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We Need To Rethink Cheese Curls

This New Orleans–based snack company makes a mean cheese curl.

My name's Danny Palumbo, and I'm from Pennsylvania—home of Herr's, Utz, Snyder's, Wise, Middleswarth, Martin's, Gibble's, and many more. In short, this is where chips live, baby. And although I no longer live in the Keystone state, I still have a profound admiration for all things potato chips. In this column I will be reviewing some of the best the country has to offer. Welcome to Chip Country.


It's impossible to overstate my love for the wonderful, wild world of cheese puffs. From crunchy, fatty Cheetos to a comically huge tub of Utz cheese balls to Herr's boldly flavored jalapeño popper cheese curls, and everything in between, cheese puffs rule. So when I stumble upon a funky regional brand I haven't tried yet, I answer the call to investigate. That's what I do here at Chip Country.

New Orleans, it turns out, has a beloved local brand of cheese puffs I'd never heard of before. That brand is Elmer's (like the glue—yum!), and the product is called CheeWees. Personally, I like eating a product called CheeWees; it makes me feel like I'm a dog who's been a good boy. The mascot, a cartoon mouse wearing suspenders, is a dead giveaway these things have been around for a while—since 1943—but so is the name Elmer. Elmer! When's the last time you've heard of an Elmer? It's a name I only expect to see on a gravestone, not plastered on a package of delicious snacks I'm about to spend money on.


Real quick, I'm having a good laugh reading the Wikipedia page for the company:

"During the Great Depression, the Elmer brothers developed a cornmeal-based cheese-curl snack. In 1939, the sales manager for Elmer's, Morel M. Elmer Sr., held a contest in New Orleans to name the famous cheese curls, and the winning entry was CheeWees."

A cheese curl baron named Morel M. Elmer Sr. snapping his suspenders and holding a snack contest sounds about right for 1939 New Orleans.

Now, I don't live in Louisiana, but I came across a bag of Elmer's Green Onion CheeWees at a corner store liquor store in Thai Town, Los Angeles. I also just found some Pennsylvania-based Herr's chips at my local AutoZone the other day. Regional snacks are everywhere now. What a time to be alive.

How Do Elmer’s Green Onion CheeWees Taste?

Basically, these are Baked Cheetos, but with more flavor than Baked Cheetos. Because they're baked, they have considerably less fat and saturated fat per serving than oil-fried cheese curls, while also containing just a tad bit more fat than Baked Cheetos. That small increase in fat content makes them taste considerably better.


The green onion flavor darts your tongue with a subtle pungency. The onion adds another layer of flavor I previously hadn't experienced in a cheese snack, let alone a baked one. Why aren't there more onion-flavored cheese curls? Are cheese and onion not a powerful combination? For some reason, potato chips corner the market on onion flavor. Even chip dip is meant to infuse your fried potatoes with a robust onion flavor. Tasting them in a baked cheese curl, meanwhile, is a breath of fresh air.

Elmer's also has flavors like Barbecue and Pizza, both of which lend themselves more traditionally to a potato chip instead of a cheese curl. It's got me thinking we should wed the two categories more often. Who knows what great snacks we're missing out on?


I'm going to be honest: CheeWees aren't better than Cheetos. But you know what? Elmer's Green Onion CheeWees are light, crispy, and full of potent flavor, and that's no easy feat for a snack that isn't fried.