The Hood River company's corn chips are feathery like the clouds of heaven, but yellow, crispy and, thanks to a thin preservative layer of oil, possibly storable for up to a month, though it's unlikely any bag has ever lasted so long. Juanita's chips aren't just better than Tostino's or Mission or whatever other shitty corn chips people in other places are cursed with, they're better than most "fresh" restaurant chips in town.
But did you know that Juanita's makes flavored chips? Well, they do now. And they're a game-changer.
This afternoon, Brian Panganiban, Willamette Week's IT guy, who is also our universally acknowledged best palate and best cook, brought a bag of something called Juanita's Chilipeno chips around the office. "I think they're new," he said, "and they're crack."
Chilipenos have everything you love about regular Juanita's, plus a salty-sweet-spicy powder I'd most closely company to Dorito's Thai Sweet Chili, a flavor which I know existed in Northern Ireland in 2005, which is really not the same as contemporary Spicy Sweet Chili.
Chilipenos are, according to their bag, the first seasoned chip Juanita's has made. They're not new, exactly, says Carmen VandenBos, a Juanita's co-owner who mans the phones at the 35-year-old company. Actually, Juanita's has made the Chilipenos for "two or three years, off and on." Other orders get priority, VandenBos says, so Juanita's only makes special flavors when they have extra capacity. That's not often, she says, though the company is planning to build a second production line that should allow them to expand. The company is currently at full capacity. "Once we've made an order, it's sold," she says.
As for getting your own paws on a bag of Chilipenos?