REVIEW: Jack in the Box French Fries (2010)

French fries are undoubtedly the most popular side order at any burger chain in America. I say that having done absolutely zero research, but I’m confident that it’s true. It also seems to be true that everyone has a different opinion about fries, and they love to express these opinions and, ultimately, start arguments about them. French fry arguments are like music preference arguments: nobody’s going to win, but somebody’s going to get a black eye. Okay, maybe not that drastic. But somebody’s getting banned from the ilovefrenchfries.com message board, is all I’m saying.

(PS – ilovefrenchfries.com is not a real website, so put your trolling equipment away.)

I must be bizarre, because I usually don’t order french fries. I don’t hate them, I just don’t really care for them either way. I’m comfortable having a monogamous relationship with my hamburger. Adding fries would just make the burger jealous and cause all sorts of problems. My burger and I are perfectly happy together. We don’t need any french fries coming in to “spice up the relationship.”

This could be either good or bad, in regards to this review, because today I’m taking a look at Jack in the Box’s new and supposedly improved french fries. Unfortunately, I can’t for the life of me remember what their old fries tasted like. Fortunately, that gives me a fresh palate I can then use to rain my judgment down upon these fries.

According to Tammy Bailey, division vice president of menu marketing and promotions for Jack in the Box Inc. and someone who probably has to use a very small font on her business card, “We’ve received a lot of feedback from consumers on what they like most about French fries, with flavor, texture and crispness at the top of the list. So we created our new French fries with a crispier outside texture that enhances the potato flavor and helps them retain their temperature.”

Well, Tammy, I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with you on some of those points. My fries were lukewarm at best, so either this magical outside texture is not working or my order had been sitting out for a while. They did have more flavor than other fries I’ve had, which did conjure some vague memories of the old Jack in the Box fries I’ve had. It’s a flavor similar to Burger King’s fries, from when they changed their recipe however many years ago. Instead of just having the flavor of grease, there’s a taste kind of like batter that makes them less bland than most other fast food fries. While the flavor was pretty good, I thought they could have used a little more salt.

The crispness is an interesting topic. Jack in the Box claims that their feedback from customers states that crispness is an important factor. Well, I got a little feedback of my own, from about a half dozen of my friends. I asked them what their favorite fast food fry was, and why. I was surprised at the results – every single one of them said they liked McDonald’s fries, because they’re limp, greasy and overly salty.

Take that with a grain of salt, har har, since these are my friends, and anyone who associates with someone who deliberately attempts to find and consume the most disgusting junk food she can find is probably of questionable taste and character to begin with. That said, the Jack in the Box fried potato sticks do live up to their claim of crispness. While I did get a few of those small, crunchy, hard fries, there wasn’t a limp stick in the bunch. Insert “limp stick” joke here.

Jack in the Box mostly succeeds in what they set out to do. While my fries were lukewarm, raising questions about how well the outer texture actually insulates the pommes frites, and I found them to be lacking in salt, they are indeed perfectly crispy and more flavorful than the average fry. The question is, is this what the people want? Well, I guess that all comes back around to the ageless polarization of people’s opinions on french fries. Some like ’em crispy, some like ’em greasy, some like ’em salty, some like ’em limp. And as long as people have assholes – er, wait, I mean, opinions, there’s going to be someone out there who likes Jack in the Box’s new, crispier fries, and someone who wants to punch that person in the face.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 small order – 333 calories, 138 calories from fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 15 grams of total fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1 milligram of cholesterol, 607 milligrams of sodium, 432 milligrams of potassium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugars and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Jack in the Box French Fries (2010)
Price: $1.79
Size: 1 small order
Purchased at: Jack in the Box
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Delivers the promise of crispiness. Monogamous burger relationships. More flavorful than most fries. People getting overly agitated about flavor preferences. PR mostly living up to its own hype. Limp sticks?
Cons: Not enough salt. Getting a black eye over french fries. Magical texture jacket not keeping my fries warm. Limp sticks?

REVIEW: Taco Bell Salsa Roja Tortada

Taco Bell likes to keep things fresh. I’m not talking about their food, of course. That would be ridiculous. I’m referring to their constant stream of new menu items that can range from mildly delicious to head-scratchingly bizarre. I’m looking at you, Black Jack Taco.

I appreciate their moxie, though. It takes some creativity to take five core ingredients and find different ways to repackage them as a new product. Their latest attempt has resulted in two new products: Taco Bell Tortadas. One is Salsa Roja flavored, and the other is Bacon Ranch.

I had the exact same thought that Marvo did when he wrote his Week in Reviews post — Taco Bell had made up the word “tortada.” It’s not like it would be the first time. Again, like Marvo, I immediately ran to Google and was surprised to discover that, no, tortada is a real thing. This mildly disappointed me, because I really wanted to say that Taco Bell making up the word tortada is tortarded. Reality is fucking with my puns. You could say I’ve been punished.

There. I feel better now.

“Pie” or “tart,” which are the English translations of the word “tortada,” are not the first words that come to mind, looking at Taco Bell’s Tortada. I’d say they look more like pita pockets. They should have called them Torpitas! No, no, that’s terrible. That’s tortarded.

I decided to try the Salsa Roja variety, since Bacon Ranch has already been covered by other blogs, like Brand Eating and We Rate Stuff. Branching out into the world of bacon and ranch is a fairly new thing for Taco Bell, so I’ll throw them a little props for expanding their ingredient list. I will say, though, that anything “Bacon Ranch” doesn’t exactly scream “Mexican food” to me. Of course, Taco Bell in general doesn’t scream “Mexican food” at all, so hey. Go for it, guys. Don’t let hundreds of years of an entire country’s well-established culinary cultural heritage hold you back.

Salsa Roja sounds decidedly more authentic. Taco Bell describes it as “A warm flour tortilla loaded with fire-grilled marinated all-white meat chicken, crisp shredded lettuce, fiesta salsa, flavorful salsa roja, and a blend of three cheeses – cheddar, pepper jack, and mozzarella, all grilled together hot and toasty.”

Sounds tasty. Fiesta Salsa AND salsa roja? Taco Bell knows the way to my heart is through multiple condiments. For any of you extreme gringos out there, “salsa roja” translates to “red sauce.” Try not to fall out of your chair in shock. With a translation that vague, the flavor could go dozens of different ways. Fiesta Salsa is often used in Taco Bell’s “Fresco” menu, which is a collection of items that supposedly won’t cause your arteries to immediately clog, unlike the rest of their menu. So when you think Fiesta Salsa, think less picante and more pico de gallo.

At $3.29, the Tortadas are one of the more expensive items on Taco Bell’s menu, but when you pick one up you’ll find it has some surprising heft. The smell is enticing; there’s nothing quite like the scent of warm tortillas, and the Tortada adds a hint of cheese and spice to really make it inviting.

There’s the innards, right there. As you can see, there’s no shortage of chicken. I really expected the lettuce to be limp, since it is apparently cooked with the rest of the ingredients, but I found it to be an interesting, crunchy contrast to the meatiness of the chicken, which was indeed plentiful, and surprisingly tender. The cheese was indeed melty, although I didn’t really detect any pepper jack. It just tasted like general cheesy gooeyness. The Fiesta Salsa also added a nice texture contrast and a fresh burst of tomato and onion.

What’s most surprising about this Tortada is that the ingredient that gives it its name, the salsa roja, is almost undetectable. You can detect a little bit of spicy kick that must come from the sauce, but you can’t really distinguish its flavor in the food. I found this most disappointing, because I was really looking forward to getting a good taste of the salsa roja. I thought it might have a nice enchilada sauce flavoring, but instead I got pretty much nothing.

The Taco Bell Salsa Roja Tortada is a decent-sized meal and has decent flavor, but it doesn’t live up to the chain’s ambitious description of their new menu item. The chicken is tasty, the Fiesta Salsa adds a nice, bright flavor, but all the cheeses taste the same and you can’t taste the salsa roja at all, which, if the name is any indication, is supposed to be the star of the show. It’s a tasty, fulfilling meal, and seems like it would be a good choice if you’re eating on the go, but it just doesn’t live up to Taco Bell’s claims. My salsa roja hopes were Tortadashed.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Tortada (268 grams) – 480 calories, 130 calories from fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 14 grams of total fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 1,860 milligrams of sodium, 60 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 5 grams of sugars and 30 grams of protein.)

Item: Taco Bell Salsa Roja Tortada
Price: $3.29
Size: 1 Tortada
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tender, plentiful chicken. High portability. Tortada puns. Fiesta Salsa brings bright flavor. Moxious fast food maneuvers. Miraculously crisp lettuce.
Cons: Salsa roja not actually detectable in Salsa Roja Tortada. Finding out tortada is a real word. Cheeses are indistinguishable. People who think Taco Bell is actually Mexican food.

REVIEW: Ritz Munchables Pretzel Crisps Buttery Flavor

Ritz crackers. If you live in most of the Anglosphere, you’ve probably eaten them before. To me, Ritz crackers are ubiquitous; they’ve just always been around, like Cheerios. You know what they taste like, but you don’t really give a crap either way. You open the cupboard one day, see a box of Ritz and think, “Huh…I don’t remember buying those.” Then you grab the 8-pack of Entemann’s chocolate donuts sitting next to the crackers and head for the couch to stuff your face while you watch the Deadliest Catch marathon that you’ve already seen twice…in the past month.

Oh sure, you’ll crack the box of Ritz eventually, as you hover over a bowl of Campbell’s tomato soup, with snot running down your face, wishing for death and hoping that you can keep down a few crackers long enough to take your seventh hellish dump of the morning without having to bring an old Tupperware with you, just in case your body decides it wants to expel both your virus-laden bodily fluids at the same time.

By the way, that’s the standard scenario I use to define what I would call a “bad day.”

Six months later, you’ll be cleaning out the pantry, notice the Ritz have long since expired and toss the remainder of the box in the trash. Poor Ritz. Possibly the most disregarded cracker in existence, hovering just above the humble saltine.

Somewhere along the line, Ritz decided it was time to expand their empire and get people excited about the Ritz brand name. Okay, well, maybe not excited. Mildly interested, let’s say. They went wild, launching new lines of crisps, miniatures, and recently, “Crackerfuls.”

The latest addition to this growing family is the Ritz Munchables Pretzel Crisps. Here’s how Ritz’s official website describes them: “What happens when you hide a bite-sized, buttery tasting Ritz cracker inside a salty, crunchy pretzel? You get Ritz Munchables Pretzel Crisps, a scrumptiously satisfying snack you just pop in your mouth.”

What the fuck, Ritz? Have you gone crazy?

It’s like Ritz has hired Dr. Frankenstein to come up with their new products, because there’s no other explanation for it. Who else would think of putting a Ritz cracker inside a pretzel? It’s madness, pure madness.

Madness aside, it’s actually already been done, in a sense, by Keebler. A few years back, they introduced Town House FlipSides, which are a cracker on one side and a pretzel on the other. I thought it was ridiculous then, and I still think so. I guess Nabisco wanted to step it up by having the pretzel actually swallow the cracker. I don’t like where this particular competition is headed.

Pretzel Crisps currently come in two flavors, Buttery Flavor and Cheesy Sour Cream & Onion. I was drawn to the latter, of course, because the more flavors you pack into one snack product, the more intrigued I am. However, I figured Buttery Flavor would give me a better idea of what a regular Ritz cracker tastes like…inside a pretzel. That doesn’t get any less weird, no matter how many times I type it.

You know what also was a little weird? The image on the back of the box. There’s guy shoving a basketball into his crotch with another white guy and a black dude who all look like they’re having a brodown over a local sports team’s basket, goal, touchdown, or whatever. But it also looks like they just watched the revealing of some dumpy chick’s “new look” on TLC’s What Not to Wear. Seriously, I’ve never seen a “candid shot of guys celebrating something out of frame” manage to look so completely emasculated. Adding a basketball doesn’t make it any more manly when it looks like the guy is using it to hide the boner he’s getting from holding hands with his friend that he’s secretly had a crush on for years.

I didn’t have any preconceptions on how the crisps would taste going into this. I guess my mind couldn’t even come up with what a Ritz cracker pretzel would be like. I think my thought was basically, “Danger! Warning! Bad!”

The Ritz Munchables do look like little Ritz mutants, with their signature round shape and pattern of holes, but smaller, thinner and less heavy than regular Ritz. The outside is darker, more indicative of a pretzel, and it’s also smoother. As you can see from the one I broke in half, there’s no scary surprise inside. It looks just like a regular ol’ pretzel chip.

And, while I don’t think I’ve ever had a pretzel chip, I’d imagine these Munchables are pretty much what they taste like. Crunchier but less crumbly than Ritz crackers, with a mild pretzel-flavored finish. I can’t really detect any of Ritz’s traditional texture here, but I think what makes it believable as a cracker/pretzel hybrid is the presence of Ritz’s signature buttery flavor. It’s not as noticeable as in a regular Ritz, but it’s enough to turn it from a bland pretzel snack into a slightly buttery-tasting bland pretzel snack.

I think if I’d purchased the Cheesy Sour Cream & Onion flavor instead of Buttery Flavor, all resemblance to a Ritz cracker probably would go right out the window. It’s only the butter taste that makes it seem like a pretzel/Ritz hybrid. Personally, I require my pretzels to either be pre-flavored or dipped in something tasty. The butter taste just can’t save these Munchables from being Blandsville to me. I can imagine enjoying them with a nice, heavily-processed nacho cheese sauce, but they’re too small to dip into anything without getting dip all over your fingers.

Also, have a tall glass of water handy, because the Ritz Munchables Pretzel Crisps Buttery Flavor will suck your mouth dry, just like eating a handful of plain pretzels. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t eat these as a regular snack, but if I found myself hovering over a bowl of tomato soup, feeling miserable, these would be a good “try to get some solid foods into you” option. But then, so would saltines, and I don’t think they’re ever going to win any “Flavor of the Year” awards.

The Ritz Munchables Pretzel Crisps Buttery Flavor – a great choice if you’re having a “bad day.”

(Nutrition Facts – 15 pieces/29 grams – 140 calories, 6 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1 gram of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 340 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugars, 2 grams of proteins, 0% vitamin A, 0% vitamin C, 4% calcium and 6% iron.)

(NOTE: Yum Yucky also reviewed them. Here’s another review. And one more.)

Item: Ritz Munchables Pretzel Crisps Buttery Flavor
Price: $2.49 (on sale)
Size: 12.25 ounces
Purchased at: Fry’s Foods
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Hint of traditional Ritz buttery flavor. Having a basketball around to hide your boner. Crispy and crunchy. Dr. Frankenstein running the Ritz R&D department.
Cons: Too bland. Bodily fluids coming out both ends. Too small for dipping. Unrequited man crushes.

REVIEW: Lay’s Southwest Cheese & Chiles Potato Chips

Lay’s has recently introduced a new line of chips, marketing them as “regional flavors.” There are five different regional flavors, and one flavor that’s being introduced nationwide, which is Tangy Carolina BBQ. What’s up with that, Lay’s? Really, you’re going to pick Carolina to be your national representative? And you don’t even specify which Carolina? I would go with South, but only because Stephen Colbert is from South Carolina, and Stephen Colbert can pretty much get anybody to do anything he wants. He has his own treadmill on the International Space Station, for Christ’s sake.

Carolina conundrums aside, here are the five regional flavors:

Northeastern US: Pepper Relish – “Available in New York, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States”

Midwestern US: Garden Tomato & Basil – “Available in the Heartland, the Mid American and Midwest States”

Northwestern US: Balsamic Sweet Onion – “Available in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and Northern California”

Southwestern US: Southwest Cheese & Chiles – “Available in Texas, Southern California and the Mountain States”

Southeastern US: Cajun Herb & Spice – “Available in the Carolinas, the Southeast and Central Gulf States, and Florida”

Oh, so the Carolinas get two chip flavors, now? I smell a Carolinan plant in the Lay’s flavor lab. No, wait, I see it now – Stephen Colbert heard about Lay’s regional flavors and placed a quick phone call. Boom! Two Carolina flavors. Somebody needs to keep that man in check.

I have to say, though, all six flavors sound downright delicious. Potentially. I think we’re all aware of how easily chip flavors can go horribly wrong. I’m just thankful they kept the flavors pretty reasonable, instead of flying off the handle with flavors like hamburger, or hot dog. Or pizza. Or, God help us, Garbage Plate.

Unfortunately, I’ll never get to experience most of these flavors. While I find this marketing strategy cute, it does have the negative side effect of limiting Frito-Lay’s markets, and vaguely pissing me off in the process. Also, you could twist the “regional favorites” idea into “stereotypes about what certain people around the country like to eat.” Gulf States, you’re nothing but a Cajun-style blackened catfish to Lay’s.

And I, hailing from the unfortunate state of Arizona, arguably a Mountain State, am nothing but cheese and chiles. I think that loosely translates into “Mexican.” Where’s the Arizona shout out? Texas and SoCal, but not Arizona? I’m offended. C’mon, Lay’s; face it, when you think “southwest”, you think deserts, cacti, and Kokopelli. If that’s not Arizona, or at least, other people’s perception of it, then what is?

But hey, I’ll be honest – Arizona has a large Mexican population, and therefore, a lot of Mexican restaurants, which means lots of cheese, and lots of chiles. I am perfectly okay with this, since Mexican is my favorite kind of food, and you don’t have to look far to find an authentic Mexican food experience, aka the taquería. I can sit smugly in my small, dingy, non-air-conditioned local Mexican joint, confident that most of the rest of the country are chowing down on Chalupas, imagining that they are eating Mexican food. You are not. You fail.

The back of the bag features a recipe for…Southwest Cheese & Chiles Dip. That’s so meta. I’m not sure if this implies that you should dip your Lay’s Southwest Cheese & Chiles into your Southwest Cheese and Chiles Dip, but I have to say, that recipe actually sounds delicious. I might actually make it someday soon. Wait, the bag only contains the ingredients, not the recipe itself. I’m assuming the recipe is “mix everything together,” but now my confidence is shaken, because it says I have to go to Lays.com to see how to do it. So I did that. And I couldn’t find the recipe anywhere. I couldn’t even find a recipe section. I did a website search for it, and again came up empty-handed. “Did you mean sw cheese & chives dip?” NO. NO I DID NOT. If any of you readers out there can actually find the recipe, feel free to post the URL in the comments section. For now, I’m stumped.

So I guess I’ll never get to know if I’m a tool for taking cooking advice from the back of a bag of chips. I suppose that’s for the best. But hey, we’re not here for the dip, we’re here for the chips! Will they embody everything the southwest region stands for, which, apparently, is cheese and chiles?

I have to say, I actually made that semi-surprised “Mmmm!” sound out loud when I popped the first chip in my mouth. Which is even weirder than it sounds when you realize that I’m alone in my apartment with my two cats. Actually, I guess that’s better than someone hearing it, because really, who does that? Me, I guess.

What I’m trying to say here is that, while it’s kind of hard to go wrong with spicy cheese chips, these are some of the better ones I’ve had. The cheese is the exact same flavor as can be found in Lay’s Cheddar and Sour Cream. I’d fall over from shock if you told me that powder didn’t come from the same vat. Or whatever they keep their flavor powders in.

The chiles part of this equation is much milder than I expected it to be. Honestly, there’s almost no heat at all, which you might find disappointing, but then you hit one that gives you a little burst of unmistakeable chile flavor. It’s not just “generic spicy,” it’s chile. I’m going to say poblanos, even though they aren’t listed as an ingredient. The chips are perfectly in line with the mild heat of that pepper, too. Somehow, they made that poblano flavor happen, and, while subtle, it’s delicious.

I have to hand it to Lay’s – all stereotyping aside, I think they did a fine job of capturing the taste of the southwest. Of course, I can only speak for my home state, but they sure nailed the flavor of Arizona. Sure, cheese flavor, anyone can do that. It’s cheese. But when that chile flavor hits, I feel like I’m standing in the parking lot of my local Mexican grocery store, where they have a big 55-gallon-drum grill set up near the entrance, roasting big batches of poblano peppers. Now I sound like I’m writing a commercial for Lay’s. Damn you, Lay’s Southwest Cheese and Chiles!

As a side note, for those of you concerned with things like “health” and “not ingesting so many preservatives that your body embalms itself,” it might interest you to know that all the regional Lay’s are made with “all natural potatoes and seasonings.” Your days of yearning for a chip that isn’t made with Styrofoam potatoes is over. Raise your hands to the gods in thanks.

I may never get a chance to taste all the other regional flavors, but I give Lay’s Southwest Cheese & Chiles a thumbs up both for flavor and accomplishing their marketing goal, which was to capture the flavor of a distinct and unique region of the United States. For those of you living in the other 40.5 states, you can get creative and try to find this flavor on eBay or something, or you could try out your own regional flavor and see how it stacks up. Hopefully, you’ll be as satisfied as I am.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 package — 290 calories, 170 calories from fat, 18 grams of total fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 8 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 8 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 370 milligrams of sodium, 800 milligrams of potassium, 29 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugars, 4 grams of protein, 6% vitamin A, 2% calcium, 20 % vitamin C and 6% iron.)

Item: Lay’s Southwest Cheese & Chiles Potato Chips

Price: 99 cents

Size: 1 7/8 ounces

Purchased at: Circle K

Rating: 8 out of 10

Pros: Captures the flavors of the region. The smell of roasting poblano peppers. All-natural ingredients. Tastes like chiles, not just “spicy.” Taquerías. Yummy cheddar flavor, even if it was stolen from another Lay’s product.

Cons: May disappoint some in the spicy heat department. The Carolinas get two flavors. Only available in 9.5 states. Mysteriously absent dip recipes. Stephen Colbert eventually ruling the world.

REVIEW: Jack in the Box Grilled Sandwich (Deli Trio and Turkey, Bacon & Cheddar)

Recently, Jack in the Box tempted fast food eaters around the nation to try their new Grilled Sandwiches by offering a free one with the purchase of a large drink. But there’s a catch: only one free sandwich per person, and there’s two sandwiches to choose from: Deli Trio or Turkey, Bacon & Cheddar. A cruel move, but one that seems to be the crux of Jack’s marketing campaign, as illustrated in the commercial used to promote Jack’s free sandwich day. I wonder how long it will take me to succumb to the temptation of using the term “sammich.”

The scenario of the commercial is as follows: Jack’s in his office, and two relatively attractive women are sitting on a couch before him, each holding one of the new samm– sandwiches. They proceed to argue over which sandwich is better, not-so-subtly sneaking in the highlights of each sandwich and the fact that you could get it for free on February 23rd. Jack turns to the camera and proclaims that this is the worst commercial he’s ever been in, which is a bald-faced lie, as you’d know if you’ve ever seen the commercial for his Mini Sirloin Burgers, in which he sits at a campfire surrounded by little people dressed as cowboys. Furthermore, one of the semi-hotties responds with the suggestion, “We could kiss?” In the battle between small cowboys and hetero-flexible sort-of-hot businesswomen, I think we all know who wins. Unfortunately, us, the viewers, do not win, because the commercial ends before the ladies throw their’ sandwiches to the floor and start furiously making out. Another point in Jack’s corner for cruel marketing.

Jack ups the indecision ante in a promotional email, saying, “I can’t decide which one I like better. I’d imagine that’d be like having to choose which of your fraternal twins you like better. Except in that case, one is usually evil.

You think you’re so slick, Jack, forcing me to pull a homeless man off the street and into my car so that I can order two large drinks and get two free sandwiches. Well, the joke is on you, because I went into that drive-thru alone, paid $2.19 for a large drink, got my free Deli Trio, and then paid $3.99 for the Turkey, Bacon & Cheddar. Take that, Jack! I worked the system, and I worked it good. Added bonus: no lingering hobo smell in my car.

Sandwiches acquired, without the head-scratching confusion I usually get from fast food employees when I try to purchase a new menu item, I headed home, sipping my ridiculously large drink that I didn’t really want in the first place. I’m not a big drink orderer. In case you’re the type of person who judges others on what they drink, I got an unsweetened iced tea. Judge me as you will.

Deli Trio Grilled Sandwich

The Deli Trio Grilled Sandwich is described by JitB as “Genoa salami, sliced ham, roasted turkey, Provolone cheese and pickle filets with a creamy Italian dressing on grilled artisan bread.” Sounds interesting enough. I’m a big fan of salami, and I find the phrase “pickle filets” just delightful.

It’s certainly bigger than I expected, which is a pleasant surprise. They even went so far as to cut it in half for me at a jaunty angle. Right off the bat, though, I’m disappointed by the “artisan bread.” Looks to me like a regular ol’ slice of sourdough, which doesn’t exactly scream “artisan.” The top piece of bread on the Deli Trio had some nice grill markings, but the grilling was inconsistent on both sandwiches. They were also very greasy, but that’s to be expected when you’re handling a piece of bread that’s been slathered with butter.

Initial smell is mostly pickle (filets) and a tangy smell that I’m assuming is the creamy Italian sauce. It’s a nice, meaty sandwich, but the ham seems to overwhelm a lot of the other flavors, including the salami, which I was really hoping would be one of the more prominent flavors. Upon inspection, it appears that there is one layer of pickles, one paper-thin slice of salami, four slices of ham, two of turkey, and two of the provolone. I definitely would have liked more salami and less ham, but I’m assuming salami is the more expensive of the two. However, the ham was quite good; I’d say all of the ingredients lived up to JitB’s promise of deli quality ingredients. While the ham does its best to take over, you can still catch a taste of all the other ingredients, and they play pretty well together. The tangy sauce and the brine of pickle offset the meatiness nicely.

Overall, the Deli Trio Grilled Sandwich makes for a tasty meal when you’re on your lunch break at work, but it’s not going to rival a similarly constructed sandwich you could get at your local deli. Flavorful and satisfying, but it doesn’t really bring anything mind-blowing to the table. I’d go ahead and pick one up if I was in a hurry and craving a meaty sandwich, but if I had the time, I’d probably just head to the deli for a sub. I’ll give Jack in the Box some props, though; for a big-name fast food joint, they did their best, and their best is not horrible. In other words, way to not totally fail, Jack.

Turkey, Bacon & Cheddar Grilled Sandwich

Mmmm. Bacon. Everyone loves bacon. Which is kind of annoying, actually. I believe bacon has actually become an Internet meme, which I never would have thought could happen. But, you know what, that’s a rant for another time. Let’s just get to this sandwich!

Initial olfactory reports: smoky bacon, tangy cheddar, something else I can’t quite put my finger (nose) on, but overall, it smells promising. Jack describes this sandwich as “Roasted turkey, bacon and cheddar cheese with a Sun-dried Tomato sauce on grilled artisan bread.” We’ve already addressed the “artisan” bread issue, and I’m not even going to start on the inappropriate capitalization, but the sun-dried tomato sauce may be the mystery smell.

I gotta say, I like this sandwich. The bacon is actually crisp, no small feat for a fast food joint, and the cheddar is sharp and full of flavor. Even though the turkey gets kind of swallowed up by these other two strong flavors, it adds a good, meaty platform. I’m a little disappointed by the sauce. I was looking for it, and I think it was struggling to be noticed, but I just couldn’t get a handle on it. So I peeled open the sandwich, and what I found was a disappointingly small amount of sauce on the bread. I took a little bite of just the bread and sauce, and it was really quite good. I feel that it’s a shame there wasn’t more on there, but I’m a big sauce fan, so maybe it would be acceptable for other people. I’ll just ask for extra sauce if I wind up ordering it again.

Much like the Deli Trio, the Turkey, Bacon & Cheddar Grilled Sandwich couldn’t stand up to a real deli sandwich, but for a fast food offering, it does its best. The quality of the ingredients is solid, and both are full of flavor; I think for both sandwiches, the thing that stops them from really shining is the balance of ingredients. Deli Trio had too much ham; the other had too little sauce. They may be minor grievances, but for me, it prevents both of them from going from a good sandwich to a great one.

So, the question that Jack apparently wants everyone to ask themselves: which sandwich is better? As much as I hate to say it, I agree with Jack — I can’t decide. Both are flavorful but slightly flawed, and they have very different tastes. It’s the dilemma of apples and oranges; it would be unfair to compare them to each other. Maybe watching some sexy Jack in the Box executive businesswomen get freaky would help me decide. I’m just saying.

(Nutrition Facts: Deli Trio – 627 calories, 28 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 2,461 milligrams of sodium, 450 milligrams of potassium, 54 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugars and 37 grams of protein. Turkey, Bacon & Cheddar – 647 calories, 30 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 93 milligrams of cholesterol, 2,128 milligrams of sodium, 423 milligrams of potassium, 53 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of sugars and 39 grams of protein.)

Item: Jack in the Box Grilled Chicken Sandwich (Deli Trio and Turkey, Bacon & Cheddar)
Price: Free with the purchase of a large drink, $3.99 for the other sandwich
Size: 1 sandwich
Purchased at: Jack in the Box
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Deli Trio)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Turkey, Bacon & Cheddar)
Pros: Deli quality meat. Fast alternative to hitting a deli. Argument-induced spontaneous lesbianism. Pickle filets. Flavors working well together. No hobo smell in my car. Bacon.
Cons: Not enough salami on the Deli Trio. Not enough sauce on the Turkey, Bacon & Cheddar. Getting cock-blocked from lesbianism. Bread not exactly artisan. Sandwich vs. sammich. Uneven grilling.