Welcome to The Snack Bar, TQE's very own concession stand stocked with the latest sweet and savory treats on the market. Our editors gather for unbiased taste tests and share their honest thoughts every time, so we can help you navigate which buzzy snacks are worth the purchase.
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Indulge me in a bit of time travel and take a trip back to childhood. Was your favorite part of soccer practice the DIY snack table? Your most frequent haunt at the movie theater the beloved concession stand? Your first stop at any new friend's house their (hopefully well-stocked) pantry?
Then you've come to the right place. Here at TQE's Snack Bar, we proudly proclaim that you deserve a little treat!! With the number of DTC food and beverage products growing exponentially by the day, there's never been a better time to indulge our constant cravings — but it's also never been harder to sort the gems from the garbage.
On behalf of myself and our other peckish editors, each month I'll be bringing you our honest reactions to every new snack we find. And what better way to kick off in March, with the last gasps of winter chill still hanging on, than by tackling the world of comfort foods? We tried an assortment of products from five different brands, all of which were low-lift enough to fall under the "snack" umbrella while being filling enough to feel like a warm blanket.
…Well, the good ones were anyway. More on that below.
THIS MONTH'S SNACKS
First up is a brand that wastes no time burying the lede. Wholly Veggie!'s products are as plant-based as they sound, but with the '70s-inspired color palette and late-night snack vibe that verges into vegan stoner food territory. Which is far from an insult — our dairy-free friends deserve fried food when their munchies strike too.
A mix of us editors, on all ends of the omnivorous spectrum, tried the Cheddar Style Jalapeño Sticks ($7.99) and the verdict was unanimous: it tasted a hell of a lot like real cheese. By real cheese we meant Velveeta, but in a product like this that's exactly what you want — and unlike most vegan cheeses that have a hard time melting, these babies were positively molten. We were less satisfied, though, with the exterior texture. Even after a 25 minute trip in the air fryer, we had trouble getting them to crisp, and combining that with a lack of distinct jalapeño taste meant we were mostly underwhelmed.
The Buffalo Cauliflower Wings ($7.99), on the other hand, hit the bullseye. The buffalo sauce in particular was the star of the show: no small feat for a plant-based brand considering it's typically made with sticks of butter. While the "wings" themselves were a tad bland without the sauce, I'd venture to say that's true of 99.9% of fried cauliflower I've ever had — and with how good the sauce was, we weren't complaining.
Lastly, the Thai Curry Entree ($5.99) deserves a shoutout, both for the lower price point and for the bold red curry flavor. Packed full of veggies, it's both healthier and more convenient than the other items: just pop it in the microwave and dinner is served. Our relative lack of enthusiasm here came only from the missing novelty factor. It's a very solid vegan curry, which isn't particularly hard to pull off in our opinion.
Rolling into a collection of cult-favorite pizza bites, you'd think we were doubling down on the junk food quotient — think again. Snow Days’ entire mission is to deliver "zero empty calories," packing their snacks with organic, grain-free, grass-fed ingredients. Their healthy spin on a childhood favorite has earned them raves from Bon Appetit and the Strategist, who praised both the flavor and the purity of the ingredients.
Our team… was less enthused. We tried the Sausage, Buffalo Chicken, and Veggie White flavors (all $35.99 for a 2-pack with subscription), with none emerging as a clear favorite. None of the flavors packed any sort of punch, besides a strong tomato flavor that managed to even drown the sausage out. Some of the team preferred the Veggie White over the other two, but the following exchange about the Buffalo flavor tells you everything you need to know:
Editor 1: "...What are those little white bits, are they bleu cheese?"
Editor 2: "...They're chicken."
Not a ringing endorsement.
The head-scratching continued when we moved onto Lazy Food. With nearly perfect reviews on both Thingtesting and Junip, two hubs for honest reviews of emerging product lines, our team was stoked to see what LF was all about. I'll admit I became skeptical when I learned their pasta sauces were dehydrated (since I've been burned many a "just add water" meal before), but the bona fides of their in-house Sicilian chef were enough to color me intrigued.
But the usual sins of the rehydrated meal reared their familiar heads: not only did the flavors taste stale rather than fresh, the spices were unmistakably dried — think garlic powder vs. a fresh clove. We were rooting for their vegan alternatives to classics like the Sicilian Ragu, but neither that flavor nor the Pasta Primavera (from $9/meal, available in box sets) played well with the vegans or the carnivores on our panel.
You might not feel very chic boiling boxed pasta and opening up a can of sauce, but it's cheaper, just as easy, and (sadly) more delicious.
I don't know how they make The Pizza Cupcake ($49.99 for 24 pieces). I don't even know why they call it a cupcake. But I do know, in the words of our editor-in-chief after taking his first bite, that "it's fucking good."
Yes, the Shark Tank sensation is actually worth the hype, even if their product photos are wildly misleading. There's nowhere near enough filling and the cheese deflates rather than draping, but the Pizza Cupcake somehow transcends its own gimmick. It's buttery and flaky, more like a biscuit or croissant, with a tomato flavor that's concentrated like the best tomato paste. To dip it into a ramekin of Rao's is to look Snack Nirvana in the face and find enlightenment.
It's unfair to compare it to Snow Days, since Pizza Cupcake isn't vegan, but this is the frozen pizza snack alternative we were waiting for. It's the yassified Bagel Bite we didn't know we needed. And I'll stop gushing over it now, since it's only making me hungry.
Last but not least, we have a product we were all pretty confident we were going to love — and praise be, we were right. I reviewed A-Sha last year and was a fan of their wildly popular noodles, so I was all ears when they teamed up with the always-reliable David Chang and Momofuku. The collab has released three flavors — Soy & Scallion, Tingly Chili, and Spicy Soy (each $13 for 5 servings) — and our team unanimously found them all delicious and stupidly easy to prepare.
There's an attention to texture you don't find in the average instant ramen, with different noodle thicknesses and even a wavy noodle for the Tingy Chili. Everything is balanced and well-seasoned, and doesn't taste synthetic thanks to A-Sha's lack of preservatives. In short: no notes! As much as Top Ramen and Maruchan will always hold a very nostalgic place in my heart, the sheer difference in quality here can't be denied. At ~$2.60 a serving, it's well worth the reasonable upgrade.
NOW FOR THE MVP OF THE MONTH…?
All hail The Pizza Cupcake. While we'd love to hit even higher highs in the coming months, for our March taste test this one was a clean sweep. The only real knock against the Cupcake is its price point, but it's hard to compare to Totino's cost when the flavor and texture are in another league.
In any event, that wraps it up for our first installment. 'Til we see you in April, we'll keep sleuthing and snacking, and always letting you know what's actually worth your purchase. The hunt has just begun, and we're hungrier than ever. By the time we're done, our pantries aren't even going to know what hit 'em.