The fast-food taste test of new menu items

By Tan Vinh

The Seattle Times (TNS)

Chicken shaped like a tortilla shell. A plant patty that tasted like a burger. Fast-food chains will try anything to get customers in the door – the weirder, the better. At least that’s what it looked like driving past all those Technicolor fast-food ads. I hit some drive-throughs. I ordered the special. Conclusion: In the hierarchy of gross fast food, the experience could’ve been a lot worse.

Taco Bell – Naked Chicken Chalupa, $2.99, 440 calories (Recommended)

It’s the most hyped fast-food special since KFC’s “The Double Down.” There’s nowhere to go but up after that double down travesty of bacon and cheese sandwiched between two chicken fillets.

The latest is breaded white chicken meat, shaped like a taco shell and filled with shredded lettuce, tomato, cheese and a creamy sauce. The chicken is extra-crispy to mimic the taco-shell texture. It’s not that much different from the playbook of those on a low-carb or paleo diet who eat chicken salad. But thanks to clever marketing, it’s getting quite the buzz. The naked chalupa is good in that you can’t go wrong with deep-fried chicken and aioli, which is what that avocado-ranch dressing tastes like. If you want to try, you better hurry. Taco Bell is phasing out the Naked Chicken Chalupa sometime next month. Due to its popularity, though, it will have an encore performance in the future.

Burger King – Jalapeno Chicken Fries, $3.29, 300 calories (Not recommended)

These have been brought back for a limited time, and if you’re lucky, they’ll be gone by the time you drive up to the window. There’s some white substance that resembles meat, but if that’s chicken, I can’t tell. It’s more a salty, spicy batter that serves as a vessel to dip into honey mustard or five other sauce options. Slogan said it all: “Double dipping strongly encouraged.”

McDonald’s – Grand Mac, $6.39, 860 calories (Recommended)

Because a Big Mac just isn’t big enough, we now have this granddaddy. Grand Mac is for those who treat the Big Mac as a slider. This food coma of a burger has 860 calories, a third of the daily recommended caloric intake for most mortals. It has an expansive circumference, 4.5 inches wide, a half-inch wider than a Big Mac. Just know, though, that it will take longer to work through one, which means the meat gets drier, the buns soggier – and you’re gonna wish the Grand had more than just two pickles to make it go down easier for those final bites.

McDonald’s – The Mac Jr., $2.99, 460 calories, (Not recommended)

Instead of being a smaller, cuter version of the Big Mac, the Mac Jr. comes with one less patty and bun, which is just not the same in taste and texture as a Big Mac.

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