Walmart Deli Hell

Posted by starsystemerror on Jun 2, 2024

Earlier this year, I had a job that had me sitting at a kiosk in a Walmart for hours a day, smiling at people, answering questions, and sometimes doing some actual work. Most of the time, though, I was thinking about inconsequential things, like the bizarre censorship of songs on the Walmart radio, or more often, what I’d be eating for lunch. Luckily for me, our good old Wally-World has a whole selection of grab-and-go food, both in refrigerators and under heat lamps. Since this job had me working full time in various Walmart locations, I’d taken notice of the many meal offerings the ubiquitous store has on display. At first, I was picking up salads and snacks, reluctantly eyeing the unappetizing and overpriced cold sandwiches, but then I realized…Walmart has hot food for sale. And I might as well finally try it.

The hot food at Walmart is not something I ever put much thought into, nor ever tried. I’ve eaten at fast food chains that happen to be located inside Walmart a few times, my desperate parents reluctantly letting me have a “healthy” Subway sandwich or even McDonalds as a treat after a grueling day of shopping. Never, though, have I tried anything from the hot counter at the deli, or god forbid, the ready-made bagged foods sweating under customer-accessible warmers. My standards for food as an adult, though, are simultaneously higher and much, much lower. It’s (mostly) cheap, it’s right there, and I’m stuck at work, I thought, so why not.

Walmart’s hot food offerings are split between two main areas. First is the deli counter, which requires social interaction and requesting an employee scoop you your nasty slop into a plastic container. This was a bit intimidating for me, as a Walmart Deli Noob, so I first opted for the grab-and-go style hot food, which was located in two spots: one warmer setup was right next to the main deli counter, and the other was more central, near the “running in to Walmart to grab something for lunch” section at the front of the store. Despite spending so much time in the store, I have never seen someone refilling either of these warmers, presumably because everything is cooked at 9 or 10 am, before I came in for work. The stuff you can grab without talking to any employees is simple, mostly fried food, in varying types of paper wrapping. There are several sandwiches, a couple processed-meat-tube-based products, and a few other surprises. The meat involved (none of these are vegetarian) is overwhelmingly chicken, as is the primary (and possibly only) meat available behind the counter. The reason for this is surely some convoluted arrangement of capitalism’s machinations, but on the consumer end, it’s mostly just an exercise in seeing how many forms of low-quality chicken meat you’re willing to tolerate, such as…

Chicken Sliders

A sad-looking chicken slider

These were the first item I tried. I was unsure of what to get from this strange new world of hot food, since I never buy hot food from grocery stores (except the occasional rotisserie chicken from Costco, which is its own experience altogether). The sliders were small, and at about $2 a pop, if I hated it I wouldn’t be out too much cash. Unfortunately the $2 price point eventually counted as a downside for these, as they’re pretty small and even I needed more than one to feel full.

Size and price aside, these are actually pretty good. The bun and breading is very sweet, feeling almost like a “chicken and waffles” sort of experience. They make for a good breakfast option, and they always seemed to be in stock when I worked, so I ended up eating these pretty often. The meat in these is okay quality, except for the one time I got a patty with a huge inedible tough chunk. That was pretty disappointing. Honestly, I think these would have been better as ground reconstituted chicken rather than the “whole white meat” chunks places like to advertise these days.

Chicken Sandwich

After the sliders, I figured I’d try the next step up: the normal chicken sandwich. Honestly, this one was really good. Not nearly at the level of a Popeye’s style chicken sandwich, which it was clearly trying to emulate, but definitely above some other fast food chicken sandwich offerings. It was $3, which I think is the perfect price point for this item. It’s certainly good for when you want a decent fast food chicken sandwich for less than $5, and of course, are willing to run into Walmart for it. Something neat about these sandwiches is they all came with a little packet of “Polynesian” sauce to apply as desired. I was wary of it at first, but this sauce is actually really good. It’s tangy and sweet, and enhances the savoriness of the rest of the sandwich. The sauce really puts it over the top and makes it feel unique beyond the many, many fast food offerings it’s competing with.

A chicken sandwich with a sauce packet

The sauce packet even has a little offset to make it easier to apply to the sandwich.

I considered buying some pickle slices to try on top at one point, but I never actually did that, and honestly it doesn’t really need them. I did, however, try putting a slice of cheddar cheese on the sandwich one day, and it was…okay. Maybe American would have been better. It really doesn’t need any additions in the first place, though, which is a point in its favor.

Corn Dog

I took a detour from the chicken to try one of the cheaper Walmart deli foods on offer: the humble corn dog. It was only a single US Dollar, which was impressive to me, since pretty much nothing is a dollar these days, let alone fully prepared hot food. Unfortunately this corn dog was…extremely mediocre. I tried it on two separate occasions, wondering if maybe I just got the first one at a bad time, but both times there was no trace of the main appeal of a corn dog to me, which is the crispy crust paired with a snappy 'dog in the middle. The Walmart ones were just spongy all the way through. However, if corn dogs for you are more of a condiment vehicle than anything else, they might be a good choice.

A corn dog

Somehow less dry than it looks, but not in a good way.

Note: my experience was definitely impacted by the lack of condiments, since the standard ketchup packets were only available by asking the deli counter employee, and I established I did not want to do that unless absolutely necessary. I’m one of those weirdos who ideally prefers corn dogs plain anyway.

Popcorn Chicken

Popcorn chicken and two sauces

Another chicken choice, and another demonstration of mediocrity. I used to really like popcorn chicken as a kid, on the rare occasion that my family would go to KFC. This popcorn chicken was nothing like that. If I thought the corn dog was spongy, these were like eating tiny sponges. The breading had an alright flavor, but was not nearly crispy enough. The meat was low quality in the first place, but the time spent steaming in its container under the heat lamp really made it unpalatable. I really wish these were better, because the portion size is very generous. At $3 for a container, you get a lot of food, enough to share or to have as a whole meal. The problem with this large portion is that instead of a treat you just want another bite of, it’s a slog through some of the worst food fatigue I have experienced in a long while.

The popcorn chicken close up

I ended up eating these with a plastic fork so I could get work done without getting grease and sauce everywhere and customers looked at me weird.

The first time I tried the popcorn chicken, I didn’t bother to get any sauces, because they were 75 cents a cup at the deli counter and I figured it wouldn’t be that bad without sauce, right? I was wrong. These things are best suited as sauce vehicles. The next time I got the popcorn chicken was when I was extremely hungry, and I bothered to get two different sauces to try: ranch and barbecue. Neither of them were amazing quality, but they did make the chicken go down much smoother. Still, it was a lot of food, and felt like a bottomless cup of shitty popcorn chicken. I’m sure that’s a plus for some people, but I’m usually a “quality over quantity” eater, so I would have rather had a smaller container of better chicken, personally. Also, the ranch was really thin and watery. I think if I had sprung for some better condiments from the store shelves the total experience would’ve been better, but that would require buying a whole bottle of ranch or barbecue sauce or whatever, and all the logistical issues that brings.


The flautas in their wrapper

I got assigned to a few different Walmarts during my stay at this job, and there was one I was only at for a single day. I didn’t like the placement of the kiosk in the store, and it was incredibly loud, but it had some of the best food of all the Walmarts I’d worked in. This location was the only one to have flautas in the grab-and-go stations, and I would later learn you could order them from the counter at other locations, but the ones sitting in the cafeteria trays were much drier than the pre-wrapped ones. All that exposition aside, these were really good. Unfortunately pretty overpriced at $2.68 for a single two-pack, but they were honestly as filling as the similarly-priced chicken sandwich. The filling consisted of chicken, cheese, and a little spice, which even for my weak constitution, was not very spicy. Frankly, I was just glad to get a little flavor in one of these things for once. I wish they were cheaper so I could justify buying more than two at once. I would eat a whole plate of these.

A bite of a flauta. This one looks pale and sad.

I ate the first ones too fast to get a picture, so these are the shittier ones.

Unfortunately the second time I tried these, it was from the deli counter, and they were not nearly as tasty and crispy. More like…dry chicken wrapped in puff pastry. Still edible, but not the flautas I loved. At least Will makes delicious flautas at home now, which satisfy my Walmart flauta cravings, plus they’re actually good.

Chicken Egg Roll

An egg roll

Confession: I don’t really like egg rolls that much. I just don’t like cabbage, and every egg roll I’ve tried has been incredibly cabbage-heavy, and that’s fine. Just not my favorite food. I went for this one because I did want to be thorough and try everything that I knew wouldn’t outright kill me (such as jalapeno poppers or spicy wings). Plus, it was only a dollar. It turned out to be better than I expected, with more flavor than anticipated and a nice crunch for once. It was cheap American Chinese restaurant quality, and that’s not a bad thing. I wouldn’t get it again, but if you like egg rolls, it’s worth a try.

Hot Dog

Hot dog in foil wrapper

Okay, I was really scared of this one. Back during the single year we had a Sam’s Club membership, Paula used to get the hot dog combo from their food court, which was a far cry from Costco’s similarly-priced offering. The Sam’s Club hot dog was one of the worst hot dogs I’ve ever seen. It always looked so dry and tough, and the bun always seemed stale as hell. Seeing as this was Walmart, which is the same company that runs Sam’s Club, I was perhaps understandably terrified of how this hot dog would taste. But I was determined to be thorough, as I said with regard to the chicken egg roll.

A creepy grey hot dog

Believe it or not, this is better than how the Sam's Club hot dogs looked.

It was…fine. Honestly. It was some kind of sponsored thing where they were not generic Walmart Hot Dogs but instead the brand Nathan’s, which are all beef, which I tend to prefer. It was on a potato bun too, and for once the tendency of food under a heat lamp to steam itself in its packaging worked in the food’s favor. However, that’s all the good I have to say about it. This was really clearly microwaved or something. It was definitely not hot, and cooled rapidly as I started to eat it. It was completely edible, but I could have had something way better at home for cheaper. Yeah, this single, tiny hot dog was a whole $1.50. It just made me long for a Costco hot dog combo, which is the same price, provides a lot more food, and includes a drink as well.

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

Barbecue sandwich in its wrapper

Okay, now here’s something different. I actually saw this one a couple times before I was able to pick it up for myself, which I took as a good sign of its quality. I would see it on the warmer in the morning as I was grabbing my breakfast cup of yogurt or day-old baked goods, think “hmm, that looks good, I might try it at lunch,” and by lunchtime they would all be gone. When I finally managed to nab one, I was not disappointed.

A sloppy, sloppy sandwich

I realize my finger is on the lens, but I was in a bit of a hurry since this thing was falling apart before my eyes.

There’s a reason I saw this recommended on the Walmart subreddit as the best item at the hot counter. This was delicious. Sloppy as hell, though. Since it had been sitting under the warmer for a few hours, the saucy meat slop was practically melting the brioche bun it was served on. I had to eat it upside down because the bottom bun was so soggy with steam and sauce. There was a lot of sauce on this thing, sure, but a surprisingly large portion of meat as well. I would have gladly paid $5 or more for this at a chain restaurant, but it was only $2.50. That’s cheaper than the chicken sandwich, with better meat and a better bun! I only wish they didn’t make them so early in the morning, but maybe the person willing to get a BBQ pulled pork sandwich at 10am is a stronger one than I am.

Tater Kegs

A cardboard box of, allegedy, Tater Kegs

I saw these on the way to my usual breakfast ritual one day, and had to do a double take. What the fuck are “tater kegs?” And why was the packaging so cute?

Three tater tots. They look like they're cowering.

They looked really sad in the oversized box.

I forewent my usual breakfast to try them. It was $2.50 for a 3-pack, and they were basically just giant tater tots with some breakfast-burrito-esque ingredients stuffed inside. They were honestly pretty good, being surprisingly filling and tasty. However, they were overpriced in my opinion – I’d gladly pay a buck for them, but not nearly a dollar a tater keg. I would also try these if they sold them in the freezer section. I bet they’d be good air-fried for a breakfast snack at home.

A very big tater tot.

This is a BIG tater tot.

Sausage Egg and Cheese Biscuit

A biscuit sandwich in its wrapper

It had been a few weeks since I last tried something new from the Walmart hot food section, and I thought I had tried everything there was for me to try. I even branched out into ordering directly from the counter, which wasn’t as scary as my social anxiety said it would be. So when I saw this sitting under the warmer one afternoon, my reaction was simply “what the fuck, there’s more?”

A heaving pile of beige slop

I literally wrote in my notes, "oh god this is the ugliest thing ever."

So of course I got it. And boy, I regretted it. See, I’m not a big sausage fan. I’m okay with breakfast sausage links, the kind that are sometimes maple-flavored and served next to eggs and pancakes. I’ll even tolerate or enjoy slices of some sausage in rice dishes. However, I really do not like the crumbled bits served on pizza or the formed patties in a lot of fast food breakfast options. This was patty-style, and it was bad even for a sausage patty. The biscuit was so dry and hard it was like biting into a rock. The cheese was barely there, and what was there was burnt and dry. There were no redeeming qualities to this breakfast sandwich. Don’t get this, even if you like sausage. It’s just bad. Also, it’s over $2, so just get the tater kegs or a chicken slider or something instead. Anything but this.

Breakfast Burrito

Tiny tiny breakfast burrito

I have tiny hands. This burrito was less than 5 inches long.

Okay, when I said to get anything but the sausage egg and cheese biscuit, I didn’t mean get the breakfast burrito instead. This was the only thing worse than that biscuit. It was tiny and cheap at $1.48, so I thought I could try it. I usually like breakfast burritos, even with the sausage crumbles I’m neutral-to-negative on.

It is greasy. It is grey. It is sad.

What the fuck.

This was not a breakfast burrito. I don’t know what this was. It was wet and dry at the same time. It was leaking oil. The tortilla tasted like nothing and the filling both looked and tasted like vomit. I don’t even know what was in it. I didn’t even get a picture of it, because I was in such a hurry to spit it out once I took a bite. I could not even swallow the single bite I took of this thing. I had to go buy something else to get the taste out of my mouth. Heed my warning, innocent reader, and do not get the Walmart deli grab-and-go breakfast burrito. Please. For your own sake.

So that’s all the grab-and-go hot food I tried from the Walmart deli. That isn’t including the stuff I had to directly order, but that’s another article, another day. Heed my recommendations, or don’t. I can’t stop you. Just maybe bring some condiments with you.

Categories: food

Tagged: 2024 breakfast breakfast sandwich chicken sandwich corn dog hell popcorn chicken walmart

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