It’s about time I got back to tackling the serious topics – given the critical acclaim I’ve received for my candy bar rankings, it’s probably time to approach something even more personal and thorny. That’s right, MFers, I’m talking about the salty goodness of snack chips, be they potato, tortilla or whatnot. It’s a more complex topic than candy bars – chips are like baseball pitchers, situational in nature. You might need a starting pitcher that can get you through a meal (think 2 bags of Sun Chips), a soft-tossing lefty reliever to pair with an alcoholic beverage (Hot ‘n Spicy Chex Mix or that similar one they serve in many upper tier bars), or a hard-throwing closer for a very specific craving (Funyuns always make sense).
Ranking the Top Ten was quite difficult; ranking the absolute worst would have been quite simple: Bugles. In my long life, I’ve only ever seen one person actively purchase and then eat some Bugles without remorse. Kudos to you, Majala – but that shit is fucking terrible. If they weren’t so generic, pretzels would be in a life or death battle with Bugles for the last. Have you ever actually eaten a pretzel, even those hot fuckers they sell at baseball games, and said “that was delicious and satisfying” afterward? If you’ve ever had Fiery Habanero Doritos, you have. Let’s all just face facts: pretzels blow. But back to the good stuff.
Chips are versatile, and as such have to be considered through more than one lens (pardon me while I use some of the stuff I learned getting an MBA. Actually, lens is just a $60k/year tuition way of saying category. So, fuck it, category, not lens.) The layman might just consider what a chip tastes like; I personally consider three different characteristics: the standalone taste category, the paired with food category, and the dipping category. No one chip is perfect in all categories – indeed, most that stand alone greatly suffer in the other categories due to an overpowering independent nature.
Also, since most chips these days have 15-2000 different variations (Pringles closer to 25,000), I have selected only the standard bearer for each with no repetition in the Top Ten. Enjoy.
10. Andy Capp’s Hot Fries
Standalone: 8. There’s a pretty good chance that you’ve never had these because they look kind of disgusting and are about as greasy as any mass-produced chip has ever been (pick up some Clearasil while you’re at it). They are pretty frickin delectable, though.
Paired with food: 0. That’s never been attempted.
Dipping Implement: 0. Also never attempted – your dip would be turned into an orangish pool of salve in short order.
Downside: A smidge greasy.
Noteworthy Variants: Hot Chili Cheese Steak Fries, White Cheddar Steak Fries. Never tried either, but they sound pretty horrible. Cheese Steak? Like Philly Cheese Steak? Or is that Cheesesteak?
History: Andy Capp, for those unfamiliar with his work, was a British comic strip character who drank a lot, played darts and got into huge fistfights with his wife (represented on paper by a rolling dust tumbleweed with arms and legs flaying around). Any time I can get a food product inspired by someone who lives life so fully, I do.
9. Cheddar Chex Mix
Standalone: 8. Chex Mix has been making a splash since some enterprising homemakers started making bootleg Mix back in the 1950s. It was all the rage during 1970s key parties and eventually General Mills caved and started selling it as a standalone product in 1985.
Paired with food: 2. Occasionally, unfortunately paired with an awkward plate of hors d’oeuvres at a lame party.
Dipping Implement: 0. Not happening, these things are tiny.
Downside: Pretzels and (to a lesser extent) crackers suck. But those rye chip things are the bombazzle.
Noteworthy Variants: Hot ‘n Spicy is solid. Never tried any of the “salty and sweet” variations – thats a Pandora’s Box I prefer to keep closed.
History: Nothing special here.
Standalone: 6. Might be the tastiest plain potato chip around (although apparently they aren’t available everywhere these days. But they are widely available in Southern Ontario, where they are undoubtedly poutined up with some curds and gravy.) Munchos get zero fanfare, but do solid work.
Paired with food: 5. Munchos will definitely bring out the tanins in your ham and cheese sandwich.
Dipping Implement: 1. Probably not standing up to much other than a French Onion dip given their thin nature. In Canada, may serve as poutine base.
Downside: Hard to find.
Noteworthy Variants: None.
History: Munchos are thinner than most chips, somewhat translucent, and slightly curved. Were Munchos a possible Scoops precursor in that they are shaped to facilitate dipping? If so, probably overdesigned – given their thinness, how can one really dip anything of substance?
7. Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips
Standalone: 6.5. I used to work for a Managing Director who would eat two bags of Sun Chips from the vending machine as his lunch. Every day. He made about $2 million per year.
Paired with food: 4. A little too esoteric for most foods, but Subway has given them the nod. I think its mostly the “healthy” packaging/presentation. In reality, they are little better for you than any other fried snack (except probably Andy Capp’s Hot Fries).
Dipping Implement: 3. Original works okay with a variety of dips.
Downside: Kind of ghey.
Noteworthy Variants: Garden Salsa isn’t that bad; haven’t tried Spicy Chipotle yet as it’s only allegedly available.
History: Nothing interesting.
6. Sour Cream and Onion Pringles
Standalone: 7.0. Delightful. One dreadful New Year’s Eve in Chicago, I was hanging with my boy Bat Rastard and I decided to call it a night fairly early, having had my fill of the $50 all-you-can-drink-well-drinks pleasuredome/sausagefest. I went back to our room in a particularly sour (no pun intended) mood. I was awakened at like 5:30 AM by the sound of BR chomping Pringles at Anthrax-concert volume level. I politely asked if he would quiet the fuck down. The power-chomping continued for a good ten minutes, before I completely lost my mind yelling at his ass. Eyes focused on two separate items at opposite corners of the room, he humbly offered: “It’s their fault for making them so good.” Fair point and I could offer no retort; not surprisingly, BR went on to become a powerhouse attorney.
Paired with food: 6.5. Brings a turkey sandwich to life. You want to have a real mini-party? Put some turkey and American cheese on a tortilla, microwave that shit for 40 seconds, cover with a solid amount of sriracha and then crush some Pringles up on top of that – “40 Seconds of Heaven”. Enjoy. Thank me later.
Dipping Implement: 3. Haven’t seen it tried, but seems like it could be done.
Downside: Before they went to the softer paper can, the lid ring area used to be made of razor blades. Digging too far down would invariably lead to wrist lacerations and the inference from strangers that one was suicidal, not a Pringles fan. After losing about three gallons of blood lifetime, I finally learned to pour them out once you reached the point of no return. Downside to that? Chip shrapnel.
Noteworthy Variants: Tough choice here as Plain Pringles are also excellent, probably right up there with Munchos as the tastiest plain potato chips. I would suggest that Pringles tone down the 500-600 different variants they offer – some are straight up disgusting (looking at you Pizza-Licious and Guacamole).
History: Along with Twix, Pringles must be among the most universal of food products. I’ve been to hotels throughout the world, and invariably Pringles are prominently represented in the minibar offerings. Want to make small talk with your Zulu-speaking guide in South Africa? Pringles is not a bad topic to break the ice with. Better than apples, at least.
Pringles also deserves massive props for its packaging brilliance; it’s now the go-to chip product for travelers. I’m thinking of rolling out a chip that’s just an 8″x11″ sheet and could be packaged like a ream of paper. That’s gonna rule – if you are starving but have to go somewhere, just shove five sheets of chips in the back of your pants like you’re a cub reporter or something.
Pringles has also had a large number of lawsuits, most of which appear to be about whether it’s really a “potato chip” given a potato content of less than 50%. Not sure what the other 50% is, but it’s fucking delicious.
Standalone: 9.5. Funomenal!
Paired with food: 7.5. See the turkey sandwich recipe above – if you have no sriracha (this should never really happen) go ahead and substitute some Funyuns instead of Pringles and sriracha. Again, save the thank yous for the comments section. I call it “40 Seconds of Funyven”.
Dipping Implement: 0. Why dilute the magic?
Downside: Purchasing Funyuns will lead your local grocer to believe that you are a narcotics abuser. It’s a sacrifice you have to make. Also, as I’ve mentioned many times before, eating a lot of Funyuns is very similar to having a small road grader work over your soft palate. Like binge drinking, Funyuns are fantastic in the moment, but you will pay for eating them over the next day or several days.
Noteworthy Variants: None – the Wasabi and Flamin Hot versions blow. Blech.
History: I used to eat a lot of Funyuns. Now I sadly do not eat as many Funyuns, due to cultural norms. Those were the days.
4. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos
Standalone: 9.5. You know what I do when I’m traveling with my family (none of whom drink)? At the end of the night, I bust out a (hidden) large bottle of Yellow Tail (hopefully the purple flavor) and a large bag of Flamin’ Hots. Then I crank up the craziness a notch by reading the internet. Coping mechanism 101.
Paired with food: 2. I have only seen this once, in which a friend was so hammered he unknowingly ate a plate of halal and then about 1,200 Cheetos. It was not on purpose and I suspect the day after was not a brutal day for his colorectal system.
Dipping Implement: 0. Not happening – look at these fuckers! They’re violent orange! What could you dip them in, primordial fluids? Lava?
Downside: Do not commit a crime within 2-3 weeks of eating some of these, you’re gonna be leaving indelible prints for at least a fortnight (or however long Wimbledon lasts).
Noteworthy Variants: The Baked Cheetos are also redonkulously good. Was a relatively tough choice, given that the FHCs are (spoiler alert!) causing kids to be fatasses and all, but I still have to give them the nod. The Baked ‘tos are by far the best of the baked chips though – Baked Lays are tolerable but Baked Tostitos are dogshit.
History: And speaking of crimes, apparently some school districts are trying to ban FHCs as they are so popular with little kids that they attribute the childhood obesity epidemic almost solely to the dastardly creation of these delicious chips. I’m not sure what the r2 is, but that correlation seems a little flimsy. But it was on NPR, so must be real. (Also, if you are adding up the scores and asking why FHCs are ranked so high, don’t think so hard. There’s lots of arbitrary stuff in free blogs. Like, I’m not a big Tony Romo fan. See? Arbitrary.)
3. Cool Ranch Doritos
Standalone: 7.5. They taste pretty good.
Paired with food: 7.5. They taste pretty good in conjunction with other food types.
Dipping Implement: 3.5. They might also taste pretty good when dipped into some shit, even though they are already heavily flavored and shouldn’t really be dipped into shit.
Downside: Dorito breath – it’s like morning breath paired with coffee breath topped with your-aunt-had-a-sandwich-with-onions breath. Keep your Sonicare handy and you’ll make it through.
Noteworthy Variants: This was excruciatingly close for me, but I had to give the nod to the old timer. Are Fiery Habanero Doritos even still available? I ate so many of these when they first appeared that my body could literally not tolerate any further ingestion of them. The hottest mainstream chip ever – rose to meteoric heights but faded a little too fast, kind of like Sugar Ray.
History: The first ever tortilla chip, Doritos are the fucking 800 lb gorilla. Interestingly, there are no plain Doritos these days, the flavored offerings are where it’s at. They’ve tried about 800 different flavors, but honestly they all taste pretty similar to me, with the exception of the Fiery Habs and Cool Ranch. How about Sriracha flavored?
2. Lay’s Classic Potato Chips
Standalone: 6.0. Will not take you to the soaring heights of most others on this list, but Lay’s can at least put a reasonably stable leg in each of our three categories.
Paired with food: 8.5. Yep, pretty frickin great with sandwiches. Which is why market share at sandwich places is probably like 70%. (Note: After writing this off-the-cuff stat, I did some due diligence and it turns out that 81% of Lay’s sold are Classics. Not exactly the same as what I suggested, but pretty fucking accurate for a drunk/free blog/guess. I feel like a journalist.)
Dipping Implement: 7.5. Not the first chip that comes to mind (Ruffles probably first for potato chip dipping) but a mainstay at picnics, parties and other get-togethers involving bizaare non-salsa dips.
Downside: Tend to be a bit on the messy side somehow.
Noteworthy Variants: The Kettle Jalapeno chips are delish, but not as versatile as the Classic.
History: The granddad of the industry. Respect.
1. Tostitos Scoops
Standalone: 6.0. Why eat them standalone? It would be like eating Nesquick without any milk. The product even spells it out for you: scoop something.
Paired with food: 9.0. I eat a lot of burritos. A lot. Scoops work very well in this environment. Very well.
Dipping Implement: 9.5. The only reason they don’t get a 10.0 here is that there is generally an abundance of broken chips that are marginal for scooping purposes. (That makes them exceptional candidates as “tortilla strips” in a burrito, however).
Downside: As with Funyuns, they will hammer the roof of your mouth pretty bad.
Noteworthy Variants: They just came out with Hint of Jalapeno of something – avoid that shit. Scoops don’t need to be flavored, they are mainly to enhance the other foods/dips that you are dealing with. Plain, baby, plain.
History: Remember WOW Tostitos and Doritos and Lays? Those Olestra chips that had like zero fat and low calories? They were going to be the perfect solution for pear-shaped America (member: 1984). But then one medical study showed that 2% of people suffered from “anal leakage” while eating the WOW chips. That basically fucked the marketing right there. Stupid Americans – more than 2% of people have “anal leakage” at any given moment! These things got the unfortunate “causes violent diarrhea” rep. Hard to come back from that. Talk about wasted potential. (They are apparently back under the “Lays Light” label. Taste pretty good, be right back, have to run to the bathroom.)
That’s that. Everybody in agreement here?
Lazy? That’s 2559 words, son, but who’s counting?