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Chicago-style popcorn flavor challenge

  • The Popcorn Factory's deep-dish pizza-flavored popcorn.
The Popcorn Factory's deep-dish pizza-flavored popcorn.
March 01, 2013|By Matt Lindner @mattlindner | For RedEye

Companies have long been trying to take familiar flavors and translate them into snack foods.

So how’d The Popcorn Factory do when it comes to translating some of Chicago’s most iconic flavors to popcorn?

As the old Meatloaf song goes, two out of three ain’t bad.

Here’s what we found after sampling the three Chicago-style flavors set to roll out Monday, the city's 176th birthday.

Deep-dish pizza
If Chicago-style deep-dish pizza was heavy on cheese flavor, then its popcorn translation would be perfect. As is, the deep-dish pizza popcorn tastes nothing at all like an actual Chicago-style deep-dish pizza--but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Upon opening the package, a spicy aroma greets your nostrils. The reddish-pink popcorn lacks the crunch associated with a well-done deep-dish pizza crust and tastes more like a cheesy popcorn that had a hint of marinara sauce shaken into it. The flavor itself isn’t bad, but if not for the labeling on the package, I would have had no idea that that’s what it was supposed to be.

Chicago-style hot dog
The Chicago-style hot dog popcorn actually tastes like a reasonable facsimile of the real deal, minus the heat of the sport peppers at the end. While you won’t get the same snap biting in to a handful of the stuff as you would a hot dog, many of the same familiar flavors are still there. You’re hit with an initial wave of celery salt seasoning, which quickly gives way to the familiar notes of relish and mustard. The actual meat flavor is fairly subtle and comes in toward the end, which is a bit strange given the fact that there's no actual meat in the product. The concept admittedly sounds a bit out there, but this flavor was the best of the three.

Cheesecake popcorn
The cheesecake popcorn is easily the most fragrant of the three flavors. If you didn’t know any better upon opening the bag, you’d swear there was an actual cheesecake inside. The popcorn is covered in chocolate, balancing the tanginess of a good cheesecake with the sweetness of both the kettle corn and the chocolate, which is finished by the crunch of a graham-cracker crust. This version is the one that most closely resembles the actual foodstuff off which its based, although there weren’t nearly enough graham crackers in our sample. Not recommended for just one person if only because the end product is so rich it’ll fill you up quickly.

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