Terrible tacos and Chocolate Overlord Cake: Denver's new Jack in the Box
I've heard tell that cannot count yourself as being a true legal-drinking-age adult until you've slammed way too many whiskey shots and then hit the late-night drive-thru at Jack in the Box and ordered a bagful of its notoriously awful two-for-a-dollar tacos. I ordered a couple just to see if they were as dreadful to eat when you're sober, and indeed they were. So I did something I've always wanted to do, and pried one apart with my finger to examine the contents up close. I was immediately sorry that I had.
The grease-sodden corn shell was chewy at the bottom, tooth-breakingly solid at the top, and the innards had the look of room-temp canned cat food slathered with spicy but flavorless taco sauce, a shaking of iceberg lettuce bits, and half a triangle slice of non-melted American cheese. These tacos are what my Pops would refer to as "stuff that grows hair on your b*lls."
But the cake was close to perfect, by fast-food standards. It was soft, moist and had just the right amount of fudgy icing swirls. It's comparable to the desserts out of the case at Starbucks, meaning I have no clue how they get these little baked goods to taste fresh -- but I'm okay living in the dark about it.
The dining room hadn't cleared out much since I'd sat down, but all of a sudden people were scrambling for the side door -- something about beanbags and a "wheel of prizes" going on in the parking lot. I went outside, too, and saw well-dressed employees emceeing while customers took turns throwing beanbags through holes in a decorated board, and spinning a Jeopardy wheel to get prizes like mascot Jack bobblehead dolls, Jack in the Box hats, T-shirts, dog tags and key chains, Jack car antenna heads, car air fresheners -- they were cherry, not cheeseburger-scented -- and coupons for free tacos.
I gave it a spin, and acquired both a bobblehead doll and a coupon for free tacos. A guy next to me got an antenna head, and he lamented that he'd gone through several of these in the last few years because every time he'd top his Jeep antenna with one, it was promptly filched. I comforted him by saying I hoped someone would pilfer my free tacos coupon.
Overall, this Jack in the Box's opening day seemed to go very well; the company, which had left the Colorado market more than a decade ago, is making a strong comeback here. The new, improved food wasn't horrible -- except for the tacos, and I have no one to blame but myself for ordering them -- and some of it was actually good. Although I'm a firm believer that there is very little in life that can't be made right over a bowl of phở, if you must take a burger break, there are worse places to go.
Especially at 4 a.m.
This is the latest in a semi-regular series of fast-food reviews by Jenn Wohletz.