1. SALSA (Last week: 2)
Salsa once again proved its versatility by hanging in close with the breakfast bagel and serving as an impact substitute for mayonnaise in the office fridge. It’s a mystery to us why sandwich artists would ever use ketchup where salsa could do so much more. Salsa is the LeBron James encroaching upon ketchup’s legacy of 57 Ways to Make ‘Em Pay.
2. SRIRACHA (Last week: 5)
At first, we were worried Sriracha would become a victim of its own hype, but its consistency, heat and ability to bring out the best in its culinary teammates continues to make it a winner. If only it didn’t make us sweat while we ate it (which is not a good look for anybody), it would take the top spot. Also, excellent on leftover pizza. Seriously.
3. STONE-GROUND MUSTARD (Last week: 1)
A slight faltering in performance came in the form of the weird, separated mustard juice dripping onto the turkey sub and making it look unappetizing. But, as always, the good stuff followed in the second half. Like SEC Football and Bruce Springsteen, it rarely disappoints.
4. OIL + VINEGAR (Last week: 6)
Fixing the ratio and limiting the excess greasy feeling helped them move up the ranks. Sometimes, the best solution is a no-frills approach and excellent teamwork. Sometimes it makes us wonder how they would do independently of one another, but then again—we don’t want to know.
5. HUMMUS (Last week: 8)
A lot of people who want to sound clever like to point out how hummus will solve some sort of conflict in the Middle East. Although we’re sick of this trope, we tend to agree. It complemented its coverage area—second turkey sub of the week—nicely, and does the job in sparing amounts.
6. GUACAMOLE (Last week: 3)
Like hummus, perfectly smooth and spreadable, but really bulked up this week without overpowering its territory. The extra strength from the cilantro helped this guac get the crowd going. Would have been higher, but someone left the avocados in a bag with tomatoes and they got squishy too quickly. That is not how you make guac, bro.
7. GARLIC MAYO (Last week: 7)
Regular mayo may have slid its gelatinous self down the rankings, but its squeezable, gyro-friendly companion has been a consistent strong performer. Plus, the presence of garlic, with its positive effect on sex drive and heart health—or, we suppose, even the idea of garlic—gives a false sense of security that this is actually kind of good for us. And we like that. It’s like an athlete starting a charity foundation.
8. KETCHUP (Last week: 4)
Like an annual Super Bowl Shuffle retrospective or Duke having a berth in the tournament, a consistent performance from ketchup is something to be expected. But in its efforts to please everyone, ketchup has lost some of its ability to hold court where its rivals are starting to seep in and take over. When that breakfast toastie is hot and ready, can the Red Menace regain its stride or will it be usurped by mightier forces?
9. PESTO (Last week: 12)
Ran into some trouble this week when the official confused it for chimichurri. Overall though, a fresh and inviting run, even demonstrating its willingness to tango with mayonnaise in an interesting chicken sandwich coverage tactic. Sounded crazy, but it worked.
10. BLEU CHEESE (Last week: 11)
Still trying to find acceptance as more than just a wading pool for hot wings, bleu cheese has found its match integrated into the roster with barbecue sauce. Just don’t smell the two together. It’s like getting a whiff of a pee-wee hockey carpool after practice and a post-practice drive-thru run.
11. GIARDINIERA (Last week: 10)
A strong finisher, but critics are often quick to call it one-note. We want to see what it can do outside of Italian beef. Or it’s probably good on pretty much everything and we’re just predictable. Whatever.
12. HONEY MUSTARD (Last week: 9)
Proving to be a breath of fresh air in the competition—its playfulness reminds us of schoolyard shoot-arounds rather than the big leagues, although at times, it’s a bit amateurish compared to its competitors. We worry its sweetness will cause it to be overpowered in later rounds of the tournament, though.
13. TAPENADE (Last week: 14)
Tapenade has yet to win over many of its critics, who continue to report on its successes as “stunners,” despite their complete lack of surprise to anyone else. There are still some people out there who demonstrate a lack of faith in the humble anchovy. Those people will be proven wrong one day very soon.
14. BRANSTON PICKLE (Last week: 15)
We’re convinced it only received as many votes as it did because it sounds strikingly similar to the name of a character on Downton Abbey, and everyone loves Downton Abbey. It gave the extra bite to a grilled cheese we made at 3 a.m. after babysitting our frittata friend at the bar all night. It would have ranked higher, but said stoned friend then totally ruined it for us by pairing pickle with peanut butter on toast. (It smelled like several-days’-old Chinese takeout, but without all the delight of a hungover breakfast.)
15. BACONNAISE (Last week: unranked)
Baconnaise seems like old hat now. A great and terrible idea, a culinary meme that reached “Shit Nouns Verb” degrees of annoyance. But what keeps Baconnaise on this list is the fact that it has guts. Someone in this great nation of ours had the audacity to create an actual product called Baconnaise, launch it in 2008 in the throes of economic turmoil, at a time when excess is discouraged and now, o, now we are not so innocent, now we wag our fingers at Paula Deen. Someone made this, and someone took pride in it, and it is that kind of innovation and sheer ballsiness that will make America great again. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!