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We Tasted the Potato Chips Prisoners Love

We Tasted the Potato Chips Prisoners Love

The story goes like this: You get tossed in jail. During your sentence, you buy bags of chips from the commissary to fend off hunger. The chips are good—real good. Over time, you fall in love with said chips. When your time behind bars is up, you head to your local 7-Eleven to buy a few bags. No luck. Grocery store. No luck. Every bodega you can find. No. Damn. Luck. Your precious chips are nowhere to be found. You contemplate a life of crime. The chips are worth it, you think.

Those chips are called The Whole Shabang, and for years they’ve been part of a collection of food products only sold in prisons. Now, however, you can buy a bag without doing time. Now you can taste what all the hoopla is about.  So that’s exactly what we did.

The chips arrive in a package of 6 full-size bags, so if all these inmates are wrong, we’re going to have a lot of excess snacks on our hands. If you want to buy some for yourself, you’ll need to order more than one bag to try them out. It’s a somewhat costly investment for some mystery chips. So should you do it? Well, that depends…


The Whole Shabang chips are described as “super-seasoned,” and with one bite we see why. There’s a lot going on. They most resemble a cross between salt & vinegar chips and BBQ ones. It’s a combo we can’t say we’ve tried before, and with all the crazy chip flavors recently (Lay’s Southern Biscuits and Gravy??), we’re not really sure why such a simple combo isn’t more prevalent. If you like salt & vinegar and you like BBQ, you’ll love The Whole Shabang. If you love both, The Whole Shabang may just be your favorite bag of chips ever.

But, as the name implies, there’s more going on here. These are not simply the love child of two iconic chip flavors. Hiding behind the bold BBQ spice and pungent vinegar are hints of garlic and onion. Vinegar is such an assertive note that these other flavors come through in fleeting moments. It’s kinda weird. Every once in a while you get a faint hint of onion. There are other flavors, too, that become hard to identify with everything going on. If we had one critique, it would be that there’s perhaps too much. The chips are good—great, even—but sometimes less is more, and we can’t help wondering if these would be even better without the entire spice rack being dumped in a bag. Still, they’re pretty damn great if you’re a fan of salt & vinegar and BBQ. Worth going to prison great? Luckily, you no longer need to make that decision.

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