Food & Drink

Fast Food Review: The Hot Mess


Remember this thing?

Of course you do. The moment I first ran the ad, you guys knew the same thing I did. Like George McFly, my density would draw me to it. That burger which looks like barf, and features many of my all time favorite things (jalapenos, onion rings, liquid cheese) must be had, and must be had quickly.

I’ll be honest, I had to eat it twice just to figure out my opinion of it. The things I do in the name of research…

But right out the gate, you need to know that the Hot Mess burger is not the only Hot Mess menu item. Ohhhhh no. There are also Hot Mess potato wedges, which I picked up on the side, and a Hot Mess shake that tastes like cinnamon Red Hots candy. I regret to say that I was not brave enough for that one, in those moments. Normally, the jalapeno poppers are a must-have side at JiTB, but there was no way I could justify seven deep-fried, cheese-stuffed peppers as well as all of this. So I only ordered three.

When you order Hot Mess anything, every employee bangs tambourines and chants: “Hot hot! Mess mess!” At first I felt bad for them having to do that. Now I suspect it probably livens up their dull day.

Though I was willing to share all of these with my dining companion, a blogger at another site whom I won’t shame by naming, he was leery, wondering what the cheese product was that makes up the basis of the Hot Mess. I had seen them microwaving it with the jalapenos already in it – as opposed to the ballpark nacho tactic of throwing cold vinegary slices over pumped cheese – and I approve, as cooking them adds to the flavor; the flavor I want, anyway.

It took two trips to realize that the cheese product is actually a mixture of liquid cheese product and shredded cheese that has been melted. It gets awkward when they cool down and start to separate, but they stay mixed if you eat it hot. The wedges were a mixed bag – on my first trip, they were your standard ashy tater freezeburns. The second time they were super crispy, which made up for their lack of core taste. Had they put this sauce on their curly fries instead, I’d be a happy and seriously unhealthy man. So I guess I dodged some kind of bullet.

On to the burger. It is, mercifully, not a gigantic thing – the fact that it’s scaled to one of the smaller patties is what may spare me the bypass later. And the patty didn’t seem to have any of that “seasoned while it’s cooked” extra-motherfucking-SALT added, so maybe they’ve laid off on one of the worst fast food gimmicks of all time. One thing that is weird is that they seem to put all the jalapenos on one side, which ends up being the back, because if you’re smart you’ll start with the side that the cheese is oozing out of. So it’s like the pepper slices got segregated. This happened both times.

I hesitate to describe onion rings as smoky, but I don’t know how else to quantify what they add – the undertow of slightly overcooked crumbs is a thing of value, but one I can’t quite place a price on. The sourdough bun holding this gooey thing intact is a very smart touch, though it isn’t the first time Jack has pulled this move on a sandwich heavy in liquid cheese.

When finished, I felt full but not overstuffed; to reiterate, it’s a fairly small burger compared to some, and it needs to stay that way. It could become addictive, and I’m actually happy that it requires some effort on my part to find a JiTB, because I will be deterred by even the slightest foray into traffic, as befits any good Angeleno.

I am often asked what my guilty pleasures are, and I hesitate to name any, because if I happen, for example, to find joy watching a William Shatner performance, I refuse to call it “bad” or feel bad that I dug it. But the Hot Mess – I didn’t feel bad afterwards, exactly, but I know a lifetime of this will make me feel bad in the years to come.

So, guilty pleasures? I just ate two.

Oh, and HOLYSHITthey’resellingT-shirts!


“Meat Riot.” Knock yourself out with that one, folks.

(I guess those of you who accuse these of being commercials finally sort of have a case. Not a great one, but an okay one.)