Dec 28, 2009

Review: El Pollo Loco - Crunchy Chicken Taco

El Pollo Loco's Crunchy Chicken Taco provides a bit of a change from the typical fast food taco in that it has shredded flame-broiled chicken inside (I suppose it is makes sense, El Pollo Loco being a chicken joint and all).  It's good but it's also more expensive at around $1.50 while still being the same size.  Beyond that, it's the same standard cheese and shredded lettuce.  The shell is freshly fried in Carl's Jr./Green Burrito fashion.

For the price the price though, I think most times, I would just eat their 99 cent Taco Al Carbon which is a chicken taco of the street taco variety (in a corn torilla with onions and cilantro).

El Pollo Loco Store Locator
Dec 25, 2009

Review: Philly's Best - French Fries

Oh yeah... they had fries too.  They're okay.  Nothing memorable except that they weren't too salty which I like but otherwise just your standard french fries.  They don't taste any different for having the skin on.  But I don't go for the fries... I go for the cheese steak! (and sometimes the Italian hoagie!)
Dec 23, 2009

Review: Philly's Best - Philly Pepper Steak

Philly's Best offers a good rendition of a Philly Cheesesteak out here in the Southland.  Outside of local shops,  this is one of the best places to get a Philly Cheesesteak here in Los Angeles.  It's not as good as my favorite the Cheesesteak Shop up in the Bay area but it passed muster and it's where I go when I feel like some steak and cheese on an Amoroso roll.  They also make a mean Itailian hoagie with Boar Head's deli meats.

The Philly Pepper Steak features thinly-sliced steak, melted white American cheese, and sweet peppers.  You can also get it with Provolone or Cheese Whiz.  I've tried it with Cheese Whiz before and didn't care for it as much as I thought I would.  Sometimes, the bread doesn't taste as fresh as I would like but otherwise it's quite tasty and has locations throughout southern California.
Dec 21, 2009

Review: Taco Bell - Grilled Chicken Burrito

Taco Bell's Grilled Chicken Burrito features grilled chicken, seasoned rice, avocado ranch sauce, and grated Cheddar cheese wrapped up in a flour tortilla.  It was 89 cents, and is now 99 cents.
Dec 18, 2009

Review: Arby's - Classic Italian Toasted Sub

While Arby's Italian Toasted Sub is typically around 4 dollars, Arby's usually sends around a coupon for two toasted subs for $4 which is pretty much the only time I buy them.

Arby's Italian Toasted Sub features thinly sliced ham, salami, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese toasted on a ciabatta roll. Beyond meat and cheese, there's banana peppers, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, and a red wine vinaigrette.
While it may look a bit sparse and lacking in the fillings department, it actually fit quite well together and tasted pretty good and well-balanced.  The veggies were relatively fresh, you could get a good taste for the meat, and the despite appearances, the ciabatta roll was crisp and did not overpower the rest of the ingredients.  I was mildly surprised at the taste after taking a peek inside the sandwich.
As you can see, the side view is especially lacking but the taste will surprise you.  I heartily recommend this sandwich when you feel like an Italian Sub.
Dec 17, 2009

Review: Jack in the Box - Bonus Jack

I got Jack In the Box's faux Big Mac, the Bonus Jack, because they were running a special: the $3.99 Bonus Jack Combo. Worse burger EVER.  This is probably the worst fast food item I have ever plopped into my mouth. I could not even stand to finish the thing.

So what was wrong with it.  The whole thing was kinda mushy. The secret sauce was a bright (almost neon) orange... I guess it's a thousand island but less creamy and more sweet. There was no distinct meat flavor or texture plus the smallish patties were completely overwhelmed by an abundance of squishy bun.  In short, the balance was all out of whack.

Do not eat the Bonus Jack if you love your tongue at all!  Dead last by a long shot in the Big Mac pantheon (go for the original or the Big Carl instead!).  This one's an emphatic "do not recommend!"

Holiday Gift Idea: Buy $20 Chick-fil-A Gift Card Get a Free Calendar with Coupons for Free Food

If you're like me and you love Chick-fil-A AND you actually live near one, you'll probably want to get yourself a Chick-fil-A Calendar.  Why?  Because each calendar contains a coupon for free food for each month! (Also, they have funny cow pictures!)  Coupons range from free drinks to free sandwiches.  You can buy a calendar for $6 at their website here or at your local Chick-fil-A.

Of course this being the holidays, if you know someone who frequents Chick-fil-A regularly, Chick-fil-A is running a promotion where you can get a free Calendar with the purchase of a $20 Chick-fil-A Gift Card.  You can't buy them online though, you have to go to your local Chick-fil-A.  You can check out the calendar, the promo, and the coupons here.
Dec 16, 2009

Review: Domino's - Pepperoni Pizza with Extra Cheese

Why is a pizza "carry out" and not "take out" like everything else? Maybe it's supposed to be so heavy that you can't just "take" it out and you have to "carry" it?!

Anyway, Domino's Pizza is currently running a promotion where you can get a Large 1-Topping Piza with extra cheese for $5.99 carryout. I don't usually eat from pizza chains (I prefer local independent pizzerias usually) but it was cheap and I figured, "Hey, why not?"
The problem with pizzas is that since they come in pies, people tend to overeat to finish the pie. It's a psychological thing. You really shouldn't ever eat more than one or two slices at most.

But I digress as I tend to do. I ordered online because they have this nifty little meter that tells you how close your pizza is to being done. Domino's is a short walk from my home so after a brief little jaunt I came back with a large pepperoni (mmm... pepperoni... nitrates! but tasty!) pie.

It was fine (and cheap!). I ate it for lunch, dinner, and breakfast the next day (one slice each!). I didn't eat it all in case you're wondering; my family had some too. It is a typical chain pizza, no surprises. Maybe it could have used more pepperoni. I think they use a lower fat mozzarella as I didn't see the pools of grease that a lot of pizzas have despite there being extra cheese on it. The crust was soft and bready with a bit of crispness but mostly soft. The sauce was a bit sweet, a bit tangy and used sparingly. But yes, it was fine. I don't think I'd ever crave it but when you feel like pizza generally (as opposed to specifically!), it'll satisfy.
Dec 15, 2009

News: New Coca-Cola Mini Out This Month?

Coke is coming out with a small denomination of its normal can. The slimmer, smaller cans will be 7.5 ounces and 90 calories (compared to 12 ounces and 140 calories). I think they have (had?) a squat, fat can that was (is?) about 3/5th the height of their normal can (but same diameter) that was 100 calories. But I always though that a slimmer, smaller can would be better marketing and here it is! They already have smaller, slimmer cans in Japan though for roughly 50 cents a pop. But they also have smaller fridges in Japan and smaller houses and... well, you get the idea.

Unfortunately the squat, fat can was also more expensive than a similar number of regular cans which is weird. Hopefully, the slimmer cans will be cheaper for added value and general sensibility.

The Coke mini cans should also be good for people who like Coke but find the regular can to be more than they want to drink. My cousin and one of my friends normally just drink half a can and usually just dump the rest(!) so these cans should be good for them. I prefer a smaller size as well. I'd buy them if they were cheaper or even the same price as regular Coke.

Coca-Cola is also planning on rolling out mini cans of Cherry Coke, Sprite, Orange Fanta, and Barq's Root Beer sometime next year in 2010.

Update 1/13/10: I saw these at Target recently.  They were sold in an 8-pack for $3.99.  Target also had the squat, fat cans as well.

Review: Green Burrito's Nachos

The Nachos at Green Burrito are pretty standard. They're good not great. You get a little bit of everything for roughly $6. It's a bigger size than Taco's largest nachos but it costs more as well.
It could use a bit more cheese though. You do get a fair amount of taco meat. Some refried beans, relatively fresh salsa, sour cream, a bit of guacamole, and in-house fried tortilla chips (as opposed to store bought). A bit on the hefty side for one, but great to share.

I wouldn't go out of the way to get it but if I was in the neighborhood and felt like eating some nachos, I might pick it up.
Dec 14, 2009

Review: The Hat - Roast Beef Au Jus Sandwich

The Hat's Roast Beef Au Jus Sandwich for $6.99. Not one of my favorite items on The Hat's menu. It does come with a pickle though. "Au Jus" means "with juice" in French which basically means this is a French Dip Sandwich. They also give you a cup of roast beef "juice" to accompany it.
The roll is just your typical store bought roll. It's very soft but I would prefer more of a crust or a heartier bread. It's just very plain. The beef itself tastes like (and may be) the thin-sliced roast beef you buy at the supermarket. They do give you plenty of it though. Finally, the beef sauce didn't have enough flavor to it. They do offer the Roast Beef Sandwich with a brown gravy instead of au jus but I can't see that making a significant difference in the sandwich.

All-in-all, the Hat's Roast Beef Au Jus makes for a very generic and unnotable sandwich. I'd skip it for some of the tastier items on the Hats menu like the Pastrami Dip or the Chili Cheese Fries or if you're really asking for heartburn, the Chili Cheese Fries with Pastrami and Tomatoes!

Dec 11, 2009

Review: Popeyes - Loaded Chicken Wrap

Popeyes Loaded Chicken Wrap opened up.

To round out Popeyes' "Big Deal" Value Menu (along with the Delta Mini and the Chicken Biscuit), there's the Loaded Chicken Wrap. It's basically a crispy-fried chicken strip with the chain's red beans and rice, wrapped in a tortilla. You can squeeze in some hot sauce if you like, just ask them for it.
Dec 9, 2009

Review: Boston Market - $1 Real Chicken Meal

A while ago I wrote about how Boston Market was offering a sweet coupon for a $1 Real Chicken Meal. After an failed attempt at using the coupon (they ran out of chicken!), I was able to take advantage of this most excellent deal. As you can see, the meal comes with a piece of corn bread, mashed potatoes (but you can ask for a substitute and I asked the dill potatoes.), and 3 pieces of dark meat chicken or a quarter of white meat (I picked dark meat; it has more flavor!).

Normally such a plate would run you about six dollars at Boston Market which makes it quite the bounty for a buck.

So how was it? The chicken was a wee bit too salty but otherwise had good flavoring and was nice and juicy (because it's dark meat duh.). The dill potatoes are my go-to side: red potatoes seasoned with olive oil and dill, simple and tasty. The corn bread was a bit hit or miss sometimes it has a nice bit of crust to it, sometimes it's kinda squishy. This time it was soft like sandwich bread which is not what I want in my corn bread. Fortunately, I simply popped it in my toaster oven until it was nice and toasty. Mmmmmmm...

Plus it was all for a buck!
Dec 7, 2009

News: Jamba Juice Offering $1 Oatmeal Coupon: Expires 12/11/09

Jamba Juice is offering a coupon to get their Oatmeal for $1. You can print out the coupon from their website here:

The Oatmeal is advertised as slow cooked, and steel-cut topped with your choice of: fresh banana, blueberry/blackberry, apple cinnamon, or new berry cherry pecan. The coupon expires this Friday, December 11, 2009 and is valid only at participating locations. Normal price for Jamba Juice's Oatmeal is $2.95.
Dec 4, 2009

Review: Popeyes - Delta Mini

Part of Popeye's "Big Deals" value menu (along with the Chicken Biscuit and Loaded Chicken Wrap), Popeye's Delta Mini features a chicken strip sliced into nestled in a soft, toasted mini-bun. The orange stuff is their tangy "signature" Delta Sauce.
The chicken was crunchy but still moist enough inside. The bun held up well and was pretty squishy soft but didn't deflate too much when pressed.

The Delta Sauce is like a Thousand Island sauce with a bit of heat to it. It's pretty good. The "Big Deal" items were 99 cents for a while but I think they're now $1.49 which seems more like normal price than a value price but still make for a great snack or meal when you're not too famished.
Dec 2, 2009

Review: Taco Bell - Caramel Apple Empanada

A cross between a baked and deep-fried apple pie, Taco Bell's Caramel Apple Empanada sells for 99 cents off of Taco Bell's "Why Pay More" Menu.
Nov 30, 2009

Review: Houston's - Cheeseburger

My Favorite Chain Burger

Houston's Cheeseburger is probably a top ten burger for me. It is a bit on the pricey side though and doesn't deliver a good bang for you buck at $14 dollars though I suppose the hurt is slightly lessened by your choice of a side: coucous, coleslaw, shoestring french fries, or seasonal veggies.
The Houston's Cheeseburger is your traditional burger done well. It features a toasted, egg-washed sesame bun, a thick (1/2 pound), juicy, charred patty of coarse-ground chuck, a slice of cheddar cheese, fresh, crisp, shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, pickles, and diced onions, and mustard. Everything is well-balanced (if you couldn't tell by now, I'm a big fan of well-balanced). There's a variety of textures from the squishiness of the bun to the crunchy drizzle of lettuce to the choppy bits of the juicy patty. If you want something more exotic from your burger, this isn't it. But, if you want an honest to good, hand-crafted hamburger, Houston's Cheeseburger is a fine choice as long as you can foot the bill.
Nov 27, 2009

Review: El Pollo Loco - BRC Burrito

To polish off what is turning to be a burrito week, this review takes a look at El Pollo Loco's BRC Burrito off of El Pollo Loco's "Loco Dollar" value menu. The BRC stands for Beans, Rice, and Cheese which means you get protein, carbs, and calcium or PCC.... haha, look I made a funny!
So how does it taste? Pretty good unless you hate bean burritos! Everything has a noticeable flavor and texture so it goes well together. Not much to complain about for a buck. It's not fancy eats but it'll do when you want a cheap burrito.

El Pollo Loco Store Locator
Nov 25, 2009

Review: Qdoba - Ancho Chile BBQ Burrito

Qdoba's Ancho Chile BBQ Burrito suffered from the same defects as its Fajita Ranchera Burrito. I actually tried both at the same time because they had a discount at the time specific to my local Qdoba. I think it was buy one, get one half off plus get a free drink with a student ID (luckily, I save mines!).

Billed as a "slighty sweet, molé inspired BBQ sauce with chiles, hickory and smoky mesquite", the burrito could has used more sauce and a bit more heat. I picked shredded beef as my choice of meat, (they also offer grilled steak, grilled chicken, pulled pork, shredded beef, seasoned ground beef, and guacomole AKA the vegetarian option) not that it mattered, there was so little of it compared to how much rice you get. I think their burritos might be better if they added less rice but I doubt I'd ever come back to find out, it was that disappointing.
Nov 23, 2009

Review: Qdoba - Fajita Ranchera Burrito

Qdoba is a Mexican fast casual chain along the lines of Rubio's, Baja Fresh, and Chipotle that is owned by Jack in the Box. In terms of ingredients individually, everything in their Fajita Ranchera Burrito (basically a burrito with fajita style ingredients; in this case, grilled bell peppers and red onions) tasted fine. The problem was when combined together in a tortilla, the taste was off balance and the ingredients didn't really sing. I couldn't really get a good bite; there was too much rice and not enough meat (I picked grilled steak) to complement it.

If you look at the picture, you can see how the ingredients are somewhat sectioned off in the wrapping process which hinders the blending of flavors that I consider the whole point of a burrito. If you're looking for a good burrito, I'd suggest you pass on this one and try another chain or explore your local taquerias if available.
Nov 20, 2009

Review: Wendy's - Sausage Biscuit

Honestly, every fast food sausage patty I've eaten has tasted the same, salty with a bit of pepper. Wendy's Sausage Biscuit does not buck the trend. Mine in particular came with a Frescuit instead of a biscuit because they ran out of biscuits.

Nov 18, 2009

Review: Burger King - Whopper Jr.

It's a Whopper but smaller! Actually, I prefer Burger King's Whopper Jr. to the regular Whopper. The smaller size makes me feel like less of a glutton. Also, unlike the Whopper, which is somewhat wide and flat, the Whopper Jr. doesn't flop under its own weight and feels more solid.  Plus it checks in at a nice and easy 99 cents.

Nov 16, 2009

Review: Popeyes - Chicken Biscuit

Yum! Chicken in a biscuit. Popeyes' biscuits are a bit different from KFCs; it's less bready, has more crunch and the butter is concentrated on the top and bottom of the biscuit. It's more coarse in texture as well but still good.  It's currently 99 cents as part of Big Deals Popeyes' value menu.

 A crunchy chicken strip is placed inside a split biscuit. The chicken can be a bit dry sometimes depending on your luck, but it has a good spiciness to it. If you like Popeyes' biscuits and you like their chicken strips, you'll like the chicken biscuit.
Nov 13, 2009

Review: Taco Bell - Grande Quesadilla

It's like a quesadilla except with a gordita-like flatbread! Beyond that Taco Bell's Grande Quesadilla also has a tangy sauce to accompany the melted cheese and your choice of chicken or steak.
The pillowy bread is pressed and somewhat crisp on the outside but still soft.
It's more like a sandwich really. I prefer a regular flour tortilla over the flat bread for my quesadilla but maybe I'm just a traditionalist. I chose the steak but it didn't really taste like steak, it was a bit too squishy but I don't expect much from "steak" at a fast food joint. All-in-all, I think your money is better spent on a regular chicken quesadilla.
Nov 11, 2009

Review: Taco Bell - Strawberry Lemonade Frutista

This one was just okay. I much rather prefer the Strawberry Frutista Freeze. It's basically a lemon-flavored slush drink with some strawberry and strawberry syrup. The lemonade flavor isn't that tart, it might be that the machine was off but consistency counts! My slush seemed a little bit on the dry side i.e. not that much juice.
As you can see, it doesn't look as good either. They even skimped on the strawberries!
Nov 9, 2009

Review: El Pollo Loco - Cheese Quesadilla

A cheap snack off of El Pollo Loco's Loco Value Menu, the Cheese Quesadilla features a blend of jack and cheddar cheese folded in a grilled flour tortilla. The Cheese Quesadilla is grilled with a bit of char which is quite nice. The flour tortilla is still soft but has a slight crust.  They cut it up into thirds for you.  You can get it spicy or regular.

It's simple but good; not too much cheese but not too little either.  A good cheap snack when you're not too hungry or are a light eater.

El Pollo Loco Store Locator
Nov 6, 2009

Review: Taco Bell - Cheesy Double Beef Burrito

Another cheap snack or small meal from Taco Bell's "Why Pay More" Value Menu. Honestly, when I'm not that hungry, I can be pretty satisfied with just one Cheesy Beefy Burrito. But usually my eyes are bigger than my stomach and the menu is just so cheap that I order at least three items. At 89 cents, it's cheaper than a bean burrito and less stinky later on to boot!
Taco Bell's Cheesy Beefy Burrito is simplicity in itself; Just a double helping of seasoned beef and nacho cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla. If you like nacho cheese and Taco Bell seasoned ground beef, you'll like the Cheesy Beefy Burrito.
Nov 5, 2009

News: McCormick & Schmick's Hosts Free Meal for Veterans - 11/8/09

On Sunday, 11/8/09, McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants are hosting their 11th Annual Veterans Appreciation Event. Veterans will be able to choose a free entree from a special menu. Selections include Cashew-crusted Tilapia, Grilled Atlantic Salmon, Seafood Fettuccini Alfredo, and Cedar-planked Salmon.

Veterans will be required to show some proper ID of their status such as a VA card, discharge papers, etc.

Details and participation locations are available here:

Review: KFC Snacker

A value option sandwich at KFC, the KFC Snacker sells for 99 cents. It is basically a KFC Chicken Strip, shredded lettuce, and pepper mayo sandwiched inside a sesame dinner roll.

Nov 4, 2009

Review: Taco Bell - Black Jack Taco

For those who missed out on the free Halloween giveaway of Taco Bell's Black Jack Taco, I decided to give the gimmicky taco a go myself. At first blush, the Black Jack Taco is the basic Taco Bell Crunchy Taco but with a black taco shell (otherwise it would just be the Jack Taco and Jack in the Box would get free advertising...). Upon closer inspection, the Black Jack Taco also contains some shredded Pepper Jack and mozzarella cheese in addition to the normal cheddar and a healthy and somewhat pungent Pepper Jack sauce.

How does it taste? While you get a taste of all the ingredients, the Pepper Jack sauce is quite strong (some might find it overpowering) and is "zesty" as Taco Bell describes. While it's a nice change of pace for those looking for something new, I still prefer the regular Crunchy Taco. Still both cost the same at a reasonable 89 cents, making the Black Jack Taco worth a try.
Nov 3, 2009

News: Former and Current Military Eat Free at Applebee's - 11/11/09

On Veteran's Day, Wednesday, 11/11/09, Applebee's is offering a free meal to all U.S. Veterans as well as current active duty military personnel. Proof of military service is required and can be show by the following:
  • U.S. Uniform Services ID Card
  • U.S. Uniform Services Retired ID Card
  • Current Leave and Earnings Statement (LES)
  • Veterans Organization Card (i.e. American Legion and VFW)
  • Photograph in uniform
  • Wearing uniform
  • DD214
  • Citation or Commendation
Veterans and current military personnel will be able to choose from one of six entrees: Three-Cheese Chicken Penne, Fire Pit Bacon Burger, Fiesta Lime Chicken, Chicken Tenders Platter, 7 oz. House Sirloin, or Oriental Chicken Salad.

Fine Print - "Available during business hours on November 11, 2009 at participating Applebee’s only. Dine-in from limited menu only. Beverages and gratuity not included. Veterans and active duty military simply show proof of military service."

News: Free Whataburger for Dressing in Orange - 11/10/09

Texas-based burger chain Whataburger is offering a free Whataburger to fans decked out "from head to toe" in the chain's signature orange for dine-in service on Tuesday, 11/10/09 from 5pm to 8pm. Whataburger has dubbed the night "Orange Night Out." The chain is privately-held so it should be valid at all 700 plus locations.

Nov 2, 2009

Review: El Pollo Loco - Churro

El Pollo Loco's Churro off of their Loco Value Menu places a distance third to the churros at Baja Fresh and Costco.  For $1, you get two churros.
El Pollo Loco's churros are only a little bit better than the churros you can buy frozen at the supermarket (for all I know, they might be the same churros you buy at the supermarket). They are just warm and kind of chewy. It does have the requisite coating of sugar and cinnamon.  But all in all, El Pollo Loco's Churro is pretty disappointing though not bad at two for $1.  Then again, you can get two deep-fried apple pies for $1 as well.

El Pollo Loco Store Locator
Oct 28, 2009

Review: Little Caesars - Italian Cheese Bread

My Favorite "Cheesesticks"

Little Caesars is a pizza chain that uses a different model than most of the major chains. Like Papa Murphy's, they generally don't deliver. Unlike Papa Murphy's, Little Caesars bakes the pizza for you. 

Oct 27, 2009

Review: Papa John's - Cheesesticks

Sometimes I get a hankering for cheese sticks that stems from back in my undergrad days when a local pizzeria would deliver to the dorms. Fortunately, some pizza chains now stock cheese sticks as a menu item including Papa John's, where they're sold at $4.99 for a 10-inch order and $5.99 for a 12-inch order.