One of the greatest moments in modern junk food history is when Lay’s announced the Do Us A Flavor contest in 2013. Three flavors of “weird” potato chips that the consumer got to vote on and ultimately decide the fate of. I love this shit. Limited offerings and seasonal engagements are what make junk and fast food so fun, and this idea from Lay’s spawned other great offshoots like voting on peanut M&M’s and the ongoing My Oreo Creation contest from Nabisco. It also was an unfortunate reminder of how boring America’s tastebuds are, as the most snooze-worthy and underachieving flavor from that initial year – Cheesy Garlic Bread – took the potato crown from the far more interesting and successful Sriracha and Chicken and Waffles. But that’s all in the past.
Over the last four years I’ve tried every flavor from the contest, and I’m one of the weirdos that even liked 2014’s Cappuccino chip – which was a slightly creamy, cinnamon-kissed chocolate coffee sweet savory oddity that was so bizarre it worked. 2017’s lineup of the top 10 semifinalists had lots of promise, with the likes of Smoked Gouda & Honey, Sloppy Joe, and Nashville Hot Chicken sounding particularly interesting – but of course, none of them made it. I already tried and did quick “TASTE TEST” videos of each of the flavors with the lovely Sil B on Instagram, but below you will find my overall thoughts on each flavor as well as the associated video. Enjoy – and don’t forget to vote for your favorite to still be around next year!
Wavy Fried Green Tomato:
These chips came in with the natural advantage of being Wavy, aka the best type of potato chip, and they live up to their advantage in terms of texture and crunch. They’re wonderfully crispy and perfectly fried without being greasy at all. The flavor is salty and peppery with some herbaceous tomato notes that are present but not incredibly bold. Each of the chips, depending on their amount of coating, tell a bit of a different story with some packing a much bigger punch than others (classic). I haven’t had a ton of fried green tomatoes, but the most dominant flavor I get out of these is “fried coating” with a hint of parmesan cheesiness, garlic, and a nice black pepper finish. The most interesting element to this flavor is a mayonnaise-y creamy undertone to represent the sauce shown on the front of the bag. They’re good, safe, and a very eat-able chip that aren’t offensive in any way but don’t have much of a wow factor either. As I eat these I can’t help but feel like the semifinalist Fried Ravioli would have been a similar experience but much better with a more robust, oregano and basil seasoning blend and some wonderful slightly sharp mozzarella notes instead of fatty aioli. Oh well.
Wow. These chips are exactly what Do Us A Flavor is all about. When the semifinalists were announced Crispy Taco was one of the most boring average sounding flavors that have already been done as a chip seasoning for years, but Lay’s completely knocked it out of the park with this one. The flavor emulation game is on another level here with the leading flavor being lettuce – yes, lettuce. Somehow they packed the bright, crisp flavor of shredded lettuce into the powder, followed by cheddar cheese, tomato, beef seasoning, and even some tomato acidity. It’s actually unreal how this potato chip tastes nothing like a potato and somehow manages to taste more like a hard corn taco shell than the vegetable it’s actually made of. Kudos Lay’s, you officially impressed the hell out of me. And yes, I did squeeze some Fire sauce onto the chips and it tasted 95% like I had just left the Taco Bell drive through. Ridic.
Kettle Cooked Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese:
These were the chips I was most looking forward to, since everything bagels have lot’s of great seasoning that can plop themselves onto most vessels and be delicious. What a missed opportunity. I’m not sure if Lays got too focused on the cream cheese element of the profile or simply got lazy, but these chips taste like sour cream and onion with a slight tang and hints of garlic, onion, and an extra dash of salt. Not a disgusting chip by any means, in fact it’s pretty good, but nothing new or exciting in the slightest. I can’t say they didn’t try though, as there are poppy seeds on most of the chips, but the flavor doesn’t translate. None of the more dominant elements of “everything” – like sesame, deep onion, or a twist like caraway seeds – are present at all. These are a safe bet to be enjoyed by someone seeking a salty/creamy/slightly spiced snack but do not deliver on what could have been an ultimate follow up to the now standard salt and pepper kettle chip.
Overall this was an okay return for the annual potato battle. Keep in mind that the ratings are based mostly on whether or not the desired flavor was achieved, and that all of these chips are pretty good and a worthy sando sidekick. My biggest disappointment is that none of the finalists this year were spicy in the slightest and they are all relatively safe. Hopefully a couple more of the semis make it out as exclusives or short runs in the near future.