Mac 'n' Cheetos

Burger King's Mac & Cheetos combine two things your mom used to serve for lunch when she was too busy to make anything else — macaroni and cheese and Cheetos.

There’s a special kind of disappointment that comes when the counter clerk at Burger King tells you they’re out of Mac ‘n’ Cheetos. You’re disappointed because you can’t get what you want, and you’re disappointed because you asked in the first place.

Last week, I stopped by Burger King just a couple of days after it was announced that the new appetizers were on sale. And the restaurant was sold out. Apparently the King had not anticipated how excited people were to try a mash-up of Cheetos and Mac ‘n’ Cheese.

But the following week, they were back in stock. So I took home some Mac ‘n’ Cheetos ($2.50) to try them.

Deep-fried mac ‘n’ cheese has been at a staple at state fairs and chain restaurants for a while now. Leave it to Burger King, home of the Angry Whopper and other adventurous fare, to bring the concoction to fast food restaurants.

For some reason, I was expecting big, fat, pillowy deep-fried wedges filled with traditional mac ‘n’ cheese, just like Mom used to make (when Mom didn’t have time to make anything healthy.) Instead, going with the Cheetos motif, the Mac ‘n’ Cheetos are five stubby cylinders that look like mozzarella sticks, dusted heavily with orange Cheeto dust. Together, the five cylinders look like four fat little orange fingers and an orange thumb, which, when taken with the Angry Whopper, makes one wonder if Burger King is bankrolling Donald Trump’s campaign under the table.

The mac ‘n’ cheese filling does indeed have the satisfying cheesy blandness of a container of quick-zapped microwave Easy Mac, salty and starchy. If this was just BK Fried Mac ‘n’ Cheese, I’d say they had hit the mark.

But this is Mac ‘n’ Cheetos, so one hopes that the foodstuff would somehow also embody the qualities of Cheetos, those nubby orange death sticks. I appreciate Cheetos, because not only are they so irresistible that you can binge into oblivion, but there is an extra sense of humiliation and shame when you finally stop, your fingertips and corners of your mouth covered in orange dust. It’s like the blue dye packs banks put in bags of cash given to bank robbers, only the orange dust identifies gluttony, not a felony.

But the Mac ‘n’ Cheetos don’t taste anything like Cheetos — that orange dust seems more like decoration than an added flavor bomb. It’s very disappointing. You don’t even get orange dust on your fingers. I mean, what’s the point of eating something Mac ‘n’ Cheetos if it doesn’t leave behind some evidence of shame?

Like the Taco Bell Doritos Locos Tacos, the problem with Mac ‘n’ Cheetos is that Burger King put forth a bold concept that the restaurant is too timid to commit to. Bring it on, fast food franchises — we can take it. Even if we shouldn’t.

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Rob Thomas is the features editor and social media editor for the Capital Times, as well as its film critic. He joined the Cap Times in 1999 and has written about movies, music, food and books.