Another year, another flurry of new fast-food innovations. As usual, some of these products were quite good, some were decidedly bad, and others were neither good nor bad, but just plain weird. We rounded up four new fast-food products in each of those categories.
KFC decided to hitch its wagon to the Nashville hot chicken trend and take its version national in January. And the reviews have been widely positive: Even though it’s an inherently greasy product by nature (it’s basted with hot chile oil), the consensus was that this is spicy, satisfying, and craveable.
Subway’s chicken has always been a little bit lacking, with a processed, rubbery texture and not much chicken flavor. The brass at Subway listened to our concerns and rolled out rotisserie-style chicken back in March, to unanimously positive reviews: It’s real, roasted, white meat, antibiotic-free chicken, pulled in-store, and even served with some skin still attached. It’s a winner.
It’s hard to believe that Taco Bell has never served queso, but this Texas favorite has only started to achieve national recognition within the past few years. Just like KFC to Nashville hot chicken, Taco Bell is riding the zeitgeist. Even though it’s still brand new, early reviews are in, and it’s creamy, cheesy, not artificial-tasting, and slightly spicy from the addition of jalapeño.
Wendy’s completely redesigned their grilled chicken sandwich in September, and it’s an absolute winner. The chicken itself if thicker and more tender than it was before, with an herby kick from a new marinade; the toasted bun is whole grain; the spring mix and tomatoes are fresh; and the honey mustard sauce is creamy and mild. Best of all, it only contains 360 calories.
Burger King’s Mac n’ Cheetos, basically a giant fried Cheeto with macaroni and cheese inside, came across like the joke that only they were in on. They were panned across the board, with everyone from Lucky Peach to Brand Eating expressing their disapproval. While the outside may have been crispy, it lacked any Cheetos flavor, and the mac and cheese inside was congealed and unpleasant.
Another completely unnecessary release from Burger King: Essentially a Whopper, but instead of a patty, it’s oddly textured ground beef; and instead of a bun, it’s a tortilla. This awkward mess suffered from poor planning and poor ingredient distribution, and can you really call something that has pickles in it a burrito?
Chipotle rolled out its first new menu item in June since 2014, a ground combination of pork, chicken, and “herbs and aromatic spices” that they decided to call chorizo. As opposed to the intensely flavorful and luscious pork chorizo that you’ll find on real Mexican tacos, Chipotle’s version, according to Eater’s Ryan Sutton, tasted “like bland chicken breast mixed with a cheap supermarket "dry taco seasoning mix… If you closed your eyes and tried the chorizo, you wouldn't even be able to identify the protein. You might mistake it for overcooked tofu. You wouldn't even call it sausage.” Ouch.
In order to taste good, funnel cake needs to be made more or less to order, the batter poured right into hot oil before betting a dusting of powdered sugar and served immediately. Dairy Queen’s new funnel cake, aside from being pitifully small, lacks that crispiness because it goes from the freezer to the deep-fryer and is served in a sealed container, so the end result is a soggy, greasy, tiny mess.
Here’s Burger King once again, still thinking that coating everything on its menu with Cheetos dust might capture the same lightning in a bottle that Taco Bell did with Doritos. Cheetos Chicken Fries took an already oddball menu item and made it even weirder, and with Burger King sales in decline, it’s looking like they’re going to need to re-think this approach.
Intended for a late-night audience, Jack in The Box’s Sriracha Curly Fry Burger is certainly an oddity, but it’s also pretty smart. The patty is topped with creamy sriracha sauce, American cheese, and curly fries; and as part of a Munchie meal, it comes with fries, two tacos, and a fountain drink. Heck, that’s one way to satisfy your munchies.
Stuffed-crust pizzas are nothing new, but nobody’s thought to stuff a deep-dish pizza crust with cheese and pepperoni until now. Little Caesars’ Pepperoni Stuffed Crust Deep Dish Pizza may be an absolute gutbomb (one slice is enough to fill you up), and it may be super weird, but there’s no denying that it’s tasty.
Pizza Hut never ceases to amaze us with its capacity to make pizza as crazily bizarre as possible, and we commend them for it. This year they decided to replace the crust with what basically amounted to large balls of crust filled with a negligible amount of melted cheese and brushed with a blend of garlic butter, Parmesan, and Italian herbs. “A” for effort!