From retail to restaurants, few terms in the foodservice industry inspire as much desire and depression in equal parts as “limited time offer.” It implies two things: first something new and potentially delicious, and secondly something that won’t be around forever. Some of those products end up being seasonal, while others disappear forever. All we can do is helplessly wait with bated breath and the hope that one day they’ll make like Taco Bell’s volcano nachos and transition from limited to a permanent engagement.
10. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cereal
Any child of the 1980s will remember a time when every movie and Saturday morning cartoon seemed to get its own limited run breakfast ceral. Ghostbusters, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adcenture, Rainbow Brite – everyone. But the one that has stuck with us above all the rest is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cereal. Comprised of “crunchy ninja nets” and “ninja marshmallows,” it was basically a twist on Lucky Charms that substituted Chex for the usual crunchy bits and turtle shapes for horseshoes and diamonds.
9. Burger King Chicken Fries
It all started with the unmitigated weirdness of Burger King’s subservient chicken website, back when viral videos were still in a relatively nascent state. Then suddenly BK chicken fries were upon us, all unexpectedly spicy and convenient with a cleverly designed box that holds your sauce of choice and fits into your cupholder. We thought that this was a permanent item on Burger King’s menu – until it was over, leaving us wishing we’d indulged in our chicken fries cravings a little more.
8. Cadbury Crème Eggs
Sometimes it seems like Eastern can’t come soon enough. Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, one thing it’s hard to argue about is the deliciousness of the candy that’s produced in its name. Cadbury crème eggs are at the top of the list, pairing smooth Cadbury chocolate with that inscrutable white sugary filling and the orangey-red spot in the middle that reminds you this is an absolutely legitimate egg (spoiler alert: food coloring). The more recent addition of the Cadbury caramel egg lends another (and perhaps even tastier) chapter to the Cadbury legacy, but the crème egg will always be our first Easter candy love. It’s the only time we have ever found ourselves looking forward to fondant.
7. Doritos Collisions
When it comes to Doritos, there are the basics – Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch – then everything else is a wild card. Sometimes they come back on a varying rotation, but it’s never a sure thing. One of our favorite limited engagements of the recent past were Doritos Collisions, which married two flavors in one bag – perfect for us indecisive types. Every flavor of Dorito is ultimately a permutation of Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch, and these always paired one with the other: Hot Wings took up residence with Blue Cheese, Zesty Taco paired up with Chipotle Ranch, and Pizza collided with, well, ranch again. These have recently disappeared, but we won’t give up hope that they pull a Taco Doritos and get ressurected once again.
6. Starbucks Winter Frappuccinos and Lattes
With all of the different options throughout the year, asking us to pick a favorite Starbucks seasonal frappuccino or latte is next to impossible. There are simply too many ways to keep toasty (or keep cool on unexpectedly warm Southern California December days), moving throughout the months from pumpkin to gingerbread and peppermint mocha. Last year they even introduced salted caramel, a revelation in deliciousness that expanded on the usual caramel frappuccino model, before ripping it out of our hands once the holidays ended. A cruel summer, indeed.
5. Popeye’s Rippin’ Chicken
Sure, we already knew that Popeye’s knows how to season a piece of crispy fried chicken with perfect spice and crunch. But what we didn’t know before June was just how physically satisfying it can be to rip apart pieces of our meal with our bare hands (before dunking it in equally tasty blackened ranch sauce). With all the catharsis of popping bubble wrap, we could return from from lunch break in a relative state of zen. As of the time this piece is being written, Popeye’s Rippin’ Chicken has only been around for a couple of weeks, but already we’re breaking out in a cold sweat just thinking about this offer disappearing.
4. The McDonald’s Big ‘N Tasty Line
Let’s face it – you can’t compete with the BK Whopper. But McDonald’s certainly gave it the old college try for decades with variation after doomed variation on its Big ‘N Tasty line. The McDLT came first, offering the genius idea of keeping its fresh veggie portion in a different packaging compartment. The burger met its demise when McDonald’s did away with polystyrene packagine, but left an amazing Jason Alexander commercial as its legacy. Its basic formula has since reappeared several times as the Big ‘N Tasty, the Big Xtra, the McLean Deluxe, and (our personal favorite) the Arch Deluxe. Sadly, not one of them caught on long enough to stick as a permanent menu item, but they all live on in our heart.
3. Hi-C Ecto Cooler
Another 1980s cartoon tie-in, Hi-C introduced Ecto Cooler to coincide with The Real Ghostbusters. When the juice ended up being arguably more popular than the cartoon itself, Hi-C kept it around for years – sooner or later, however, they figured that their main demographic of elementary school kids would no longer have any idea who Slimer is and pulled Ecto Cooler from supermarket shelves, much to the dismay of nostalgia fanatics (which may well be Hi-C’s second biggest demographic). Still, conspiracy theorists point out that fans can still get their Ecto Cooler fix through Hi-C’s Shoutin’ Green Tangergreen. Or they can just make their own.
2. McDonald’s McRib
Can you even imagine that McDonald’s once removed the McRib from the permanent menu on account of poor sales? Nowadays McRib fans lose their collective minds whenever the McDonald’s version of a BBQ pork sandwich pops up, to the point where websites exist to pinpoint sightings and conspiracy theories abound in regards to its scarcity. Actually, looking back, taking the McRib off the menu was probably one of the smartest things McDonald’s has ever done – it might have done poorly as a permanent item, but it mops up the competition as an LTO.
1. Girl Scout Cookies
How could it be anything else? It doesn’t matter if you live in a Little Brownie Bakers or an ABC Bakers region, whether you’re a Thin Mints kind of girl or a Tagalongs kind of guy: girl scout cookie season is an event looked forward to with a fervor not unlike Christmas or the Fourth of July. The Girl Scouts know it, too. Their website not only has a tracker to find when girl scout cookie season is in your district, it provides you with a by-the-second countdown once you plug in your zip code. Now we know that we’ve got exactly 210 days, 15 hours, 27 minutes, 4 seconds and counting before we can go hog wild and buy ten boxes of Samoas – Caramel deLites if you prefer – and freeze them in a futile attempt to stretch the season a little further (spoiler alert: we still eat them all within the month).