REVIEW: Trader Joe’s – Chicago Style Popcorn Mix

Rating: ©©©-1/2 chips (notable)

Trader Joe's - Chicago Popcorn MixChicago Style Popcorn Mix….?  What’s that you ask?  Well, if you must ask that, then you are either: A) definitely not from the Chicago area, or B) maybe you simply refuse to call the magical popcorn combination anything other than what it is – cheddar cheese and caramel.  Exactly how Chicago was able to put their own namesake stamp on this sweet and salty combination is beyond us (if by chance you happen to have any documented history on the origin or validity of Chicago Style Popcorn, please let us know).

Apparently, when cheddar cheese popcorn and sweet caramel popcorn are mixed together, and served anywhere within the state of Illinois, the combo is labeled as ‘Chicago Mix’.  And, we do know that there are a few local popcorn ‘houses’ that specialize in this fantastic combination (Garrett’s and Wells Street – we’re talking about you).  Personally, the majority of Chip Review prefers Wells Street, but Garrett’s seems to own the majority share of fans.

When we spotted this popcorn at our local Trader Joe’s recently, we were both excited, and at the same time wondering if this was only being offered in our local Chicago area stores, or was it actually being marketed throughout the entire country as Chicago Style Popcorn Mix?  Apparently it is being marketed everywhere, which in our opinion, stamps solid confirmation that this flavor combo is the Windy City’s namesake popcorn.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, we love a good sweet and salty combo, and in our opinion caramel and cheese are one of those combos that were destined for one another.  We were very surprised to find that not everyone actually agrees with us on this sentiment though. Nathan over at What’s Good at Trader Joe’s, actually has some other thoughts on the combo:

You remember those giant tins of plain popcorn, cheese popcorn, and caramel corn that you’d get from Aunt Edna at Christmas time? They had little paper dividers in between the flavors. There was a reason for those dividers. Food separation. It wasn’t a big deal if you ate plain with cheese or even caramel with plain. But the one thing you always had to be careful to avoid was mixing the caramel with the cheese. Now I’m sure many of you will chime in and be like “I’ve always eaten cheese popcorn with caramel corn…” Well, good for you. Maybe you’re just a bit more open-minded than I am when it comes to mixing races of popcorn together. I may be a little old-fashioned in that way. But to put them together in one bag with no dividers on purpose?

Well, like we always say, to each their own, but in our opinion the best bites of Chicago Style Popcorn Mix are the ones that include both the salty cheddar cheese and sweet caramel kernels in one delicious mouthful.  Unfortunately, in this case, Trader Joe’s version of Chicago Style Popcorn Mix is not the best variation that we have ever tried.  In fact, they are not even the best pre-packaged variation that we have tried.  The popcorn itself was light and airy, with a toothsome mouth feel, but both of the flavors fell a bit short for us.  The cheese kernels were not as salty nor tangy as we normally like in our cheddar popcorn, and the caramel kernels weren’t quite as buttery as the best we’ve tried.  Plain and simple, if you are looking for true authentic Chicago Style Popcorn Mix, take a trip to Chicago and swing on into Wells Street Popcorn for the best example anywhere!!  If you don’t happen to have the financial funds to warrant an entire trip based around some popcorn, then go ahead and swing into your local Trader Joe’s and give this stuff a try; but note to yourself that this is only a decent variation of the best stuff out there!!

As always, these are our thoughts, we would love to hear what you think. Agree or disagree, let us know.

Popcorn discovered at Trader Joe’s; La Grange, Illinois

Trader Joe’s Official Website

Chip Ratings Scale:

(1/4 increments)

© return to sender

©© tolerable

©©©notable

©©©©lip-smacking

©©©©©“A” list

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