Nestling a slab of crispy chicken into a bed of Cheetos and drenching it in pseudo-cheese sauce that The Washington Post described as "the shade of orange that cartoons use for toxic waste," it was this year's Double Down, the unholy abomination unleashed in 2010 that crammed bacon and cheese between two pieces of fried chicken instead of bread. The Colonel was responsible for that one, too.
Something so ridiculous couldn't last, of course—the Cheeto Sandwich was only made available for a limited time, and disappeared at the end of July.
If you never got a chance to try it, though, don't despair: Increasingly, restaurants around Portland are incorporating Cheetos—typically of the Flamin' Hot variety—into their menus, often with a much lighter touch than you'll find at a drive-thru window.
Here are five Cheetos-infused items we found around town, ranked from disappointing to straight flames.
Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Torta @ Lulu
726 SE Grand Ave., 503-780-0362, lulubarpdx.com.
Whether it's by design or the simple fact of its location, Lulu, which opened in the Southeast Grand bar district earlier this year, basically functions as a waiting room for its more established neighbors. It's where you go when Dig A Pony is too crowded, or if no tables are open at Kachinka. In other words, it's not the sort of place you plan to spend the evening—it's just where you end up. But while the minimalist décor, fancy cocktails and nu-disco lite soundtrack suggests a classy first-date destination, the food menu is oddly Taco Bell-adjacent, with an upgraded take on a Crunchwrap Supreme and, yes, a torta loaded with Flamin' Hot Cheetos.
How are the Cheetos applied? Rather than crumbling the Cheetos into makeshift chile powder like the other spots on this list, Lulu nestles whole puffs among the carnitas, chipotle mayo and housemade guacamole, so you'll definitely know they're there, even if you don't totally taste them.
Flamin' Hot or not? Not. Though it makes a lot of sense in theory, the juices from the carnitas soak into the puffs, turning them soggy, and masking the flavor. As a torta, it's not bad—though in form it looks more like a panini—but if the Cheetos are your main reason for ordering, it's disappointing. MATTHEW SINGER.
The BBC @ Mac’d
5145 SE McLoughlin Blvd., (971) 263-8490, getmacd.com/portland.
At this walk-up mac-and-cheese window, you have the option to build your own bowl, with choices of cheese sauce, pasta and an assortment of mix-ins and toppings. Mac'd does, however, offer a few classic recipes, the bestseller being the BBC. The dish contains chicken tossed in a tangy Buffalo sauce, bits of bacon and, on the side, a 2-ounce cup of Flamin' Hot Cheetos dust to sprinkle over the top of your mac.
How are the Cheetos applied? Pro tip: You're going to want to ask for more than what comes in the cup. The mere 2 ounces of Cheetos dust gets blown away by the Buffalo sauce—you'd probably get more Cheetos flavor by licking the fingers of your apartment building's IT guy.
Flamin' Hot or not? Not. You're probably better off assembling your own combination of mac and cheese here than choosing this premade recipe. It's an indulgence for sure, but one that lacks the flavor to make the ensuing guilt worth it. The chicken was also slightly too chewy, and the cheese could stand to be less drippy. JORDAN MONTERO.
Cheeto B-Ritto @ Wasabi Sushi
3448 NE Sandy Blvd., 980 SE Madison St., 13551 SE 145th Ave.;
Fast-casual sushi franchise Wasabi helped introduce the concept of the sushi burrito to wary Portlanders, and while it sounds like an insult, it's really just a mutant sushi roll—one that doesn't hold together particularly well but won't kill your stomach like a normal burrito. Adding Cheeto dust to the equation might seem a bridge too far, but we've been combining raw fish and cream cheese for decades and no one even thinks twice about it now. (The sushi doughnuts on the menu are another argument entirely.)
How are the Cheetos applied? Crusted to the outer wrapping.
Flamin' Hot or not? Mild. Each bite produces a light trail of heat at the end, but it ultimately doesn't get in the way of the shrimp, salmon, avocado and cucumber contained inside, for better or worse. MS.
Hot Cheetos Ice Cream @ 22 Below
1728 SW Jefferson St., 503-509-6434, my22below.com.
The screen at this Goose Hollow stir-fried ice cream joint plays a slideshow of the shop's various spiraling sweets like its Mud Slide and PB Twist. Then it asks: "Are you daring enough to try this ice cream?" Patrons are then treated to the freezing process of 22 Below's Hot Cheetos creation, made by chopping up a handful of puffs into vanilla batter. The mix is frozen, rolled, then garnished with a few more uncrunched Cheetos.
How are the Cheetos applied? When combined with the vanilla batter, the Hot Cheeto flavor is slightly shrouded and sweetened, but not to an aggressive degree. The spicy kick does build, slightly, after every bite.
Flamin' Hot or not? Hot. Oddly, the mix of vanilla batter and Cheetos creates a Fruity Pebbles kind of dynamic—except, instead of being sugary sweet, it's borderline savory. The crunchy garnish adds more dimension to the snack, making the most satisfying spoonfuls those that perfectly balance ice cream and chip. JM.
XXtra Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Elote @ Zero Degrees
8220 SE Harrison St., 503-772-1500, zerodegreescompany.com.
The California-based chain, which specializes in colorful and unique dessert drinks, moved into Portland with little fanfare two years ago, opening in a strip mall off Southeast 82nd Avenue. In addition to serving beverages like strawberry horchata boba tea and psychedelic mango milkshakes, the shop also offers stadium-style food, including popcorn chicken, chicken wings and a version of elotes, the corn-based Mexican street snack commonly served on the cob but here as a sort of casserole, which you have the option of blanketing in Cheeto dust.
How are the Cheetos applied? Liberally—order the combo meal with the Cheetos cheese fries and it's like opening a box of fire ants.
Flamin' Hot or not? Hot. It's more textural than anything, but the dust adds a satisfyingly salty crunch to the pile of sweet corn and cotija that would be missed in its "classic" form. MS.