Herr's has a new contest going to choose the best "Flavored by Philly" variation. (Danya Henninger/Billy Penn)

If you’ve ever craved a potato chip that tastes exactly like a roast pork sandwich, you’re in luck, because Herr’s has somehow pulled it off.

The Chester County-based chip company is back with a second “Flavored by Philly” contest. This year, the three limited-edition flavors spotlight area businesses.

Here’s how it works: Philadelphia-area folks were invited last fall to submit ideas inspired by dishes at their fave local spots for the chance to win $5k and a year’s supply of chips, plus $10k for the local business.

Herr’s chose three finalists, and ideas that made the cut are now out in the world as actual chips and up for a public vote to pick the winner. The options:

  • Korean BBQ Wings, inspired by Mike’s BBQ in South Philly
  • Roast Pork Sandwich, inspired by John’s Roast Pork in South Philly
  • Tomato Pie, inspired by Corropolese Bakery in Montgomery County

Like last year, we at Billy Penn, alongside some of our WHYY colleagues, decided to try them.

Our intrepid taste testers (17, including this reporter) shared feedback and rated the flavors based on general enjoyability, accuracy to the dish they were trying to imitate, and originality.

The results? Pretty divisive. Read on to learn more about the flavor profiles — and memorable smells — we encountered, and which ones emerged as favorites.

Korean BBQ Wings: ‘Yum’ or ‘flop’?

These chips seek to recreate the “perfect combo of mild heat and smoky sweetness” of a Korean BBQ wing at South Philly’s Mike’s BBQ, per the product description, delivering “boldness in every bite.”

Many of our tasters thought that boldness was missing. Asked to describe the flavor in one word, respondents replied with “uninteresting,” “disappointing,” “bland,” “flop,” and “needs more spice” (that’s three words, but we’ll take it).

“Disappointed that Mike’s BBQ flavor isn’t good, because the restaurant itself [is] awesome!” one person wrote.

Some folks noted a funky aftertaste, or a “gross punch” of flavor. One respondent noted that combining the BBQ chip and the tomato pie chip made for a more redeemable snacking experience.

The feedback wasn’t all negative. Though most people weren’t terribly impressed, there was a small handful who felt that this one was the best of the three, calling it the most “buyable,” “tasty with great flavor,” or simply describing it as “yum.”

“Enjoyed the Korean BBQ, which is the food item I would reach for first,” one person said.

The Herr’s “Flavored by Philly” potato chip taste-test setup. (Danya Henninger/Billy Penn)

Roast Pork Sandwich: ‘Uncanny’

“Savory top-secret spices” are what create a chip that mimics the timeless John’s Roast Pork recipe — which apparently dates all the way back to the family’s roots in Italy, per the chip description online.

For our taste testers, the imitation of the much-lauded sandwich was unbelievably on point — but they didn’t agree on whether that flavor was welcome in chip form.

“The pork chips were accurate but I don’t want chips to taste like pork,” one person wrote.

“Uncanny pork flavor considering it has no pork-like ingredients,” reads another survey response. “But eww.”

Indeed, there doesn’t appear from the packaging to be any meat in the chips, which do include blue cheese among the ingredients. Indeed, the snack — like the other two varieties — is actually marked on the package as kosher.

Several folks compared the chip’s vibe to the “meaty air” of last year’s Flavored by Philly “Wiz Wit” chip, while calling it a step up.

“I would probably eat a couple of bags of the Roast Pork ones, honestly,” one person wrote. “Best meat imitation in a chip I’ve had and a huge upgrade from last year’s disrespectful cheesesteak offering.”

Tomato Pie: ‘Soupy,’ ‘tomatotastic,’ and ‘in the pizza ballpark’

Tomato pie from Montco’s family-owned Corropolese Bakery gets the Herr’s treatment through the construction of a chip with “the flavors of delicately sweet tomato sauce and Romano cheese,” the description says.

One thing that really comes through, per many of our tasters, is — you guessed it — the tomato. They described the chip as “soupy,” “tomato soupy,” “ketchup-y,” “tomato-paste-y,” and “tomatotastic.”

But some missed the tomato notes altogether: “Not sensing tomato here, but the blandly Italian sensibility puts it in the pizza ballpark,” one person wrote. Another described the taste as “chemically.”

Although the chip got middling to good reviews overall, that was in spite of their strong smell, which initially turned off some folks.

“Something you immediately want away from your face,” one person wrote about the scent, “like opening up a gym bag that’s been sitting in the hot sun.” (To note: this tester stated later in their notes that the chip didn’t actually taste all that bad, and was something they could imagine eating in “dark times.”)

The winner(s)?

Unlike last year, when the Long Hots and Provolone chip emerged as the clear favorite among our colleagues, it’s difficult for us to crown a clear winner in this kind of field. Each chip had its particular strengths and weaknesses, as well as its own lovers and haters.

The whole set was, in the words of one taste tester, “not a great crop.” On the 5-point scale used to rate the chips — with 1 being terrible and 5 being amazing — none of the varieties even notched a 3 in the “overall enjoyment” category.

Tomato Pie just barely edged out Roast Pork for the top spot, scoring an average of 2.9/5 and 2.8/5, respectively. 

The Tomato Pie variety, however, definitely sparked stronger opinions: four people gave it a 1, and two people gave it a 5, while the Roast Pork chip had just two extreme haters (i.e. “1” ratings) and no enthusiastic boosters (“5” ratings).

Despite its narrow miss at the most enjoyable title, the Roast Pork chip did get credit for being the most original flavor (rated an average 3.7/5), and the most accurate interpretation of the actual food it’s based upon (3.8/5).

Tomato Pie scored pretty decently in accuracy (3.4/5), but our taste testers were pretty decisive in voting it least original (2.8/5).

Korean BBQ Wings got some recognition for its originality (3/5) but didn’t make as strong a showing on enjoyability (2.5/5) and accuracy (2.3/5).

The takeaway for one taste tester? “Overall the flavorings were overpowering, and made me yearn for some plain old salty potato chips.”

If we’ve sparked your curiosity and you want to try the chips for yourself, you can find them in stores “wherever Herr’s chips are sold” (we got them at Wawa) or order some online. You can vote for your fave online at this link — your vote doubles as a sweepstakes entry for some Herr’s swag.

Asha Prihar is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She has previously written for several daily newspapers across the Midwest, and she covered Pennsylvania state government and politics for The...