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.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Crunchwrap Sliders (Beefy Cheddar, Spicy Chicken, and BLT)

Taco Bell Crunchwrap Sliders

The Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme is the greatest Taco Bell menu item ever and I hope the people who developed it have their portraits or busts displayed throughout the halls of Taco Bell headquarters. If you disagree and try to tell me why it isn’t, I will use a yapping chihuahua to drown you out.

Despite it being awesome and on the menu for almost a decade, the Crunchwrap hasn’t seen much variety. There’s been a spicy chicken version here and breakfast versions there, but it hasn’t gotten the same treatment from Taco Bell’s tacologists that their burritos and tacos have over the years. So it’s nice to see Taco Bell’s new Crunchwrap Sliders make their way onto menu boards, although for a limited time.

The Crunchwrap Sliders come in three varieties: Beefy Cheddar, Spicy Chicken, and BLT. They’re only a dollar at most locations, five inches wide, hexagon-shaped, contain Fritos corn chips, and if I was a taco ninja they would be my throwing stars. According to the sleeve each one comes in, besides the preset varieties, it’s possible to create custom orders, so let this mini taco frisbee be your canvas.

Taco Bell Beefy Cheddar Crunchwrap Slider

The Beefy Cheddar Crunchwrap Slider comes with seasoned ground beef, nacho cheese sauce, cheddar cheese, and Fritos corn chips in a grilled flour tortilla. Taco Bell’s nacho cheese sauce is made using cheddar cheese so I’m not sure why more cheddar is included and I don’t know how anyone other than supertasters could point out the cheddar in the Crunchwrap.

Seasoned ground beef and nacho cheese sauce has been a winning combination for Taco Bell. I could list all the Taco Bell products that have them, but this review would be even more unnecssarily longer than usual. It’s a combo that makes my taste buds happy, but it’s beginning to get a little old. It’s also a combo that does a great job at making Fritos soggy. Granted, it had to sit though a five-minute car ride and three-minute photoshoot before they were consumed, but so did the other two varieties and the Fritos in them were mostly straight-from-the-bag crunchy.

Taco Bell Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap Slider

The Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap Slider is stuffed with shredded, marinated all-white meat chicken, creamy chipotle sauce, and Fritos chips. If I gave an award to the saddest looking Crunchwrap Slider I received, I would pin a sad face on the Spicy Chicken. The chicken was dry and, compared with the other two, it didn’t look like there was much filling. If it weren’t for the Fritos, it would’ve looked even sadder. Of course, your results will vary. But, thanks to the smoky chipotle sauce, it had some decent flavor, and the chips were still crunchy. For those of you who are excited to see the word “spicy” in its name, I’m going to pop your pepper and tell you it’s not.

Taco Bell BLT Crunchwrap Slider

The BLT Crunchwrap Slider was the one I was least looking forward to because I’m not a fan of the bacon bits they use, which I’ve experienced with Taco Bell’s Waffle Tacos. Along with the bacon, it comes with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, avocado ranch sauce, and Fritos in a flour tortilla.

Surprisingly, this Crunchwrap Slider was my favorite of the bunch, although it was also the messiest of the bunch thanks to the bacon bits, tomatoes, and shredded lettuce not being able to fight gravity. The bacon bits were front and center in terms of flavor because there were a lot of them. It’s as if someone went a little too vertical with the bacon bits bottle. The slightly tangy avocado ranch sauce works well with the other ingredients and it does help with cutting the saltiness of the bacon. Besides messiness, the lettuce adds a little bit of crunch. As a whole, it tastes like I’m eating a sandwich with chips on top.

Overall, l enjoyed all the Crunchwrap Sliders. They aren’t filling, but anything you can pay for with loose change shouldn’t be. They’re available for a limited time, but I believe they should be a regular menu item.

(Nutrition Facts – Beefy Chedar – 410 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, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 14 grams of protein. Spicy Chicken – 400 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 900 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein. BLT – 430 calories, 210 calories from fat, 23 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 900 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein.)

Item: Taco Bell Crunchwrap Sliders (Beefy Cheddar, Spicy Chicken, and BLT)
Purchased Price: $1.69*
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Beefy Cheddar)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Spicy Chicken)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (BLT)
Pros: $1 at most locations. Fritos were able to maintain crunchiness in the Spicy Chicken and BLT varieties. Despite my previous negative experience with Taco Bell’s bacon, I enjoyed the BLT the most. Crunchwrap Supreme is the greatest Taco Bell menu item.
Cons: Fritos got soggy in the Beefy Cheddar. BLT version is messy. Beefy Cheddar has a too familiar flavor profile. Spicy Chicken wasn’t spicy. Limited time only.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay just a dollar for each.

REVIEW: Pizza Hut Sweet Sriracha Dynamite Pizza

Pizza Hut Sweet Sriracha Dynamite Pizza

I loved sriracha before sriracha reached the consciousness of anyone beyond a noodle house. That iconic squeeze bottle with the green plastic nozzle and the rooster, strutting like those idiots who wear Ed Hardy t-shirts. I first broke my cherry with sriracha when I was an undergrad at the University of Florida scarfing down “fakeasian” food at Maui Teriyaki. I’m sorry, but I love me some good fakeasian as my uncle General Tso knows. Those smoky teriyaki chicken bowls drenched with sweetened soy sauce and careless ribbons of sriracha…oh how I still think of you fondly.

After law school, I rediscovered the sauce when I was shopping at my local Asian market for cans of earthy fried dace and jars of pickled radish. Less like rekindled love and closer to falling off the wagon, my obsession raced to unhealthy standards. I starting dousing everything from cottage cheese to steaming bowls of white rice with the deep reddish condiment.

So, of course, I was excited when rumblings of the Thai counterpart of Tabasco started making its way out of Asian kitchens and into things like mayonnaise or popcorn. However the danger of becoming popular is the inevitable dilution by lame and poorly conceived products like Lay’s sriracha-flavored potato chips that tasted more like cheese puffs. I once went to a “trendy” place where they placed dollops of sriracha into rosemary flecked mashed potatoes. Disgusting!

Yet, I have not given up and while a bit skeptical of Pizza Hut’s new pizza recipes, I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t interested in the Sweet Sriracha Dynamite Pizza. Most of the new pizzas have names that pretty much describe what the flavor is such as Buffalo State of Mind (buffalo wings) or the one I’m reviewing.

On the other hand, there are terribly named ones like Cock-A-Doodle Bacon or Pretzel Piggy. Neither alerts me to a creamy parmesan sauce and instead, they sound more characters from Japanese anime hentai. No, I don’t care how many tentacles you can stick in that orifice, hentai is weird.

And yeah, I’m sorry. I’m not going to actually pick up the phone and say, “I’d like one Cock-A-Doodle Bacon Pizza.” Never going to happen. I would rather read the list of ingredients and make the other person on the end say, “Oh…you want the Cock-A-Doodle Bacon Pizza?” “Cock-a-yes please.”

Pizza Hut Sweet Sriracha Dynamite Pizza 2

What intrigued me the most was the base sauce, honey sriracha instead of the dependable marinara sauce. The warmth of the pizza box that dropped in my lap felt better than a stripper with a “two hands size” butt. It smelled like an ordinary pizza and while I was entranced by the scent, it had me worried because I was wondering if it would taste like one as well.

Upon opening the warm box with the slightly damp tippy top lid, the smell of roasted jalapeño and melted cheese infiltrated the air. I popped open the box and I had to exclaim this was one of the prettiest pizzas I have ever seen. The deep red hues of the Peruvian cherry peppers just popped out of the pizza.

Pizza Hut Sweet Sriracha Dynamite Pizza 4

The honey sriracha glazed crust had that new tire shine, although it was off-putting to grab a sticky crust. It was also annoying because every time I grabbed a slice, it felt like I was grabbing a cinnamon bun.

On the first bite, I could taste the sweetness of the roasted peppers which complemented the sweeter pineapple chunks. The jalapeños were thankfully not the pickled kind or if they were, I didn’t taste it. The grilled chicken pieces, although large, were spongy in texture but imparted a smokiness. However, the sweet sriracha sauce lifted the pizza to another level.

Nowhere as intense as mango habanero wing sauce from Buffalo Wild Wings but it definitely packs more heat than a stick of Big Red cinnamon gum. The sauce was really nice. It was very much balanced and despite sriracha overload, this was a thoughtfully created pizza. Furthermore, the cheese just brought the entire pizza together like a satisfying science fiction film without the tentacle sex.

Pizza Hut Sweet Sriracha Dynamite Pizza 3

Essentially, the pizza is like a bolder version of the Hawaiian pizza. I would never say sriracha pizza, let alone from The Hut, is the best pizza in this multiverse but this is as close to a standing applause I can give to a chain pizza.

The sriracha has the characteristics of lingering heat with a slight sweet tang. I could make that out but it ain’t no Huy Fong Sriracha. I overlooked this because the pizza was put together so well.

Now some variances, I ordered mine with the pan crust because I felt a thicker crust would carry the honey sriracha glaze better. Also, mine didn’t come with the strange sweet honey sriracha drizzle and it appears you have to ask for it (or my neighborhood Pizza Hut person said). That’s fine, I don’t like soggy ass pizzas and would rather not overload the pizza with sweet syrupy gunk because the pizza was really tight in its flavors.

Another serendipitous moment, the pizza reheats well in the oven, so much so that my taste buds were tricked into thinking “we got ANOTHER pizza?! Hell YEAHHHH!” No dummy. It may be the base sauce, the toppings or the pan pizza crust. Damn, it may be all of the above. The pizza made me curious enough to try the rest of the “new recipe” line.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 slice (large pizza) – 320 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 games of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 40 mg of cholesterol, 940 mg of sodium, 41 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 6 grams of sugars and 15 grams of protein.)

Item: Pizza Hut Sweet Sriracha Dynamite Pizza
Purchased Price: $14.99
Size: 14 inches (large)
Purchased at: Pizza Hut
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: weet, spicy and smoky. Good heat from a pizza. If you like Hawaiian pizza, this is a good try. Sexy anime Cosplay.
Cons: Sticky crust. Spongy chicken. Sriracha overexposure. Tentacle sex.