REVIEW: Arby’s King’s Hawaiian Fish Deluxe Sandwich

Arby's King's Hawaiian Fish Deluxe Sandwich

I know few things about Hawaii. I do know the most famous celebrity is that Hawaiian Punch guy with that crazy hat. I also know that Hawaiian luxury resorts will kindly let you sleep for free when you go through a bad breakup (thanks Sarah Marshall). And I know that King’s Hawaiian bread is the best I’ve stuffed in my mouth since challah with its eggy pleasures.

Intrigued by the small four packs sitting harmlessly by the supermarket deli, they sat there engulfed in the smells of fried chicken and briny olives. The first time I picked them up was a lark but when the slightly sweet, rich taste seduced me, I was forever captive. I rarely leave the supermarket without buying a 4-pack of King’s Hawaiian rolls or sandwich buns.

I also have a strong penchant for fried fish sandwiches. While most gravitate towards Quarter Pounders or Big Macs, I go for the Filet-O-Fish. Even though it contains a lifeless fried rectangle with a flaky nondescript soylent green kind of protein, I love the Filet-O-Fish.

So imagine my fervor when I discovered the Arby’s King’s Hawaiian Fish Deluxe sandwich? Too many apostrophes aside, I was so excited that I immediately drove to the nearest Arby’s.

Arby's King's Hawaiian Fish Deluxe Sandwich 2

The sandwich was almost four and a half inches in diameter and the bun was similar to the King’s Hawaiian sandwich rolls. There was no mistaking that the roll made an impact visually because that slight sheen demanded that I pay fucking attention. I sank my partially brushed teeth into the softly toasted bun and into the crispy and flaky “wild caught Alaskan Pollock.” I can hear you scoffing. I am too. Regardless, if the fish was wild, I was impressed because it was not greasy.

Also, the rolls did not disappoint. They were slightly sweet, soft, and rich. They delivered, but that, surprisingly, contributed to the problem.

Arby's King's Hawaiian Fish Deluxe Sandwich 3

The sweet bread combined with the sweeter tartar sauce overwhelmed the sandwich. I couldn’t even taste the pickled chunks in the tartar sauce and it just killed the Alaskan pollock. There was too much tartar sauce on my tomato and lettuce.

The textures were pleasant enough but the slightly sweet bread on top of the sweeter sauce just shoved the fish aside like my Mom does when I try to hug her. Worse, the cheddar cheese was gloppy and lifeless. It wasn’t melted enough and it made no impression on the fish or the prized King’s Hawaiian roll.

Arby's King's Hawaiian Fish Deluxe Sandwich 4

I was a bit sad the Arby’s King’s Hawaiian Fish Deluxe didn’t live up to my expectation. Additionally, the $4.25 price tag is a bit too pricey and makes the term “Deluxe” really seem like an overstatement. The sandwich doesn’t balance as well as McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish. In fact, I’ve had government cafeteria fish sandwiches that tasted better. It’s a tolerable sandwich if you ignore that “deluxe” price, but otherwise I don’t think it’s really worth it.

(Nutrition Facts – 790 calories, 320 calories from fat, 36 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 125 milligrams of cholesterol, 1140 milligrams of sodium, 89 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 24 grams of sugar, and 28 grams of protein.)

Item: Arby’s King’s Hawaiian Fish Deluxe Sandwich
Purchased Price: $4.25
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Arby’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Wild caught Alaskan Pollock was crispy and flaky. The King’s Hawaiian roll was sweet and rich.
Cons: Too much tartar sauce. The lifeless cheese slice. Deluxe price.

REVIEW: Burger King Pepperoni Bacon Whopper (Canada)

Burger King Pepperoni Bacon Whopper (Canada)

If nothing else, I’ll say this about the Burger King location I visited: they’re super efficient.

I visited around noon, and they were quite busy. After I ordered, I walked about three steps to the left, to the area where they bring the food. There was a burger sitting on a tray. Since I had literally just finished ordering my burger seconds ago, it didn’t even occur to me that it was mine.

There was a smiling man standing behind the counter. We locked eyes. Why was this guy staring at me? Didn’t he have anything better to do? Was my fly down? The man pointed to the tray and told me it was mine. I don’t know if the words just didn’t compute, or if he wasn’t speaking loudly enough, but I asked him to repeat it. He did.

This still made no sense to me. Even if the burger was pre-made, how did he get it from under the heat lamp and over to my tray so quickly? There was maybe two seconds between me finishing up my order and walking over to where he was standing. So I clarified: “No, I ordered the Pepperoni Bacon Whopper.” His smile didn’t quite fade, but it wavered. He was clearly starting to lose his patience. “Yes sir, that’s yours.”

My eyes narrowed. I thanked the guy — more a question than a statement — then picked up the tray and took it to a table.

I unwrapped the burger, half expecting to find a regular Whopper. Glancing at the sad-looking burger in front of me, flattened and misshapen, I initially thought I was right. But what’s this? Is that a piece of bacon poking out from the bun? I took a peek inside, and yep, there was the pepperoni.

You’re probably wondering, “Why are you dwelling on this? It’s a fast food place; of course the food came fast.” Fair enough. Maybe you had to be there, but it was a startling display of efficiency. I honestly wasn’t sure whether to be impressed or horrified.

Anyway: the burger. The Pepperoni Bacon Whopper is, as the title implies, a Whopper with pepperoni and bacon on it. It’s also got a couple of slices of American cheese, because, yeah, why not?

My conundrum as to whether or not to be impressed or horrified was quickly answered after I took my first bite: horrified. Because not only was this burger not hot, it wasn’t even warm -– it was room temperature. I don’t know exactly how long it was sitting out, but I’m going to say a while.

I will charitably call it lukewarm, but in reality, it was leaning more towards cold. I considered asking them to make me a new one, but by the time this thought occurred to me, I was already two or three bites in, and the idea of losing my progress and starting over from scratch with a brand new burger was too much for me to handle. I earned those bites; no one was going to take them from me.

The patty itself was easily the burger’s worst offender. It was unpleasantly bitter, with that distinctively acrid, stayed-on-the-grill-for-a-couple-of-minutes-too-long flavor that characterizes pretty much any hamburger you get from Burger King these days.

It was also insanely dry. And I don’t just mean dry in that fairly typical way that characterizes most fast food burgers. No, this wasn’t that. This was capital-D Dry. I’ve had a pretty ridiculous amount of hamburgers in my lifetime, and this was probably one of the driest ones I’ve ever had.

Burger King Pepperoni Bacon Whopper (Canada) 2

It was tough, with a pebbly texture and a slightly gamy, vaguely off flavour that peeked through whenever you weren’t tasting the charred bitterness. It’s a flavour that announces in no uncertain terms that this is shoddy beef that has doubtless been sitting in a drawer for a disturbingly long period of time.

The pepperoni was pretty good, at least. It was standard-issue pepperoni, with that very familiar flavour that you’ve no doubt tasted on hundreds of pizza slices over your lifetime. On a better burger it would have been a bit overwhelming, but here I was very happy for the flavour of the patty to be overwhelmed; my arms were wide open. It wasn’t overwhelming enough, in fact. The taste of that patty still managed to muscle its way through and go straight for my gag reflex.

The thin slices of bacon, however, never had a chance. I knew they were there because I saw them, but I couldn’t taste them. At all.

The cheese, though it added some creaminess, also got lost among the burger’s more assertive flavours.

The other toppings (the standard Whopper veggies, ketchup, and mayo) were fine. The tomato slices weren’t mealy and the lettuce had some vague crunchiness, so I’m going to call that a win. The bun was a little bit clammy, but otherwise okay.

As a parting gift, the burger left an unpleasantly bitter aftertaste that lingered for most of the afternoon.

So no, sorry Burger King — you continue to be the Andy Dick of fast food chains. You were okay in the ’90s, but no one wants you around any more. The sad thing is, putting pepperoni on a burger is a decent enough idea, but to quote Switch from the Matrix: not like this. Not like this.

(Nutrition Facts – 860 calories, 56 grams of fat, 19 grams of saturated fat, 2.5 grams of trans fat, 145 milligrams of cholesterol, 1590 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 11 grams of sugar, and 40 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King Pepperoni Bacon Whopper (Canada)
Purchased Price: $5.99 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: A burger that’s ready mere seconds after ordering it, as if by wizardry. Tasty pepperoni. Fresh condiments.
Cons: Apparently even a wizard cannot conjure up a burger and make it taste hot and fresh. Bitter, over-charred, absurdly dry burger patty. Pointless bacon. Terrible aftertaste.

REVIEW: Jack in the Box Enchilada Monster Taco

Jack in the Box Enchilada Monster Taco

I wish Jack in the Box’s Enchilada Monster Taco was an enchilada inside of a taco, but it is not. But I’m sure Taco Bell will one day accomplish that feat and give it a name, like Enchitaco, Enchilataco, or Talada.

For those of you not keeping score at home, and I’m pretty sure that’s 100 percent of you, Jack in the Box has introduced six Monster Taco varieties since 2013. There’s the original Monster Taco, Nacho Monster Taco, Bacon Ranch Monster Taco, Breakfast Monster Taco, Southwest Monster Taco, and this one

The Enchilada Monster Taco features seasoned ground beef, shredded lettuce, cheddar cheese, and an enchilada sauce in a partly crunchy, but 75 percent greasy taco shell. At a quick glance, it doesn’t look too different than a regular Monster Taco, but within the grease-stained shell there’s a difference. The original version has slices of American cheese and taco sauce instead of cheddar and enchilada sauce.

As you can see below, my taco had a whole lot of taco beef sludge and shredded lettuce, a bit of enchilada sauce, and not a lot of cheddar cheese. The enchilada sauce is a nice change of pace from Jack’s regular taco sauce. It’s not as spicy as the taco sauce, although the amount of lettuce my taco had might’ve dampened the spiciness. The enchilada sauce is also sweet and has a nice tomato-y, garlicky, and oniony flavor to it. I think I prefer it over Jack’s taco sauce.

Jack in the Box Enchilada Monster Taco Innards

As a whole, I did enjoy Jack in the Box’s Enchilada Monster Taco. It’s tasty and the shell, like all Jack in the Box tacos, has that wonderful crunch on the edges. But it’s too slight of a variation from the original Monster Taco. Adding enchilada sauce to a taco is as exciting as adding ketchup to a burger.

The Nacho version has jalapeños and nacho cheese sauce, the Ranch Bacon has a strip of bacon and ranch sauce, and the Southwest one had black beans and roasted corn. But the Enchilada Monster Taco just has enchilada sauce and shredded cheese. Compared with the others, it sounds unimaginative to me. And I don’t think it’s worth its premium price, which is a few dimes more than the original Monster Taco.

Now if it was an enchilada inside of a taco, then it would be a whole different story.

(Nutrition Facts – 308 calories, 177 calories from fat, 20 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 27 milligrams of cholesterol, 693 milligrams of sodium, 317 milligrams of potassium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of protein.)

Item: Jack in the Box Enchilada Monster Taco
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Jack in the Box
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Enchilada sauce has nice flavor. The crunchy edges of the Taco Shell. Glad it doesn’t have American cheese.
Cons: Too slight of a variation from the original Monster Taco. Not worth the premium price over the original Monster Taco. Not using their creamy sriracha sauce on a taco (it’ll probably happen this year). Mine had a lot of lettuce and not a lot of cheddar cheese. Not an enchilada in a taco.

REVIEW: Subway Monterey Chicken Melt with Subway’s New Grilled Chicken Strips

Subway Monterey Chicken Melt wGrilled Chicken

I’m told that Monterey, California is a beautiful waterfront community with awesome beaches and amazing weather, but I’ve never been there so I’m forced to take the propaganda from the city’s website at its word. Likewise, I’m told Subway’s new Monterey Chicken Melt comes with improved grilled chicken strips which contain no artificial flavors or preservatives, and taste better because they are better.

Whatever that means.

Naturally suspicious of a chain which claims to have single-handedly condensed one giant man into a single pants leg, this is not a claim I can submit to without a little verification.

Subway Monterey Chicken Melt comparison

Subway likes its slogan “Eat Fresh,” but when your oven roasted chicken consists of a somewhat flabby and unnaturally opaque breast of what, presumably, was once a chicken, you’ve earned the right to be called out on the freshness front. For those of you who enjoy the slightly chewy texture and brothy flavor notes of the roasted chicken breast, I have good news. The sandwich to the left features it in all its glory, right on down to the fake black grill marks which are apparently part of the “roasting” process.

Those marks, believe it or not, look suspiciously similar to the ones on the new grilled chicken strips.

Fortunately we speak of two different breasts.

Subway Monterey Chicken Melt wGrilled Chicken 4

The grilled chicken strips on the Monterey Chicken Melt have a much less artificial and salty flavor, while also giving off a pleasant, albeit mild, char-grilled taste which could almost pass as smoky. The portion in a six-inch sub is modest, and the strips lack the proverbial if not injected juiciness of the “roasted” chicken breast, but the flavor is respectable by fast food standards.

While nowhere near as fresh or authentically chargrilled as Chick-fil-A’s Grilled Chicken, I enjoyed the new strips, and enjoyed them on Subway’s “new” sub, which is really just a combination of cheese and protein when you think about it.

Subway Monterey Chicken Melt wGrilled Chicken 2

And let me be real with you here: the new chicken is an improvement, but the Monterey Cheddar makes this sub. It melts perfectly—neither oozing oil nor turning elastic—and adds a subtle milky tanginess, lactic sweetness, and complexity to the sandwich. The vegetables—Subway’s usual combination of tomato, cucumbers, spinach, peppers, and red onion—are fresh and purpose serving, but the sub still tasted a little plain.

I get that Subway wants to keep the attention on the chicken and the cheese, but not marketing the sub with a sauce proves a blunder. At the very least, I’d recommend customizing it with your favorite from Subway’s offerings.

Subway Monterey Chicken Melt wRoasted Chicken

Subway’s Monterey Chicken Melt isn’t very revolutionary, and can more or less be ordered with a Roasted Chicken breast—fake grill marks and salty rib meat aftertaste and all—at fifty cents less than the advertised sub with the new grilled chicken. I did just that, and found it tasty in its own way, the cheese playing a more profound role in offsetting the overly chicken broth flavor of the roasted breast. Still, the flavor of the two sandwiches wasn’t substantially different given the toppings, and had I ordered the same sauce on both my subs, I imagine the flavors would be even more similar.

So does that mean the new, “expertly” prepared grilled chicken is a sham?

Does that mean Monterey’s beaches are actually full of shipwrecked catamarans and the weather is really a none-too-balmy -26 degrees?

Probably not, but what it does mean is that if you’re loading up your sub with fixings, cheese, and sauce, you probably won’t notice the modest, but authentic, grilled taste of the new strips. That’s ok with me. Sometimes less is more—a fact I know the guy they shoved into one pants leg would agree with.

(Nutrition Facts – 6-inch sub on Hearty Italian – 360 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 580 milligrams of sodium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and 27 grams of protein.)

Item: Subway Monterey Chicken Melt with Subway’s New Grilled Chicken Strips
Purchased Price: $4.75
Size: 6-inch sub
Purchased at: Subway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Not the same chicken as the roasted chicken. Good, authentic, and non-artificial tasting char-grilled flavor. Clean tasting chicken strips lack the enhanced chewiness of typical fast food roasted or grilled chicken. Monterey Cheddar finally getting its due. Researching possible vacation sites amidst another East Coast polar-vortex.
Cons: Subtle grill flavor might be a little bland for some. Still not as juicy or flavorful as Chick-fil-A’s grilled chicken breast. Lack of a sauce fails to make the flavors pop. Bread-to-meat ratio lags behind premium sub chains.

REVIEW: Arby’s Jalapeño Hushpuppies

Arby's Jalapeno Hushpuppies

Deep inside an underground bunker somewhere near Pocatello, Idaho, the nation’s preeminent potato growers and their army of lobbyists recently gathered. The following is an unconfirmed transcript of the meeting that followed. Names have been modified to protect the innocent.

Derek J. Russet, Chairman of the Confederacy of Potato Advocates: Ladies and gentlemen. We gather today amidst news that threatens the very existence of our industry. Reports indicate one of our longtime allies in the fast food world has threatened to disown the humble spud as a side item.

Silence

Russet: Yes, it’s true, and I’m afraid it’s not the usual challenge from the Onion Ring Hegemony again. Thankfully Burger King continues to showcase the alliance of alliums in an objectionable light, but this new threat is much greater.

Timothy L. Fingerling, CFO: Sir, surely our market share can withstand a minor blip. Our research has long indicated customers sometimes go for so-called ‘healthier options,’ but once the New Year’s Resolution high subsides, they’ll return to their french fries and chips with renewed vigor.

Russet: I do not know, Fingerling. Reports are still vague, but apparently Arby’s has introduced Jalapeño Hushpuppies as part of their limited time only, pre-Lent menu. Hushpuppies…with fish! The nerve of these people. What would our English brethren and their fish and chips say? In any event, knowing how trendy Southern food is and how customers are always begging for something to set their mouth on fire, this is a threat we cannot overlook. Dare I say it, if these are successful, we could see multiple fast food companies ditching fries for balls of fried cornmeal in no time.

Gasps!

Amanda W. Yukon, Director of Nefarious Tuber Operations: Not so fast, sir. I have firsthand reports on the quality of these hushpuppies, straight from one of my freelance field operatives. In my hands is an intelligence estimate courtesy of Lawrence Sweet, who has just eaten at Arby’s.

Fingerling: By all means, Ms. Yukon. Major Sweet is one of most trusted and objective operatives. If it weren’t for his work on those Arby’s Cheddar Pretzel Nuggets during the spring, we would have never been able to sabotage them with laxative inducing cheese sauce. Please, read the report.

Yukon: He begins as follows: “I entered Arby’s with an open mind. My love of potatoes aside, I’ve traveled to the Gulf Coast in the past and have frequently eaten, and enjoyed, hushpuppies. There’s just something so perfect about them, so distinctly Southern in their crispy outside texture, moist interior, and tangy sweetness. Given how well Arby’s has done some other regional specialties like brisket, I expected these to be a worthy rendition.”

Silence permeates the room, broken only by a few nervous clicks of someone’s pen.

Arby's Jalapeno Hushpuppies 2

Yukon: He continues: “I was pleased to find the hushpuppies crisp and non-too greasy, but an almost blackened color was cause for concern. A cornbread batter can be unforgiving for a fry cook, and the blistered craters, while perhaps making a fine 1:100,000,000 scale model for an asteroid, revealed they might’ve spent too much time in the fryer. Not surprisingly a burnt flavor was impossible to overcome on first bite, although a mild and moist cornbread filling did dissipate the burnt exterior somewhat.

Arby's Jalapeno Hushpuppies 3

Still, there was something off about the flavor. The jalapeños were immediately noticeable, but instead of a spicy bite, the small chunks carried a bitter and vegetal flavor. They tasted old and canned, while the chunks of corn also had a dulled, diluted flavor which wouldn’t win a taste test with Del Monte.”

Russet: Interesting. So they’ve not only botched the execution, but used sub-par ingredients. But everyone knows even a limp French fry can be resuscitated with Heinz or Fry Sauce. I’m still unconvinced these aren’t a threat.

Yukon:/b> I think we’re safe on that front too, sir. Sweet reports there’s no natural pairing for hushpuppies. They should have enough balance in the buttermilk tang, the corn sweetness, and the heat of the seasoning to be eaten on their own. Even ketchup can’t save them, and Sweet thinks ketchup is good on everything. Besides, he claims they’re too small to leave customers happy. And obviously, they lack the appeal of a curly fry.

Fingerling: Dare I say we’ve dodged a bullet! Once again, fast food has outthought itself.

Russet: Indeed. Send our thanks to Sweet, Yukon. Arby’s Jalapeño Hushpuppies won’t satisfy those longing for a homemade taste of the Gulf Coast, and pose little long-term threat to the supremacy of the spud.

(Nutrition Facts – 5 hushpuppies – 290 calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 790 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 2 gram of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Arby’s Jalapeno Hushpuppies
Purchased Price: $1.79
Size: 5 pieces
Purchased at: Arby’s
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Mainstream fast food embracing a taste of the south. Crunchy exterior and moist cornbread-like interior. Real whole kernel corn and jalapeños in batter. Moderate and building back-heat. The survival of the potato industry.
Cons: Tiny and hard as a rock. Burnt flavor overpowers the cornmeal. Bitter, vegetal-like quality to the jalapeños. Corn kernels taste dull and canned. Lacks obvious condiment pairing. Freelance work for world potato cabals.