Lay’s launched a Tastes of America line of potato chips last week with eight new regional flavors, but only one will be available in Chicagoland stores: Deep Dish Pizza.
The Chicago-style chip, inspired by Giordano’s stuffed pizza, specifically, represents the “Heartland” and “Mid-America,” according to Lay’s. The remaining seven, sold in stores only in their respective regions and online, include Fried Pickles with Ranch for the Midwest (which evidently does not include Chicago); New England Lobster Roll for the Northeast; Chesapeake Bay Crab Spice for the Mid-Atlantic; Pimento Cheese for the Southeast; Cajun Spice for the Central Gulf; Chile Con Queso for “Texoma” (the Texas and Oklahoma borderlands), mountains and “SoCal” (Southern California); and Thai Sweet Chili for the Pacific Northwest.
We tasted all eight new flavors — more on that in a moment.
The snack company has also brought back four flavors from past programs: Ketchup, Fried Green Tomatoes, Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Popper and West Coast Truffle Fries.
However, seven out of the eight new flavors ($3.49 for big 7.75-ounce bags) are currently sold out on the Lay’s website, and a variety pack of all 12 limited-edition chips ($19.99 for a dozen small 2.75-ounce bags) shows out of stock at Walmart and the dreaded “Currently unavailable, we don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock,” message on Amazon.
“The Lay’s team is aware that a few of the flavors are now sold out because of high demand and are working to fulfill their inventory as quickly as possible!” said Kimberly Scott, director of communications at Frito-Lay, in an email.
This is the greatest number of flavors the company has released at one time; the promotion will end Sept. 23 or when supplies run out.
The campaign differs from the crowdsourced “Do Us a Flavor” contest. “While there aren’t plans to bring the ‘Do Us a Flavor’ program back next year, that isn’t to say the brand won’t decide to bring it back another year,” said Scott.
Meanwhile, we did taste test all eight new flavors (sent as samples by Frito-Lay). Though they are meant as a celebration of summer, like an all-American cross-country road trip in your mouth, we instead were left stranded with the aftertaste of gas station-fueled bad decisions. I say this as a big fan of weird potato chips who once had an extensive private collection from around the world — that is until I ate nearly all of them.
Here are our tasting notes. (All parenthetical quotes below are Lay’s product descriptions.)
Deep Dish Pizza
The Deep Dish Pizza flavor struck tasters as surprisingly cheesy, and captured the monstrous mozzarella magma of Giordano’s stuffed pies. (Joseph Hernandez / Chicago Tribune)
Deep Dish Pizza: (“A taste of the iconic stuffed deep-dish pizza inspired by the famous Giordano’s pizza recipe.”) Surprisingly cheesy, notably capturing the monstrous mozzarella magma of Giordano’s stuffed pies. The chips smelled more like pizza than tasted of it. One taster thought this flavor was the weirdest, “each component of pizza washed over my palate in succession. Tomato! Cheese! And then, bizarrely, CRUST!”
Fried Pickles with Ranch: (“A deep-fried favorite at Midwest state fairs, you can’t pass up the opportunity to try this fair food fave.”) Vinegar- and dill-forward with a faint creaminess. “I would buy this one,” a taster wrote. “Flavor is sharp but accessible.”
New England Lobster Roll: (“Inspired by the lobster shacks of the Northeast, fans can now get the taste of fresh lobster served on a buttery grilled roll.”) No, you can’t. Perhaps a whisper of butter and toast, but no crustacean whatsoever. “This one is all roll, no lobster,” wrote a taster.
Chesapeake Bay Crab Spice: (“Inspired by crab shacks along the Atlantic, this flavor is a taste of the Bay with custom-blended spices ready to savor.”) Overwhelming celery salted Old Bay Seasoning. Do note that this chip was not actually inspired by a regional dish.
Pimento Cheese: (“Inspired by Sunday socials and Southern charm, this flavor is a taste of creamy sharp cheddar with a hint of cayenne pepper.”) Promising, but as one self-described cheese lover noted, the common problem with all the new chips was the cheese flavors are rather bland. This might be good with a real pimento cheese dip.
Cajun Spice: (“Prominently featured across beloved dishes like Jambalaya and Blackened Cajun Chicken, this Gulf Coast iconic flavor includes a mix of garlic, paprika, onion and oregano.”) Again, not inspired by a regional dish and “nothing but a chip slathered with Cajun flavoring,” wrote one taster.
Chile Con Queso: (“Inspired by a Southwest favorite, this flavor infuses the legendary Tex-Mex taste of velvety cheddar queso with a dash of spice.”) Redeemed by a bare hit of heat. “Good but nothing that cannot be achieved by a classic cheddar and sour cream,” wrote one taster.
Thai Sweet Chili: (“The food truck scene of the Pacific Northwest inspired this flavor, boasting the delicious blend of sweet chili sauce with a hint of heat.”) The best texture of all we tasted, with slightly thicker and crunchier chips. One taster wrote, “With their hint of tangy sweetness, I was reminded of the Orion O!karto fries I grew up on from the Korean market down the street from my house.”
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