Welcome to Drunk on Chips. I’m a potato lover whose potato-loving father always kept our snack cabinet equipped with a carefully curated collection of chips. Here, I give you an honest review of a specific bag.
It was 4:15 p.m. on a Saturday, and I hadn’t eaten anything. I started my day with a coffee and had a couple of beers with an old friend, but no solid food. I don’t recommend living this way.
On the way home, I stopped by my favorite bodega in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, God Bless USA Deli, ordered a sandwich (maple turkey, lettuce, tomato, mayo, provolone and bacon on a hero), and began the hunt for its companion. Because I’d gone with my go-to sandwich order, which is admittedly pretty bland, I needed to spice things up. There, looking up at me from the bottom shelf, was the sweet serif of the Herr’s logo— specifically “Red Hot,” a flavor of Herr’s I hadn’t tasted in at least 5 years.
Check out that sweet throwback look. Very 90s, very right now.
I’ll never forget the first time I had a Herr’s Salt and Vinegar potato chip. I was at my Uncle Joe’s house in New Jersey, where we arrived around 2 a.m. after the long drive from Pittsburgh. My dad and uncle stayed up shooting pool, crushing Miller Genuine Draft, and taking down handfuls of chips.
“Have you had these?” my uncle asked, offering me the bag.
The answer was no, but after the first bite I was hooked. Once my dad realized I liked Herr’s Salt and Vinegar, we were always stocked with it. There exists no better chip. That is unless, you’re one of these people who “care” about the skin on the roof of their mouth, the surface of their tongue, and their breath.
There exists no better chip.
I’ve enjoyed my fair share of “hot” potato chips, too. My dad used to bring me Andy Capp’s Hot Fries (not chips) home from the gas station on a regular basis. Basic training for my young palate. When in search of heat, I’ve often landed on Utz’s brand of Red Hot chips, and I’m always on the lookout for the very rare bag of Martin’s Red Hot, but it had been so long since I had the Herr’s option that I barely recognized the bag. A packaging update I’m not so crazy about, TBQH, because the OG bag had this circus-stripe, belongs-on-a-shelf-next-to-a-arcade-game vibe that I loved.
Hell of a lineup. On the far left, the latest addition to Red Hot packaging.
After two bites of the sandwich, I opened the bag and grabbed my first chip. It was tasty and satisfying, had the right amount of crunch and was well-seasoned. These aren’t oversized, so they’re easy to take down in one bite, and they’re not so small that you feel like you’re grasping at crumbs either. But the heat siren wasn’t ringing as loudly as it does during the four-alarm fires over at Utz’s and Martin’s. (I’d say this is a one-alarm fire.)
As I continued, I adapted a back-and-forth method with the sandwich and the chips. I had a few bites, and then I had a few chips (I typically aim for two at a time. This is the optimal amount for most-any chip. Three is just excessive, one is too timid.) As I began to skip bites of the sandwich in lieu of another pinch of Red Hot, I started to notice an increase in Scoville stimulation. You know the feeling: it starts around the edges of your tongue, then you spread it to the roof of your mouth, and suddenly it feels like that hangy thing in the back of your throat is a speed bag engulfed in flames.
With Utz’s and Martin’s, this hits you right away. With these, you have to really push yourself to reveal uncomfortable levels of swelter. That’s the whole reason people eat spicy food anyway, right? Torturing your tastebuds is a very uniquely masochistic experience.
Post-meal, I can tell you I’d definitely buy these chips again. Although I had to work for it, the flavor and fire combination worked adequately. Both of my thumbs, covered in red seasoning, are up. Now let’s get technical.
Some Tasting Notes
Size: Nearly perfect. There were only a few mega chips in the bag (you know, the ones you need to break before ingesting, rather than playing a game of Operation with a chip and the sides of your mouth). I could use a few more of those.
Crunch: Ideal. Not destructive, like some kettle-cooked options. Not instantly disintegrated, like some bargain brands. The texture is dense enough to get just stuck in your teeth without requiring your hands or a toothbrush for removal.
Seasoning: Well-done. The roof of my mouth and the surface of my tongue stayed in-tact, but these are not bland. You can tell these were rigorously seasoned.
Heat: Disappointing. Only toward the end of the bag did I realize the heat really settling in.
Aftertaste: Depending on how fast you’re downing these, the aftertaste can vary from unnoticeable to “need a sip of something.”
Pairing One: A Peanut Butter Sandwich. Stay with me here, but have you ever had peanut butter toast with Sriracha? It’s a hell of a morning upgrade, and with this sandwich-chip pairing you’d get the same spicy, creamy sensation.
Pairing Two: Chicken Quesadilla. Add some Southwest vibes to the kick you’ll already be getting. Go nuts, add some inside the quesadilla for an in-home Taco Bell experience.
Pairing Three: A Hot Dog. Crumble some chips and use them as a dog topping. (Disgusting? Well, this isn’t for the ‘gram, it’s for your soul.)