Din Tai Fung At South Coast Plaza Opens TODAY!

Anne Marie Panoringan
On your mark

They were originally scheduled to open this past spring, right? But you know how it goes. Especially from a highly anticipated chain moving into a coveted corner location. When you knock McDonald's down, it better be for a gold mine.

With Uniqlo scheduled to open after Labor Day (there's currently a pop-up store by the carousel) and Din Tai Fung welcoming the Asian invasion, the Sanrio wing of South Coast Plaza will never be the same again. Kudos to long-term planning.

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We Eat It So You Don't Have To: 7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded

Photo by Ryan Cady
Good lord.

Before I got a chance to try the Doritos Loaded, my working lede for this article was "Three fat white guys walk into a 7-Eleven. They never walk out."
I wish that lede were true.
I wish it were applicable.
I wish I were dead.

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I Liked Taco Bell's U.S. Taco Co. ... Until I Went There

Categories: Chain Reactions

Photo by Ryan Cady
If they're good

So, when I found out that U.S. Taco Co. -- Taco Bell's attempt at cornering the more well-to-do market -- opened in downtown Huntington Beach this week, I messaged my editor, and asked if I could review it, and then I got ready.

I got ready to head down to Huntington Beach and enjoy myself. Sure, the clientele were going to be douchey. I would probably have to pay for parking. The food would be overpriced, the employees judgmental, and the d├ęcor would undoubtedly scream "2 hip 4 u" harder than a Bushwick DJ loft. But in spite of all that, I was ready to defend the place because I firmly believe that what matters is that food tastes good -- food isn't sacred, it doesn't have to be healthy, and it doesn't owe you anything except its flavor, and I already had a whole bunch of diatribes ready about who cares that tacos don't traditionally include gravy or fried chicken. I was ready to defend U.S. Taco Co.

But then I went to U.S. Taco Co.

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Fast Food War's Latest Spicy Development Is a Step In the Right Direction.. Now Go Hotter

Categories: Chain Reactions

Pictured: Progress

It's kind of fun watching the United States fast food wars. The fast food customer base isn't getting any larger, so now for any of the big chains to grow, they literally have to steal customers from each other.

We saw it a bit ago, with the reintroduction of the Big Carl, the Bonus jack, and every other fast food burger that looked or tasted like a Big Mac, and now fast food has gone on to its next weapons upgrade: Heat.

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We Eat It So You Don't Have To: Burger King's Fabled Chicken Fries

Photo by Ryan Cady
Good god.

I write this from a place of ecstasy. For today, upon this green and golden earth, a benevolent God shone His mighty visage upon the human race, and smiled, raining down upon the good people of His Creation all the blessings befit a Paradise upon the Earth.

Burger King's Chicken Fries are back.

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Burger King's Chicken Fries Might Be Making a Comeback

..they're back?

I was never a big fan of chicken fries when they were at Burger King, but I know they were a pretty cult-y food, so this might be some good news for a few of you: Chicken fries might be coming back.. for a limited time.

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On the Line: Justin Lopez of Stonefire Grill, Part Two

Photo by Jennifer Fedrizzi
Justin's smiling because he's not sitting in traffic . . .yet.

A family guy in the non-traditional sense, Justin Lopez joined the restaurant business to make a good thing even better. His commitment to Stonefire translates to food-centric extracurricular time and travels that inspire new dishes. Here are a few more noteworthy facts about our subject.

We started our interview with Justin yesterday in part one.
And now, let's continue with part two . . .

What's your favorite childhood memory?
As a big family, we used to spend weeks of every summer and winter in June Lake, California. It's still one of my favorite places on the planet.

How do you incorporate your degrees in political science and communications to your work?
I'd like to think they come in handy every day. More than anything, both of them very simply taught me the importance of a consistent, relevant message. It's a concept that plays in my head over and over again when I'm at work.

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On the Line: Justin Lopez of Stonefire Grill, Part One

Photo by Jennifer Fedrizzi
Change is good

Stonefire Grill didn't use to be synonymous with vegan or vegetarian diets. Back in the day, it was definitely more of a meat-and-potatoes destination. Justin Lopez knew that expanding the menu to include these options would help the already successful brand continue to grow. I admit to being skeptic, but open-minded to learning more.

Updating the Stonefire menu to include healthy vegetarian options was risky. How did you convince your mother and aunt that it would pay off?
While I think industry observers would think it risky, I really didn't believe our guests would have a problem with it. more than anything, we saw it as another great opportunity to bring a sense of our kitchens to the public. It's how we all cook at home, but they (my mom and aunt) eat healthier than I do. There were lots of fun nights testing our ideas on one another and also seeing how our guests reacted to them. We recognize the need to be as inclusive as possible, and two of their sons (my brother and cousin) have gluten allergies, so these new recipes worked well on that front, too. As a company, we're committed to keeping things exciting and constantly evolving.

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We Eat It So You Don't Have To: Subway's Flatizza

flickr user TheImpulsiveBuy

Do you remember those little Lunchables pizzas? You know the ones--served on a hard little open-faced cracker, tomato sauce with all the zest of a jar of Gerber baby food, topped with chips of alkali-cured pepperoni and a powdery white "cheese product"? Have you ever thought about microwaving one of those?

If so, better switch careers--you've got a future at Subway.

The Flatizza (I'm still not certain if it's pronounced fluh-tease-uh or flat-eat-zuh), a miracle of modern food engineering, comes from the same people that brought you such glorious innovations as gray, slimy meat (served one thin strip per two inches of sandwich, of course), caulk-gun mayonnaise, and, of course, tuna salad that can be expelled with an ice cream scoop.

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Panda Express Adds Bacon To Its Orange Chicken; Fans Outraged!

Categories: Chain Reactions

Panda Express
Bacon, apparently, doesn't go with everything, says Panda Express' Facebook fans.
As a person of Chinese descent and a food critic, you'd think I'd have bad things to say about Panda Express. But to the contrary, I love their stuff, especially the sickly-sweet, addictive, but barely Chinese dish called Orange Chicken (Seriously, if you've not read Jennifer 8. Lee's Fortune Cookie Chronicles, you must!).

But as a person of Chinese descent, I had to laugh when people who aren't of Chinese descent took to Panda Express' Facebook page to express outrage about Panda Express' new Orange Chicken with Bacon--a recent introduction to their menu along with some sort of kale-based dish.

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