Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grippo’s Maxi Snax Bar-B-Q Flavored Potato Chips

Image courtesy of, who also
rather fancied these.
           I’m usually enough of a latte-sipping ivory-tower elitist that I try to downplay my central Ohio origins, but there’s no getting around it- I spent 17 of the first 22 years of my life in either Columbus or around the college town of Yellow Springs (the latter experience putting my home state in oddly better perspective than growing up in the comparatively cosmopolitan capitol.) Ohio basically lies at the intersection between the industrial North East and the rural Midwest (personified by the bordering states of Michigan and Kentucky), and its long flat expanses are famously unpretentious.  Every now and then, though, something strange gets cooked up in the Buckeye state, and the latest thing I’ve discovered is Grippo’s.

Everyone thinks Hippo's are all fun and,
cuddles, but I would suggest that they
should inspire terror. Jaws 4, anyone? 
            ‘Grippo’s’ rather sounds like a name for a hippopotamus cartoon character, but my mom insisted they were recommended to her by a convenience store clerk who assured her that they had an authentic working class charm, though in less polite words.  It’s always a wonderful revelation to find a gem in everyday places- in this case, the mysterious name comes from the original ‘Angelo Grippo’, (an Italian immigrant, so of course, use the Mario accent), who set up a pretzel shop in Cincinnati, Ohio at the turn of the last century, and I have read that they can also be found in stores in Kentucky, Northern Virginia, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. 

I was intrigued but skeptical when my Mom sent these over to France- I was expecting perhaps some kettle cooked barbecue chips with a little seasoning pizzazz but nothing that original.  Instead, I was slapped out of my skeptical-face by something unlike any other chip I have tasted before.

Grippos  chips are so thick with crunchy sugar and spice
they look like cookies!
Each Grippo chip is thoroughly encrusted with brown sugar and seasoning- and I do mean encrusted, like the plump sucrose crystals on a sugar cookie.  The crisp underneath is sodden with grease- the crunch is still there, but the highlight is the rich grill-oil sensation that fills the mouth as the sweet and salty sugar gems melt and the oil flows out of the dark orange crisps like the second coming of the Exxon Valdez.  Then the back of your throat will light up too, because these chips are hot like a fire cracker, offering sparkling bursts of spicy heat with little threat of lasting damage.  A lot of chips boast about how ‘flaming hot’ they are and then throw fake punches, but Grippo’s didn’t even advertise the spice factor, despite it being both considerable and expertly calibrated- now there’s some proper Ohio modesty!

This falls squarely into the genre of explicit
food porn- just look at the size of those
sugar crystals...
            The flavor itself, besides being describable as ‘delicious’, ‘sweet’, and ‘spicy hot’, is also unique and outside of the genre of standard barbecue flavorings.  There’s an unusual twist to the flavoring - a sweet-but-mildly-bitter cross between molasses and charred ribs- that’s hard to place, but that lies well outside the true-but-tried clichés of barbecue flavoring.  In fact, the seasoning on the chips is apparently so popular that they are now selling it separately for use on the grill!
            As it is, the density, spiciness, and sweetness of the spices on Grippo’s chips make them truly extraordinary, and while they don’t achieve it by using high-brow organic ingredients and kettle-cooking techniques, the end result is far more unique and amazingly delicious than many elite chip brands.  The legacy of the illustrious Angelo Grippo remains well alive, and I am determined to learn more of his descendants’ doings forthwith.

Stars: 4/4
Spiciness: Hot

- Amazingly sweet and unique flavor overload from the densely encrusted seasoning
- Chips are soaked in extra flavorful (and unhealthy) oil
- Real spicy kick, but not too much to hurt

- Will not appeal to those who don’t like very heavy and strong seasonings
- The crisps are not particularly thick, but it’s like criticizing a roller coaster ride for not being sufficiently relaxing

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this review!

    Being from southern Indiana, my family has had a snacking "tradition" of sorts of drinking Ski and eating Grippos. It's a party favorite, and supports local brands.