese blend, cheddar sauce.” That sounds like five cheeses. And any idiot knows that five is better than four. Five is the best number, duh. There are five Golden Girls, five signs on the zodiac, and five sodas in a six-pack. You could have named it the Five Cheese Whopper and you completely missed the boat.

To be honest, though, you could have named it the One Cheese Whopper. Here’s the deal with this thing. There’s cheese on it. A lot of it. And it all tastes the same. It’s one note, and processed to hell. I could see the lady making it for me at the restaurant, and she stacked a few slices, then sprinkled some shavings, and then squirted a glop from a bottle. So much work, so many delivery systems, but it all ends up tasting exactly the same.

Burger King Four Cheese Whopper Side

It pretty much tastes like half a stack of Kraft Singles on top of a Whopper. And, yes, I know, that sounds awesome. But that’s because I’m a fatty obsessed with comic excess. It’s actually not awesome. To top it off, it’s that congealed cheese that’s barely melted so it has the texture of a frozen cheeseburger heated for 3/4 of the thawing time.

Burger King Four Cheese Whopper Topless

The cheese mutes any acidity in the burger toppings and also overthrows the charbroiled taste in the patty. King Burger also removed the pickles and the ketchup, which tips the entire fromage-agaggedon into cheese overdrive. There are onions, tomatoes and pieces of lettuce in there, but they resemble those people who die climbing Mount Everest and then freeze there like statues for future climbers to see, if instead of snow, cheese fell from the sky.

Burger King Four Cheese Whopper with Regular Whopper with Cheese

Regular Whopper with Cheese (left) Four Cheese Whopper (right)

The bun is a Whopper bun. It’s got sesame seeds. It also gets a little lost in the cheese mix. By comparison, the Whopper with cheese costs a few cents less and the ingredients all manage to find themselves onto the consumer’s palate, which, considering this is Your Majesty’s Burger Joint, may be considered a worse thing. Seems like this item would be labeled “for cheese-connoisseurs only,” but if this is the quality of cheese you like, you’re probably the kind of person who eats string cheese without stringing it: Do what you want, but that ain’t my style.

This burger appeals to about zero people. But you know what the silver lining is? Zero is by far the best number. Zero days of Christmas, the concept of pi starts with a zero, and there is a zero chance of this bit getting old.

(Nutrition Facts – 850 calories, 57 grams of fat, 21 grams of saturated fat, 2 grams of trans fat, 115 milligrams of cholesterol, 1160 milligrams of sodium, 47 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of sugar, and 32 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King Four Cheese Whopper
Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Basically a Whopper with more cheese. Still contains some Whopper qualities, if that’s your speed.
Cons: Cheese is overbearing, also not of greater quality, or even of differing quality than usual.

REVIEW: Burger King YUMBO Hot Ham & Cheese Sandwich

Burger King YUMBO Hot Ham & Cheese Sandwich

I don’t have a kid, but I’ve put some thought into his or her name. I’ve been thinking of names that are hard to make fun of, but that has been a difficult task.

Brandon…Brandumb.

Evelyn…Neverlyn.

Reginald…Reginard.

Catherine…Casserine.

Dick…Dick.

Geez, I’m a natural at this. I should’ve been a bully instead of being the target of bullies.

Burger King’s YUMBO Hot Ham & Cheese Sandwich has a name that’s extremely easy to make fun of. YUCKBO. This sandwich is DUMBO. YUMNOOOO. And those names do a wonderful job of describing how I feel about the YUMBO.

The YUMBO is constructed using slices of black forest ham, two slices of American cheese, Burger King’s sad lettuce, and mayonnaise on the hoagie bun used with BK’s Original Chicken Sandwich. Before I tell you how mediocre this sandwich is, let’s take a quick trip back into time.

The YUMBO is not a new sandwich. It was originally introduced in 1968 and taken off the menu six years later. The original didn’t include lettuce, mayonnaise, or a hoagie bun. You can see what it looked like in this vintage Hungry Jack’s commercial. (Hungry Jack’s is what Burger King is called in Australia.)

Being that I wasn’t born when the original YUMBO was around, I have no idea what it tasted like. But I do know the present version is disappointing. First off, the ham in my sandwich was not hot. Well, to be exact, my entire sandwich was lukewarm, including the toasted bun. Because the cheese was slightly melted, it might’ve had a little warmth during the 30 second walk from Burger King to my car and the 60 seconds I took to take photos, but it had none when I put it into my mouth. Gooey melted cheese is one thing that makes a hot ham and cheese sandwich awesome, but mine was just room temperature.

I will admit my YUMBO appears somewhat appetizing with the salty ham looking like it was placed lovingly onto the bun, but it tastes like a ham sandwich I could make at home with some cheap Land O’Frost meat, half-eaten lettuce stolen from a bunny cage, a free Best Foods/Hellmann’s mayo packet from 7-Eleven, a hoagie bun, and not giving a damn.

Burger King YUMBO Hot Ham & Cheese Sandwich Topless

After taking a few bites, I decided I wasn’t going to settle for a lukewarm sandwich and ended up microwaving it for 20 seconds when I got home. When the ham is hot and the cheesy is gooey and warm, it’s a noticeably better sandwich. Although if you decide to nuke it, get rid of the lettuce before you do so because heat makes BK lettuce worse than it already is. Actually, why is there lettuce? To be honest, I don’t even think lettuce wants to be in the sandwich because it kept falling out as I ate mine.

Burger King YUMBO Hot Ham & Cheese Sandwich Top

The YUMBO Hot Ham & Cheese Sandwich is part of the 2 for $5 menu, so if you don’t want to heed my warnings and try the ham sandwich, you can do so knowing you have a back up sandwich. It’s not YUCKBO when it’s warm, but I shouldn’t have to microwave my sandwich to make it decent. With the YUMBO being a limited time only product, it’ll eventually be taken off the menu again. And if it doesn’t show up again for decades, I won’t mind.

(Nutrition Facts – 490 calories, 24 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 1770 milligrams of sodium, 49 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, and 23 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King YUMBO Hot Ham & Cheese Sandwich
Purchased Price: $4.59*
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: A better sandwich when ham is hot and cheese is gooey and warm. Microwave ovens. Backup sandwiches.
Cons: Ham was not hot. Entire sandwich was lukewarm. Subway makes a better ham sandwich. Look at what you made me type, Burger King! Not the sandwich from the bell-bottoms generation. BK’s bad lettuce. Stealing from bunny cages. Bullies.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay less than I did.

REVIEW: KFC Loaded Potato Bowl

KFC Loaded Potato Bowl

If movies, like Spider-Man, can be rebooted, then I guess it’s possible to reboot a fast food menu item. That’s what I believe KFC’s Loaded Potato Bowl is. It’s a reboot of their Cheesy Bacon Bowl from 2011.

The Loaded Potato Bowl is made up of mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, diced crispy chicken tenders, a three cheese blend, green onions, and a bacon cheese sauce. The Cheesy Bacon Bowl featured mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, crispy chicken, cheese, and bacon.

Of course, like most reboots there are differences from the original, like in The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter uses mechanical webshooters, but in Spider-Man he shoots webs out of his wrists. The KFC Loaded Potato Bowl’s mechanical webshooters are green onions. And the bacon cheese sauce is the bowl’s Gwen Stacy.

As you can see in the photo above, my Loaded Potato Bowl did not come with mechanical webshooters.

Much like previous KFC bowls, the Loaded Potato Bowl looks like the result of a KFC meal placed in the trunk of a car that’s been doing donuts in a parking lot for 15 minutes. It’s not pretty, but as the other KFC bowls have taught me, never judge a KFC bowl by it looking like something that came out of a mouth, instead of something that should go into a mouth.?
KFC Loaded Potato Bowl Closeup

There’s a lot of mashed potatoes. So perhaps it gets its name not because it’s supposed to taste like a loaded potato skin or loaded baked potato, but because it’s loaded with potatoes. Mine also came with a lot of gravy, a decent amount of corn, a layer of diced crispy chicken tenders, a smidge of the three cheese blend, a smothering of cheesy bacon sauce, and, as I mentioned earlier, no green onions.

In my Cheesy Bacon Bowl review, I noted that the bacon bits made the whole thing super salty. But that wasn’t the case with this bowl since the cheesy bacon sauce has 75 percent less bacon bits than what was on the Cheesy Bacon Bowl. If you think that’ll equate to a significant decrease in pork flavor, let me assure you there’s enough salty, smoky bacon bits so that you’ll have some in every sporkful. The sauce also wasn’t very cheesy. It tasted more like a mild gravy than a cheesy sauce.

The chicken, surprisingly, was able to maintain some crispiness sitting in a pool of what is essentially Thanksgiving sides after my 15 minute drive home. There were a few pieces that were almost all breading, there were mostly meaty pieces. Those pieces that had meat were tender, but the double dose of gravy chokes the chicken’s flavor.

As I ate my way through the bowl, all I could think about was how I’ve had this before. It’s a slight variation of KFC’s Famous Bowl and an even slighter variation of the Cheesy Bacon Bowl. Maybe the green onions would’ve made a huge difference, but I think the difference still would’ve been slight.

KFC Spork

To be honest, I was more fascinated with the spork that came with my Loaded Potato Bowl than the meal itself. When did KFC update their sporks?

With all that said, KFC’s Loaded Potato Bowl is fine if you like to eat your KFC food out of a mini trough. It’s filling and it has all the KFC flavors you know and love. But if you’re hoping for something different, you should wait for KFC’s next showing.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on KFC’s website.)

Item: KFC Loaded Potato Bowl
Purchased Price:
Size: N/A
Purchased at: KFC
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Lots of mashed potatoes. Good amount of chicken. Filling. Chicken was able to maintain crispiness even after sitting in a pool of gravy and mashed potatoes.
Cons: Tastes too similar to previous KFC bowls. Some chicken pieces were mostly breading. Double dose of gravy chokes the chicken’s flavor.