REVIEW: Arby’s Garlic Parmesan Housemade Chips

Arby’s Garlic Parmesan Housemade Chips

There have been very few things fast food companies have done to make me upset in the nearly three decades I’ve been alive. Sure, there have been lots of occasions warranting mild annoyance, like when the price of the McDouble inevitably went above a buck or when the guy at Domino’s refused to bake a Twinkie inside of my pizza for scientific inquiry. But those times when I’ve had my heart broken over price fluctuations or menu discontinuations? Only a handful.

The debut of Arby’s delicious housemade chips in May 2013, followed by their cancellation only a few months later, was one of those times.

Like a teenage summer romance, those chips transfixed me that spring; enamoring me with their crunchy ridges and zesty seasoning, tempting my taste buds by showing a little skin, and holding my undivided attention from a myriad of suitors like Mozzarella Sticks and Onion Rings. And then, nothing.

Not even an “it’s not you, it’s me and the proliferation of limited time only menu items across the fast food marketplace” line. One day they were gone, and since then I’ve bounced around from side to side, never quite content amidst short-lived flings with pretzel bites and hushpuppies.

Arby’s Garlic Parmesan Housemade Chips 2

I know I should have more self-control now that the chips have returned. I should have the perfect cover story about having moved on and fallen for a sweet potato fry or something. But I don’t, and even though the chips have changed their outward appearance-adopting a Garlic Parmesan seasoning and now coming pre-bagged—their taste is just like I remember.

Arby’s Garlic Parmesan Housemade Chips 3

The potato flavor is deep and meaty, as if some chuck wagon Idaho cowboy (do they have cowboys in Idaho?) just pulled the potato from the ground and fried it. The exterior isn’t overly crunchy like store-bagged chips; instead it’s got a smooth and slightly oily mouthfeel, but in a good way which allows you to appreciate the subtle flavors developed during the frying process.

Arby’s Garlic Parmesan Housemade Chips 4

I was worried at first when I didn’t see much in the way of seasoning powder on the chips, but each spud has a pronounced roasted garlic flavor. The parmesan might have been the only flavor lacking, although there’s a part of me which appreciates the subtleness of its taste. Too often anything with “parmesan” in the label is weighed down with buttermilk solids and a generic ranch flavor. But these chips deliver a more sophisticated parmesan flavor which accentuates and doesn’t stand in the way of the natural potato flavor.

If you are anything like me and were a fan of the first iteration of Arby’s Housemade Chips, then you’re going to love the new Garlic Parmesan look. The deep and rich potato flavor is just as I remember, and while the chips aren’t quite as crunchy and the whole size and bagging issues are going to make our relationship a bit more complicated, the roasted garlic flavor definitely makes up for the changes. Will I get burned again when Arby’s yanks them from stores? Of course. Is it going to stop me from loving these now? Hells no.

(Nutrition Facts – 290 calories, 14 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 370 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of sugar, 1 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Arby’s Garlic Parmesan Housemade Chips
Purchased Price: $1.79
Size: 2 oz.
Purchased at: Arby’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Robust potato flavor puts French fries to shame. Enjoyable crunch but still enough give to make for an enjoyable texture. Deep and meaty roasted garlic flavor tastes fried into the chips. Far better than any bagged chip.
Cons: Less chips for the same price of the chips marketed in 2013. Pre-bagged chips begs the question of just how “fresh” they are. Subtle parmesan flavor might not be for everyone. Slightly undersalted. Inevitable heartbreak when discontinued.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Diablo Sauce

Taco Bell Diablo Sauce 2

A review of Taco Bell’s new Diablo sauce, in five parts.

I. Mild: A Conspiracy

Taco Bell has opened a gate to hell. Proof: “Bell” rhymes with “hell.” Convenient. Seven layer burrito? Nine circles of hell. And there are actually nine layers if you count the tortilla and the Pepto Bismol that is actually essential. And latest of all, they’ve introduced Diablo sauce. Diablo, for the Latin-impaired, is Spanish for the mother-bleeping Devil. Maybe some of you know Diablo as “Stop playing that computer game and come to bed,” but for non-nerds they aren’t even trying to hide it. It’s called Devil sauce. Taco Bell has conjured El Diablo and is feeding us its hot fluids.

Other hell ties: The Devil is, like, half goat and Taco Bell does NOT serve goat because then we would be eating the Devil’s relatives; “run for the (south) border” can be simplified to “run south” and south (down) is where hell is; and somehow they consider cinnamon Cheetos a dessert. Unholy.

II. Verde: Fan Fiction Using Slogans Found on Taco Bell Sauce Packets for Dialogue

Grimace got down on one knee. “Go ahead, ask her,” whispered Fry Guy. Grimace cleared his throat. “Do it with passion or not at all. You can count on me.” The period at the end of the sentence hung in the air. He produced a ring and continued. “Let’s run away together. Marry me.” Birdie the Early Bird gasped, like she was watching a reality show and not herself in a crowded fast food restaurant being proposed to. This was unexpected. She stared ahead, lost.

Then in a true fight or flight moment, she flew. She was gone. Grimace, still on his knee, stammered. “You won’t…” His voice trailed off. Fry Guy’s face fell. “Not my first rodeo,” Grimace lamented. He dug into the pile of celebratory hamburgers on the table like it was a pie-eating contest. Tears streamed down his face, mixing with the food.

“You asked for it! Consider yourself warned! You made my day!” he screamed. Fry Guy’s face turned from pity to disgust as he mumbled under his breath, “That escalated quickly.” Grimace looked like a blubbering, rabid hyena tearing through a carcass. Fry Guy pulled out his phone to text Birdie. “Good choice,” he wrote.

Taco Bell Diablo Sauce 3

III. Hot: The Deal

“Kevin,” an employee said, as I was staring off into a Sangrita Blast machine. “Do you want sauce?” he asked. I snapped into reality and responded, “Do you have that new one?” I could only see four bins with the typical sauces. I didn’t want to have to go to another Taco Bell. His eyes lit up. “Diablo,” he said. He went into the back and returned, “They are very hot. I used them and you shouldn’t use more than three.” “Thanks,” I smiled. He paused before dropping the packets into my bag. “No more than three. Or bad things will happen. Very bad things. Promise me. Promise Diablo.” I nodded. One of his eyes were cat eyes. I turned to leave, then turned back. He was gone. He was gone because he left to serve another customer.

IV. Fire: Sauce to One Direction Analogy

Harry Styles: Fire

Zayn: Diablo

Other guy: Verde

White kid with the hair: Mild

Still one more member: Hot

V. Diablo: The Review

Taco Bell Diablo Sauce

The Diablo sauce delivers on all accounts. It’s spicier and has a numbing quality that the other options lack. Taco Bell’s other sauces, which have been pretty disappointing for as long as anybody can remember, go like this: Mild tastes like sour salsa, Verde tastes like green, and Hot tastes like tomato sauce mixed with ground pepper. Fire, the hottest sauce until Diablo came along, has stinging qualities that stab at the mouth but really tastes like a watered down Tabasco.

Diablo sauce begins with a pleasant smoky tomato flavor. It makes way for a prickly hum that builds into a heat crescendo and then dissipates fairly quickly, maybe after a minute or two. The spiciness definitely does not last as long as any of those weird hot sauces they sell in specialty stores. The numbness remains though, and cradles the mouth with a low heat that is not completely embarrassing for hot sauce lovers.

Taco Bell Diablo Sauce 5

The sauce plateaus, and does not seem to really ravage the face or senses that badly. I did sample three packets with a cheesy bean and rice burrito for an experiment (as per my agreement). The first packet gave a generous spice high. The second packet numbed my mouth to the point where it didn’t really matter what I was eating. My nose also started to run, but only a little bit. Packet three did not build on the previous one. I did not cry or reach for a milk. This was hotter than anything at Taco Bell, but nothing dangerous. This was not stunt hot sauce.

Taco Bell Diablo Sauce 4

Fire on top, Diablo on bottom.

The only knock is that it probably doesn’t pair well with most Taco Bell food. It simply walloped the burrito I ate. Taco Bell food is already fairly bland in a fast food sense and a sauce with this dimension obliterates any nuance the item may have had. I suspect it may go better with items that contain sour cream or steak, or things with stronger flavors to balance it out. Most things will probably end up tasting like spicy soft stuff or spicy crunchy stuff, though.

The liftoff and leftover tingling are the highlights of the sauce and I would recommend between one or two packets per meal, or taking breaks to let the heat subside so you can ride Diablo again. All hail Diablo.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website.)

Item: Taco Bell Diablo Sauce
Purchased Price: Free with purchase
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Great heat, new dimensions. Does not linger too long. Tingly feeling.
Cons: Hard to complement with Taco Bell food.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Jalapeño Fresco Chicken Sandwich

Wendy's Jalapeno Fresco Chicken Sandwich

My first experience with a Wendy’s was, surprisingly, only a few years ago.

I would have tried it earlier – hell, I would have been inhaling Dave’s delicious cheeseburgers through a straw, if the laws of physics allowed – if not for my mother’s utter disdain of the establishment.

Whenever I asked if we could eat there, she never failed to go off on the familiar rant – flashback to her adolescent years. A new Wendy’s was opening up within bus distance of her house, and she was ecstatic to finally try their fabled burgers. She walked in and out within a minute, food in hand.

Immediately she knew that something was up – if it wasn’t her burger’s pungent smell, it was perhaps the meat, with its usual square shape, as well as a not-as-usual green hue, that threw her off. Regardless, she plunged in for a bite, curiosity getting the best of her.

This is where she likes to conclude her story, glossing over the (presumably) nauseating aftermath of her outing. Needless to say, she wasn’t exactly keen on ever going back to a Wendy‘s again, and she simply refused to subject me to their inherent misdoings as a company. For years, I was physically barred from ever trying Wendy’s.

Thankfully, since I no longer need my mom to take me to places, I was able to try out Wendy’s new Jalapeño Fresco Chicken Sandwich!

Look, I love Wendy’s – their aforementioned cheeseburgers, their Frostys (or Frosties? Both spellings look weird to my eyes. Let‘s just go with Frostteez), and everything in between. Few nationwide fast food joints have earned my undying admiration and respect (Shoutout to Carl’s Jr./Hardee‘s, despite their goofy mascot) and Wendy’s is definitely at the top of the heap.

And I love a good, hot kick to my foods, so I was more than happy to tackle this unholy chicken sandwich.

Wendy's Jalapeno Fresco Chicken Sandwich 2

When I opened up the little cardboard box, the first thing I noticed was an angry, saucy smell – reminiscent of nacho cheese, but not as artificial. This, it turned out, was the bright-orange ghost pepper sauce, which drowned the chicken breast with its oozing essence.

That’s good news for me, because the sauce was delicious and one of the most interesting additions to a fast food sandwich I’ve ever had.

It was fascinating because it seemed to both heat, then immediately cool down my mouth. I don’t know what the flavor scientists at Wendy’s were doing when they stumbled upon this one, but their creation is one that complements the surrounding ingredients.

Wendy's Jalapeno Fresco Chicken Sandwich 3

And speaking of those surrounding ingredients, the diced jalapeños were another standout. They added a nice textural contrast, while providing a different sort of flavor and heat in comparison to the ghost pepper sauce.

The sliced onions were firm and crisp. And of course, there’s the breaded chicken breast, which was huge, crispy, juicy, spicy in its own right (comparatively spicier than most “spicy” chicken fillets I’ve had at other fast food places), and gets no complaints from this guy.

According to the Wendy’s website, this sandwich also contains “Colby pepper jack cheese”, which…really? I’m normally a pretty avid cheese aficionado, but there was absolutely no need for it here. It added nothing to this sandwich. What a waste of cheese!

Wendy's Jalapeno Fresco Chicken Sandwich 4

Lastly, there’s the red jalapeño bun. I took a nibble of it and it definitely had a light kick, but when eaten with the rest of the sandwich, its flavor got lost among the other spicy parts of the sandwich. I understand Wendy’s intentions – when they say spicy, they MEAN spicy – but the bun was a bit of a disappointment.

Nitpicking aside, this was perhaps my favorite Wendy’s sandwich since their pretzel bun stuff a while back. God, I miss those pretzel buns. I’m so impressed with it that I’ll definitely be going back for seconds.

Take that, Mom!

(Nutrition Facts – 580 calories, 29 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 1390 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, and 32 grams of protein..)

Item: Wendy’s Jalapeño Fresco Chicken Sandwich
Purchased Price: $5.49
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Wendy’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Ghost pepper sauce is the delicious star of this thing. Balance of different flavors and textures. Carl’s Jr.
Cons: I’m still pissed about the uselessness of the cheese. Mothers banning their children from eating tasty hamburgers. Seriously, what kind of mascot is a star with sunglasses?!

REVIEW: Taco Bell Double Crispy Chicken Quesadilla

Taco Bell Double Crispy Chicken Quesadilla

When I first heard that Taco bell was adding Crispy Chicken to their list of ingredients, my first thought was, “Why didn’t they do this sooner?” Then, “Well, that’s not exactly a staple of Mexican cuisine. And then, “Yeah, but neither are Cinnabon bites,” which ultimately led me back to my first thought.

In line with Taco Bell’s style, they didn’t just introduce Crispy Chicken, they sprayed it all over their menu like a frat boy hovering over a toilet after too much Pinnacle Cinnabon Vodka. You’d think this review was about Cinnabon, but it’s not.

The Bell has done everything from the simplicity of wrapping chicken in a tortilla and calling it a Griller, wrapping it in a biscuit and calling it a Biscuit Taco, and throwing it in a Crunchwrap and calling it a Chickstar.

And, not to leave any corner of the menu untouched, we come upon the subject of this review: the Double Crispy Chicken Quesadilla. Why is this one Double? I wondered that myself, until I noticed the tiny, tiny asterisk on Taco Bell’s website that explains “*as compared to the 1.5 oz. Chicken Quesadilla.”

Oh, okay.

Taco Bell Double Crispy Chicken Quesadilla Inside

Taco Bell says the Double Crispy Chicken Quesadilla “features new premium all-white-meat crispy chicken that’s marinated in bold Mexican spices, rolled in a crunchy corn tortilla coating, and crisped to perfection combined with a three cheese blend and a creamy jalapeño sauce all folded in a freshly grilled tortilla.”

True to the name of this site, I impulsively bought two of them. I don’t usually do this with new items, but…well, I was hungry. And I like quesadillas. And I live on the edge. The edge of not knowing if this quesadilla would suck.

The first quesadilla I tried (which is the one pictured) was quite disappointing. Almost completely lacking in both cheese and sauce, it just tasted like chicken and tortilla, which was dry and sad.

Fortunately, my second quesadilla, despite being purchased in the same order, was much better! There was a decent amount of cheese and creamy jalapeño sauce, which to me tasted more like The Bell’s already-existing Fire sauce in a cream base (probably the sour cream that I’m pretty sure they squirt out of pastry bags). It was still quite tasty, and added both spice and moisture.

As for the Crispy Chicken, whatever “bold” Mexican spices they use as a marinade, they don’t shine through at all in the finished product. The tortilla coating, however, added a nice crunch that didn’t get soggy even when exposed to sauce, and it added a flavor that differs just enough from other fried chicken to make it notable.

Taco Bell Double Crispy Chicken Quesadilla Half

Even though the chicken inside the quesadilla amounts to nothing more than chicken strips in regards to structure, I feel that Taco Bell lived up to their “double” promise. There was a hearty amount of chicken in almost every bite (I don’t count the ends because the ends of fast food quesadillas are always a wasteland), and the meat was moist and tender.

All things considered, Taco Bell’s Double Crispy Chicken Quesadilla is a pretty middle-of-the-road offering. I like the new crispy coating and was impressed by its ability to stay crunchy, but the sauce didn’t taste very unique (although it did add some heat). The overall product was somewhat boring.

Plus, my first quesadilla was really disappointing, and when you’ve only got three ingredients to showcase inside your tortilla, I think you should make sure they’re all up to par. If you’re a big fan of the new Crispy Chicken and like quesadillas, it’s worth a try, but maybe more as a side item to the rest of your order.

(Nutrition Facts – 720 calories, 380 calories from fat, 42 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 1660 milligrams of sodium, 53 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 33 grams of protein.)

Item: Taco Bell Double Crispy Chicken Quesadilla
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Tortilla coating was a little different and stayed crispy. Impulsively buying two paid off. Lots of chicken that was moist. Sauce had a bit of kick.
Cons: Sauce wasn’t unique. Spewing cinnamon bun vodka. One of my quesadillas lacked cheese and sauce. Are sour cream pastry bags a pro or a con? A somewhat boring menu item. Holy crap, that’s a lot of fat in one quesadilla.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Crispy Chicken Biscuit Taco

Taco Bell Crispy Chicken Biscuit Taco with Jalapeño Honey

I’m no Spock, but the price for Taco Bell’s new Crispy Chicken Biscuit Taco is highly illogical.

Taco Bell is known for having cheap food. Breakfast menu items at restaurants are usually cheaper than what’s offered for lunch and dinner. So why is Taco Bell’s Crispy Chicken Biscuit Taco on the breakfast menu so damn expensive? It’s a piece of breaded chicken in a flat biscuit with a sauce. That’s it.

I paid $3.79 for mine. Granted, as I’ve mentioned before, I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean where most things are subjected to something called the “Paradise Tax.” But my fellow fast food bloggers paid prices that I would consider high for a taco. Ryan at Grub Grade paid $2.79 and Q at Brand Eating paid $2.69. If you’re a morning grump, I imagine the price of a Crispy Chicken Biscuit Taco and seeing what you get for that price will make your disposition worse.

The flat biscuit is as pliable as a pancake and has a little buttery flavor, but its less sturdy than its predecessor, the Waffle Taco. After the first bite, the biscuit split at the fold due to the biscuit’s dryness. If there were smaller ingredients, like Taco Bell’s bacon bits, I imagine the biscuit falling apart would cause a mess. But since there just a chicken finger and sauce, there’s no worries about the taco’s contents falling out.

Taco Bell Crispy Chicken Biscuit Taco Closeup

The lightly seasoned Crispy Chicken has a breading that has crushed tortilla chips. It’s surprisingly crispy, even after a car trip ride home, but the pressed chicken was as thin as the biscuit.

When you order the Crispy Chicken Biscuit Taco, you have the option of getting it with either Jalapeño Honey or Country Gravy. I tried both. They came in small take out sauce containers that had enough sauce for two Biscuit Tacos. It’s different than the syrup that came with Taco Bell’s Waffle Taco, which was in a McNugget sauce-like container.

Taco Bell Crispy Chicken Biscuit Taco with Sausage Gravy

If I were to order these Biscuit Tacos again, I would definitely get the Jalapeño Honey over the Country Gravy because the white peppery gravy is bland. I think it would go well with Taco Bell’s sausage, because they would enhance each other. But I can’t say it does the same with the Crispy Chicken.

But I can say the Jalapeño Honey and the lightly seasoned Crispy Chicken do enhance each other. The Jalapeño Honey is sweet, thick, sweet, tangy, sweet, and has a slight kick. The two go together well enough that they almost make me forget about the biscuit falling apart, the thinness of the chicken, and the Biscuit Taco’s price.

Instead of special Biscuit Taco-labeled sleeves, my Taco Bell Biscuit Tacos rocked Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Taco sleeves. I don’t know if it was a mistake caused by the fast pace in a fast food kitchen or if they ran out of the Biscuit Taco sleeves. But after eating these Crispy Chicken Biscuit Tacos, I feel they were appropriate because I wish I ate a Doritos Locos Tacos instead of the one with Country Gravy and I wish the Jalapeño Honey one, while tasty and definitely better than any Waffle Taco, was the same price as a Doritos Locos Taco.

(Nutrition Facts – Jalapeño Honey – 470 calories, 170 calories from fat, 19 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 1030 milligrams of sodium, 63 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein. Country Gravy – 390 calories, 170 calories from fat, 19 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 960 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of protein.)

Item: Taco Bell Crispy Chicken Biscuit Taco
Purchased Price: $3.79 each*
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Jalapeño Honey)
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Country Gravy)
Pros: Jalapeño Honey. Chicken has breading with frickin’ crushed tortilla chips. Crispy chicken remained crispy even after a car ride home. Amount of sauce given was more than enough.
Cons: Country Gravy. Pricey for what you get. Thin biscuit was a bit dry and easily cracks at the fold. Chicken was as thin as the biscuit.

*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.