Blasphemy. I have committed blasphemy, dear reader.
The aim for the blog was to review “off the branded track“. Think of all the passionate chefs and movers and shakers of the culinary word that pour their blood and sweat and tears and dread-to-think-what-else into each serving of their 14,650 year old family recipe. In a world full of chains and labels why spend your time at a place that is a brand, a chain and staple of U.S. fast food?
Well, the only reasonable response that comes to mind is a journalistic principle – it’s not available to everybody. Not everyone in the U.K. can get to a Taco Bell, it’s only got three in London. To put that in a context; in the capital there’s 4 Herman ze Germans, 3 Thunderbird Fried Chickens, 2 Goddard’s and a singular Mooshies. To us limeys, Taco Bell is barely a blip on the fast food map; only a paltry 39 branches in the U.K. to 1,700 Subways or 1,249 McDonald’s. And if that doesn’t answer your question I will simply put my fingers in my ears and yell “la la la it’s my bloody blog I’ll do what I want, luvvies!”
Okay, so for those not married to the Central line; Taco Bell have sold Mexican-style fast food for over half a century. A food empire originating from California in 1962, after the creator, Glen Bell, spent the 50s nascent; selling hotdogs and wondering what was put in the hard shelled tacos in the Mexican place down the end of the street such a big seller. Taco Bell slowly took over the U.S. with branches littered around the globe, albeit without making as much of a mark than its 5,604 strong American outlets. Taco Bell is big in the states and maybe its inevitable we were going to get it on our shores sooner or later.
“The chicken is about as fresh as the meat used in a supermarket sandwich, with the same wooden, stale taste.”
Perhaps you can tell from the zealous pingbacks, there is a pang of guilt reviewing Taco Bell. They certainly don’t need the publicity nor is it particularly classy to go after low hanging fruit. But even saying that sets an anticipatory tone. I don’t expect much. So let’s get this right by proposing a question; is there such a thing as an ironic taco? Can one slum a burrito? And will Jarvis Cocker write a song about living amongst the fajita people. . . like you?
The Agony of Choice
The place is small, with a large bench, window seats and outside seating which crams nearly every inch of the available space. It isn’t so much a queue at the counter as it is a congestion. The walls are painted with Matt Groening-esque depictions of tacos and burritos, which keeps things nice and family friendly.
” . . .Taco Bell is not the Ed Wood of food. It isn’t even having fun being terrible. . . ”
On the side were two self serve machines, which reminded me of the Telescreens from 1984, that broke down the whole order into nearly painstaking detail. Pick what you want. Alright, I want a burrito. Do you want a chicken burrito, a pulled pork burrito, or beef burrito? Um, a pulled pork burrito? Do you want a pulled pork burrito with cheese? With spicy sauce? With salad? I would very much like for the agony of choice to not be up to me. Do you very much want the agony of choice not to be up to you with beans? Oh shuttup. We shall provide the orders. To make matters worse, one of the self serve machines didn’t work and crashed every order made on it after pressing “pay with card”, which meant queuing up again and doing the whole painstaking business all over again. Eventually the burrito Stasi Bot spits out a ticket and you’re left waiting underneath a screen that tells you when it’s ready like it’s a new toaster in Argos.
The pulled pork burrito was a messy-mashy hash of rice and meat with a luke warm hot sauce, the wrap was grilled, which kept it warm, and carrots for some crunch sticking out as the prominent taste. Probably the best of what I ate. The meat was anodyne and well. . .did what it said on the tin? Already in my first bites I’m thinking “uh oh“. There’s not a lot of personality, I mean we can tell what makes it, but not of what this makes. Cooking takes more than assembly. Food isn’t Lego, and you can tell there’s not a lot of love went into this.
Please, just let’s get this over with.
The crunch wrap supreme, one of the USP of Taco Bell, is a wrap with a taco inside. This came flavoured with spicy chicken, crunchy lettuce and creamy tomato to pad it out. The chicken is about as fresh as the meat used in a supermarket sandwich, with the same wooden, stale taste. Sounds like a good combo but this lacks the flavour nor the individuality to pull it off. I’m left feeling like I’m eating more air and space inside that anything else. Taco Bell obviously like to make a little go a long way.
My fries came on their own little plate and were ridiculously under salted, in comparison to something like Herman ze German’s Berliner style, and came with more of the plastic type cheese melted on top, which made them soggy and then the cheese dried and congealed, imprisoning my little potato friends to a cheesy, soggy grave in a matter of minutes. I left them untouched in their tragic dairy tomb after several forks. Alas, such is life.
“Taco Bell is your basic bitch . . .”
But I’ve saved the best for last. Lately, I’ve been reading into the health benefits of beans and legumes and I think the presumption was that ordering beans would be inherently good to consume under the guise of any dish.
What I got would have given the Hound of Baskervilles sustenance. It wasn’t so much a side dish as a petri dish. A friend of mine presumed it was dessert. With yellow and white sauces on top of a black smudge, giving off the rather distorted appearance of a Christmas pudding painted by Hieronymus Bosch.
How to describe the taste?
They say that you could get addicted to literally anything. They are wrong. Never in the history of the human race will any group of individuals gather together under the gobbet of “Hi, my name is Candice and I’m a Taco Bell bean-aholic.” You couldn’t get addicted to this. Now that’s damning with faint praise.
The sour cream and cheese sauces on top had a strong umami to it, the same umami consuming month old mould would have. It had this fake, plastic-like taste to it. Lawd knows what went into this. The fluid and the beans tasted watery, with just enough of the beans’ original flavour to have it’s own, slightly iron-rich taste. This is the sort of thing you’d eat for a dare. I left food on the plate for once. Where was the vim? The passion? It just tastes. . . empty. “I for one thought it was fucking awful.” stated one of my least spade calling friends.
So what has Taco Bell got for it? Well, it’s got more than enough of it to fill you up for cheap. . . I think that’s it. If you just want something filling and warm, Taco Bell is your basic bitch. Hope their marketing team are reading. Apart from that I’m not even sure it’s enjoyable on an ironic level. Everyone gets a junk food craving every now and then. Taco Bell is not the Ed Wood of food. It isn’t even having fun being terrible.
Apparently negative, scathing reviews are much more fun to read but lemme state I didn’t want to hate it. La Galatiera for example gave me no pleasure to write. But unless you call a spade a spade you’re pretty much an unpaid PR person. If anything I can chalk this up as character building. You, reader, now know where my buck stops. Taco Bell. Now you know what rock bottom looks like. It’s Taco Bell.
Well the fact is, I wanted to like it. I wanted to write a lovely glowing piece about how street food (for the lack of a better term) and food not considered posh can deliver. But I can’t. I was snickered at for suggesting Taco Bell and now we know why. It’s not good. So the question isn’t “why review Taco Bell?” I think the question should be “How the hell did this company get so big?!“
Final thought; should you like it? It’s worth noting that Taco Bell have attempted twice to break into the Mexican market to little fanfare or enthusiasm. But it’s fast food. Thinking too much about it takes away what fun there is to be had. This is the airport shop novel of food, it served its purpose. I choose not to review brands and large chains. Now we know why. If you want good Mexican, please check out our Mestizos review.
. . . back to the homepage.
Do you like beans of the Baskervilles? How do you fare with the Burrito Stasi Bot? Enjoy your soft shell tacos? Have you been to Taco Bell before? Agree? Disagree? Comment below and let us know!