REVIEW: Popeyes Homestyle Mac & Cheese

Popeyes Homestyle Mac  Cheese Bowl

Popeyes, widely regarded as the champion of fast food fried chicken, has a new and improved Homestyle Mac & Cheese.

Did you know it had an old and un-improved Homestyle Mac & Cheese? I sure didn’t. See, the thing is, I’ve never been able to bring myself to order anything other than the red beans and rice or the mashed potatoes with cajun gravy. And this is odd because, as a human person, I love macaroni and cheese. I even love macaroni and cheese from other fast-food chicken places. It is one of my go-to sides when I end up at KFC, where I gladly consume it despite the fact that it tastes inexplicably chlorinated.

But Popeyes nails it on chicken, chicken nuggets, chicken sandwiches, biscuits, and the aforementioned sides, so why WOULDN’T it make a magnificent mac & cheese, too?

Well, they do.

Popeyes website boasts that its new noodle dish is “made with real butter and cream and topped with shredded cheddar cheese,” and this story checks out. The noodles themselves are perfectly cooked — soft and tender but not mushy. And there is plenty of cheese — a mild, creamy cheese that lovingly coats each noodle and the sharper, chewy cheddar that hides in pockets throughout the bowl.

Popeyes Homestyle Mac  Cheese Spoon

It is a rich dish — likely owing to the real butter and cream — but not so rich that you won’t be able to eat the whole thing in like, 90 seconds and then go, “Dammit, Brandon, why did you eat the whole thing? Can’t you exercise more restraint than that?”

Despite the adulation, I do have two quibbles with this delectable side.

The first is that the texture is very one-note. And I get it, I do, this is mac & cheese, which is, by and large, a creamy, soft dish. But you know what elevates a very good mac & cheese to a great mac & cheese? A crunchy top. You know, breadcrumbs or what have you. You get a bit of textural differentiation because of the melted shredded cheddar, but it’s not enough to break up the monotony in your mouth. (Which again, I assure you, isn’t enough to keep you from wanting to consume an industrial barrel’s worth of this stuff.)

Second, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do now when I get a meal and have to choose two sides. My gut says to alternate between the red beans and rice, mashed potatoes, and the new mac & cheese like a responsible adult. However, the fat kid who lives in my brain says, “GET ‘EM ALL, BUDDY. IT’S THE FUTURE. YOU CAN JUST 3D-PRINT SOME NEW ARTERIES.”

God bless technology, and god bless this macaroni and cheese.

Purchased Price: $2.79
Size: Regular
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 300 calories, 22 grams of fat, 13.5 grams of saturated fat, 0.6 grams of trans fat, 609 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 11 grams of protein.

REVIEW: McDonald’s McRib (2021)

McDonald s McRib  2021 Sandwich

I have had a McRib. In fact, I have had more than one McRib. If I had to guess, I’d wager that I’ve had somewhere between three and five McRibs. Each fall, there are some immutable truths: your brother-in-law will attempt to persuade you to let him take you deer hunting, people will spend the week after the time change complaining about how early it gets dark, and McDonald’s will act like they are doing the world no small favor by bringing back everyone’s favorite processed pork-parts patty.

And every three or four years, I go, “Do I like a McRib? People go nuts for these things. But I can’t remember…” And so I eat one and then go right back to forgetting. But now that I am committing my thoughts to the Internet — and provided the domain fees for this site continue to be paid — I will never again forget how I feel about this annual porkwich.

Here’s how I feel: I probably don’t need to eat another one of these again in my life.

That’s not to say this sandwich is aggressively bad or that it is an affront to my gastric sensibilities; it’s fine. But “fine” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, and the fact of the matter is this: there are 15 better menu items you can order from McDonald’s.

Furthermore, if you have an unyielding hankering for a pork-patty sandwich, you can probably get a cheaper and more delicious one somewhere else. QuikTrip, a multi-region chain of convenience stores, sells a much better and cheaper BBQ pork riblet sandwich. I mean, sure, you have to microwave it yourself, but it’s a small trade-off for a vastly superior product.

So, what is it about the McRib that keeps me from — ba-da-ba-ba-ba — loving it?

The pork patty itself is perfectly okay. It’s meaty and chewy, and what one probably expects from “restructured meat” composed primarily of pork shoulder. It’s inoffensive (if uninspired). There are no “subtle undertones” or “complex nuances” to be had; it is chewy, and identifiably meat, and that’s pretty much it.

McDonald s McRib  2021 Onions

The same can be said of the pickles, which are McD’s standard, flimsy sour discs, and the onions, which are respectably crunchy and tangy. The bun is a bland (but again, just fine) homestyle roll that is dusted with some sort of seed. (Nearly everything on the Internet identifies it as a sesame seed bun, but this isn’t true. The ones on the McRib bun are tiny and round and yellow, like a poppy seed, but not. I think this is called “corn dusted”?)

Anyway, what I think really ruins the McRib is the bath of sweet sauce the patty receives. The sauce is tart and pungently tangy, like ketchup that has gone south, and the sandwich is absolutely SWIMMING in it. You cannot take a bite of this thing without splurting or dripping the sticky red goo everywhere. It is a slasher-film of a lunch.

McDonald s McRib  2021 Side

In the end, I think this sandwich thrives off of two things: 1) nostalgia and 2) limited availability. I’d be genuinely surprised if many people try one for the first time this November and instantly begin a countdown clock until its sloppy return.

Purchased Price: $5.29
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 520 calories, 28 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 890 milligrams of sodium, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugars, and 24 grams of protein.

(Editor’s Note: Last year, I decided we would review the McRib every time it returns, and each time it would be a different writer. I’m doing it mostly for funsies, but I also want to read different takes on this sandwich. If you’re interested, here’s our review from 2020.)

REVIEW: Cocoa Puffs Popcorn

Cocoa Puffs Popcorn Bag

What is Cocoa Puffs Popcorn?

Cuckoo for cocoa-dust glazed pre-popped popcorn? In Big Cereal’s quest to infiltrate nearly every other snack product on the market, this time, it’s mating with popcorn.

How is it?

1) Better than I expected, but 2) I’ll admit, I went into it with fairly low expectations. The cocoa glaze coating was pretty thorough, blanketing probably 85% of the pieces (and at least lightly touching the rest), and it uncannily mimicked the breakfast favorite that drives birds wild.

Cocoa Puffs Popcorn Super Closeup

The popcorn had a deep chocolate taste, but if I have a complaint, it was that it was lacking a bit in the salt department. Feels like if you’re gonna go sweet/salty, you really should, you know, GO for it. Some of the pieces were a bit hard, too, which was a bit off-putting.

Anything else you need to know?

Sonny, the cartoon bird, turns 50 next year. When originally introduced, he was wearing a pink and white striped shirt, he started wearing “extreme” clothes in the mid-90s, and now he’s just straight up nude. (Though when he’s in his deepest throes of madness, he’s depicted in a straight-jacket.)


I made it four decades without consuming chocolate popcorn. This is weird because I love popcorn and I love chocolate. I will definitely finish this bag, and the next time I’m at one of those wondrous gourmet popcorn shops with like, 50 flavors, I’ll be more inclined to try a chocolate variety.

Purchased Price: $3.28
Size: 7 oz bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (3/4 cup) 130 calories, 3 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 15 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Arby’s Real Country Style Rib Sandwich

Arby s Real Country Style Rib Sandwich

No one will ever be able to accuse Arby’s of not trying. While other fast food companies are content with slapping an extra slice of cheese on an existing product and calling it The Cheesasaurus Rex, or maybe “smoking” their bacon with some new exotic wood, Arby’s is out here swinging for the fences.

In 2016, it gave people the (extremely) limited edition venison sandwich with juniper berry sauce. The year after that, it offered an elk sandwich with blackberry port sauce. Or take, for instance, The Meat Mountain, a veritable Noah’s Ark of the drive-thru that features chicken tenders, ham, turkey, pastrami, roast beef, and bacon. (Oh, and some cheese, too.)

This brings us to the present day and Arby’s new Real Country Style Rib Sandwich. Is this offering a direct competitor to McDonald’s cult-favorite McRib, which also, incidentally, has its (mostly) annual re-release in the Fall? Did we exit the dark days of the Chicken Sandwich Wars only to find ourselves immediately entrenched in a Rib Sandwich Skirmish? A Rib Conflict? A Ribflict?

Well, not exactly.

See, Arby’s approach is a little more highbrow. Instead of processed pig parts of mysterious origin, its “real” ribs are sourced from Sadler’s, a Texas-based smokehouse. The ribs are smoked for eight hours “over real hickory wood.” The sandwich is then topped with melted Gouda, crispy onions, BBQ sauce, and mayo. Ooh-la-la, right? And so how is it?

Arby s Real Country Style Rib Sandwich  2

Well, let’s start with the ribs. Look, I live in Kansas City, so, you know, BBQ and so forth. And here’s the deal with these ribs: they are shockingly not bad. I was surprised at how tender and flavorful the meat was; they even had a distinctly authentic smoke flavor. It was a sizable serving as well. Simply put, the ribs were easily the highlight of the sandwich.

But what about the other components?

The Gouda was creamy and melty, and added its own bit of welcomed smokiness. Sadly, the rest of the sandwich fell sort of flat. The mayo was… there? For some reason? And, while the idea of fried onion pieces was a good one, the execution was lacking; drowning in a sea of BBQ sauce and mayo, they had no chance at staying crunchy. Instead, they became soft globules of chewy onion.

Arby s Real Country Style Rib Sandwich  1

And then you’ve got this BBQ sauce. Oy. This stuff.

It tasted like expired Bull’s-Eye brand sauce, or off-kilter ketchup, or maybe like aliens descended to Earth, and you explained what BBQ sauce is, and they tried to make it from scratch using ingredients foraged from a dumpster behind The Dollar Tree. It was awful, and there was a LAKE of the stuff on this sandwich, making the whole thing a gigantic, sloppy mess.

But, okay, awfulsauce aside, this thing is worth an order, at least to experience the ribs. But my suggestion would be to tell them to hold the BBQ sauce and then apply your own at home. Otherwise, you’ll be sorry.

Purchased Price: $5.99
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 500 calories, 23 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 1450 milligrams of sodium, 48 grams of carbohydrates, 3 gram of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 28 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Sonic Broccoli Cheddar Tots

Sonic Broccoli Cheddar Tots Closeup

In the pantheon of deep-fried fast food sides, you’ve got some notable inclusions. Arby’s curly fries, for example. McDonald’s fries. Taco Bell’s…fries. Okay, so most of these are fries. But what if you don’t like your fried potato served up in an elongated rectangular fashion? Well, there’s always Sonic’s tater tots.

Long recognized as fast foods’ champion of the tatered tot, Sonic’s pillowy potato barrel is so impossible to top that I hadn’t bothered to try its version of the French fry until earlier this year. (And with sincere apologies to Sonic’s head chef, I wasn’t missing much.)

But, okay, what about those of you out there who don’t like potatoes at all, in any form? (I know this sounds crazy to most, but I actually work with a lady who hates potatoes of all sorts — mashed, smashed, fried, totted, home-styled, and even chipped. So, it’s a thing, trust me.) What are the Elena’s of the world to do when they go get a burger from Sonic? The chain’s food scientists have heard you, anti-potato people, and they present to you their newest offering, Broccoli Cheddar Tots.

According to Sonic’s website, they are “warm broccoli and melty cheddar cheese in a tot-sized, crispy coating. Served with ranch for dipping!” The important thing to note is that these are not TATER tots stuffed with broccoli and cheese; there is no tater here at all. And while that idea sounds pretty great — tots stuffed with broccoli and cheese! Or impregnated with bacon! Or infused with chili and hot dog bits! — this is, simply put, broccoli and cheese, deep fried.

And how are they?

Really great, honestly.

Sonic Broccoli Cheddar Tots Innards

The exterior coating is a little less grittily textured than Sonic’s typical tot covering. It’s more of a cheese curd coating, really, which provides a bit more (buttery?) crispiness. The inside is simple, as you might imagine — piping hot cheddar cheese and improbably fresh-tasting broccoli. The cheese is a softer, creamier cheddar than you’d find in, once again, a cheese curd, or in Sonic’s dearly departed Ched’ R’ Bites (RIP), you beautiful angel.

The broccoli itself gets lost a bit in the breading, but I mean, how healthy do you really want these to taste? In most of my pieces, the veggie’s texture was almost that of a steamed piece of broccoli; it had plenty of give, but every once in a while, an occasional slight snap. It melded harmoniously with the cheese and managed to impart plenty of broccoli deliciousness without being too aggressive about the fact that, hey, you’re eating broccoli.

Sonic Broccoli Cheddar Tots Ranch

The Broccoli Cheddar Tots come with a side of ranch for dipping. While you don’t necessarily need it to enjoy the side, being from the Midwest, I’m of the firm belief that everything is better dipped in that white, tangy goodness. Sonic’s ranch is a good one, too, with just the right amount of zest and creaminess.

While many things I’ve read about these tots try to push them as some sort of bite-sized broccoli-cheddar casserole, I think that’s a bit silly. But as a nice alternative side to fries, rings, or regular tots, these are an excellent offering. It’s too bad they will only be around until November 28th or until they run out.

Purchased Price: $2.79
Size: Small (10 tots)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (Small) 210 calories, 13 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 810 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.