REVIEW: Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chalupa

Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chalupa

Well, it was only a matter of time, I suppose: Taco Bell has finally taken it’s Naked Chicken Chalupa national.

For those of you not in the know, the product’s first trial run was in Bakersfield, California, in 2015, with a second go-at-it in Kansas City, Missouri, last year. And while Taco Bell has hit us with a LOT of unusual menu offerings over the years (three words, folks: Cap’n Crunch Delights) a lot of people on social media thought T.B. was hoaxing ‘em this time around – I mean, really, a chicken chalupa?

No, it’s not a chalupa with chicken in it. The chicken itself is the chalupa. And if the same mad geniuses who brought us the Beefy Fritos Crunch Burritos and Waffle Tacos decided it was nigh time for Americans to eat a giant rolled up chicken patty with lettuce and avocado ranch dressing inside it, then by golly, it’s probably time to for us to eat some giant rolled up chicken patties with lettuce and avocado ranch dressing inside it.

Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chalupa 2

Like the Doritos Locos Tacos, each Naked Chicken Chalupa comes with its own snazzy (and sturdy) paper holder. The chicken shell/patty itself is pretty darn big – about four ounces of rolled up breaded white meat, speckled with some traditional Mexican herbs and spices. There’s definitely some heat to it, but for those of you with tamer tastebuds, it probably won’t torch your tongue that much.

Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chalupa 3

On the inside, we’ve got your usual Taco Bell stuffings – chopped lettuce, some diced tomatoes, a sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese, and a hearty dollop of avocado ranch dressing holding everything together (sorry, those of you who expected a scoop of seasoned ground beef to be in there, too.)

All in all, it’s a pretty satisfying product that doesn’t taste anywhere near as weird as you’d imagine. In fact, you really don’t even feel the missing tortilla or hard shell after a couple of bites, and thankfully, the chicken patty isn’t oily or greasy so you don’t have to worry about poultry juice staining your khakis.

While Taco Bell’s breaded chicken can’t compete with the grand lions of fast food chicken sandwiches (Chick-fil-A, you have nothing to worry about here), the shell does have a very robust flavor and is surprisingly juicy. Nor does it taste terribly salty, which has always been my biggest complaint with the lower-tier fast food chicken patties out there.

Your mileage may vary on the avocado ranch dressing – I would’ve preferred a spicier chipotle sauce – but believe it or not, this thing doesn’t taste all that much different from your standard chicken taco.

Huh. Who would’ve thought the absolute strangest thing about quite possibly the strangest Taco Bell L-T-O offering ever would be just how peculiarly normal it actually is?

(Nutrition Facts – 440 calories, 270 calories from fat, 30 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 1,090 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar and 20 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: The chicken shell is big, juicy and flavorful. You can eat it without getting grease on everything within a one-mile radius. The avocado ranch dressing adds a nice little zing.
Cons: It really doesn’t taste that much different from a regular chicken taco. A couple of other in-house dressings probably would’ve been better choices. Staying up all night wondering what would’ve happened if I had asked the manager to put grilled chicken inside my chicken chalupa.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Double Stacked Tacos

Taco Bell Double Stacked Tacos

For being their titular item, I rarely find myself craving Taco Bell’s tacos. While I’m a lover of their items, the standard crunchy taco has always felt skimpy. A paltry line of beef, a cascade of limp lettuce, and a sprinkling of unmelted cheese – it’s forgettable.

So thankfully, the Bell has pumped them up for their latest iteration. Taco Bell’s Double Stack Tacos bulk up their classic standard tacos by wrapping the corn exterior with a flour tortilla, slathered in sauce and cheese. With an extra layer, each one is hefty – especially for a $1 item. Two of these could make a comfortable meal, something that can’t be said for the Bell’s un-enhanced tacos.

Taco Bell Cool Habanero Double Stacked Taco

First up is Cool Habanero. The taco is the same as you’d expect, but with a generous hit of sour cream. Around it is wrapped a flour tortilla with a spray of habanero sauce, alongside melted cheese. The intention is for the sour cream to counteract the spice, though the balance isn’t quite there. There’s more sour cream than habanero by a healthy margin, and the sauce isn’t all that potent. As a full bite, it came off blander than most Taco Bell items.

Taco Bell Nacho Crunch Double Stacked Taco

The Nacho Crunch Double Stack adds a layer of red tortilla strips to the basic taco, then surrounds it with a duet of nacho and shredded cheese. If you’ve lost count, that gives this one item three different forms of tortilla – and three total servings of cheese. Predictably, it tastes like tortilla and cheese.

The meat and lettuce are lost in this fatty carb bomb, smothered in gooey yellow. It’s puzzling why this option dodges the habanero sauce of the other two tacos, which would’ve given this a needed a kick of flavor.

Taco Bell Spicy Sweet Double Stacked Tacos

Most interesting of the trio is Spicy Sweet, featuring a sweet chili sauce unique to the item. The red sauce has a loose texture, saturated with chili flakes. It’s very sweet, but was applied conservatively across the meat. While the first bite was initially heavy on sugar, it was countered by the savory beef.

Once the habanero sauce broke through, all three flavors really clicked. The sweet chili sauce has a light heat of its own, and a bit of a fruit jam flavor. This tasty blend is spread a bit thin, though. Between the lettuce, corn tortilla, flour tortilla, and double helping of cheese – the serving of meat and sauces feels underwhelming.

Taco Bell Double Stacked Tacos

Overall, the Double Stacked Tacos are mostly notable for their price. The Nacho Crunch and Cool Habanero tacos are cheaper and bulkier than their counterparts – making them a solid pickup. Spicy Sweet is the real highlight though, and is definitely worth a try.

(Nutrition Facts – Cool Habanero – 350 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 630 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of protein. Nacho Crunch – 380 calories, 170 calories from fat, 19 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 650 milligrams of sodium, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of protein. Spicy Sweet – 340 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 640 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.00 each
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Cool Habanero)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Nacho Crunch)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Spicy Sweet)
Pros: Very hearty for the price, while delivering classic Taco Bell flavor. Spicy Sweet variety is unique, and nails the sweet/savory/hot mix. Spices up otherwise boring tacos.
Cons: Cool Habanero needs more heat. Nacho Crunch should be Haberno Crunch. All three could use more meat.

REVIEW: Krispy Kreme Nutty Cocoa Ring

Krispy Kreme Nutty Cocoa Ring

As a kid, whenever Krispy Kreme doughnuts were around, my mom would make up some probable lie about how a single doughnut had the fat content of seven strips of bacon, so I wouldn’t go too ham on the doughnuts. In practice I usually just used this piece of wisdom to justify eating way too much bacon. (Ten strips? That’s less than two doughnuts worth!)

While I’m sure the seven strip to one doughnut formula isn’t accurate, one things is for sure: Krispy Kreme doughnuts are always bombs of oil and sugar. Even someone like me, who may or may not have eaten two full Symphony bars the day I got them in my Christmas stocking, can only handle one or two of the plain glazed doughnuts before my stomach taps out.

Of course if you’ve ever had Krispy Kreme before, you know that essentially all of their doughnuts are glazed. The Nutty Cocoa Ring doughnut, Krispy Kreme’s latest offering, is no different. It features one of their classic glazed doughnuts as a base, topped with a generous helping of Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread. Half of the doughnut is covered in chopped hazelnuts. I’m definitely a Nutella fan, and I think chocolate-hazelnut is S-tier as far as chocolate nut combinations go, so I didn’t think this item could possibly be a miss for me.

Krispy Kreme thought otherwise.

Before taking a bite into the doughnut, I sampled some of the Nutella spread with my finger and it is indeed delicious, standard Nutella. However the problem comes when combining the topping with its glazed doughnut base. Upon taking a bite, the Nutella was almost indistinguishable from the standard Krispy Kreme.

The taste of the Krispy Kreme itself was just far too strong to be a base for the more subtly flavored Nutella. I had to eat the doughnut upside-down, mashing the Nutella to my tongue to get even a whisper of its flavor.

Krispy Kreme Nutty Cocoa Ring 2

The half of the doughnut covered in chopped hazelnuts was slightly better just because the chopped nuts created an interesting texture variety that you don’t normally get in a doughnut. The hazelnuts were even densely packed enough that I could almost taste them if I closed my eyes and wished for it. The problem is that only half the doughnut has hazelnuts, and the other half is essentially a regular glazed doughnut with extra calories from the Nutella.

(Nutrition Facts – 270 calories, 150 calories from fat, 17 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 14 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.29
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: The bacon/doughnut guilt formula. Crunchy hazelnuts. I got to taste some Nutella with my fingertip.
Cons: The bacon/doughnut guilt formula. Half of a good doughnut. I would have given this a 7 if the whole thing was covered in the chopped hazelnuts.?

REVIEW: Wendy’s Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich

Wendy's Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich

Jack and Wendy went to the levee to fetch a pail of water in preparation for her new spicy innovations. Jack fell down and broke his crown because Wendy’s Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich blew away his expectations.

That’s how the nursery rhyme should be updated because Wendy’s take on sriracha is impressive. My complaint with most fast food “spicy chicken” is that it’s never actually spicy. Wendy’s takes the pedal to the medal – quite possibly in a Lexus Sriracha IS – and delivers. It’ll make any O.G. Huy Fong Sriracha fan tear up.

Wendy's Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich 2

They say you eat with your eyes first and Wendy’s nailed it with the vibrant but non-off-putting colors – the orange/red palette with the sriracha-infused bun, golden chicken breast, red onion, fresh green spring mix in a bright red box was working for me. Maybe there was some food psychology at work there.

Wendy's Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich 3

I was also impressed by the size and poundage of the sandwich. Wendy’s didn’t skimp on the ingredients. There was a large piece of breaded chicken overflowing from the bun, a solid layer of spring mix and an appropriate amount of bacon.

The first thing I did was taste-test the bacon because soggy and stringy bacon can ruin a sandwich. Crispy? Check! The thick-cut bacon was a thing of beauty. I then proceeded to devour the sandwich. The breading itself was already a little bit spicy so I was enjoying the heat. On my third bite, I got to the sriracha aioli in all its glory and boy was it packing heat! As a balance to all the heat on heat on heat, I appreciated the red onion. It not only added a brightness to the sandwich – visually and taste-wise – but it also added a pleasant textural crunch.

Wendy's Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich 4

About half way through, my nose started to run a little bit from the heat; the sriracha taste bud onslaught was in full force. Each sniffle exponentially increased my love for this sandwich. I loved the “afterglow” as well; my mouth had a pleasant spicy tingle after each bite. Related to the hefty size and poundage, every bite had the perfect ratio of chicken, spring mix, red onion, sriracha aioli, and bacon.

If I had to nitpick, I couldn’t taste the sriracha jack cheese at all. It was completely overpowered by the spice in the chicken breading as well as the sriracha aioli. I also don’t think the sriracha-infused bun added anything. It was a soft bun, but nothing about it seemed sriracha-infused because there was no heat to it. Also, the more I stared at the orange-colored bun, the odder I thought an orange-colored bun was.

Regardless, I didn’t mean to eat the entire thing but I did because it was so dang good.

(Nutrition Facts – 670 calories, 35 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 110 milligrams of cholesterol, 1690 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of sugar, 2 grams of fiber, and 39 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.39
Size: N/A
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Wendy’s packs heat and makes any O.G. Huy Fong Sriracha fan proud! Crispy thick-cut bacon is a thing of beauty. Red onion works well. Pleasant spicy tingle after each bite.
Cons: Sriracha jack cheese and sriracha-infused bun didn’t really taste like anything.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Chicken McGriddle

McDonald's Chicken McGriddle

McDonald’s has been stuck in a rut. The clown king of fast food may still push billions of burgers a year, but a dipping sales trend and changing cultural attitudes have investors shaken. Attempts to produce higher-end burgers have flopped, leaving the Golden Arches with few options.

But in a sea of dry mozzarella sticks and sexy Hamburglars, one promotion was an undeniable hit. All-Day Breakfast broke the morning menu free from a 10:30 a.m. cutoff, and brought the Golden Arches a much-needed PR win.

So it wasn’t long before cross pollination of the breakfast and dinner menus began, and bore fruit.

McDonald's Chicken McGriddle 2

Currently available in select markets as part of a 2 for $3 promotion, the Chicken McGriddle is hilariously basic. It’s a standard McChicken patty, slapped between the syrup-infused McGriddle buns. No condiments, no cheese, nothing but what the name promises. A sweet and savory hybrid, echoing the ‘Chicken and Waffles’ pairing that headlines so many late-night food porn binge sessions on the Food Network. But in practice this sandwich is too simple to offer anything but novelty.

The issue is that McGriddle buns aren’t quite sweet enough to harmonize with the chicken. When getting a plate of fried chicken and waffles, it’s common to see fried breasts smothered in sweet maple syrup. The Chicken McGriddle has only a few artificial pockets of maple brown sugar to offset a peppery chicken patty.

You’ll get a nice sweet hit at first, and cinnamon taste that lingers on the tongue – but the meat of the bite is all about the chicken. I found myself longing for some sort of maple spread, or even a slice of cheese. Anything to give the sweet side more of a leg to stand on.

McDonald's Chicken McGriddle 3

It’s hard to understand where the Chicken McGriddle fits into the average McDonald’s order. The taste it leaves behind is too sweet for a large soda, but far too heavily seasoned for coffee. It’s not going to fit in at breakfast, but seems too simplistic for lunch. As such, it makes sense for this to be part of a combo promotion. Paired with a Double Cheeseburger or Spicy McChicken, it works as an interesting novelty. Failed experiment or not, it’s worth it to see McDonalds trying something undeniably odd.

(Nutrition Facts – 390 calories, 130 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 1000 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 14 grams of sugar, and 14 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: 2 for $3
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Unique offering by McDonald’s standards. Cheap enough to try on a whim. Watching Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives at 4 a.m. while not wearing pants.
Cons: Not sweet enough to offset the savory. Hard to pair with a beverage. Very bland.