I Ate the Jack in the Box Hella-Peño Burger and I'm Not OK

Categories: Food News

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Jack in the Box
The title Hella-Peño comes from the Latin term for "Dread-inducing burger."
Let me explain to you what the Hella-Peño burger is. The Hella-Peño burger from Jack in the Box is the new, severe-heartburn-timeframe-only available (9 p.m. to 5 a.m.) burger that is topped with jalapeños, other jalapeños with cheese in them and a liquid cheese "taco sauce." In this press photo, the burger is barely visible and hiding in shame beneath a continent of jalapeños. So, Jack in the Box is really slapping us hard on the shoulder with their "Munchie Meal" message: Listen guys, we've got this stoner food thing covered.

Their summer menu items so aggressively embrace the "late night munchies"/hangover image that Jack in the Box cultivates (each Munchie Meal comes with fries, onion rings and two tacos) that it's starting to feel like Jack in the Box is Steve Martin's character in Parenthood, trying desperately to maintain the image of youth. The website says in neon font: "The party starts at 9 p.m."

That said, it was hard not to laugh out loud saying "I'll have the Hella-Peño" at the drive through window.

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Nick Rallo
"PLEASE, NOOOoo ARGAGGGAG."
So, three bites into this thing I knew it would ruin my night and following morning. You can just see it when you slice the burger in half: Cheese and taco sauce lavaed out around the stuffed jalapeño pods. In the cross-section of the burger, the stuffed jalapeños looked like pained eyes and the burger was a mouth whispering, "Please, nooo."

It didn't ruin my night in the way you'd expect. The Hella-Peño burger elicited something else. Something deeper and scarier. You know that feeling when you're binge-watching a great TV show, you realize it's 12:30 a.m., you say "just one more episode" and suddenly it's 4 a.m. and you know you've screwed your entire next day? This burger tasted like that. It was like an extra property of taste kicked in beyond umami: warning.

The spice was good, less than that Fiery Doritos Taco that kicked my ass recently, and there are fewer jalapeños than they make it look. The jalapeños actually give it some acid with that weirdly thick cheese sauce. The stuffed jalapeño breading was still crunchy, which also helped. Currently, I still feel like there is a rapidly growing rock-polishing business in my stomach.

The whole idea of the Munchie Meal just seems like it's overcomplicating a good drunk burger thesis. Do we really need grilled cheese as buns or mozzarella sticks on top of chicken? It feels like Jack in the Box should rename the Hella-Peño the Whatever, I Don't Know Anymore Burger. A better version is the Whataburger Jalapeño Cheddar Biscuit. It seems to know what it's about. It's simple and confident drunk food.

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Nick Rallo
The full burger. Looks precisely like the press photo!


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18 comments
TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

I would not eat this in an airport.

I did enjoy the review, though.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Still more appetizing than their tacos.

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

ever ask your bosses why you don't get the same credit line as Reitz?

jamesjodi
jamesjodi

you buried the lead. you enjoyed this burger.  yet, your inner d-bag hipster was telling you you shouldn't.  eff the inner d-bag hipster.  in fact, there may not even be a line between inner d-bag hipster and d-bag hipster.  If you listen to the inner one, you are one.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

YUK!  Just looks nasty    You're either brave, crazy, or stupid; not sure which

iardito
iardito

just looking at the pics making my stomach turn....

gabbahey
gabbahey

This sandwich sounds like drive-thru diarrhea waiting to happen.

carlwilliams
carlwilliams

in the wake of this disaster, now move on to ied 2, burguesa.

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

Wow, a food review of Jack-in-the-crack.  Are you sure you were okay before you started?

Greg820
Greg820

Why Man?!?!?  Why did you do it?!?!?!

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@choderus @JustSaying @primi_timpano

I'm imagining a decade-long vision-quest akin to the one taken by Homer Simpson in the episode where he gobbles down the "Guatmalan Insanity Pepper" during the annual Springfield Chili cookoff.

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