I have to tell you guys, I was a little skeptical of the McWrap. I’ve long been annoyed with the popularity of the Snackwrap, McBites, and other new menu items McDonald’s has introduced over the past couple of years. I think that for the most part, these are just ways to reuse existing items with smaller portions. Every time they push one of these, or a new coffee drink, it means we’re gonna have to wait that much longer for a new bonafide sandwich to review. At first glance, I figured the McWrap was more of the same: existing stuff mixed around and packaged as something new. Strangely enough, that’s exactly what it is, and I actually love it for it.

Wait, did McDonald's just trick me into eating a salad by wrapping it in a tortilla?? (The Chicken and Bacon is on the right)

Wait, did McDonald’s just trick me into eating a salad by wrapping it in a tortilla?? (The Chicken and Bacon is on the right)

Let me explain. First of all, the McWrap is much bigger than I expected. While Snackwraps are a single chicken finger wrapped in some lettuce and tortilla, the McWrap includes a full-sized chicken breast filet sliced up. It’s actually much bigger than the commercials suggest, which is surprising. I also didn’t realize from the ads that there are three different flavors: Chicken and Bacon, Chicken and Ranch, and Sweet Chili Chicken. There’s a lot of overlap in the ingredients, but I decided to start out with the Chicken and Bacon.

Now, how was the sandwich itself? Really good, as it turns out! The weirdest part about it is that it repurposes a lot of salad ingredients, like the salad lettuce and tomatoes and shredded Cheddar cheese. This is actually a big perk, because the salad lettuce and tomato are much nicer than the stuff they usually put on sandwiches. The lettuce isn’t shredded, and the tomatoes are sliced thicker. There’s also a garlic sauce, which is sort of like a fancy mayo with some subtle spice to it. All in all, it’s impressively high-quality for a McDonald’s sandwich, especially in this era of various “bites.”

The McWraps go for around $6 in a combo, and are definitely one of the best options for chicken on the menu right now. I’m looking forward to trying the other two varieties, but if you’re a fan of actual quality vegetables (or at least, higher quality than usual McDonald’s fare), this is not a sandwich to miss.

Advertisements

I’ve posted before about the noticeable shift in focus and price hike Taco Bell has undergone recently. Actually, on a recent T-Bell trip, the Loaded Grillers themselves had been hiked to about $1.19, making them all but worthless. But the flip side of Taco Bell’s gentrification is a new classier menu by celebrity chef Lorena Garcia, the Cantina line. These new offerings include a couple of burritos and salads, as well as a new guacamole, made with Hass avocados (a distinction that sounds fancy but means nothing to me. Hass avocados could very well be the lowest quality avocados that can legally be sold, for all I know).

Surprisingly enough, it actually looks a lot like this in real life. Who would've guessed?

Surprisingly enough, it actually looks a lot like this in real life. Who would’ve guessed?

I’ve had both the steak and the chicken Cantina burritos, and I’m of two minds about them. On the one hand, it’s nice to see Taco Bell branching out a little bit. In addition to the meats, the burritos contain black beans and rice, guacamole, pico de gallo, roasted corn and pepper salsa, and a cilantro dressing. There are a lot of comparatively new items here, and both the ingredients (corn and cilantro especially) and the combinations (it’s basically all sauces and medleys working together) show the clear involvement of a master chef. It’s a tasty burrito set apart from normal Taco Bell fare. But at the same time, it’s very similar to the kind of thing you can get a Chipotle or Qdoba, not to mention any number of local places. It’s a big step for Taco Bell because the bar is set comparatively low, but what’s remarkable here is only kind of average elsewhere.

The Cantina Burrito goes for about $7.50 in a combo, and is a dollar or so cheaper a la carte. It’s on the pricier end of the menu, and it’s kind of a hard sell compared to other stuff both here and elsewhere. But if Taco Bell wants to refine and rebrand a little bit, as it seems they do, it’s a good start, and I’d recommend checking it out if for no other reason than to see where things may be going.

Anyone who’s stopped by Taco Bell recently has noticed something upsetting. There’s been some rather insidious price-gauging going on, and nearly everything’s been moved a price-point. That’s an increase of about 20-50 cents, depending on the item. This has thrown my usual meal (Crispy Potato Soft Taco, Beefy 5-Layer Burrito, and Chicken Burrito) into disarray. As a partial solution to the problem, Taco Bell introduced their Loaded Grillers line, a series of small, grilled wraps for 99 cents apiece. Are they enough to fill the hole in my heart?

Oh man, I forgot about this. They're also trying to market these as a viable alternative to classic Game Day food. Seriously?

Oh man, I forgot about this. They’re also trying to market these as a viable alternative to classic Game Day food. Seriously?

Yes and no. The Grillers are up and down, depending on their content, but overall they’re not super satisfying or filling. Let’s move into specifics.

  • The Spicy Buffalo Chicken Griller was my least favorite. My disdain for buffalo sauce is well known at this point, but more than that, I felt that the combination of chicken, Lava sauce, and sour cream was missing an essential third element, like cheese or tomatoes or something. I wanted more from it, and I didn’t like what I did get out of it.
  • The Beefy Nacho Griller fared a bit better. It combined ground beef, nacho cheese, and slightly spicy Fritos-style red corn chips into something akin to a Volcano burrito. It comes together nicely, but again, the smaller size leaves me wanting a bit more.
  • My favorite, surprisingly enough, was the Loaded Potato Griller. I’ve said before that adding potatoes to a wrap is a great way to round out the flavor and make it more filling, and indeed, this sandwich reminded me a lot of a Menna’s Dub. The Griller combines potatoes, bacon, nacho cheese, and sour cream into a filling, flavorful meal. This is the only one of the bunch I can see making it into my regular rotation.

All in all, the Loaded Grillers were pretty disappointing. While I enjoyed the Loaded Potato, the other two felt like smaller versions of other items, or at worst things thrown together from scraps, like the ill-fated Chicken Flatbread. Check them out if you want, but you’d be better off resigning yourself to paying a little more at the register.

Like the leads from The Five-Year Engagement, Santorini Island Grill is a slick California operation which has made the trip out to the frozen tundras of Michigan (Kalamazoo, to be precise). Although their usual setup seems to be sit-down Greek restaurants, the specific location I’m reviewing is located in the basement of the student center on Western Michigan University’s campus, and is more of a fast food-style setup. Let’s see how well it works!

Pretty well, overall! Santorini offers a number of Greek entrees, but I decided to focus mainly on their gyro. After all, a Greek restaurant isn’t worth its salt if they can’t put together a halfway decent gyro. Thankfully, Santorini was up to the task. Their gyro meat is sliced fresh to order, and they make their tzatiki sauce in-house. The veggies and pitas are kept fresh as well, and the portions, which not gargantuan, are filling.

"Give me a word, any word, and I show you that the root of that word is Greek."

“Give me a word, any word, and I show you that the root of that word is Greek.”

Santorini also offers burger, burritos, and breakfast scrambles. These entrees are hodgepodges of various and sundry ingredients, everything from gyro meat to guacamole to bacon to a home-made hot sauce. I’ve tried a couple of their burritos (the Greek, which involves gyro meat and feta cheese, and the California, which is chicken and bacon, specifically), and they’re fantastic as well. I love the fusion cuisine that comes from necessity, and these are great examples of that. I haven’t tried their Greek burger yet (a beef patty topped with gyro meat), but I hope to soon.

Overall, Santorini Island Grill is a great choice for quick, tasty Greek food if you’re on WMU’s campus. Meals come with french fries or a side salad and a drink, and most run for about six and a half dollars. It’s definitely worth a trip out even if you’re not right on campus, and here’s hoping it sticks around for a while, although judging by the lines I’ve seen when I’ve been there, that won’t be a problem.

I’ve only reviewed Applebee’s once before, since I’m mainly there for half-off appetizers and drink specials. They do have a pretty varied menu though, with a couple of interesting sandwich and burger options. One thing I don’t understand is why they call their tortilla-based sandwiches “rollups.” We already have a word for that, guys. It’s called “wraps.” Try it, it makes you sound like you’re not in second grade.

Yellow Peril: The Sandwich.

Anyway, I decided to try the Oriental Chicken Rollup, and while “oriental” isn’t helping Applebee’s word choice decisions any, it was pretty good. The rollup includes fried chicken, “Asian greens,” which are a kind of a slaw that includes a lot of red cabbage and carrots, and almonds, with a light Teriyaki sauce. It has a full flavor and nice texture without any one element being overpowering. I’m a big fan of Asian fusion wraps and sandwiches, and this is a pretty good one. It’s also big enough to be filling, and I actually brought half of it home (a rare admission of defeat for me, but I had eaten earlier).

The Oriental Chicken Rollup is a little over $8 with fries. It’s definitely a good meal, although generally if you’re going to Applebee’s you should splurge for steak or something else big. However, if you want a nice chicken wrap with a somewhat unfortunate name, this is the rollup for you.

I’m going to admit upfront that this review kind of stretches the definition of “sandwich.” Personally, I’ve refined my idea of what a sandwich is to be a food item/filling (normally meats, cheeses, or vegetables, or a combination of those) wrapped in bread, for ease of eating (in that you use your hands). This concept includes wraps, hot dogs, tacos, and the like, but not, for example, ravioli.

It also includes Tornados, a brand of taquito-type snack foods sold at finer convenience stores nationwide. Tornados consist of a fried corn crust wrapped around any number of fillings. The most common variants tend to include steak and chicken, Tornados have been filled with everything from sausage and eggs to apples and cinnamon to meatballs and marinara sauce. The key to these little products is that they can be cooked on the same rollers as hot dogs, allowing nearly anyone with a concession stand-style hot dog roller to sell them. It was this ingenuity which first drew me to them.

A Whirlwind of Flavor!! (to say the least)

Tornados are generally pretty good, as cheap, greasy snack food goes. I tend to like options with cheese over others, and the breakfast versions can be hit or miss. The key is that they’re only about a dollar apiece, and they’re a hot entree that’s not a hot dog you can buy from a gas station or convenience store. I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to try one, but next time you’re at the gas station (or if, like me, you live a couple blocks away from a Circle K), pick one up. Trust me, there are worse ways to spend a dollar.

Just Good Food is a deli and catering kitchen in the basement of the Rose St. Market Building in downtown Kalamazoo. A friend of mine suggested it as a place to get good sandwiches, and he nailed it. JGF offers a lot of salads, salsas, and vegetarian/vegan options, as well as traditional deli fare like Reubens.  It’s a lot like Zingerman’s, only without the brand identity and subsequent overpricing. For this review, I’ll be sticking to two of their salad sandwiches, the Salvadorean Chicken Salad and the Tuna Tango.

The Salvadorean Chicken Salad sandwich. You know, before Instagram, I was the only person taking pictures of my food with my phone. Now, everyone does it. It’s a really weird thing to feel slightly jealous about.

The Tuna Tango (not pictured) is their tuna salad, available either cold with lettuce and tomato or as a melt with provolone cheese. I’ve always had it warmed up. JGF makes the best tuna salad in Kalamazoo, because they’re not afraid to deviate from the norm a little bit. In addition to tuna and mayo, their salad has hard-boiled eggs, sliced dill pickles, capers, and onions. It’s kind of a mix of a couple of different things, and it comes together beautifully. It’s a hearty, filling sandwich, helped along by the generous size they serve you.

The Salvadorean Chicken Salad includes onions, peppers and carrots diced in, and is served warm with lettuce and tomato. Both times I’ve ordered it JGF has been out of pitas, so it’s been served as a wrap, which is fine by me. The salad itself is great. The ingredients are all pretty fresh, and the lack of mayo or another dressing makes for a nice change of pace. I always appreciate leaf lettuce over shredded, and the tomatoes are diced small enough to be manageable as well. Another filling sandwich, and another great buy.

Sandwiches at Just Good Food run for between $6-9 for a full order, which includes tortilla chips. I occasionally order other sides on top of that, but it’s only to try their other items, since the sandwiches are plenty filling. It’s a great lunch spot, and if you’re ever in downtown Kalamazoo, you should definitely check it out.