Photo: Nicole Antonuccio

In Fran And Cameron Eat On The Company Dime, A.V. Club staffers Fran Hoepfner and Cameron Scheetz eat on the company dime. This week, our resident and compulsive snacker critics got their hands on the three finalists from Lay’s 2017 “Do Us A Flavor” contest. This year’s flavors are everything bagel with cream cheese, crispy taco, and fried green tomato.

Fran Hoepfner: FYI, this is my lunch, so I’m glad we’re starting with everything bagel, because it’s essentially a meal.

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Cameron Scheetz: I, too, am hungry as heck! And there’s nothing that makes me salivate more than a publicity stunt. I don’t remember a time when Lay’s wasn’t saturating the market with its “Do Us A Flavor” competition, but a quick Google search reminds me that it’s only been going on since 2013. It’s always a—literal—grab bag of flavors, with past winners running the gamut from inspired (kettle-cooked wasabi ginger) to woefully executed (Southern biscuits and gravy).

I recognize we’re “feeding the beast” just by writing about the 2017 offerings, but if there’s one thing the past year has taught me, it’s that democracy is exhausting. So, if Lay’s is going to ask the American public to elect a chip we may have to live with for the foreseeable future, then I feel obligated to help people make the right decision.

Anyway, I’m intrigued by these everything bagel chips! They’re cooked kettle style [lower oil temperature + longer cooking time = crispier chips —Ed.], which always inspires confidence. As we crunch into our first flavor, what’re your initial impressions?

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Everything bagel with cream cheese chips (Photo: Nicole Antonuccio)

FH: Well, the first thing I noticed was that there are little poppy seeds somehow adhered to each chip to give it a kind of authenticity, as if the chip is trying to be a half-baked (pun intended) version of a giant, chunky Williamsburg bagel. When it comes to flavor, I was immediately drawn to the garlic in it, one of the best parts of a big ol’ everything bagel. How about you?

CS: Definitely gettin’ that garlic! But not really tasting anything else too distinctive?

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FH: Lay’s specifies that it’s an everything bagel with cream cheese, but I’m not really getting that here. The thing I love most about bagels is how filling they are. That yeasty breadiness. And maybe it’s insane to want a chip to taste like bread, but hey, if they can make Southern biscuits and gravy chips, it doesn’t feel unreasonable to me to ask for!

So the next chip we have is supposed to be crispy taco, which sort of feels like it could taste like a number of different things. What’s the backstory here, Cameron?

Crispy taco chips (Photo: Nicole Antonuccio)

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CS: The press release says the flavor was submitted by someone who claims they were inspired by their own “recipe” for tacos. I don’t know what taco recipe they’re laying claim to, but these chips are serving me intense Taco Bell vibes! You can actually taste most of the ingredients, even—incredibly—the shredded iceberg lettuce.

FH: How do you make chips taste like lettuce? It’s got that bright, refreshing, almost watery taste (but not texture!) that shredded iceberg lettuce brings to a taco. It’s insane for a chip that mostly looks like it’s covered in plain taco seasoning to be so dense in flavor. And I’m glad, also, that it doesn’t taste meaty. There’s a lightness you get to it that you don’t normally get if you (like me) can house several crispy tacos from a drive-thru establishment of your choosing.

CS: It’s an impressively realized flavor, so I applaud Lay’s on that, but my feelings aren’t fiery enough to vote for it. A good chip is addicting; Lay’s crispy taco is just a temporary distraction—I’d rather line up at the drive-thru establishment you mentioned and order the real thing. But I’m very curious about fried green tomato’s ability to pull this off. What do you think, Fran?

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Fried green tomato chips (Photo: Nicole Antonuccio)

FH: Well, I have to admit I’m not a big fan of fried green tomatoes the food itself, so I’ll say that this is a very accurate chip! It’s very tangy, and it’s the sort of thing I’d love if maybe I had a good ranch dip, but on its own, hm, wow, maybe not the chip for me. How about you?

CS: This one really works for me. You get a bit of tanginess, yes, and you can sense the batter flavor, too—a solid facsimile to this Southern favorite. And, you’re right, this chip is begging for some ranch or a veggie dip. It’s rippled style, which is the ideal chip vessel for dunking and dipping. I’d definitely grab another bag of these.

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Now that we’ve done the grand tour, are there any of these flavors you’d pick up at the grocery store?

FH: For me, I think the clear winner, and the one I’d most likely find myself eating half the bag without realizing, is everything bagel. I’m simple! I want a lot of garlic and I want kettle-cooked chips.

CS: I liked the everything bagel chips just fine, but don’t you think they’re a little boring in the end? They’re glorified sour cream and onion chips, with less chive flavor, in my opinion. If Lay’s is going to “Do Us A Flavor,” then I want something truly unique, and that’s why fried green tomato gets my vote.

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Professional food critics Cameron Scheetz and Fran Hoepfner (Photo: Nicole Antonuccio)

FH: Yeah, but I love the sound of something that’s a “glorified sour cream and onion chip.” I don’t know, if you’re trying to get me on board with fried green tomato, then you’d better put up the ranch.

CS: All I’m saying is, give fried green tomato a chance! I’m sure the everything bagel chips will be popular because everyone loves a bagel. I’m taking a stand for the underdog here, though by no means should you feel obligated to vote in alignment with either of us.

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FH: Yeah, we’re just two people.

CS: Two people who recommend a side of ranch.

We let a few Onion, Inc. employees sample the new Lay’s chips. You can see the results below.

Read more!

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