Dude Food is Chris Clayton (@Chris_Clayton) and Drew Wood's (@DrewSWood) excuse to eat fatty, gluten-packed, exceedingly unhealthy pseudo foodstuffs that they otherwise wouldn't be able to consume with any sort of regularity now that they have children and are coming to terms with their own mortality. Chris and Drew are well aware of the health risks associated with eating this garbage but believe that in moderation, their love of fast food, new Doritos flavors, and the like can be a manageable vice. Part ode to lowbrow eats, part cautionary tale, Dude Food is a cathartic exercise in putting good taste on hold.
In the first installment (for there will surely be more!) our intrepid eaters visit Taco John's . . .
With the gutbomb they call the Flamin' Hot Cheetos Burrito, Taco John's has officially thrown their hat into the Frankenstein-food ring that Taco Bell has pretty much owned since debuting their Doritos Locos tacos last year. Its siren song could not be ignored.
Does the fact that we chose to acquire our burritos at a Taco John's buried deep in the Minneapolis skyway make our endeavor better or worse?
One undeniable fact about hitting up a place like Taco John's is that, even when you're on a defined mission, it's next to impossible not to over-order by nightmarish margins. Let our $27 bill and two heeping, greasy bags of TJ's be testament to our particularly-frightening lack of willpower.
Just in case the Flamin' Hot Cheeto Burrito isn't quite flamin hot enough.
The greasiest of the two bags was filled entirely with Potato Oles, Taco John's version of a hockey-pucked tater tot. The reason we got so damn many (aside from gluttony embedded into the deepest recesses of our DNA) is that once others in the office caught word that we were making a Taco John's run, no matter the level of scorn they placed upon our Cheetos Burrito lust, without fail they requested Oles.
The other major impulse buy of our run: a large order of the beef and bean taquitos TJ's dubs Mexi Rolls. More on them later.
We digress. The main attaction was a fistful of gloriously-wrapped Flamin' Hot Cheetos Burritos. Sure they're not in a shell specially made out of Doritos, but they feature Chester Cheetah cooly breathing fire on their wrapper and that's alright with us.
Intial inspection showed the burritos themselves to be slightly more, well, flaccid than the one pictured in their ads, but as is the nature of the implicit agreement guys like Chris and I have with fast food we'll take flaccid presentation so long as it doesn't mean flaccid taste.
In Chris's words: Start with a "spicy tortilla" the color of culinary fearlessness (light gold). Layer it with "dangerously cheesy" hot Cheetos, chorizo crumbles, nacho cheese, jalepeño peppers and chile de arbol salsa. Roll it up, recite the secret incantations of Santa Ana Potato Olé (the patron saint of "West-Mex" cuisine) and there you have it: Taco John's new Flamin' Hot Cheetos Burrito.
Wait! Where's the molten nacho cheese and the bushel of neatly stacked Flamin' Hot Cheetos pictured in the ad?
The fact that it's not quite as advertised did nothing to stop us from our mid-office feast. Chris was the first to indulge.
After a moment of quiet contemplation that seemed like an eternity, and with bits of his pioneering bite still in his mouth, Chris made the universal signal of a satisfied dude.
I support Chris's thesis wholeheartedly, especially the Keith Richards metaphor:
The Cheetos don't taste at all dangerous, but they are tasty and add a nice crunch to the affair. Most of the heat comes from the jalepeños, which threaten to overpower everything but are tempered by the chemical creaminess of the ballpark cheese. The chorizo crumbles hardly register, the salsa tastes like Indian curry and the tortilla is essentially a veggie wrap. It all works together like Keith Richards in the ’70s, which is to say barely able to hold it together but pretty damn good. Plus, it makes infinitely better use of its gimmick ingredient than the Doritos Locos taco (the Cheetos Burrito's older, more popular sister).
Eventually our endeavor drew curious second-parties. Here editor Stephanie Wilbur Ash thrusts herself upon an unclaimed burrito with a skeptical yet analytical approach.
Her verdict? That, as a whole it succeeds, but would be made infinitely better if paired with a Mountain Dew. Chris agreed but was too busy polishing off his burrito in less than two minutes to do so audibly.
Intersperesed with genrous helping of Potato Oles and congenial office banter that was only partially judgemental to what Chris and I were doing to our bodies by eating that much Taco John's at once, we eventually made our way to the impulse buy Mexi Rolls. They were so-so, but aided by sides of nacho cheese and sour cream we still managed to make short work of them.
As we looked back upon the carnage, final thoughts began to form, but not until a few days had passed were we really in a spot to properly analyze the experience. For me it was best summed up by an out of body feeling that so convincingly overcame me later that day I was actually forced to admit during a meeting that I was feeling a bit out of sorts after partaking in a self-inflicted Taco John's taste test earlier that afternoon. For Chris, it came back to the inevitable Flamin' Hot Cheetos burrito/ Doritos Locos comparison:
Taco Bell's reengineered Doritos taco shell is literally and figuratively a shell of its former self. It's basically an off-brand Dorito with none of the zest, crunch and I-just-ate-an-entire-bag-in-five-minutes-and-now-my-partner-is-threatening-to-leave-me-because-I'm-a-pig addictiveness of the real deal. Taco John's, on the other hand, just crammed a bunch of actual Cheetos inside of a burrito. It's a clumsy move, but sort of genius—and the gimmick holds up because of it. Score: three soiled paper napkins out of five.
Three soiled napkins out of five . . . Stay tuned to see if the subject of our next Dude Food (still TBD) fares any better.