REVIEW: Arby’s Smokehouse Beef Short Rib Sandwich and Loaded Curly Fries

Arby s Smokehouse Beef Short Rib Sandwich

America’s favorite fast food punching bag, Arby’s, should stick to the one thing they do best: roast beef sandwiches.

Think about it: have you ever, in your life, stopped what you’re doing and made a beeline for the joint because you simply had to nosh on its gyro or down a fish sandwich pronto? Has a day ever been made better by one of its ice coffee drinks? Ever sat at work daydreaming about a big bowl of those curly fries, well, okay, I’ll give you the curly fries. But, still, Arby’s meandering attempt to enter the barbeque game — one of many, I’m sure — by putting a beef short rib sandwich on the menu is mediocre at best.

Utilizing the mainly fatty beef parts of the aforementioned short rib, an admittedly nice big handful of that cheap cut is packed between two thick slices of mostly toasted Texas toast and topped with soggy fried onions, misplaced melted cheddar cheese and a little slight drizzle of barbeque sauce to give it more of that down-home back-country feel. It doesn’t work, but kudos for trying, Arby’s.

As I took as large a bite as my medium mouth could allow, I tasted more of the sauce than the meat which is never a good sign, especially when it Arby’s barbeque sauce. However, pulling a few pieces of the short rib out to taste by its lonesome, I can see why; the meat was a bit dry, and a good dollop of that sickly sauce gave it its much needed (but still pretty unwanted) flavor.

Additionally, that fraudulent smoky sauce seeped deep into the bread as well, so there’s that if you’re big into sticky, damp bread.

Arby s Smokehouse Beef Short Rib Loaded Curly Fries

Alongside the Short Rib Sandwich, Arby’s has a quasi-companion piece taking the form of Short Rib Loaded Fries which are exactly how they sound: a decent pile of their quintessential curly fries, bastardized with short rib meat, even more melted cheddar cheese, and a whole mess of that barbeque sauce to give them a sense of purpose and meaning.

It’s an unapologetically mishmash of flavors, none of which seemingly belong together in the slightest. The corporate entity barbeque sauce sweetens, almost to a fault, the mildly limp fries. Meanwhile, the short rib meat makes a pretty garnish but not a very useful tater topping, big clumps falling everywhere, just looking for that Texas toast.

For a nice size bowl of these loaded fries—loaded fries being my favorite of all fries, honestly, it’s kind of a wasted effort. Give me some plain curlies and few packs of Horsey Sauce and I’m gold, kid.

Arby’s, your bold experimentalism let me down again, but don’t worry: come Christmastime I promise I’ll be back in line for your five roast beef sandwiches for five bucks. You all still do that, right? Please tell me you do.

(Nutrition Facts – Sandwich – 590 calories, 28 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 1510 milligrams of sodium, 59 grams of carbohydrates, 14 grams of sugar, 4 grams of fiber, and 26 grams of protein. Loaded Curly Fries – 730 calories, 41 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 2300 milligrams of sodium, 75 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of sugar, 6 grams of fiber, and 15 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.99 (sandwich)
Size: N/A
Rating: 3 out of 10 (Sandwich)
Rating: 2 out of 10 (Loaded Curly Fries)
Pros: Lots of meat. Good to see Texas toast on the menu. Chance to visit your local Arby’s.
Cons: Barbeque sauce too “fake sweet.” Soggy onions and bread. Cheese sauce not like I remember.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Wild Naked Chicken Chalupa

Taco Bell Wild Naked Chicken Chalupa

Even though the Naked Chicken Chalupa was already a thing, the culinary geniuses at Taco Bell have managed to both recycle and reintroduce the famed poultry pocket with a new spicy sauce to kick off their latest quarter of seasonal eats.

Basically Taco Bell’s version of KFC’s million-plus selling Double-Down Sandwich, the Naked Chicken Chalupa takes a thoroughly processed and mechanically separated piece of fried chicken and flattens it to the consistency of a puffy tortilla, which, while wholly unnatural and naturally unholy, does form a solidly delicious wrap to contain those patented Taco Bell innards we’re so deeply accustomed to.

And since the original iteration of the Naked Chicken Chalupa itself has been broken down repeatedly and reviewed by both the poets and the analysts, there’s no need for me to do it here. So, instead, let’s talk about this version’s newest addition, the “wild” in the Wild Naked Chicken Chalupa—the crazed creamy additive with a momentary kick to end all kicks, at least in the Taco Bell universe.

Taco Bell Wild Naked Chicken Chalupa 3

While at first taste the Wild Sauce feels like a basic retread of their much-loved and mostly-missed Volcano Sauce right down to the sickly pinkish color, after a few seconds, the initial heat is followed by what seems to be a heavy amount of a smoky chili powder that’s been sprinkled into the proceedings. It causes a second wave of a different kind of heat that, even in moderation, is a wonderfully overpowering blast of flavor, riding the tongue and cruising up the sinuses like it was Van Nuys Blvd. on a Saturday night.

Taco Bell Wild Naked Chicken Chalupa 2

On the actual Naked Chicken Chalupa, it’s a bit of welcomed overkill, besting the rather useless cheese, lettuce, and tomato and, if you pay the extra 60 cents, the seasoned ground beef but its magic lies with the chicken chalupa itself. The seasoned fried chicken makes for both a testy compatriot and a zesty foil. However, the sauce might be too much for some. If that’s the case, then I suggest asking for a cup of “mild” chalupa sauce and mixing the two together for a fine median.

Much like the aforementioned Volcano Sauce, this does lead me with the same question: why doesn’t Taco Bell start offering a line of dipping sauces, much like McD’s, for example? This Wild Sauce would go so good with Nacho Fries, Cheesy Roll-ups, and just about everything on the breakfast menu. But maybe that’s just me. Cómpralo ya!

(Nutrition Facts – 420 calories, 250 calories from fat, 28 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 1070 milligrams of cholesterol, 1070 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 19 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Wave after wave of heat and flavor. Mixes perfect with the chicken.
Cons: Chalupa itself is kind of useless. Makes for a much better dipping sauce;

REVIEW: Wendy’s Southwest Avocado Spicy Chicken Sandwich and Salad

Wendy s Southwest Avocado Spicy Chicken Sandwich and Salad

The American Southwest, a lone desert highway…

The boiling Sun is high in the sky as a pair of scorpions duel in the dust. A stereotyped tumbleweed rolls across the hot asphalt and off into the sandy distance. From out of a dust devil a 1968 Mercury Cougar rumbles by, the anonymous driver tossing a barely-touched hamburger out the window…

With a loud splat, a trademarked square patty burns as the covetous mayo sizzles in the heat. A grizzled old buzzard swoops down and starts picking at the errant smokey mushrooms that’ve spread across the road…

After the moderate disappointment of Wendy’s Smoky Mushroom mistake last month, America’s favorite flame-haired burger baroness and her hamburger-haranguing crew have returned from their vaunted test kitchens, ready to proudly present a brand-new limited-time pollo-based product that should very well have the fat lot of us making a run for the border — any border — come lunchtime tomorrow.

Wendy s Southwest Avocado Spicy Chicken Sandwich and Salad 2

Snap those pearl-buttons tight on your favorite Navajo-print long-sleeve, tie that turquoise bolo a little bit higher than usual and do your damnedest to make room for the new Southwest Avocado Spicy Chicken Sandwich, a superb Santa Fe-inspired two-fisted tale of a sandwich that will surely satisfy the haunted hankerings of any random Ghost Rider in the Sky or hungry driver on the road.

Wendy s Southwest Avocado Spicy Chicken Sandwich and Salad 3

Wendy’s has taken their coveted spicy chicken patty — already the basis of one of the best chicken sandwiches on the market — and have brazenly topped it with pepper jack cheese, Southwest ranch sauce, applewood-smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and, best of all, a mega-dollop of creamy guacamole on a high and mighty bun that simply can’t contain all of this desert goodness.

The sheer heat of the spicy chicken provides a much-needed sensual burn, creating a tastebud dalliance with the inherent peppers and well-timed spices that definitely pleased my most masochistic palate. The cool ranch and ample supply of fresh guacamole provided a much needed balm from the burn, giving the Southwest Avocado Spicy Chicken Sandwich an absolutely perfect blend of sheer girth and delicious worth, one that devilishly transcends these “limited-time only” gimmick eats.

Wendy s Southwest Avocado Spicy Chicken Sandwich and Salad 4

Meanwhile, there is also a salad-based variation available that substitutes grilled chicken breast and adds two scoops of avocado seasoned with lime juice and salt to top off the lettuce, tomatoes, shredded pepper jack cheese, Southwest ranch dressing and, yes, applewood-smoked bacon, that makes up the most of the green concoction.

Calorically and nutritionally, while I’m not exactly sure who this salad is for — I would’ve much rather had these accoutrements on top of a steaming hot baked potato, wouldn’t you? — it’s nowhere near as bad as it probably could’ve been. It’s got a great crunch to it and the double avocado is a mean green treat, but don’t go chasing waterfalls thinking it’s a viable part of any health-based diet-plan.

The American Southwest, a lone desert highway…

As the opening riff of ZZ Top’s “La Grange” blares from the factory original stereo, a 1968 Mercury Cougar pulls over to the barren side of the road. Pulling off his shades, our hero looks down the front of his black leather jacket, most which is covered in guacamole.

“Dammit…” he laments as he can’t find a clean napkin in his Wendy’s bag. With mild shame, he starts licking it clean, but it’s finally worth it. Cómpralo ya!

(Nutrition Facts – Sandwich – 690 calories, 34 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 1480 milligrams of sodium, 57 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of sugar, 6 grams of fiber, and 38 grams of protein. Salad (Full) – 600 calories 41 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 135 milligrams of sodium, 1220 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar, 7 grams of fiber, and 42 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.79 (sandwich) $6.69 (salad)
Size: N/A
Rating: 10 out of 10 (Sandwich)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Salad)
Pros: Extra spicy. Surprisingly large portions. Doesn’t skimp on the guacamole
Cons: The salad is kind of pointless, would’ve worked better on a baked potato.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Triple Melt Burrito and Triple Melt Nachos

Taco Bell Triple Melt Nachos

“Caseus et magis in melius.”

Mother, if you are reading this, please have this newly-minted personal creed inscribed on my tombstone along with a picture of Taco Bell’s Triple Melt Nachos, if only for future generations to know that we are currently living in the cheesiest point of recorded history.

And while all this cheese comes at a sacrifice — Nacho Fries are gone, long live Nacho Fries — if value-based creations such as the Taco Bell Triple Melt Burrito and, even more so, the Triple Melt Nachos, are a glistening yellow beacon to what we can achieve in the realm of queso and queso-related foodstuffs, then it’s the culinary petard that I will defiantly hoist my husky frame upon.

The aforementioned dynamic duo of Triple Melt meals from Taco Bell are seemingly a long time coming and hopefully a new standard bearer on not only the value meal menu but anything in the future that they dare to proclaim as “cheese-filled.”

By combining the Bell’s patented nacho cheese goodness with a shredded three-cheese blend of mozzarella, cheddar, and pepper jack, these new mixtures and additions hit closer and closer to what we should rightfully expect from years of Tex-Mex fast food promises.

Taco Bell Triple Melt Burrito

And while not as super-gooey as you’d think — the combined cheeses settle very fast into their own blessed mass of congealment — these very different cheeses and their fully distinct flavors make the Triple Melt Burrito a definite triple-crown entry as far as taste goes in this never-ending value menu race to the top. Along with the always welcomed ground beef and perfectly blended sauce, it makes for a burrito well worth your dollar.

Taco Bell Triple Melt Burrito 2

That being said, the main drawback here is the continued unimaginative use of Taco Bell’s typically bland rice as a wholly unnecessary filler that might as well be sawdust the way it soaks up all that important cheesy flavor. (I mean, let’s be honest: is there really anyone out there who truly likes Taco Bell’s rice? A mea culpa to you and yours if so, but I doubt it.)

Taco Bell Triple Melt Nachos 2

This minor act of edible malfeasance is absolutely rectified, for the most part, by the award-worthy Triple Melt Nachos. Featuring those beloved chips and aforementioned ground beef professionally imbued with all these different cheeses, like a calcium-rich daydream of innocent fools come to fruition, it’s a hearty combination that makes this a Dollar Menu item beyond reproach.

The warm queso blankets the top while the corresponding layers underneath are shielded by the melting shredded cheese that soaks down to the bottom, making sure that every bite is loaded with some semblance of flavor like a sternly protective father, a true rarity especially when it comes to these dollar nachos and their moderately-sized portions and partitions.

And, to be fair, if you want to complain about the size of these nachos, it’s only a buck hoss…man up and order two or three or whatever it takes to satisfy those curdled urges deep inside. Lord knows I have. ¡Cómpralo ya!

(Nutrition Facts – Triple Melt Burrito – 410 calories, 16 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 1030 milligrams of sodium, 50 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, and 15 grams of protein. Triple Melt Nachos – 260 calories, 16 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 550 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, and 10 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.00
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Burrito)
Rating: 10 out of 10 (Nachos)
Pros: So very, very cheesy. The mixture of cheese flavors works. Great value even for value menu items.
Cons: Limited-time only. The rice on the burrito is total filler. Nachos congeal fast.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Strawberry Skittles Freeze

Taco Bell Strawberry Skittles Freeze

Few fast food corporations seem to truly love their customers the way that Taco Bell does.

Let’s be honest: with the kind, loving hand of a well-meaning father, everything and anything the Bell creates is done simply to make us, the fickle consumer, in the broadest of generalities, happy. Very happy. They just want to see a satisfied smile on our faces by consistently going above and beyond our culinary dreams in ways the other fast food joints either can’t or refuse to.

From their now-legendary forays into the Tex-Mex beyond with items like the long-forgotten Bell Beefer sandwich and the heat-punishing Volcano Taco, to recent developments like the blockbuster Doritos Locos Tacos and those omnipresent Nacho Fries, if you can dream it, then the kitchen witches at Taco Bell can probably make it a reality.

Case in point, their latest liquidic offering is the absolutely transcendent Strawberry Skittles Freeze, a tart and tangy frozen sojourn into absolute tooth-rotting bliss. Even more so than their Air Heads or Starburst variations, this chilly elixir perfectly captures the very essence and aura of a strawberry Skittle — everyone’s favorite flavor, right? — and pulverizes it down into a sweetly-sour near-solid that is worth the numerous brain-freezes that should occur from sip after fruity sip.

Taco Bell Strawberry Skittles Freeze 2

Available in a 16 oz. size for $2.39, you’d think that this would be a prime example of sickly-sweet overkill as many of these experiments often tend to be, but the flavor wizards at TB have managed to get the perfect balance, creating a frozen beverage that is finally without a sour, throaty aftertaste from the sweeteners or, even worse, the archetypical queasy stomach from the massive fructose overload. I ordered two —- one with my meal and one for the road and it was an oh-so-smooth ride the whole time.

This leads the door wide open, hopefully and blessedly, for the Bell to create even more candy-inspired frozen drinks; a lemon-lime Skittles frozen lemonade would be quite bomb, especially in the summertime on a rather sultry Sunday right after mowing the yard. But why stop there? How about a Sour Patch Kids Watermelon freeze to sneak into the movies or, por mi gente, a tamarindo or mango con chile concoction of some sort, maybe with a Tajin seasoning packet for the experts. The Bell’s the limit!

But, until then, I will be happily sipping and slurping the rainbow with every limited-time only moment of refreshing romance I have with the Strawberry Skittles Freeze, thanking my pals at Taco Bell from the very bottom of my enlarged heart for, once again, thinking outside the bun and making my most edible of dreams come true like an overweight (and far more watchable) version of the movie Inception. ¡Cómpralo ya!

(Nutrition Facts – 160 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 43 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.39
Size: 16 oz.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like frozen Skittle juice. No sickly-sweet stomach ache. ice cold and refreshing.
Cons: Limited-time only.