Spicy food must be having a moment right now, because just weeks after Carl's Jr. and Hardee's unleashed the Thickburger El Diablo on the world, Wendy's has followed suit: The Wendy's Jalapeno Fresco Spicy Chicken Sandwich and Ghost Pepper Fries dare to bring ghost peppers into the world of fast food. And you guys? They don't look like they're messing around.
Said Wendy's Vice President of Marketing Liz Geraghty in a press release, “We are raising the bar on spicy again. Spicy has been at the cornerstone of Wendy's menu, ever since we introduced the Spicy Chicken Sandwich in 1996. Now, we are really heating things up for consumers who love spicy food with a sandwich that has five flavorful layers of spice including fresh jalapenos and ghost pepper sauce.”
Accordingly, the Jalapeno Fresco Spicy Chicken Sandwich features Wendy's classic spicy chicken breast, diced jalapenos, cheese sauce, Colby Pepper Jack cheese, red onion, and a mysterious ghost pepper sauce on a red jalapeno bun; meanwhile, the Ghost Pepper Fries come topped with cheese sauce, jalapenos, cheddar cheese, and that same mysterious ghost pepper sauce. What exactly is in that sauce? I have no idea. But if it actually has real ghost peppers in it… well, let's just say that its spicy food cred has been duly earned. For the curious, those are the fries up top; here's what the sandwich looks like:
Of course, even though I said that spicy food must be having a moment right now, let's face it: It never really goes out of style. Whether you eat spicy things because you like the way they taste or whether you eat them as a way to demonstrate your alpha-ness, they're always popular. I find it interesting, though, that fast food chains are finally trying to capitalize on that popularity. Sure, there have been attempts to launch allegedly “spicy” things in the past — but most of them haven't turned out to be all that spicy. We saw previously saw this in action in the comments about Taco Bell's Sriracha menu, which, although exciting in theory, ended up sounding a tiny bit disappointing. Indeed, it now appears that fast food menus hoping to earn their spiciness wings have already moved on from Sriracha; the fiery sauce's popularity doesn't appear to have been enough to sell an entire menu. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that Sriracha-flavored things generally lack the hearty kick of actual Sriracha (I remember trying some Sriracha potato chips once and thinking they just kind of tasted like barbecue-flavored ones instead) — so the question then became, where do we go from here?
The answer: Directly to the peppers themselves. Carl's Jr. and Hardee's seem to have played it relatively safe with their choice of jalapenos; ghost peppers, though? That's a risk, and for more reasons than one: First, it might be too spicy to sell well — but second, and more importantly, in the wrong situation, they can actually be kind of dangerous. There's a reason some super spice restaurant offerings require patrons to sign a waiver before they eat them.
Not going to lie, though: I really want to try these new Wendy's offerings. I'm pretty sure there's a Wendy's within driving distance of my tiny suburban town; maybe I'll try to get my hands on one sometime soon. The Jalapeno Fresco Spicy Chicken Sandwich and Ghost Pepper Fries are slated to hit menus nationwide next week, although as Brand Eating notes, they're already available in some areas now. I'll be sure to report back if I manage to hunt these suckers down, because, well… how could I not? I mean, they've even got their own teaser trailer:
Now that's dedication.