Tampa Bay Food Monster

…eating food since 1985.

Archive for the ‘Fast Food’ Category

Arby’s Grand Turkey Club

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on November 5, 2012

TYPICALLY, change is a good thing. like, changing a poopy diaper, for example. where once there was poopy, now there is none. and this works! because there was a problem before. but then there are times when changes are made to things that don’t necessarily need change. this may be one of those times.

…prepare yourself.

this is where we’ve come. this is the brave, new world you were looking for.

yes, arby’s has changed their logo. and no, this is not my poorly photoshopped guess at what it may be like; this is the actual logo. let’s take a quick trip down memory lane and glance at arby’s former majesty:

yes, now that’s more like it. much is the same, yet much has changed. the font has lost its fun time western style and moved to a simple, clean piece of modern mundanity. the apostrophe has morphed into what i think is supposed to be a meat slicer, ruthlessly cutting into the ‘s’. and the hat itself (it’s supposed to be a hat) has undergone a 3D makeover, in keeping with the recent surge in popularity of three-dimensional media. this effect can be achieved in photoshop elements, or its nearest competitor, MS PAINT. the decision to leave the font two-dimensional is both baffling and distressing, causing my mind to bend in a similar fashion to when i look at an m.c. escher image.

…and i mourn what we’ve lost. the new logo is not great. what was once vaguely recognizable as a hat (from its own all-but-lost origins) is now some floating abstraction. the new font comes at the cost of its old identity. it’s no wendy’s train wreck, but it’s not an improvement.

arby's new thang

it’s not just a logo – it’s a whole rebranding. they are pushing the freshness/sliceness angle, which works for them what with all the slicing they do. and to increase that amount of slicing, they are throwing in a whole new chunk of meat to cut at: turkey bird.

arby’s has introduced three turkey-blasted sandwiches – turkey classic, turkey ‘n cheddar classic, and the grand turkey club. basically, it’s as though this turkey meat is floating alongside the beef meat as just another option. which is a pretty decent idea. in a real-life deli, you get a whole assortment of different kinds of meats, all of which are sliced up right in front of your face. this is the same as that! fresh! variety! etc!

turkey club box

arby’s offered to buy me one of their new sandwiches. to check out dat new meat. i opted for the grand turkey club, assuming “grand” meant that it was the best. the other sandwiches are pretty much identical to their beef analogues, with the addition of mayonnaise, honey mustard, or ranch dressing to the classic. the grand turkey club is along the lines of a non-grand turkey club, with turkey, lettuce tomato and mayo, swiss cheese, and bacon all on a harvest wheat bun rather than toast.

the box claims this is the greatest thing since sliced roast beef. there is also lettuce escaping through the bottom, and a dab of mayonnaise has gotten out as well. these are indicators of things to come.

arby's grand turkey club

open the box up, and we find with a giant turkey sandwich just waiting to burst out. it’s all packed in there, with good amounts of everything. a solid amount of turkey, enough to satisfy my hunger. nice, crisp lettuce, and fresh tomato, playing a big part in the overall feel of the sandwich. decent slices of bacon. probably some swiss cheese. and a full bucket of mayo.

mayonnaise everywhere

oh god. yeah. there’s a lot of mayonnaise here. now, i’ve gone to great lengths to make it known that i do not care for mayonnaise, but i can tolerate it. i believe there was too much mayonnaise on here even for a lover of mayonnaise. it was the first taste you noticed. it was almost the only taste you noticed. and it really took away from my enjoyment of this sandwich.

but let’s assume, for the sake of a fair review, that this sandwich was never intended to have so much mayonnaise on it. taking it for what it is, the sandwich is not bad. their toppings are decent (good lettuce and tomato, decent pepper bacon). the swiss cheese was all but lost behind the mayo, which is disappointing. the bun was actually a very solid choice, playing a bit sweet against the turkey.

and the turkey itself? it was good. it was not great. it was not bad by any means. good turkey. tender, with good flavor. a bit salty, not overwhelmingly so. but nothing special. i did not detect any exciting seasoning, nothing mind blowing. it was just turkey.


they politely request you try the turkey. you would not be worse off for it. but what this boils down to, for me, is that the turkey is not good enough by itself to convince me to go to arby’s. it does not change what arby’s is to me. for me, it is just another menu item. and, speaking as someone who loves arby’s roast beef sandwiches (RIP big montana!!), the presence of turkey as an option is not going to change my order from whichever sandwich they can pack the most roast beef onto. all i want from arby’s is a pile of roast beef on a warm, pillowy bun, doused in a packet of arby’s sauce.

as with the old logo, all i want from arby’s is simplicity, and what i’ve grown to love them for. aaaaaaaand maybe a talking oven mitt.


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Taco Bell’s Cantina Bell Burrito

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on July 12, 2012

OHHH TACO BELL YOU’VE DONE IT AGAIN! bouncing straight off the wild popularity of your wildly mediocre doritos locos tacos, you’ve done a complete 180 and gone for the jugular of gourmet food. it works perfectly, because whenever i think “taco bell”, i immediately think “gourmet violent explosive diarrhea”. let’s see if they can expand that special flavor of gourmet directly into their food!

this is the cantina bell menu. no, not the ill-fated “cantina tacos” that attempted to recreate mexican street tacos from 2010… no, this is a different ill-fated product. they just recycled the name. the NEW menu consists of a burrito, a salad, and some guacamole.

all this stuff was designed by lorena garcia, who has her own website, which is often a good indicator of how high quality a chef is. but let’s not be fooled; these recipes could have been written by the iron chef himself, and it still has to be reproduced in taco bell restaurants. by taco bell employees. so don’t imagine lorena is sitting back there in every taco bell, churning out burrito after burrito for you, prepared with free range organic chicken humanely slaughtered in-house. it’s still fast food.

cantina burrito

i went with the chicken cantina burrito, which is the same price as the vegetarian version (prompting me to ask the well-thought-out question, why would anyone go with the vegetarian option??). the steak is like a hundred dollars or so more. i ordered chips and guacamole on the side, along with various other “traditional” taco bell items to ensure my collapse from gastrointestinal distress later on. the burrito looks similar to their grilled stuft variety, appearing to be both grilled and stuft. it is the inside that is different.

cantina burrito innards

the burrito comes with chicken, cilantro rice, black beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, corn and pepper salsa, and a cilantro dressing. there is also romaine lettuce, which just seems odd to find in a taco bell burrito (IT LOOKS LIKE REAL LETTUCE). as you can see, something is oozing out from inside the thing, but it was unclear as to whether this is guacamole or dressing.

most of the ingredients seemed to be largely overshadowed by the rice and black beans, which is unfortunate. i have basically grown to hate black beans for some reason unknown to myself, and the rice was fine but had little cilantro flavor, and is kind of just filler in my opinion. occasionally you would get a burst of something that would taste “fresh” (piece of corn, pico de gallo, or the guac), and the dressing played into the overall flavor, but it was mostly just black bean. i was excited to try this new “citrus herb marinated chicken” that lorena keeps telling me about, but was devastated to find that my burrito, as far as i could tell, lacked it entirely. I DEMAND MY $0.00 BACK!

citrus herb marinated chicken

luckily for me, i had also purchased a chicken quesadilla, which made use of the same chicken. i don’t know if they are completely replacing their chicken with this new version, or if our branch just didn’t follow directions, but it reminds me of when the same thing happened with the quad steak burrito. and that didn’t last.

anyway, the chicken kind of weirds me out. it is noticeably more chickeny, both in flavor and texture. it actually tasted like real chicken, which is not something i’m used to at taco bell, and it behaved as though it were pulled from a larger piece of meat rather than whole chickens ground up live, mixed with newspaper, and formed into chicken-type chunks, as i imagine taco bell’s ordinary chicken is. there is a hint of citrus to it, which is nice.

cantina guacamole

the real winner here is the guacamole. whatever they did to it, it is actually quite good. they use hass avocados, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and “a little kick of lime”. the flavor is pretty solid, dominated almost entirely by the avocado, with just hints of onion lime and cilantro. the texture, on the other hand, is kinda… eh. it’s a bit slimy. i don’t know how they do the guacamole, whether they actually make it there or it comes in a bag (it comes in a bag), but its slimy nature is likely to be a result of bagging convenience. and i’m sure there are crazy preservatives in there. but, again, the flavor is solid.

my final ruling on the cantina bell menu: skip it. what’s the point? you’re getting a half-assed attempt at gourmet, which, honestly, is not something you are going to a fast food restaurant for in the first place. and you are certainly not going to get it there, even if you want it. the burrito was about five bucks, which you could be spending anywhere else; if you want gourmet, put your fiver towards something at a real restaurant. i wasn’t disgusted by any of this food, and the guacamole is not bad, but i enjoyed my chicken quesadilla and mexican pizza far more than the cantina burrito and chips. and that’s because when i go to taco bell, i want to eat taco bell.

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Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on June 12, 2012

i am healthy. let’s just face it – i’m a healthy guy! i eat well, as evidenced by my instagram feed. i meditate/sleep in upwards of 7 hours per day. i drink plenty of water in the form of dr. pepper. i have multiple semi-healthy stools every day. and i play ddr to keep in shape. it is not an exaggeration for me to say that i am the paragon of perfect health. hell, i used to kick for the bulldogs!! so yeah, you could say i’m pretty healthy.

that’s why i wasn’t surprised when i was contacted by our local saladworks and invited to have a meal and review their restaurant.

saladworks exterior

it is called saladworks. it is a chain. and apparently it’s huge in philadelphia. and other assorted new englandy type places. it is similar to subway in setup, but nicer and “eat fresh”er. you go in, you ask for a salad, they make it, and you eat it. well, you are not required to eat it. it’s recommended.

this iteration of saladworks is the only one currently present in florida, and it is located in brandon, east of the mall in the same plaza as outback steakhouse. it just popped up recently, and is set back a little bit, so you have to KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN for it when driving by. …you should probably always keep your eyes open when driving.

saladworks interior

the store is owned and run by an extremely friendly, pleasant, and accommodating couple, who have had a good amount of experience in operating other chain restaurants. and one of their children is a carrot, which really worked out for them. the store is deceptively large, reaching much further back than one might expect. in the front, there is a little “lounge” area, in which… lounging occurs, i suppose. there’s free wifi, so you can lounge and poke an ipad. or something.

saladworks salad bar

this is how it works: you get in the queue, you grab a drink (all bottled beverages), and then you are able to either pick one of the pre-invented salads they have displayed along the bottom of the case, or do a choose-your-own-adventure and make the salad yourself, selecting all the toppings you enjoy and none of the crap you don’t. start with a base of different types of greens, choose your toppings (veggies, cheeses, meats, and a few dry options), then choose your dressing. the worker behind the case puts it all together for you, and even mixes it up with the dressing so you’re not left with a giant puddle in the middle of your plate. you are then presented with your new salad baby. salad, baby.

the genius is in the variety of options. the restaurant concept is basically a salad bar, but you are given so many choices that you will probably end up getting overwhelmed and picking a pre-built salad. they have four different types of chicken. eight cheeses. croutons, chow mein noodles, tortilla strips. sun-dried tomatoes, mandarin oranges, nicoise olives, corn, apple slices, edamame! they’ve separated out eggs and just egg whites, if you’re into that sort of thing! seventeen different dressings!! AUUGH!

[check out the salad creator on their website to devise your own salad, and see its nutrition information updated in real time.]

so yeah, you can make any salad. any salad imaginable.


i got overwhelmed and picked a pre-built salad. /: i went with the bently, a pretty standard, AMERICAN salad with turkey, ham, swiss cheese, tomatoes, and chopped eggs. i went with the dressing that caught my eye, known as the “green goddess“. this is basically a ranch, but garlicky. and amazing. also, it’s green, so that’s a lot of fun. i also got a cup of loaded baked potato soup.

the bently

the salad was a badass. the first thing i noticed was how fresh the ingredients were. having been dicked over by open salad bars in the past (i’m looking at YOU, shoney), the freshness of the ingredients really stuck out to me. the “secret” is actually just preparing the ingredients fresh every day, in house. the lettuce was crisp, the tomatoes were sweet and juicy, the eggs tasted like real eggs(!), the cheese was a perfect swiss for salads, not dominating the taste, but playing well with others. the meats, turkey and ham, were delicious; the ham was sweet and salty, and the turkey had a nice seasoned flavor. and, again, the dressing was incredible.

loaded baked potato soup

the soup i was less impressed by. the flavor was good, but its texture seemed a bit off by comparison with the potato soup that i’m used to… not as thick or “grainy”. and for a loaded baked potato soup, i was expecting chunks of bacon, and melted cheese on top. i guess there was bacon in there, but i didn’t see it or really notice it at all.

i was able to sample all the other soups they had, though, and of the five, their tomato bisque and butternut squash soups stood out as the best. the tomato bisque was creamy and well seasoned, with a bit of a spice. the butternut squash was my favorite, with a beautifully sweet, cinnamon/nutmeggy flavor, warm and buttery, and with the texture more like what i expected from the potato soup. i would order this again.

saladmeals 2

my friend got the “make yer own” salad, on which you are able to pick five toppings. she chose egg whites (and was ecstatic that they had them without the yolks), marinated artichoke, avocado, feta cheese, and bacon. she also went with the green goddess, after i ranted about its greatness. again, all the toppings were fresh and delicious, including the avocado (which is surprising, because that shit turns quick!). and somehow the avocado and artichoke make a beautiful combination, leading me to believe that my friend is some sort of salad wizard.

she chose the maryland crab stew, which had a great spice and nice whole ingredients, but uhhh crab stew is gross.

oh and the meals came with little rolls, which were good. my girlfriend sampled one of their wheat rolls, about which she said, and i quote, “i will eat only this bread for the remainder of my life.”

so… thumbs up! the place was great, the atmosphere was surprisingly relaxing (the tables in the back are near a window which overlooks a large lake, and apparently peacocks live out there and entertain the guests for money), and the food was really quickly prepared and well executed. the salads run between 7 and 9 bucks each, and you have the option of making any of theirs salads into a wrap. they also have sandwiches and pan-inis, which i believe is a sort of cocktail. i do wish they brewed their own sweet tea (because, come on, sweet tea), and the store is kind of hard to find, but those are my only problems here. oh, and that crab stew is gross. otherwise, A++ WILL EAT AGAIN.

Saladworks on Urbanspoon

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Dunkin’ Donuts Men in Black Promotional Goodies: Black Cocoa Creme Iced Coffee, Undercover Black Cocoa Donut, and Chocolate Lunarmax Donut

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on May 18, 2012

now daddy this is a very sensitive subject…

i recommend playing that through your entire reading of this review. it will allow you a higher appreciation of the products listed below, as well as life itself.

i was given a cordial invitation to sample various goods released by dr. dunkin’ d. donuts himself, william d. “dunkin’ d. donuts” smith. in fact, i think he invented them himself. is there anything that sexy man can’t do? i think not. no.

so, in support of his brand new movie, men in black 3: secret of the ooze, will smith unleashed upon us a brand new rap song, in the form of doughnuts and coffee (the best kind of rap song). if you’ll recall, the first movie made repeated reference to dunkin’ donuts, as the favored doughnut and coffee purveyor of the so-called “coffee aliens”, known by their technical name, graboids.

the second movie put dunkin’ donuts in a more central role to the plot, when it was revealed that the universe was doughnut shaped, and, in one of cinema’s most powerful moments, will smith’s character “jay” was forced to eat thousands of delicious dunkin’ brand bavarian cream doughnuts, resulting in his death. needless to say, the third movie’s plan to bring jay back as an actual doughnut is one of the great masterstrokes in cinematic history.

involving dunkin’ was a no brainer. and here is exactly what smith has crafted for us in honor of this momentous occasion:


what the hell is this thing?? some sort of space-nut? IT IS SHAPED LIKE A STAR HOW DID THEY MAKE IT SHAPED LIKE A STAR??! clearly, alien technology was involved. actually, it’s just a regular yeasty doughnut, the “undercover black cocoa donut”. yes, it’s shaped like a star, and it’s stuffed with a “brownie batter butter crème”. yeahhhhh. it’s pretty damn good, the brownie batter center does indeed taste much as advertised, a rich, deep, dark fudgey chocolate, almost gritty like a batter. it is to doughnuts what cookie dough ice cream is to ice cream.


next up is the chocolate lunarmax donut. anything with the “word” lunarmax in it has to be good. right? right. lunarmax, meaning lunar (lunar) and maximum (max), is in reference to the part of men in black 3 where piccolo destroys the moon, releasing its “maximum energy”. agent j is pissed off, then eats a doughnut. the doughnut is of the chocolate cake variety, glazed, and features MOON ICING (chocolate icing) and STAR SHAPED SPRINKLES. honestly, it’s a pretty normal doughnut. you could purchase similar items before the movie, you will be able to after the movie. but the kids love those sprinkles!

chco cream cookie coffee

last but not least, we come to the coffee. the black cocoa creme iced coffee is a chocolatey delight of an iced coffee, featuring COOKIES AND CREAM. oh. oh yes. i order it with sugar and cream, because there’s no such thing as too much deliciousness. this coffee is the greatest drink the universe ever crapped out. (which just so happens to be the related movie storyline.) honestly, this thing is amazing. sitting at the bottom of the cup are the crushed remains of cookie and cream cookies (oreos???), which sweeten the deal, and the coffee has a strong chocolate flavor. i seriously loved this thing, and have since gotten it at least five times (and i’m very likely going to pick another one up today).

this is one of the food monster’s patented limited time must eats, despite it not being a food that one would eat. the only set back here is that the quality of the drink depends on the location from which you purchased it. some are higher quality than others, so BEWARE! oh, and it’s like two bucks or something insane, AND IT’S HUGE, so compared to starbucks it’s a friggin’ steal.

in addition to the doughnuts and coffee, we were treated to some very nice conversation, and a few other items:

steak burrito

southwest steak burrito

sweet pot burro

southwest veggie burrito

will smith is best known for his love of southwestern cuisine, and staying true to that, dunkin’ donuts has released two southwest-styled breakfast burritos. the steak option features eggs, “fire-roasted” vegetables (peppers), potatoes and cheese, along with, of course, steak. the steak was decent, eggs fine. the veggie burrito contains sweet potatoes(!!), corn and black beans, and eggs and cheese. this was more interesting to me, specifically the sweet potatoes, which were just slightly sweet but could have had a greater presence. i am not a fan of the corn/black bean combo invading any aspect of my life, however, so the burrito didn’t really do much for me. both were pretty standard fast food chain breakfast fare, but of course they are overshadowed by the fact that doughnuts are already breakfast food! and lunch food. and dinner too. snacks. dessert. whatever. they do it all.

not pictured is baskin robbins’ lunar lander sundae, made from real life lunar cheesecake ice cream, which apparently was introduced in 1969 in celebration of the moon landings! that’s actually pretty awesome. the ice cream is lime flavored, with cheesecake chunks and marshmallow inside. then they throw some caramel sauce and graham crackers on there. it sounds gross, but actually tastes pretty good!

there was also delicious sweet tea, which is a southern regional thing among the dunkin’ donuts stores. they said the measure the sugar out in pounds when brewing the tea, which i can totally appreciate.

weekly world news MiB

they also gave us all little baggies, a copy of the weekly world news, and gift cards too. basically, they loved us. THEY LOVED US. and i love them. i am hopelessly addicted to their coffee, and they have doughnuts. what’s not to love?? so, if you’ll excuse me, i’m off to pick up some space-man cookie coffee and to dream about the greatest film release to grace theaters since the last men in black film.


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Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Tacos

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on March 9, 2012

i must say, it’s been far too long since my last taco bell review. what a sad state of affairs!! i basically live at taco bell, sucking what little nutrients i can find from their many massive meat tubes behind the counter. the only problem being the inevitable dehydration from the constant diarrhea. ah well, such is life. such is love.

today, we explore taco bell’s most neckbeardy creation to date, the doritos locos tacos (ever plural even in its singularity).

doritos locos tacos box

the ideal order of the doritos locos tacos is as a part of the doritos locos tacos box. now i’ve never discussed the taco bell boxes before, mostly because of the disgust i feel for them. you see, once upon a time, when life on this earth was quite young, taco bell shat out a box of food items, stuck a drink in there, and gave it to the world. they probably used shaq to advertise it. and it was good. three items, a drink, and cinnamon twists. now, i rarely order the cinnamon twists on my own, because pfft why bother right? but that doesn’t mean they’re not amazing. so it was always the best part of the box to experience that little burst of happiness as a dessert, or feverishly stuffed inside a burrito.

well, apparently taco bell thought that they were responsible for too much happiness in this world, because soon they took away all of our cinnamonny goodness. and replaced it with nothing. emptiness. once i learned that, i stopped buying the box. even so, it’s a pretty good deal.


inside the box

inside the box we find a meager offering of two tacos and a burrito; no twisties. specifically, we have a crunchy taco, a burrito supreme, and of course a doritos locos taco supremos. sitting inside the box as they are, wrapped up like little mummies, they look rather sterile. i don’t know how much i want to party with this box, and that’s troubling.

locos tacos logos

the wrapper recommends we tweet our experiences as we eat our tacos. #doritoslocostacos. the draw is that people might see your tweet? i guess? so yeah let’s all just give free advertising to taco bell! #sellouts #foodblog #hypocrisy

the doritos loco taco

the taco(s) is delivered in a little taco holder printed to look like a doritos bag, completely undermining the fairly decent looking promotional graphic design on the wrapper and cup (probably supposed to be on the box, too). i mean, i can understand the point; we associate the bag design with doritos, so it helps us feel like we’re really eating doritos in taco form. but… you already bought the taco. i dunno whatever it’s all a gimmick anyway.

so the little taco holder is designed to keep your fingers free of dorito dust, which… you don’t… ordinarily get when eating doritos? or maybe it’s there to keep the shell together. either way, it prevents you from getting disgusting. well it didn’t work for me, because i just went bareback. and i got totally pumped up for some doritos-flavored action as soon as i licked that stuff off my fingers.

sexy, yes i know.

brothers from other mothers

so how is it? it’s like eating a taco, made out of doritos. it is exactly what you think it will be like. the flavor is spot on, as the marketing assures you. the addition of doritos power is a bit much, but not bad by any means. completely tolerable. it is going to be a bit more messy than a normal taco, both for doritos fingers and because the shell doesn’t seem to hold together as well as regular taco shells. but it’s not inedible.

for me, it harkens back to a time when my family would have “taco salad” (just taco innards thrown in a bowl with tortilla chips), and my brother and i would substitute in doritos for the chips. because of awesome. so that’s what this taco is like… something a kid would make because AWESOME.

in any event, i won’t be going out of my way to order this again, but if i wanted to go down the route of big box minus cinnamon twists, i wouldn’t shy away from it.

now here’s a guy who looks like a large baby eating a taco bell big box, using a washing machine as a table:

*note the cinnamon twists

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