Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Trader Joe's Mini Chicken Tacos

Mmm ... tacos ...

Really, can anything bad be said about tacos? I'm not really talking about the Taco Bell variety, though occasionally those can work in a pinch (okay, very occasional pinch). A good taco is spicy, flavorful comfort wrapped in crispy, greasy wholesome goodness that'll put a smile on your face and a little indigestion in your gut. Well, maybe not the indigestion part, but if it's there and nothing too fiery, no foul in my book.

Our favorite taco spot in town is a street stand down in Pittsburgh's Strip District in front of Reyna Foods, a great Mexican grocer. We go down every once in a while on a Saturday and grab a pair each for five bucks. There's consistently a line but it's always worth it for the fresh grilled meat piled high with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes (for me), topped off with a squeeze of fresh lime and choice of salsa seated on a fresh homemade corn tortilla. I was thoroughly impressed with myself that I managed to scarf down a set of these on Saturday while speedwalking through a crowd on a busy day without dropping it or indiscriminately smearing it all over my face or shirt. Now those are tacos.

When keeping mind these are the at-home freezer box variety, these are kinda close. It's one of those things you gotta grade on a curve. They're certainly not amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but that doesn't mean they aren't good. Contrary to the picture on the box (those darn misleading "serving suggestion" depictions) they're just little corn tortillas with some chicken bits and spices pocketed in. I guess I can't blame Trader Joe's for not dicing up veggies and shredding cheese small enough to sneak in these guys, because honestly I have no interest either. Aside from maybe a little hot sauce, these will just have to as they are for us. They're taste decent overall, but kinda plain for my taste, and I can't help to think that they could be just a little bit better. They're certainly not nearly as good as making tacos and setting up a toppings bar for yourself, but they're sure quicker and easier. They're also just tasty enough to keep me interested in them and to eat a couple more than the serving size of four. Not that Sandy would let me get away with that.

The fact that they're mini tacos kinda weird me out, though. When eating them I feel like I'm a sort of giant roaming the earth and these tacos are normal-sized for normal-sized people while for me they're two quick little bites, and I must eat enough of them that'd feed a family reunion to satisfy my belly. I feel like I've stolen them from these fine folks. It's the same kinda thing with sliders and even (to a lesser extent) personal pan pizzas. Fun-sized Halloween candy bars get a pass on this because I'm used to those from trick-or-treating and they're ubiquitous enough to make sense to me. Baby burgers and pizzas and tacos just don't. The side of the box of these taco dwarfs say they're "adorable" and that TJ's "guarantee[s] you can't eat just one." Listen, I'm a guy, I don't want to hear I'm eating something that's "adorable" and dang right I'm going to eat more than one. That's the whole point of the microscopic food genre. Eat four regular sized tacos and you're either a college freshman or a glutton. But if they're super-small 1:25 models of the real thing, you can still honestly tell yourself you ate four tacos and not feel any guilt.

I made these for dinner on Monday night along with some tater tots (not these ones but still pretty admirably good) for an easy dinner tonight. Sandy was beat from kicking some serious half marathon butt on Sunday (2 hours 48 minutes! Daaaang) and to a much lesser extent I was tired from a long day of getting her to where she needed to be way too early, cheering her on, then a long day of errands and work on Monday, so a "path of least resistance" dinner sounded right on the money. The tacos 'n tots offered enough of a comfort food quality to our meal that I'll give them a pass despite wishing they were a little tastier and bigger so I wouldn't be so worried about depriving a family of Lilliputians their dinner. Sandy, in her deserved day-after of relaxation and hunger, said she could eat the whole box, she likes them so much. I'm pretty sure that's some exaggeration on her part, but she proved beyond a shadow of doubt to me over the weekend she can do anything she puts her mind to, so I won't say she can't. She settled on giving them a four, only saying she wish Trader Joe's would have added some lime and other flavors. Otherwise, she's pretty darn happy with them. As for me, well, you've heard me ramble enough. I think I can spare a three for them, right in the middle.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

3 comments:

  1. I love these with a little hot sauce, greens sauce, and/or salsa, and some sour cream. They seem like they might make a decent party appetizer, as well. For a meal, I end up eating a minimum of 2 servings, but probably still healthier than Taco Bell.

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  2. Thanks for the laughs, this is the funniest post I've read so far! I feel like I'm getting a window into your life through Trader Joe's food. Now if only they delivered, because we're in Vegas and don't have a car or the winnings to drive there. When we do I'll be sure to look up your blog.
    Blog On
    Janet
    @newspapergrl

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  3. I haven't tried the chicken ones yet, but we love the Beef Mini Tacos. One of the friendly and courteous cashiers told us they were like "little tacos filled with crack" and he was not lying. Delicious. But I do sit and peel/force them open to stuff in a little shredded cheese.

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