As I’m sure most of you are aware, Taco Bell has recently introduced a breakfast menu, available from about 7:00 AM until 11:00 AM at most of their restaurants. You might be thinking “oh, that actually sounds cool. I wonder if they’ll adapt actual Mexican or Latin American breakfast dishes into something that can be easily reproduced in a fast food setting?” You’re right, dear reader, that would be cool. It’s also almost the opposite of what they did. Rather than adapting Mexican breakfast food into a fast food context, they adapted standard fast food breakfast fare into vaguely Mexican shapes and formats. This isn’t a super new idea, as evidenced by even McDonald’s having breakfast burritos, and the majority of their menu is pretty standard breakfast burritos and tacos. The signature ones, though, are the AM Crunchwrap, a variation of their standard Crunchwrap full of breakfast meats and cheese and an entire hash brown, and the Waffle Taco, which is you guessed it, a waffle folded over like a taco, full of eggs, sausage and cheese. It also comes with syrup to drizzle across it.

Oh my God... I'm back. I'm home. All the time, it was... We finally really did it. [falls to his knees screaming] YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! OH, DAMN YOU! GODDAMN YOU ALL TO HELL! (camera pans to reveal the half-destroyed Statue of Liberty sticking out of the sand)

Oh my God… I’m back. I’m home. All the time, it was… We finally really did it. [falls to his knees screaming] YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! OH, DAMN YOU! GODDAMN YOU ALL TO HELL! (camera pans to reveal the half-destroyed Statue of Liberty sticking out of the sand)

If it sounds like I’m angry about this, I’m not. This is basically the kind of thing Sandwichtalk lives for, and my only regret is that it took me so long to try it and report back. A lot of it had to do with putting in the effort to get out to a Taco Bell before noon, to be honest. But enough chit-chat. Is the Taco Bell Breakfast menu worth it?

Actually yeah, I’d say so. I’m a fan of fast food breakfasts in general, with the McGriddles being my favorite, and it’s pretty standard, in terms of ingredients and quality. The AM Crunchwrap comes with choice of meat between steak, sausage and bacon, and I went with sausage, the most breakfasty of the bunch. It was all surprisingly competent, with the eggs, hash brown and sausage being pretty tasty and the right consistency. It also had a tangy sauce, which may have been the normal Crunchwrap sauce (I’m not overly familiar with the Crunchwrap) but reminded me of their quesadilla sauce. All in all, it was satisfying, and easier to eat than I remember Crunchwraps as being.

The little lumps on the left are Cinnabon Delights. They're kind of beyond this blog's purview, but they're delicious little doughnut holes filled with icing and served warm. They might be the best part.

The little lumps on the left are Cinnabon Delights. They’re kind of beyond this blog’s purview, but they’re delicious little doughnut holes filled with icing and served warm. They might be the best part.

And now, for the main event. The Waffle Taco. Unfortunately for this blog, the Waffle Taco is both not as bad I might have feared, nor as good as I might have hoped. The waffle itself is alright, but much more akin to a thick flatbread than an actual waffle. It’s soft and a bit soggy, where I was hoping for a texture if not quite as still as a hard shell, then at least a little crispy. The sausage and eggs are fine, and the addition of syrup is a nice touch. This all probably sounds like damning with faint praise, but it’s really not a bad breakfast. It can be a little messy, so I’d probably go with the Crunchwrap in general over the Waffle Taco, but the WT is worth trying at least once.

It’s odd to say I was disappointed by the Taco Bell Breakfast, because it’s actually much better than I expected. Everything about it was tasty enough, and competently executed. It’s just that McDonald’s and Burger King have had the breakfast game locked up for years now, and without something truly revolutionary, Taco Bell can’t compete. But there’s nothing wrong with being acceptable, so if you’re looking for cheap breakfast (around $5 per meal) and a Taco Bell is nearby, give it a shot.

I’ve posted before about the noticeable shift in focus and price hike Taco Bell has undergone recently. Actually, on a recent T-Bell trip, the Loaded Grillers themselves had been hiked to about $1.19, making them all but worthless. But the flip side of Taco Bell’s gentrification is a new classier menu by celebrity chef Lorena Garcia, the Cantina line. These new offerings include a couple of burritos and salads, as well as a new guacamole, made with Hass avocados (a distinction that sounds fancy but means nothing to me. Hass avocados could very well be the lowest quality avocados that can legally be sold, for all I know).

Surprisingly enough, it actually looks a lot like this in real life. Who would've guessed?

Surprisingly enough, it actually looks a lot like this in real life. Who would’ve guessed?

I’ve had both the steak and the chicken Cantina burritos, and I’m of two minds about them. On the one hand, it’s nice to see Taco Bell branching out a little bit. In addition to the meats, the burritos contain black beans and rice, guacamole, pico de gallo, roasted corn and pepper salsa, and a cilantro dressing. There are a lot of comparatively new items here, and both the ingredients (corn and cilantro especially) and the combinations (it’s basically all sauces and medleys working together) show the clear involvement of a master chef. It’s a tasty burrito set apart from normal Taco Bell fare. But at the same time, it’s very similar to the kind of thing you can get a Chipotle or Qdoba, not to mention any number of local places. It’s a big step for Taco Bell because the bar is set comparatively low, but what’s remarkable here is only kind of average elsewhere.

The Cantina Burrito goes for about $7.50 in a combo, and is a dollar or so cheaper a la carte. It’s on the pricier end of the menu, and it’s kind of a hard sell compared to other stuff both here and elsewhere. But if Taco Bell wants to refine and rebrand a little bit, as it seems they do, it’s a good start, and I’d recommend checking it out if for no other reason than to see where things may be going.

Anyone who’s stopped by Taco Bell recently has noticed something upsetting. There’s been some rather insidious price-gauging going on, and nearly everything’s been moved a price-point. That’s an increase of about 20-50 cents, depending on the item. This has thrown my usual meal (Crispy Potato Soft Taco, Beefy 5-Layer Burrito, and Chicken Burrito) into disarray. As a partial solution to the problem, Taco Bell introduced their Loaded Grillers line, a series of small, grilled wraps for 99 cents apiece. Are they enough to fill the hole in my heart?

Oh man, I forgot about this. They're also trying to market these as a viable alternative to classic Game Day food. Seriously?

Oh man, I forgot about this. They’re also trying to market these as a viable alternative to classic Game Day food. Seriously?

Yes and no. The Grillers are up and down, depending on their content, but overall they’re not super satisfying or filling. Let’s move into specifics.

  • The Spicy Buffalo Chicken Griller was my least favorite. My disdain for buffalo sauce is well known at this point, but more than that, I felt that the combination of chicken, Lava sauce, and sour cream was missing an essential third element, like cheese or tomatoes or something. I wanted more from it, and I didn’t like what I did get out of it.
  • The Beefy Nacho Griller fared a bit better. It combined ground beef, nacho cheese, and slightly spicy Fritos-style red corn chips into something akin to a Volcano burrito. It comes together nicely, but again, the smaller size leaves me wanting a bit more.
  • My favorite, surprisingly enough, was the Loaded Potato Griller. I’ve said before that adding potatoes to a wrap is a great way to round out the flavor and make it more filling, and indeed, this sandwich reminded me a lot of a Menna’s Dub. The Griller combines potatoes, bacon, nacho cheese, and sour cream into a filling, flavorful meal. This is the only one of the bunch I can see making it into my regular rotation.

All in all, the Loaded Grillers were pretty disappointing. While I enjoyed the Loaded Potato, the other two felt like smaller versions of other items, or at worst things thrown together from scraps, like the ill-fated Chicken Flatbread. Check them out if you want, but you’d be better off resigning yourself to paying a little more at the register.

I haven’t yet reviewed Taco Bob’s, a Kalamazoo mainstay, primarily because I would usually eat there during work at my internship, which kept me pretty busy. But Taco Bob’s is an important part of the Kalamazoo area foodscape, because it’s quick, tasty and features friendly service. As for what the food is like, I can sum it up in one sentence:

Taco Bob’s is exactly like Taco Bell, if Taco Bell was awesome instead of mediocre.

Like Taco Bell, Taco Bob’s offers a number of rather Americanized takes on tacos, burritos, enchiladas and the like. And like Taco Bell, the food is prepped while you wait, more like fast food than a sit-down restaurant. However, Taco Bob’s features fresh vegetables and higher quality meats than the average fast food fare. It’s prepared when you walk in, with an eye for customer service and satisfaction. And its locally owned, which is always a plus.

“Comedy duo Cheesy Taco and Funny Taco reunite in… Road to Deliciousness!!”

My usuals are the Funny Taco and the Cheesy Taco, which are kind of analogous to the Cheesy Gordita Crunch and maybe a Cheesy Double Beef Burrito (but smaller) respectively. It’s weird, because there’s really not a whole lot to say about them, that I haven’t said. Just imagine Taco Bell, then imagine not having to hate yourself afterwards.

Taco Bob’s runs slightly pricier than Taco Bell, since they don’t have a dollar menu. Combos run for about $6-8. Still, if you’re interested in some quick Mexican food, Taco Bob’s is more than worth the extra change. Taco Bob’s has a couple of locations in and around Kalamazoo, check them out!!

In the tradition of the KFC Double Down and other infamous meals, Taco Bell has released the Doritos Locos Tacos, a taco supreme wrapped in a Doritos Nacho Cheesier corn chip shell. Weird naming issues aside (“tacos” is used a the singular form here?), it’s an interesting concept, and the combination of two heavyweight junk foods has promise, at least from a novelty standpoint.  But does it deliver?

TACO TOWN!!

Barely.  Really, the problem with this thing is that it’s not over the top enough.  The taco supreme base is standard ground beef with lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and cheese.  There’s nothing there that’s super interesting.  The shell is alright, but the Nacho flavoring isn’t strong enough to make it worthwhile.  The combination of Doritos and sour cream is a start, but there needs to be another sauce or something. Again, it’s not so much that it’s bad, it’s just not very different from a normal hard-shelled ground beef taco.

The Doritos Locos Tacos is about $2 and can be bought as part of a $5 box meal.  It’s worth checking out once if you’re curious, and more times if your happen to really like taco supremes. Outside of the novelty though, there’s not much to recommend for this one, so don’t feel bad if you miss it.  I do hope they go back to the drawing board on this one, I’d like to try a more innovative take on it.

For reasons unclear to me, Taco Bell has decided to add a flatbread sandwich to their menu.  The chain is known for their “think outside the bun” slogan and aversion to non-mexican cuisine (although just how mexican the Cinnamon Twists are is anyone’s guess).  Even more surprising, they haven’t made any attempt to make the new sandwich look mexican.  No made-up names, no trite advertising campaign, nothing.  Even their tostadas, which for all intents and purposes were club sandwiches, were still marketed as sandwich alternatives.  With this level of brand confusion, I just had to try it.

Who are you, and what have you done with Taco Bell?

After eating the sandwich, I’m even more confused.  It’s just their grilled chicken, cheese, and quesadilla sauce on what is unquestionably bread.  It’s also not grilled, which is a lot of the appeal of the quesadillas.  So on top of everything else, it’s not even good.  The one possible saving grace would be that it’s only 99 cents, but this is Taco Bell.  There are a ton of other options which taste much better for about the same price or a little bit more.

Overall, this sandwich is a mystery to me.  It’s like Taco Bell somehow ended up with a shipment of flatbread rolls and needed to come up with a way to get rid of them.  I had a bad feeling about it from the beginning, so I had hoped to review it with the much more promising Carnitas taco, but the location I visited didn’t have the ingredients.  Not a good sandwich, and not a good sign.  With this level of disregard for their brand, what’s next?

“Je veux Taco Bell!!”

Branching out a bit here, I’ve decided to review Taco Bell’s Bacon Club Chalupa, a new addition to their Mexican-themed menu.  As a forewarning to anyone familiar with Mexican food, Taco Bell’s chalupa bears little resemblance to the traditional fare.  Instead, it looks like this:

Looks kinda like a taco to me…

The Bacon Club Chalupa consists of chicken, bacon, lettuce, diced tomatoes, cheese, and a “club sauce”, which is basically ranch dressing.  The final defining element is the shell, which is a fried wheat flatbread.  The ingredients work deliciously together, but they don’t taste particularly Mexican.  It really is more like an interesting flatbread club sandwich than anything else.  However, you really can’t beat chicken, bacon and ranch together, and the chalupa shell is a nice change of pace from the usual corn chip shells and flour tortillas.

If you’re not sold on the BCC yet, consider that it’s available in a $5 box combo.  This combo includes the titular chalupa, a bean burrito, a crunchy taco, an order of the cinnamon twist side, and a medium drink.  That is a ton of food for a comparatively low price (specialty burger combos at places like Burger King or Wendy’s generally go for a bit more, and include fewer items).  The Bacon Club Chalupa Box is a great deal for a great sandwich.

EDIT:  One thing I forgot to mention is the TV spot for the BCC, which I’ve included here.  I find it interesting that no one in the ad ever eats or even discusses eating the chalupa, it’s just used as an air freshener/guy bait.  Lucky for Taco Bell there’s guys like me out there, actually selling you on how the food tastes.