As legend has it, nachos were invented by Ignacio Anaya, a maitre d’ at the Victory Club in the Mexican town of Piedras Negras. One day, a group of military wives stopped by the restaurant to grab a bite to eat. Igancio (whose nickname was “Nacho”) couldn’t locate the chef, so he improvised, throwing together three ingredients readily available in the kitchen – tortilla chips, cheese and jalapeño peppers.
Perhaps Taco Bell was looking to honor Igancio with its latest culinary offering – Naked Chicken Chips. Like Anaya, Taco Bell serves hungry Americans faux-Mexican cuisine. And, like Anaya, it seems to have come up with this particular dish by throwing together ingredients they had lying around their kitchen. Unfortunately, they haven’t struck lightning in a bottle the same way Nacho Anaya did.
Je ne sais quoi
Taco Bell is no stranger to combining ingredients in new and unexpected ways. There is often a “Rube Goldberg” quality to Taco Bell’s offerings. The fast food chain’s menu items use ingredients you are familiar with, but those ingredients are often merged in a circuitous and somewhat baffling way.
I was a big fan of the fast food chain’s recent Rube Goldberg amalgamation – the Naked Chicken Chalupa. I described it in my review at the time as: “Exhilarating and delicious, with a lingering awareness of one’s own mortality.” There was a harmony to the deep-fried chicken shell filled with avocado sauce, cheese and vegetables. Like an edible jam band, every piece was doing its own thing, but it all blended together seamlessly.
Unfortunately, the Naked Chicken Chips feel like an uninspired sequel to a surprise hit. I imagine someone at the top of the company (who I like to picture as a rotund man in a cheap suit clutching a cigar and pounding on his desk) demanded the creative team (which, I imagine consists of an eclectic blend of stoners, former bowling alley short-order cooks and adventurous eight-year-olds) come up with “the next Naked Chicken Chalupa” to keep the company in the headlines. So, they took the name and slapped it onto a dull chicken nugget dish.
The Naked Chicken Chips are small, triangle-shaped, chicken nuggets paired with Taco Bell’s cheese dipping sauce (though, to be honest, it feels like there should be an asterisk next to the word “cheese”). The nuggets, like its predecessor’s shell, are breaded and deep fried. It’s a very straightforward (read: lazy) dish.
Even though they were visually underwhelming, I took my first bite of the these nugget nachos hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Instead, I felt confused and bummed out by what was happening in my mouth. (“That’s what she said?”)
The biggest problem is that the chicken nuggets, as a standalone item, just aren’t very good. There’s a spiciness to them that I enjoy, but I found my order to be dry and bland overall. They remind me of Wendy’s chicken nuggets (which aren’t one of my favorites), but even drier and less appetizing. This chicken worked just fine as a crunchy shell to house tasty toppings, but here it is all by itself with nothing to hide its mediocrity.
I feel like this offering could have been saved by a tasty dipping sauce, but the nacho cheese doesn’t pair particularly well with the chicken. The two just don’t feel like they belong together. Instead, it feels like something a lonely bachelor would throw together using readily-available items in his fridge (just narrowly edging out pizza rolls and ranch dressing) to provide him something to consume between Netflix binging, afternoon napping and masturbating to anime.
I wish they had turned the avocado sauce from the Naked Chicken Chalupa into a dipping sauce for these nuggets. That sauce really elevated its predecessor and would have done wonders here. But they unfortunately went for an easier solution.
I’m not really sure who the target demo for these chicken chips are (outside of Taco Bell’s general base of “inebriated people who should probably already be home in bed”), but there are so many better fast food nuggets available that I can’t recommend picking these up.
If the gimmick of chicken nachos have you intrigued, I recommend going the Ignacio Anaya route and making your own using better ingredients you have at hand.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.