Wendy’s Bacon Queso Crap: A Review

IMG_4100I went to Wendy’s for dinner last night, not because I like Wendy’s, in fact among popular fast food restaurants they are near the bottom on my list of favorites if they aren’t my absolute least favorite, but because it’s that one time of year when corporate realizes they have way too much extra cheese and bacon that is going to go bad soon so they roll out a new product that features these two ingredients. I don’t know why I keep going back time and time again, thinking that maybe I’ll be blown away by the combination of flavors that remain the same despite the changing the name of the product they are selling. This year is the bacon and queso family of products which includes a burger, a chicken sandwich, and of course French fries, all topped with the disgustingly delicious amounts of the stuff, so naturally, I had to try it.

I got the chicken sandwich, because the burger just looked a heart attack waiting to happen, and since I don’t know where I really stand karmically, I figured it was best not to tempt fate with an easy way to get rid of me.  Over the speaker a question was directed at me, “do you want the chicken sandwich regular or spicy?” and since I knew that this meal would likely end with me on the toilet regretting my decision to eat there in the first place, I decided to just go for it, so I confidently replied spicy. I got the fries too, because again, if the canon is going to blow either way, you might as well stuff it full of as much gun powder as you can cram inside.  It was 9.59 for the sandwich and fries, a little more expensive than a regular meal, but I pulled around and gladly paid it, thinking the increased price would translate to more enjoyment of the food, but I’ve been wrong before, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that I was wrong again.

Let’s start with the positives, because at my core, that is what I am truly about, always looking for positivity in negative situations and never complaining because it won’t do any good anyway. The chicken sandwich was great. As I’m not a frequent visitor of Wendy’s I’d forgotten how much I liked their chicken sandwich but it was actually really juicy, with just the right amount of spice, topped with a queso cheese sauce that was also somewhat spicy, and a couple strips of crispy bacon. I was pleasantly surprised by the queso, that it actually tasted like something you might actually find at a low quality Mexican restaurant which was a step up from what I was expecting. If I were just basing my recommendation on the sandwich alone I would definitely encourage you to try it because it actually was surprisingly good, but we haven’t even discussed the fries yet, so buckle up, we’re just getting started.

You might be thinking to yourself, I wonder why Kendall doesn’t go to Wendy’s more because he clearly likes their chicken sandwich, and let me set the record straight, I do, but the main reason I don’t go there is because of the fries, which in my humblest of opinions are the worst fast food fries that exist within the vast tapestry of American fast food chains. They are the most flavorless pieces of sadness that I’ve ever had alongside a burger, but I thought, add queso and bacon and perhaps they will be better. I’ve fallen into this trip before, going to Wendy’s to try the chili cheese fries, the ghost pepper fries, and even the baconator fries that are a mainstay of the menu, none of which couldn’t overpower the underwhelming quality of these horrible fries, but I thought that perhaps this time might be different. I was wrong. While the queso cheese sauce and the bacon pieces were delicious, it wasn’t enough to make the Wendy’s fries edible, so the queso bacon fries can be considered nothing but a colossal failure. So next time you’re thinking about picking up some fast food, I would highly recommend going to an establishment with a more well rounded menu, where the fries and sandwiches are both good, because with all of the options out there today, there really isn’t any reason to limit yourself by sacrificing half of your meal on a mediocre side dish. Maybe Wendy’s will step up their game sometime in the future, but until that time I’m going to be staying far away, until of course they need to get rid of some more bacon and cheese again next year.

A Trip to the Mall on a Tuesday Afternoon

IMG_4082I have to work this Saturday which means that today I only had to go into work for a few hours, so when I got home I took my wife to her chiropractor, not because I love going to the dimly lit building where my wife’s spine gets shoved back into place, but because it’s rare that we are ever off work at the same time and I wanted to hang out with her today. After the appointment that took maybe ten minutes, and cost roughly two dollars per minute, which in all sincerity is money well spent since my wife could hardly even walk before, we decided it might be fun to go to the mall since we were already over in the area, and since school started here yesterday, we figured it wouldn’t be obnoxiously crowded like the rest of the summer. Sadly, we were wrong.

I’m not kidding when I say that the parking lot was as crowded as I can ever remember and I had to park pretty far from the entrance, not that I minded that aspect all that much since it turned out to be a pretty pleasant summer day. We walked into the food court, the place where any good trip to the mall starts, and got a snack of bacon cheese fries and a soda. You really haven’t lived until you try walking around the mall on a miserably full stomach. The cheese fries were overly salty, but they were devoured nonetheless, and with no particular destination in mind, we began to wander around the Wolfchase Galleria. There were quite a few stores that have opened up since we’d last been in there, so we ventured inside, were hassled by salespeople wanting to help us find something that we ourselves didn’t know we were looking for, and subsequently left, moving on to the next one.

The process repeated in this fashion with each store we went into, which left me remembering why I don’t like the mall that much in the first place, because browsing just isn’t as much fun without unlimited funds in the bank account, and it’s uncomfortable the way the shop owner’s eyes will follow you around the store, waiting expectantly to make a purchase that never actually happens. We went into Bath and Body Works, a store that I both loathe and love, because nothing is offensive as the combination of odors that you might smell, but there are few things as satisfying as walking away with the perfect scented candle that brings back some unknown memory that translates to happiness. We walked around taking the tops off of various candles and smelling them to see if that is what we wanted our apartment to smell like for the next month or so, but more often than not we shook our heads in disgust as candles with names like “Flannel” or “Pomegranate” gave off overwhelming scents that were altogether unpleasant. We did however find one that we love, an old favorite of ours, “Pumpkin Apple”, but agreed that was a scent better suited for a nice and cool fall evening than a warm and muggy summer afternoon that is currently our reality, so we left the store empty handed, vowing to come back for that candle once the leaves begin to change and life seems much more optimistic. Although we didn’t end up buying anything, I wouldn’t consider the afternoon a bust, because it was just nice getting to spend some quality time in the mall with my wife on a Tuesday, which in itself is a pretty rare occurrence.

When in Doubt Leave the Vegetables Out

IMG_4070An immediate stomach ache that hits you as soon as you leave a restaurant and a desperate need to find a bathroom as quickly as possible, are two telltale signs that the meal you just ate went terribly awry. Unfortunately, both of these symptoms hit me like a ton of bricks, or more specifically a plate of nachos as soon as I left El Porton, a Mexican restaurant where we ate dinner last night. My wife and I met the rest of the family there, gathering to celebrate the birthday of both my grandpa and cousin. I’m always in the mood for Mexican food and had actually been craving it lately, so when I was told that we would be having that for dinner, I was pretty excited, to the point where I actually caught myself thinking at random intervals throughout my day about what I might get to eat that night. The chips and salsa arrived before the drinks, as is typically custom at Mexican restaurants, but I showed a great deal of restraint that I normally lack, by waiting to dig in until my water arrived, which turned out to be a good call on my part since the salsa was a little spicier than I remembered.

I ordered fajita nachos with steak, because steak sounded really good to me but more so for the cheese dip that I’d been thinking about relentlessly throughout the day. I had the choice of ordering the nachos with or without vegetables, and despite the kid in me screaming that vegetables are gross, I ordered them anyway, to prove, if only to myself, that I am in fact an adult and vegetables actually aren’t all that bad. I was expecting some diced tomatoes, lettuce, jalapeños, and maybe even some onions, but in my haste to order the food, my brain neglected to register that the vegetables served with the fajita nachos would be just that, vegetables typically found in a steaming pan of fajitas, but don’t worry, I found out soon enough. The food arrived and I tried to not pre-judge my nachos based on appearance with the huge chunks of onion, tomato, and bell pepper being the most visible and populous foods on my plate, something that might have been aesthetically pleasing to a strict vegetarian, but I myself found it to be very unattractive.

The steak was delicious but the pieces of juicy meat were far overpowered by the crunchiness of the peppers and onions that I was desperately trying to make an asset of the dish but was rather hindering and taking away from the best ingredient. The cheese dip of course was amazing, because white cheese dip has a way of never letting you down, but again the giant vegetables were doing their best to make themselves known above all else. I gave some of the onions and peppers to my mimi and wife, the only two people at the table of nine who wanted anything to do with them, and finished my nachos in peace. Not long after, the storm hit and I was clutching my stomach which hurt like I’d eaten a half dozen creme filled doughnuts that were a few days old for breakfast and washed it down with a big glass of expired milk, not that I would know from experience. I don’t know if my body was having that reaction because it was shocked by my vegetable intake after years of neglecting healthy food or if something else was causing my growing discomfort, but I was completely miserable. The one good thing to come from this terrible experience was a valuable life lesson that I won’t soon forget; when in doubt leave the vegetables out.

A Visit from my Brother and his Girlfriend

IMG_4052Yesterday my brother and his girlfriend came to visit, which I suspect had nothing to do with my company but rather with the fact that I could get them into the zoo for free, which my brother had been hinting at for months since his girlfriend really wanted to go. I met them at the zoo mid-morning, a little after ten, and we proceeded to go through one of the top ten ranked zoos in the united states, which I had to remind myself of each time I got really hot and thought I was seconds away from a heat stroke. Since this was Maggie’s first time at the zoo we literally looked at everything, from the chickens in farmland to the snakes that made me want to throw up, and despite the sun beating down on us at an uncomfortable 87 degrees, it was actually pretty fun.

After the zoo we went to lunch, and since it was Maggie’s first time in Memphis, of course we had to get barbecue, so I suggested the Barbecue Shop, which was conveniently located just minutes from where our cars were parked. They rode with me to the restaurant and once we got there the hostess said she would clean off a table for us to sit down, but I protested. You see, the table she wanted to give us was the one right next to the door, and while I don’t normally bother myself with trivial things like which table I’m sitting at or where it is located, I asked this time if perhaps we could take the unoccupied booth about fifteen feet away from the hostess stand. She told us if we sat there we would have to wait longer for our waiter, so unanimously we agreed that the location of our table was less important than the speed at which we got our food, so we sat at the table by the door.

We had to wait at least ten minutes for our waitress to come over, the whole time I was wondering if it really would have taken longer if we’d sat in the booth. By the time she showed up we were ready to order both our drinks and our food which we did, my brother and I both getting the barbecue nachos and Maggie getting a sandwich. Before long the food arrived. The reason I wanted to go to the barbecue shop was solely for the nachos, because I knew the sandwich was fantastic, and I was just curious how the nachos compared to others around town, and I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but they weren’t all that great, although the round tortilla chips that they were served on actually weren’t the deal breaker. What did make them not so great was the copious amounts of nacho cheese that was squirted over them, and while it is true that I normally praise the use of too much cheese, this was too much cheese that didn’t taste all that great. This isn’t to condemn the barbecue shop though, because in all reality I believe they have one of the greatest barbecue sandwiches in Memphis. Just learn from my mistake and don’t stray from that and you will be fine. After lunch we headed downtown because Maggie really wanted to walk down Beale Street, and although it was 2:30 on a Saturday afternoon and not much was going on, she still got to experience that and nothing anyone can say will take that away from her. All in all it was a good day, and I hope my brother and his girlfriend come back and visit again soon, only next time, hopefully it will be a much cooler day.

 

Why I Won’t be Going Back to Pizza Hut

Last year I wrote a blog about how after constant disappointment I was severing my ties with Pizza Hut, and for the most part I have stuck with that, despite that being the most conveniently located pizza place to where I live, but last night I found myself there and all of my previous hatred for the pizza chain was reaffirmed. Pull up a chair, this may take a while. So my wife and I were going over to my dad’s house last night and he asked if we would pick up the pizza that he’d ordered on the way, which shouldn’t have been a problem which is exactly what I told him. He told me that it would be ready at seven o’clock, so I timed my leaving the house perfectly and pulled up in front of the restaurant at precisely that time, for I’m nothing if not punctual. I went in and paid for the two medium pizzas, eighteen dollars exactly and signed the receipt, waiting for my pizza. The cashier looked in the warming bag behind her, pulling out two medium pizzas, before deciding that something was wrong and pushing them back into the bag, completely out of sight. I knew there was a problem, because typically that’s how things work at pizza hut; you order pizza, and you get a problem, although she didn’t tell me this right away.

The cashier disappeared to the back, and shortly after returned to the counter with a one toothed woman who appeared, all appearances aside, to be the manager. They whispered back in forth, the two previously mentioned pizzas making another appearance as one explained to the other what was going on, and still all of this was happening without anyone saying a word to me. Finally, after a few minutes, the singularly toothed thorn in my heel stepped forward to the counter and addressed me for the first time, informing me that guess what, there was a problem. Apparently the two pizzas that I was supposed to be picking up were given away to another customer, and this other customer’s pizzas were the ones that kept being pulled in and out of the hot bag. She said it would take no more than ten minutes to remake the pizzas, but my old bias against Pizza Hut had been building up as soon as I knew there was a problem, so I told her I just wanted my money back and if I decided to reorder the pizza I would come back in and do so, my thinking being that I would call my dad and we could nix this whole plan altogether and find a pizza place that wasn’t so prone to constant screw ups.

The manager turned and asked the cashier how I paid, because apparently for some reason asking the person standing right in front of her who had actually made the payment didn’t occur to her. The cashier told her I paid with my card, and that is when the manager informed me, saying that it wasn’t possible to give cash back on a card purchase. I found it absurd that I could not get my money back; my online banking app already showed the money taken from my account, so why couldn’t she just give me eighteen dollars in cash and let me be on my way? “That’s not possible.” That was the phrase she kept hissing at me from behind the tooth, as if I were asking her to suddenly sprout wings and fly away. Stubbornly, I once again asked for my money back, and then the genie gave me three options; I could get a credit for the amount I spent, redeemable at any area pizza hut, she could tell her manager tomorrow, who in turn would contact the corporate headquarters and would make a decision on whether or not to return my money in five to seven business days, or I could wait ten minutes for them to remake the pizzas. I slightly raised my hands in an act of show, asked what choice did I have, and told her I would be waiting outside until the pizzas were remade.

Ten minutes later on the nose I walked back into the Pizza Hut, ready to claim my prize. In the time I sat waiting in the car, I watched a guy walk in, not be helped at the counter for five minutes, and angrily leave, so at least I can take solace in knowing I’m not the only person afflicted by the terrible service that seems to be a requirement of all their franchises. I did have to wait a few minutes for my pizzas to be finished, given that the people who actually make the pizzas aren’t that great at estimating how long it will take to make them, but finally I got them and was about to leave, when suddenly a thought occurred to me. These people were very unhelpful and were basically holding my eighteen dollars hostage. In all the jobs I’ve worked at, including a few months at a pizza place, we bent over backwards to make our customers happy, going above and beyond especially when someone was unhappy, giving out free cheesy bread or giving the products to them free of charge, but none of these conciliatory offerings were tossed in my direction, so I asked the manager if I could have a two liter drink for my troubles. She rolled her eyes and said yes; victory was mine, the big winner of a two liter Pepsi for thirty minutes of my time. Suffice it to say, I will not be returning to Pizza Hut anytime soon.

Ginny Lane: Terrible Tacos

IMG_3785Repeat after me; go with what you know. It seems pretty simple enough, but it’s something I tend to forget, especially when eating at restaurants that I’ve been to before. If I eat somewhere and have something that is great, I my mind does this crazy thing where it decides that everything else there must be just as good, despite this rarely ever being the case no matter how many times I disappoint myself, which unfortunately happens to me quite a bit, most likely because i’m an idiot that doesn’t learn his lesson. Last month, when I was on a family vacation in Gulf Shores, Alabama, I made this critical mistake at a restaurant I loved, and it turned out just as terrible as the rest of the times I did this. Here’s the story.

Ginny Lane happens to be one of my favorite restaurants on the Gulf Coast, so while we were down there for a week it was imperative that we go eat there, so one afternoon, my wife and I went. They gave me a menu, which is where the problems started, so I guess I can safely blame them for everything, because up until that moment, I knew exactly what I was going to eat. I’ve been to many restaurants in that area, and I can tell you with all sincerity that Ginny Lane has the absolute fried shrimp that I’ve ever eaten on the Gulf Coast, which is saying something as you can’t toss a seashell in any direction without hitting a seafood restaurant. The whole drive to the restaurant I was thinking about the shrimp, but once the menu was placed before me, I began to look at some of the other options, thinking that blackened fish tacos would be fantastic. They were not.

The food arrived pretty quickly, and I immediately regretted my decision when I saw that the three tacos were in one of those three slotted metallic devices that are intended to keep the tacos upright. Surely I’m not the only person who hates these right? They’re great until you take a bite of the taco then you run into the problem of needing to set it down but the bitten tortilla never fits cleanly back into it’s slot, and contents of the taco inevitably spill out onto the taco holder. It’s a disaster, but determined not to let that bother me, I began my meal. For me there is no better seafood than blackened fish that is freshly caught, but unfortunately this particular restaurant sinfully overcooked it, giving it an almost chewy texture. The other huge downside that there was way more lettuce and tomatoes on the taco than the really small portion of fish, which didn’t really matter since the fish wasn’t that good to begin with. My wife ordered the same thing, and she was just as displeased with her tacos as I was, so suffice it to say, it was a pretty terrible meal. Hopefully I’ll learn my lesson moving forward and stick to ordering things that I know are great.

Corky’s: A Family Dinner

IMG_4006You know those people that you don’t see as often as you’d like, but you have just as good of a time with, if not better than the last time you saw them? That is the way things are with the other Curtis family, my uncle Brett, aunt Amy, and cousins Jay and Abigail. I think the last time we were all together was before Christmas, which is crazy given that they only live about fifteen minutes away from us and we have a great time whenever we are together, so I was obviously thrilled earlier this week when my uncle texted me, inviting my wife and I out to dinner. He picked one of my favorite barbecue restaurants in Memphis, Corky’s, and we met him along with the rest of his family there tonight. I love the dry ribs at Corky’s and I go back and forth between them and Central BBQ as having my favorite ribs in the city, but I’ve been on a nacho kick lately, so when the waitress asked what I wanted, I ordered the pulled pork barbecue ribs, which turned out to be a fantastic decision.

While we waited for the food to arrive we munched on rolls and a fried onion loaf, that was filling enough to have been the entire meal. We caught up on each others lives, Jay’s marketing internship, Abigail preparing for college, and swapped lots of stories, all of which ended in bursts of laughter. The food arrived and all of it looked absolutely delicious. My nachos were tortilla chips with pulled pork, barbecue sauce, nacho cheese, and jalapeños piled atop them, and I dug in. Although I’ve gotten nachos at various other barbecue restaurants, I don’t believe I’ve ever tried the ones at Corky’s before, and they were just as good, if not better than my current favorite at Central BBQ. After tonight I think there is a new champion in my book, the deciding factor being the copious amounts of nacho cheese that covered almost every single chip, which I’ve found to be a rarity in the world of nachos. It seems like almost every time I get nachos there are at least a few dry chips at the bottom, untouched by the deliciousness of the toppings, but these were the exception.

The jalapeños added quite a bit of a kick, which wasn’t a problem as our waitress was good about always being there to refill my water glass when I so desperately needed the relief. Everyone else seemed to enjoy the food as well, so all in all it was a spectacular meal in terms of the quality of food. While Corky’s delivered on the taste, what really made the meal so great was the great conversation and the company we had it with. We told story after story, and before we knew it we’d been at the restaurant for nearly two hours and the tables around us had quickly emptied without us noticing. I hope we can get together again soon, because they really are a joy to be around. Thank you uncle Brett, aunt Amy, Jay and Abigail for a great dinner, one that won’t be soon forgotten.