Reality Bites: Zapp’s

05 ANTIGRAVITY Reality Bites by Ben Claassen_0001
Published  June 2016

05 ANTIGRAVITY Reality Bites by Ben Claassen_0001Have you ever wanted to buy every single flavor of Zapp’s Potato Chips and try them all? Well, I did it. I lived the dream and now I’m here to tell the tale. (OK, not all of them—I couldn’t find Caribbean Key Lime or Cheddar and Smoked Bacon; and my childhood fav, Sour Cream and Onion, appears to no longer exist.) I should note that I really wanted to do this review as an excuse to tour the Zapp’s factory in Gramercy, which I haven’t been to since seventh grade. As it turns out, you can no longer take public tours! Zapp’s was bought out by Utz in 2010 and is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of that company. I don’t even know how to feel about that.


Cajun Dill Gator-Tators

Aroma: dill pickle in a bag

Flavor Profile: the world’s most delicious fried pickles

Tasting Notes: I am somewhat biased because I went into this review knowing that Cajun Dill Gator-Tator was my favorite flavor of Zapp’s. I love pickles. I love fried pickles. I love these chips! When you were in middle school, did you ever put a dill pickle into a bag of potato chips, and then shake the bag around to flavor the chips? Or was that only a trend at my school (we were also really into eating dry ramen with hot sauce)? Anyway, that’s what these potato chips take me back to. They really taste like someone dumped spicy pickle juice into a bag of chips! They’re salty, vinegary, and tart. Delicious.
10/10 Gator-Tators

 

Drago’s Roasted Garlic

Aroma: garlic

Flavor Profile: garlic bread

Tasting Notes: Drago’s Roasted Garlic is the trendy new (limited edition) member of the Zapp’s family and I was thrilled to finally give it a shot. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I wanted to taste oysters! I love charbroiled oysters and was looking forward to an oyster-flavored chip; that is not what this is. I think this chip is supposed to suggest charbroiled oysters by giving us something that tastes like the toppings: garlic, parmesan, and char seasonings. I get it—that was the route they took with Spicy Cajun Crawtator, which likewise aren’t crawfish flavored, but boil flavored. Do I think they were as successful with this attempt? No. If I didn’t know the name of these chips, I would have thought I was eating garlic bread-flavored potato chips. Which, yes, that’s delicious, but don’t put Drago’s name on something that doesn’t scream oyster. It’s rude. Nonetheless, these were tasty.
8/10 Absent Oysters

 

Hotter ‘N Hot Jalapeño

Aroma: jar of those jalapeños you put on nachos (do not stick your nose in this bag and inhale deeply… I learned this the incredibly hard way)

Flavor Profile: hot and distinctively jalapeño

Tasting Notes: I’m not a huge jalapeño fan (feel free to clutch your pearls and faint dead away on the chaise lounge if you need to) but these chips do the damn thing. They really taste like jalapeños! The Hotter ‘N Hot Jalapeño flavor bears a bit of a resemblance, flavor profile-wise, to the Salt & Vinegar and to the Cajun Dill Gator- Tator, which may be why I enjoy them so much. These would be a perfect compliment to a shrimp po-boy.
10/10 Clutched Pearls

 

Mesquite Bar-B-Que

Aroma: cheap barbecue sauce

Flavor Profile: sickly sweet

Tasting Notes: These were not pleasant, even though they’re sweet and smoky. There’s something off here. I think it’s too much fake smoke flavor?
2/10 Burnt Sugar Chips

 

Regular Flavor

Aroma: potato chips

Flavor Profile: salty

Tasting Notes: I feel stupidly obvious even saying this but Zapp’s is a good kettle chip. Like, seriously, it’s a good chip. And sometimes, I suppose, you have an inexplicable desire for an unflavored chip. In that instance, you may as well eat the Zapp’s Regular Flavor. Or you could do the unsalted, which is weirdly better.
8/10 Inexplicable Desires

 

No Salt

Aroma: potato chips

Flavor Profile: potatoes

Tasting Notes: Unsalted chips? What will the world think of next? I know it seems counterintuitive. Potato chips are a vessel by which salt (and assorted wacky flavors) are delivered. But as I mentioned before, Zapp’s are really good chips. I don’t know how or why the unsalted is better than the salted, but it is. The flavor of pure, unadulterated potato really sings here. And these have to be healthy, right? I mean, there’s no salt.
9/10 Pure Unadulterated Potatoes

 

Salt & Vinegar

Aroma: vinegar (this is another one where you probably shouldn’t put your face in the bag and huff)

Flavor Profile: tangy!

Tasting Notes: I know I said that Cajun Dill Gator-Tator was my favorite but honestly it’s a toss up because I also adore the Salt & Vinegar. So sharp and piquant. I suggest popping open a kombucha and a bag of these chips and just giving yourself over to the joys of fermentation. My mouth literally puckered at first bite—I can’t think of a better recommendation than that. Perfection.
10/10 Joys of Fermentation

 

Spicy Creole Tomato

Aroma: spicy ketchup

Flavor Profile: old Tabasco sauce that you forgot in the back of your refrigerator

Tasting Notes: I don’t think this Zapp’s and Tabasco collaborative effort is currently in production because it was very hard to find; or I guess I should say that it would have been hard to find if the little snack bar at my job wasn’t filled with weird, almost expired food products. Thanks y’all! The Spicy Creole Tomato is the least spicy of all the hot/spicy chip options. I guess it does taste vaguely like a hot sauce-flavored chip, so I get where they were going with this, but overall it’s pretty meh. It’s like a less exciting Spicy Cajun Crawtator, which is a thing no one was clamoring for.
3/10 Almost Expired Food Products

 

Spicy Cajun Crawtators

Aroma: smoky paprika

Flavor Profile: crawfish boil

Tasting Notes: Spicy Cajun Crawtators is the Zapp’s classic flavor, the one I think about before all others. And like most classic foods, this one is classic for a reason. Is there any other food item that has managed to encapsulate all the flavors of a crawfish boil? OK, maybe encapsulate is too strong a word; these chips do a really good job of suggesting a crawfish boil. They’re spicy but not much. I find that the heat only really hits the back of your throat, not so much on your tongue. They’re smoky, but not in the overwhelming way that the Bar-B-Que chips are. Word on the street is that this formula has basically remained unchanged for 31 years, and well, if it ain’t broke…
10/10 Classics

 

Sweet Creole Onion

Aroma:French onion dip from a can

Flavor Profile: sour cream and onion chips

Tasting Notes: Oh, this is where Zapp’s Sour Cream & Onion chips went. This is a super classic potato chip flavor but with a touch of sweetness. I know if I was 10 years old this would be my jam, but for this grouchy thirty-something year-old, they leave something to be desired. The Sweet Creole Onion is fine but it’s kind of boring.
7/10 Cans of Dip

 

Sweet Potato

Aroma: a room full of sweet potatoes

Flavor Profile: mellow

Tasting Notes: These Sweet Potato chips are the real oddballs of the Zapp’s family. They give off a certain hippydippy health store chip vibe, like they should be named “Uncle Hal’s Mellow Yam Flakes” and be sold for six bucks a bag at Whole Foods. But no, they’re just Zapp’s, and I really love them. They aren’t too salty and the texture is inexplicably light and completely ungreasy. These are a good choice to dump into a big bowl for parties because they’re so pretty and you can impress folks who aren’t yet Zapp’s aficionados.
9.5/10 Yam Flakes

 

Voodoo

Aroma: confusing

Flavor Profile: intriguing

Tasting Notes: Voodoo chips were created, so the story goes, one fateful day at the Zapp’s factory when a hapless worker accidentally knocked all the flavors into a vat together. The Zapp’s website states that “While cleaning up, someone stuck their finger into the mixture of about five flavors and pronounced it great.” While that’s a really disgusting story about the lack of quality control and safe food service procedures (a worker just sticks their finger into the spilled spices and tastes it?) it also seems completely apocryphal. Voodoo chips do taste like someone just thoughtlessly tossed a bunch of random stuff together and hoped for the best. And you know what, they’re pretty good.
9/10 Disgusting Stories

 

Voodoo Heat

Aroma: intriguing

Flavor Profile: confusing

Tasting Notes: Literally exactly the same as Voodoo. I don’t know if they just changed the name on the bag or what, but there’s no difference. THEY ARE THE SAME AS VOODOO—I refuse to rate

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