HOME > Chowhound > Chains >


Taco Bell quality

when I was a kid Taco Bell was the best (at least for what I knew at the time). I won't eat there now unless there is nothing else around (or open). Just wondering when the quality went away. Del Taco is closer to what Taco Bell used to be. I remember ordering the burrito supreme and you could actually see the lettuce and sour cream in it. now you can kind of tell the sour cream is there and the lettuce because I saw them put it in when they made it, but it just seems to be a mixed up mess when you eat it (and now it's not much bigger than the regular bean burrito). I don't know but it used to taste a lot better too.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I know here in Dayton, Ohio the Taco Bell quality went down several years ago. The ground beef mixture is always so salty now days. The last time I went (several months ago) I got 3 chicken soft tacos and there were 2 pieces of tiny chicken meat on each of the tacos and the tiniest amount of cheese. I made my mind up then not to bother going any more. I understand they have portion control in place to make money (which is normal) but this if I wanted a lettuce taco I would of asked for one.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pamelakrest

      Which ones have you gone to? I've never really had any issues with the one on Dorothy Lane in Kettering.
      While we aren't in LA, some local places are springing up that have some good and authentic mexican for cheap. Try La Mixteca Taqueria on East Third or Taco Loco on Spinning and Kemp.
      Del Taco is better. I don't think we have any in Ohio.

      1. re: pamelakrest

        Taco Bell was my forst job in 1982. I am also in the Dayton area, and I opened the store by the Dayton Mall. Back in the day, we cooked our own beans from dry pintos, the shells were all friedn in the store. The lettuce and cheese was shredded in store, and the onions and tomatoes had to be cut as well. The meat was real hamburger that we cooked in giant pans to which we added sauce that we made in the store. In short, it was real food then. It all comes in bag now, and the sour cream isn't even a real dairy product. Processed=bad

      2. You're kidding, right? Living in LA and eating at Taco Bell or Del Taco is like living in Tuscany and searching out the closest Olive Garden for dinner.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JeMange

          just curious about Taco Bell. Del Taco is good when I need quick food to eat at the office (close by too).

        2. [Edit: As JeMange notes, its easy to] understand why people in some parts of the country might flock to Taco Bell, but, aside from nostalgia for the old days, why would anyone in Los Angeles patronize such a place, with so many great (and cheap) little stands and trucks within shotgun range? The survivor's preference for the boringly safe? Fear of the lard?

          7 Replies
          1. re: sbritchky

            not making a run for the border, just curious as to what happened.

            1. re: sbritchky

              Not to mention supporting a local business as opposed to feeding cash to an international "food" conglomerate.

              1. re: JeMange

                Yes, because nobody local works at the international "food" conglomerate franchises, right? The food might not be very good, but chains probably hire more local people than the local restaurants do.

              2. re: sbritchky

                While I don't dispute that living in LA gives one a plethora of fine Mexican choices, I can understand why sometimes people might flock to Taco Bell (or Del Taco).

                1. Los Angeles is a large place, and those tasty cheap little taco stands or trucks are not ubiquitous. Try finding a decent taco truck in say Palos Verdes or Hancock Park, for example. Hard to do, but you'll find a convenient Taco Bell.

                2. Ease of access by car. Lots of taco stands and trucks aren't easily accessible by car because there's no convenient parking (or it's otherwise metered). Taco Bell's generally have their own (free) parking lots.

                3. Taco Bells are open late (if not 24 hours). If you're drunk and can't find a good Korean hangout, then Taco Bell might be the next best alternative.

                4. That red sauce is might tasty ... :-)

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Actually, I live in Hancock Park and I just went last week for the first time to the taco truck parked on the southwest corner of Olympic and La Brea. It was great, we can't wait to go back, they get there around seven p.m. Alternatively, my hubby sometimes wants some taco bell just because it is fast and cheap. We go to a lot of great mexican restaurants here, but sometimes you want some junk food. Personally, I prefer Jack in the Box tacos with onion rings on the side. I know, I know.

                  1. re: rworange

                    I think what someone else mentioned in this post is probably true -- i.e., that people go to Taco Bell for "Taco Bell food" and not for Mexican food.

                    Taco Bell is no longer competing with taco trucks, tamale vendors, etc., but rather with other Americanized Mexican joints like Dell Taco or Qdoba.

                    It's like Taco Bell has carved itself its own little niche in the culinary universe.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      It's the same thing with pizza where I grew up in suburban New Jersey. "Going out for pizza" never, ever, EVER implied Pizza Hut, Domino's. etc. it always meant the local mom and pop pizza joint (usually named "Antonio's", "Attilio's" or similar Itialin name). Pizza Hut was a whole other niche.

                      Once I left New Jersey (went to school in Missouri) and realized that people outside the NY metro area actually think of Pizza Hut and Domino's as actual pizza (because there are much fewer, if any, local alternatives), my world perspective came crashing down.

                      Mr Taster

                2. I think it must be the location. Or the people working. Maybe the time of day you have gone. If there are only 3 people working and the line of orders is long, the workers may be just churning the orders out...

                  Then again, I usually only get a bean burrito and sometimes an enchirito. I do like Del Taco for the cheddar quesedilla. I always try to not go near noon or 6 p.m. If the line at the drive through has more than 3 cars, I know they are slammed.

                  (Re: sbritchky: It is not taco shop food, nor is it Mexican. It is Taco Bell food that we grew up with and is its own flavor.)

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Cathy

                    agreed - you go to taco bell for taco bell food, not mexican food. That being said, I am really disappointed they haven't brought green onions back, and the last time I ordered a bean burrito it was so underfilled the tortilla was folded over twice. yuck!

                    1. re: cheetobrain

                      This is going waaay back, but taco bell used to have a pita pocket sandwich that my friend adored. He was so disconcerted when they axed it. I can understand why they discontinued the tostada, but how I used to enjoy a bean tostada from taco bell, with or without hot sauce. Back in the day it had visible lettuce and shredded cheese on it. A girl I worked with taught me that the tostado was tasty even at room temp. At least the cinnamon crispa thingies are still addicting. I'm usually driving when we make a run for the border, so I've learned to get two orders of the crispa thingies in self defense. They put them iight on top so they don't get crushed and whichever friend is riding shot gun and holding the bags seems to make the crispas "disappear" before I can get them home!

                      1. re: givemecarbs

                        In order to get a Taco Bell "tostada", I've resorted to ordering a taco, no meat, add beans and breaking it in half. It's a decent substitute.

                        1. re: swissgirl

                          when we lived near a taco bell/long john silver combo restaurant I used to order a supreme taco, no meat and then a plank of fish from ljs and put it on the taco :) It used to drive them crazy, but I figured if they couldn't offer me what I wanted i would build it myself!

                      2. re: cheetobrain

                        I adore Taco Bell. I also adore Taco and Burrito KIng, and Fronteria Grill. One is fast food, one is good food fast, and the last is upscale regional Mexican food. Are they remotely alike? No, but at two in the morning, I want Taco Bell, not Rick Bayless's finest creation.

                        1. re: lulubelle

                          I completely agree. I don't go to Taco Bell for fine cuisine, I go there because I want a deliciously horrible "Mexican Pizza." It was my comfort food as a high schooler and still occasionally stop when I'm feeling it. I'm eating more non-chain food now that I have access to it, but there are some chains I just can't let go of and I don't want to.

                          1. re: TampaAurora

                            I live in an area with many Taco Bells and many outstanding, authentic taquerias. I love Taco Bell for what it is but I would never confuse it with authentic Mexican. Ironically, whenever you have lunch at a local Taco Bell, more than half of the customers are Mexican blue collar workers. They certainly know the difference between the two and have access to both but many apparently like Taco Bell for what it is, too.

                    2. I still find Taco Bell to be very tasty. Back in the day, when it was a new product, their Mexican Pizza was da bomb. Yeah, I capitalized Mexican Pizza. What? As the product was being rolled out, they were careful with their prep, and it had plenty of toppings.

                      Now that it's a "staple item", it's produced in extremely careless fashion. It also seems like the amount of toppings and fillings have decreased dramatically.

                      It's a real tradeoff. The spicy meat, the cheese, the lettuce, all taste great to me. Then, you see that bright, dark orange mix of grease and chili ooze out like an oil leak every time you tilt your taco a few degrees, and you think, this is something truly nasty.

                      These days, I'd much rather make a run to Pita Pit than to Taco Bell late nights.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: NewDude

                        I've never been to a "Pita Pit", but when I hear mention of it, I think of the Pita business Edna Krabapple, Gladys Skinner, Maude Flanders and Milhouse's mom franchise in The Simpsons. Falafal means "crunch patty".

                      2. I like their crunchy taco with the fire sauce but at 89 cents it seems overpriced. A tablespoon of ground beef and sprinkle of cheese and lots of head lettuce it's not very filling. I ended up buying 4 of them and a bean burrito and a drink that ends up being over 6 dollars. I don't see much value in Taco Bell.
                        I haven't been to a Taco Bell in over a year.

                        1. I haven't been to a taco bell in a good...10 years, but I do remember enjoying their tostadas and pintos and cheese. Are those items still good (as in: fast food good)?

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Melanie

                            No. I liked the pintos and cheese a lot too and then they got bad. That was what did it for me with Taco Bell.

                            1. re: rworange

                              oh rworange, say it ain't so! Well, thanks for saving me a trip, if I ever did decide to make it to taco bell and relive my glory days of the past. But, do tell me, what has gone wrong? I mean, how bad can you f*** up pintos and cheese?

                              1. re: Melanie

                                There's this sort of cleaning fluid taste to them. Like a few drops of bleach were added to the water to cook the beans.

                                1. re: rworange

                                  rworange--do you like cilantro? I hate it, and to me it tastes like soap, as it does to a lot of people. Taco Bell never used to put cilantro in the food, but now they do. Just a thought!

                                  1. re: hellpaso

                                    Good thought. Probably the last time I tried the beans I hated cilantro. I've grown to really like it. Howver looking at the ingredient list ... no cilantro. Don't know what there is in there that makes it taste so icky. Here's what the site lists
                                    Pinto Beans, Partially Hydrogenated Corn Oil (Freshness Preserved With TBHQ), Salt, Calcium Chloride.

                                    That's actually not too bad compared to other fast food choices. It isn't the cheese either. The beans just taste so bad.

                                    Though the cheese looks so much better than what other FF joints sell
                                    Cultured Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto (Color), Anticaking Agent.

                                    According to the nutritional info, they only use cilantro in the fiesta salad

                                    Hmmm ... I've been avoiding their Frutista Freeze because I assumed like everyone else they used HFCS ... but NO ... sugar ... dang ... there's even yucca extract in there.

                                    Hmmm ... after looking at their ingredient list, I might need to reconsider Taco Bell as a fast food option. Some of the choices are better than other FF joints.

                                    Maybe its the citric acid that gives the chicken that lemon taste.

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      ya know--i lived in el paso for years, and there, the taco bell didn't use cilantro. i've since moved to the rio grande valley in deep south texas and they put cilantro in EVERYTHING! my favorite is the cheesy rice and bean burrito, which never had cilantro, but here, it is in there! maybe it's a local thing. i used to love pollo loco, but here, they put that devil's herb (cilantro) into everything! LOL! www.ihatecilantro.com

                          2. TACO BELL HAS ALWAYS BEEN BAD!!!when you were a kid, you just didnt know any better!! Im in the restaurant (not the fast food) business and i work for a man that was a manager at a taco bell for many years. , listen, their meat comes in hugely oversized bags stamped with the word 'EDIBLE'. id be willing to bet that its precooked too....!!! mmmmm, doesnt that sound yummy?!!!

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: leahgirl8304

                              My practice at TB is to not watch it getting cooked/made ( I did catch them pouring a bag of probably precooked meat into a vat of steaming water..wasn't too happy about that..cursed myself for looking in the back). Just eat it. Tastes good to me. The local homemade Mexican place is way more expensive. Not worth it. My wife/ me and my 2 yeard old boy can eat for 7 bucks. Thats one meal at the local place. Sure I love chorizo (and the local guy doesn't even make chorizo corn tacos..just chorizo and peppers, which is not how I prefer to eat it. (eggs or on a corn tortilla). Anyway...

                              1. re: rochfood

                                Of course the local, homemade Mexican place is more expensive; they use better ingredients! "Not worth it"? Better ingredients are certainly "worth it" to me! I wouldn't want my family to "Just eat it".

                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                  Thanks for the economics lesson. Sorry...$12.00 quesadillas are not "worth it" to me. Good luck to you with that though. My salary does not allow that. "Just eat it" refers to me. I don't tell my family that (and you made it clear you would never tell your family that.good for you). Sorry for the self deprecating humor (try humour sometimes). I like taco bell (obviously you do not), but watching kids slop it together does not add to the enjoyment. But the taste and value are a good bargain for me and my family. If the local place serves chorizo the way I like it I may reconsider for a treat. So..in retrospect..I know why the local joint is more expensive..and I don't care. Let people like you have at it.

                              2. re: leahgirl8304

                                I'll pay good money for one of these bags stamped "Edible". Maybe sasquatch took them all and fed them to chupacabra :-)

                              3. If you think that McDonald's sells real hamburgers, you'll love Taco Bell.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  Pure urban legend, the whole 'edible' thing.

                                2. Taco Bell quality? Isn't this an oxymoron? I had one in the parking lot where I once worked. In four years I ate there exactly once, my boss wanted to go. In Texas there's just too much cheap Tex-Mex to be had without bothering with this place.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: James Cristinian

                                    Consider yourself very lucky. I lived in San Francisco then Texas. I am now in DC and taco bell is probably some of the better Mexican around these parts. I'm almost sorry I know what good mexican/tex-mex food tastes like because I just can't get it over here and I MISS IT.

                                    1. re: Melanie

                                      I'm in DC as well. We're sorely lacking decent Mexican fare (it's mostly Tex-Mex) but there are a handful of decent Mexican places if you're willing to go out of your way. Taco Bell would be a last resort for me.


                                      1. re: monkeyrotica

                                        Hey monkey -

                                        oh for sure there's better Mexican than Taco Bell - I was just exaggerating, but man, someone could make some serious cash if they opened up a real Mexican joint around these parts!

                                      2. re: Melanie

                                        This reminds me of some relatives I had that were living in Rochester, NY back in the eighties. They had a Chi Chi's there and raved about it. We had one open in Houston about the same time and found it inedible, except for the fried ice cream, something I had never even heard of. When they came here, we went, same thing, very poor quality. We took them to Ninfa's, a local institution in it's heyday. I don't think they could tell the difference, except for the margaritas, back then they would absolutely flatten you. When we got to Rochester, same deal, same crappy Chi Chi's, but it was my first introduction to really good pizza, plus wings in Buffalo. I guess it's all relative, certain regions to dishes really well, while others offer a poor substitution.

                                    2. The three or four times I have eaten at Taco bell, I have been dissapointed.
                                      Their Seven layer crunch wrap (with beans instead of meat) is the only thing that is almost good. Every other time I've ordered something with beans, like a bean burrito, I've gotten a beef one, even if I spell out bean.

                                      When I have managed to get a bean one, I haven't enjoyed it.
                                      Taco Time and Taco Del Mar are Canadian companies with the same cheap sort of 'mexican' food, but they are far, far superior to Taco Bell, IMHO.

                                      1. I used to love Taco Bell (my wife worked for them for a couple years). But sometime in the last couple years or so, my tongue woke up and after eating a particularly horrid assortment of their products while dining in, I just told my wife "This food...just didn't make me happy. I'm full, but I'm not satisfied." And I've tried it a couple times since, just to make sure I wasn't having a bad day, and it still was...blah. The prices went up, and the food's just thrown together and doesn't look or taste appealing.
                                        There are too many inexpensive but better taco options in Wichita to waste money on something that just doesn't taste good.

                                        1. You can have Taco Bell, but years ago they had the "Bell Burger" I loved those and they took them off the menu, Dammit!

                                          1. I used to love Taco Bell as a kid too...especially the nachos and mexican pizza...but a few weeks back...i went back for the first time in a few years...and it was just not the same...mexican pizza was bland, soggy and tasteless...even their hot sauce does not have the same flavor it used to have...the double decker was still tasty, but not as good as i remember...not satisfying at all...

                                            1. I enjoy two bean burritos with no cheese and an order of the fried potatoes w/out the cheese "sauce" from T-Bell for dinner. Fire.

                                              1. One thing I've noticed recently is that the grilled chicken soft taco went from having all or mostly white meat, to a more finely chopped (to the point of mushiness) mostly dark meat mix. This seemed to coincide with its placement on the 99 cent menu.

                                                1. It's a late night grease pit to soak up the alcohol after you hit da clubs. It's cheap, it's always open, and it's sinfully tasty. Add the drive thru and the convenience, and you're set.

                                                  What's the appeal of eating a taco cooked in a trailer truck anyway? How is this a sign of authenticity? I've seen the food produced at these stands and it does not look appealing.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: NewDude

                                                    Have you tried the food at a good taco truck? You wouldn't call Taco Bell sinfully tasty ... but then again you do say you hit it when you are drunk.

                                                  2. I have to admit, I wrote Taco Bell off a good while back for their rapidly declining mess, but I was on the road this week and hungry after a morning flight and driving for a while on a fairly sparse highway, and decided what the hell.....at least I can have something with beans.

                                                    I decided to try the Volcano Crunchwrap and TB has redeemed itself in my eyes. I loaded up on the usual "hot" sauce at the drive-thru in preparation for the usual bland mess...but I didn't even need it. I had it with beans, and that thing what GOOD, and had enough kick, with lots of jalapenos, that I didn't need hot sauce of any kind. As I ate, I thought , wow, flavor !

                                                    It's probably a good thing that I don't live near one of these now.

                                                    1. I've been going to Taco Bell since high school. Always loved the Mexican Pizza, chalupas, and fiesta burrito. And the caramel apple empanada is da bomb! I would love to eat at the taqueria more often if they would match TB in price, location and parking. Lately I've noticed a decline in TB. Twice I ordered the same standard item and the morons in the back sent up something completely different. Last time I got a salad there, the tortilla "bowl" tasted like rancid grease. Yuck. And the size of things is getting smaller. Too bad! So lately I've been going elsewhere and getting a frozen yogurt with toppings instead-- it's probably a bit healthier anyway.

                                                      1. Years ago I was told Taco Bell outlets don't 'cook', they 'assemble'. All ingredients are prepared in a central industrial kitchen and shipped to the individual outlets. I always take that into consideration on the rare occasions I find myself driving through.

                                                        Also, many years ago, they had a corporate philosophy of changing out 20% of the menu every year to keep folks coming back for the 'new' items.

                                                        Just a couple of things to keep in mind.

                                                        1. When my wife was younger, she played a prank on her little brother substituting the meat on a Taco Bell soft taco with warmed Alpo dog food. He ate the thing but was very mad when he found out afterwards. The consistancy is pretty similar between the 2, with the Taco Bell beef being a bit greasier.

                                                          1. i used to love taco bell but ever since i went to texas and had real tex mex food
                                                            wow i never looked at taco bell the same again
                                                            its like tasting authentic chinese food for the first time after eating americanized ny style sweet and sour fried chinese crap your whole life. i really do recommend to try out the real thing its so fresh...go to texas...


                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: pdpredtide

                                                              Funny you should say that because when we (my parents and I) first moved back to Texas, from Indiana, we were so excited to find Taco Bell. The only mexican food we were used to came out of the freezer section at the store, and this was far better than any of that. Then we found "real" mexican restaurants! Still had TB from time to time but not nearly as much.

                                                              1. re: danhole

                                                                All too true. I ate at Taco Bell 13 years ago when I went to school in central Missouri where the only other option was a typical Ameri-Mex "sit down" place with fajitas, rice & bean combo plates, etc. Now I am in Los Angeles and I know better. Back then, I didn't-- and not because I didn't want to know. It was because I had no idea that huitlacoche, for example, even existed. It's hard to know what treasures you're missing out on when you don't even know those treasures exist.

                                                                By the way, I'd just like to say that I love Chowhound. Where else can you have a conversation which includes both Taco Bell and corn smut?

                                                                Mr Taster

                                                            2. taco bell has one good thing - their sauces, i steal them for grilled cheese dipping...also the secret green sauce you gotta ask for behind the counter, it's pretty decent to squirt on stuff as well.

                                                              5 Replies
                                                              1. re: pie22

                                                                There is a secret green sauce? I am going to investigate. Thanks.

                                                                1. re: Alan N

                                                                  available behind the counter when i used to go but after i made this post i did a quick online search and its possible they stopped making it....shows how often i actually go to taco bell.

                                                                  1. re: pie22

                                                                    O.K. It will be a few days before I follow up, but I'll post the results. Maybe Thursdayish.

                                                                    1. re: Alan N

                                                                      I asked for green sauce at the Ogilvie station in Chicago last night, no go. The 2 been burritos were very good though.

                                                                      1. re: Alan N

                                                                        I'm not so sure that I agree that the quality has gone downhill, though certainly there is variation between locations, and your local one may have some quality issues. For example, I've experienced one Subway location putting half as much meat on a sandwich as another one about 2 miles away. I truly enjoy Taco Bell's chili cheese burrito, chalupa, and nachos bellgrande with guacamole.