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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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Trader Joe's Thai Sweet Chili Veggie Burger

There's a song a few years old that I really enjoy named "Daylight" by a dude named John Mark McMillan. Go ahead and take a listen if you'd like. Sounds kinda Springsteen-y, doesn't it? Now, I'd be willing to bet that at least 95% of you have never heard of this song, or of John Mark McMillan, which is fine...but pretty much everyone has at least a vague idea of who Springsteen is and can recognize songs like "Born in the USA" and "Hungry Heart" and whatnot. Where am I going with this? Follow me here. If Springsteen were to release a version of "Daylight" that sounded 100% identical to McMillan's, it'd be hailed as a classic, a return to form. Dad rock fan boys (hey, me included) would be buying it in droves and Rolling Stone would probably slobber all over themselves in praise. Instead, because it's by a dude named John Mark and not Bruce, it toils in obscurity.

So what makes something great isn't always the product....it's the marketing and the packaging. Ya follow me?

Trader Joe's Thai Sweet Chili Veggie Burger (why singular?) reminds me of this thought. Sandy, who's keeping calorie tabs, scanned the barcode on the box and instead of TJ's, it popped up as a Dr. Praeger's product on her phone app. Google confirms such a thing as a Dr. Praeger's Thai veggie burger exists, and it's mentioned (although not detailed) on the official site so yeah, probably a Dr. Praeger product. Seeing a Dr. Praeger Thai veggie burger on the shelf, I'd probably pass right on by and not notice. Put the TJ's name and package on it instead, and both Sandy and I couldn't wait to give them a try. Suckers.

All that to say, it's a pretty decent veggie burger. No, it's not going to replace a regular hamburger if that's what you're in the mood for. The patty is mostly rice and carrot based, with some edamame chucked in, so they're not even going for a textural approximation here. Having one of these heated up via microwave and also one baked in the oven, in a rare twist for me, I prefer them microwaved - alittle more moist and palatably pleasing that way. The oven kinda dried them up to a crispy outside, mushy dry inside akin to veggie scrapple. Some onion chunks also add a little character here and there. For taste, it's honestly pretty straightforward, without much complexity or flavor layers like most decent Thai fare. I didn't really pick up any sweet chili flavor from the patty - whatever is there is pretty subtle and would easily be overpowered by any cheese, toppings, or bun. There's a slight bit of residual heat, but not enough to get your knickers twisted. Instead, it mostly tastes like garlic, spices, onion and greenery mixed with rice, which is nice but not quite the kick I was looking for, either.

My ambivalence towards these Thai veggie patties is easily outweighed by Sandy's exuberance. Indeed, they're practically perfect for a reasonably healthy, super easy, and fairly decently priced ($3.69 for a four pack) lunch option. Bonus points for being individually frozen and packed. We had them one night, and was going to review them, fell asleep instead...and when I went to revisit them just a couple days later, I found she had the rest for lunch. There was no twisting her arm to lay down her money and play her part on her return trip to TJ's for more....everyone's got a hungry heart. Four from her, 2.5 from me.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Thai Sweet Chili Veggie Burger: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  1. I'll give these a go! Glad to see you didn't think they were spicy (i'm a total heat wimp). How funny that these are labeled as TJs when TJs also sells dr praeger's. The masala burgers are probably my favorite, but they're better as is or on a salad vs as a burger.

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  3. Just gotta say, I'm in the less than 5% that knows and loves John Mark McMillan.

  4. I've only had one, but the dish I put together was delicious! I made a wrap with spinach, this burger chopped up, and a cut up apple. That's it =) So good! But I'm easy maybe ;-)