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Jul 6, 2012 10:40 AM

Taco Bell goes "gourmet"

I heard a story on NPR yesterday about TB's development of menu items that mimic those of Chipotle, in an attempt to widen their customer base. I've only been to the latter once so I don;t have a feel for how good or healthy their food is, though by default it would pretty much HAVE to be better than TB. What ticked me off in this piece was the use of the term "relevant" by one of the TB executives. He repeated it many times - corporate-speak for appealing and healthier. Something along the lines of "we realize that the traditional Taco Bell menu is not relevant for some segments of the American public", In other words, we really don't care that we are selling cheap bombs of salt and fat to people who can't afford better, or who are unaware of, or disregard, the detriment of such food to their health. So we'll keep the crap and just add on some less awful items in hopes of sucking in more white-collar customers. I suppose it's no different than burger chains adding salads and grilled sandwiches, but that venal, cynical use of "relevant" sticks in my craw more than a chalupa does!

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  1. I'm not sure I can get on-board with the cynical and, frankly, condescending, dismissive, nasty nature of the OP.

    First things first, I enjoy Taco Bell and have for many years. Taco Bell has fulfilled more than one midnight-munchies and/or drunken/hungover craving. Sure, I haven't been to Taco Bell in a couple years, but I still remember the cuisine fondly and oftent think I should stop by the one nearby when my mind is appropriately altered to accept such food.

    Second, I also enjoy Chipotle tremendously, in either a drunken or sober state. I've enjoyed basically everything I've had there, and I've had nearly the full menu, which isn't a complicated task to begin with since it is so tiny.

    Yes, Chipotle's are "healthier." They are processed less, include fewer binding/perserving ingredients, and taste fresher, but they are not, by any means, low-calorie. The tortilla for a Chipotle burrito will run you over 300 calories, and basically any burrito you order there will be 1000 calories, probably more. In fact, almost every dish at Chipotle is 1000 calories or more. Calorically, Chipotle's offerings are much more substantial than those at Taco Bell, which has a lot to do with serving size.

    Either way, and I'll get off my health-concious pedestal right now because I am not thinking of my health when I partake in either of these treats, my favorite offerings at both are:

    Taco Bell:
    Nachos Bell Grande
    Chalupa Supreme
    Taco Supreme (Hard or Soft)
    Burrito Supreme
    Double Decker Taco

    Carnitas Burrito
    Barbacoa Burrito
    Chips and Guacamole

    3 Replies
    1. re: MonMauler

      "Midnight drunken munchies" .....Many fond memories.....Sitting by the pool & fire pit tipping cold ones from 2 pm to 01:00 am .....whining kids asleep.....wives making a mad dash to Taco Hell with a couple $20.00's and bringing back a ton of food....seemed pretty damn good at the time....wife agrees, best hangover food there is.

      1. re: Tom34

        My midnight drunken munchies almost always involved four Jack in the Box tacos and an order of onion rings, back in the '70s when the onion rings were real. the tacos weren't, don't know how I got hung up on them, since I'm from the Sonoran desert and JIB tacos are nothing like real tacos, but they had a certain drunken appeal, which isn't a good thing. The other drunken munchies were pancakes and so forth at Village Inn.

        1. re: EWSflash

          Yeah, things seemed a whole lot simpler during the younger years. Truth is I lost my weekend cravings for fast food but every once in a while that stuff is just hard ti beat. I would actually be disappointed if they made healthy.

    2. Is Taco Bell fast food? Absolutely.

      Are they trying something new to appeal to a different demographic? Yep. Good for them.

      Will it be Chipotle-quality? Doubtful.

      Have you, the OP, tried it? No, you haven't. Neither have I. Let's wait until the actual product appears before declaring it "crap" and "awful", yes?

        1. I'm not sure I even understand the point of view being expressed in the original post. Is it that no business should ever try to expand its customer base by improving its offerings? That trying to do so is somehow "venal"? If you're known for bad products or service you should never try to improve them, that you should somehow know your place and stick to it? I don't get how someone can condemn a place both for being bad and for trying to be less so, for changing their product mix and at the same time accusing them of not caring about the original mix.

          It just doesn't compute for me. With just the slight tweaking of a few words in the paraphrased interpretation at the end of the post, the same quote could be applied to every business ever established, including Whole Foods or your local Farmer's Market, that has ever adapted to market conditions.

          1 Reply
          1. re: acgold7

            If I could "favorite" a post, you'd get a big thumbs-up.

          2. I am not a Taco Hell fan, but on a whim (and catalyzed by seeing this thread), I tried Taco Bell's Cantina Bowl today.

            What I liked:
            The corn salsa
            The cilantro sauce
            The fresh crispy lettuce
            The LACK of flavorless sour cream and orange processed cheese often dumped on Taco Bell dishes

            What was OK:
            The rice and black beans -- tasty but too salty

            What I didn't like:
            The "chicken" -- this was spongy industrial "grilled chicken" that I've encountered from other companies (e.g. in the "Chicken" Caesar's salad at my employer's cafeteria) and that has a homogeneous spongy texture I've never experienced at home. I sometimes wonder if this stuff is grown in a petri dish.
            Flavorless guacamole -- green slime.
            Saltiness! I've been drinking pints of water all evening as a result.

            2 Replies
            1. re: drongo

              We tried the Cantina Bowls today and your comments are right to the point. Plus, unlike the huge posters and illustrations showing it served in a white ceramic bowl, it's served in a shallow oval black plastic container, much like some frozen entrees come in. Plus you get to eat it with a plastic spork -- yum!

              The "Chicken" reminds me of surimi -- the fake seafood product that is usually seen here as "crab" (or is it Krab?) Meat is beaten into a paste and mixed with binders, then formed. I think surimi means "memory" of the original seafood/meat, but in this case it's a nightmare of chicken.

              Chipotle's has nothing to worry about.

              1. re: puzzler

                You may be puzzled, but ‚ÄĚsurimi" means "meat which has been sliced off or ground off the skeleton." In any case, your Cantina Bowl description sounds spot on. If you served that stuff in a real Cantina you would be violently attacked.