“What took you guys so long?” you might ask, if you were the kind of person who cared about when and if this site publishes stories. In that case, congratulations on being me. You should lose some weight and consider wearing clothes that actually fit.
It has taken since November for us to put together the fourth part of our award-wanting Taco Bell menu dissection. Which is too long. But we are busy people. Or at least Spencer and Brian are. My schedule is pretty open. Why, what are you up to? Can I tag along?
Oh. Okay. Well, here are the first three parts in case you’re interested.
And once again, we are:
Greg Elwell - A man of many passions, none of which are exercise or moderation.
Brian Byrne - The original spokesman for Brawny paper towels. Avid exister.
Spencer Hicks - What happened when scientists accidentally spilled a vial of pure hug serum on a scarecrow.
At some point in our mid-30s to early 40s, we all came to not only accept our mortality but to embrace it. Our time here is short and the universe is random and cruel. So what better way to look destiny straight in the eye and say, “Come at me, bro” than to eat one of everything on the Taco Bell menu?
This collection includes all the oddities that couldn’t quite fit into any other categories. But we could fit them in our faces, dear readers. And we did. So very much.
GE: Taco Bell may need to look up the word “power” because there was nothing forceful about this bowl of junk. The guacamole is weird. It just ain’t right. The chicken, black beans and rice are boring and bland. There’s no seasoning to be had here. Go back to the gym, power menu bowl. Work on your squats.
SH: It’s not good. To piggyback off Greg, when you get a gym membership and the first time you go to the gym, and you look at yourself in the mirror and think, “where do I even start…” That’s how I feel about the Power Bowl.
BB: Apparently I’m the only person here who remembers our unanimous designation of this item as the Power Bottom Menu Bowl, but frankly that gives a lot more credit to this thing than it’s due. It’s like they remembered at the last minute that they needed a 10th menu item and just threw a bunch of crap in a bowl. And like, not even good crap.
GE: Where do they get off using the word “cheesy” for this thing? And is a gordita just an un-fried chalupa shell? I can’t imagine ordering this again unless I was actively trying to punish someone by promising them Taco Bell and then this is all they get it.
SH: The gordita seems like it has potential. But like me, it doesn’t do much with it. The shell needs to be fried. The cheese that is used to hold the hard and soft shells together needs to be the nacho cheese. It could be great. Make Gorditas Great Again!
BB: It’s like the power went out while they were making this thing—it’s just not done. I guess it’s possible to present your audience with a cooked and uncooked version of basically the same menu item, but I’m not convinced it’s a good idea.
GE: I like Taco Bell’s fries. That said, I’m not sure how much I like this dish. It’s just nachos with potato flavors and I don’t know that that’s something I’ve been craving. A better deal and a more potent flavor are the regular fries with nacho cheese dipping sauce.
SH: This isn’t a meal. This is strictly carbs waiting for your body to turn them into poo. It was good, but I can’t imagine eating more than just the amount I ate being split between Greg and Brian.
BB: I may be an outlier in my total indifference to Taco Bell’s fries, but they are just not great, folks. There’s not enough flavorwise that sets them apart from anybody else’s fries and without that all you’ve got is a subpar fry with consolation cheese.
GE: Bland. So bland. Why is this a thing that exists? The fried shell was, by far, the most flavorful thing on this item. Everything inside was just sort of there. I remember when a chalupa was a big deal. How the mighty have fallen.
SH: If you’ve ever spent time at a public swimming pool, you know how it feels to inadvertently get water up your nose. And then, for the next few minutes you get that chlorine flavored drainage in the back of your throat… that’s more flavorful than this chalupa.
BB: I don’t have anything to top the above chorus of blandness, because this was bland as an unsalted cracker. I will say that the shell was so good, I almost didn’t care how dull the rest of it was. In fact I’m pretty sure I finished this just so I could eat more shell.
GE: Yes. Here it is. Chicken is so mild that it lets the sweet fried shell take over. Taco Bell’s oft-maligned taco beef has the assertive spice needed to balance the chalupa shell. Add in sour cream for a tangy burst and there’s a reason this is still going strong.
SH: The beef chalupa is the only chalupa in my eyes. The fried shell has that nice flakey crust and the sour cream mutes the assertive beef. Assertive beef has its place in our world, but it takes just enough of the stage to be enjoyable in the chalupa.
BB: This was just absolutely delightful. I’ve made my position clear on chalupa shells, but the Bell’s delightful ground beef is the perfect companion for said Shell of Goodness. The vegetables come alive when you mix them with Taco Bell beef, as it turns out. Just an A+ melding of the same eight ingredients.
GE: When this thing came out, I remember thinking, “Well, this is stupid.” And now I can definitively say, “Yeah, I was right about this being stupid.” It’s not bad, mind you, but like the too-large sushi roll, the Crunchwrap Supreme suffers from being too big to experience all the ingredients at the same time. The outer tortilla dulls the crunch of the tostada shell inside and masks the uneven application of fillings. With every bite, you are unsure if you’re getting nothing but ground beef or a big squirt of sour cream. I’d much rather eat a taco supreme and a soft taco supreme side-by-side, because I think that’s the best version of this one.
SH: I really enjoy the Crunchwraps, but Greg is absolutely right about the fillings being unevenly distributed. Sometimes when I get these on my own, the first bite will be at the location they squirted the sour cream, and I think to myself, “I just gotta make it through tortilla and sour cream and then the rest will be beef and cheese!”
BB: I, too, am a Crunchwrap Partisan, but Admiral Greg makes a good point up there about filling distribution. I will note that an easy solution to this problem is to be drunk enough not to care by the time you eat your Crunchwrap, but different strokes I suppose.
GE: I don’t know what’s happened in the intervening years since I last tried a full-sized chicken quesadilla at Taco Bell, but this was so much better than I expected. Lots of chewy cheese and seasoned chicken chunks. The weird wrapper it comes in seems designed to make it soggy, but this was legitimately good. Simple, but good.
SH: The quesadilla is delicious, make no mistake, but I can’t rank it any higher after trying the mini shredded chicken quesadilla from the Cravers menu. This iteration is quite a bit larger than the mini ones but it’s also over $4. For $1 you can get one of the minis, which I feel is an adequate amount of quesadilla. So, for no other reason than economics, this comes in at #5 for me.
BB: At the table, Spencer pointed out that buying four mini chicken quesadillas would be the superior investment, and I wholeheartedly concur. That said, it was solid if unspectacular. As is often the case with these taste sessions, I found myself wishing for a few sauce packets.
GE: If you’re getting this, eat it fast. It does not age well. Also, if you’re ordering this to-go, be sure to check your bag. This is one the kitchen tends to forget and leave in the steamer tray. The “crust” is light and flaky, the same dough used for the taco salad, I think. The flavors are good, but just be aware that no one craving actual pizza will be satisfied with this version.
SH: These things are great. I’m not sure what the tomato paste they smear under the shredded cheese is all about, but maybe we should stop asking questions and just enjoy things smeared on our food, you know? I feel the world would be a better place. Yes, something is smeared on your food. Shut up and eat it, asshole.
BB: I have avoided these for basically ever, my reasoning being that pizza already exists and there’s no good reason to Bell it up. Friends, I stand corrected. I enjoyed the heck out of the Mexican Pizza. Among other things, it’s one of the more visually pleasing menu items we were served; it was as though our Mexican Pizza had sprung fully formed from the picture menu behind the counter, fully armed and dressed for battle.
GE: There’s a reason this is a classic. Unlike the fries, the chips in these nachos are super light and crispy and a delight. Seriously, we need to give Taco Bell’s chips more love. I know they don’t play a big part on the menu, but when they show up, you’re never disappointed. I like the beans on this, too. It just makes it feel like a full meal instead of a snack.
SH: Much like the Taco Salad, this is just a mess of everything you love. Cheese, beans, chips, some veggies, but not enough to make passersby think you’re a health nut. Which shouldn’t really happen anyway as long as you’re at Taco Bell.
BB: This is like, the whole reason Taco Bell exists. It’s in the pantheon for a reason. Taco Bell’s entire science division has been working for decades to improve the Nachos Supreme and they’ve been failing the whole time because they’re already perfect.
GE: If there’s one thing this series of features has taught me it’s that you cannot predict what you’re going to love. I ordered the Taco Salad out of a sense of obligation, fully expecting to yawn my way through it and move on to more interesting items. But this thing is a powerhouse. The shell is sweet and flaky. There’s a bunch of beef, rice and beans (make sure to mix it up, the beans are hiding at the bottom) with lettuce and cheese. Also, why does Taco Bell only use the chunky salsa here? It needs to be on everything. #FreeTheSalsa
SH: This was the very first time I’ve tried the Taco Salad and I’m now second guessing every decision I’ve ever made in my life. This is deliciousness in a pile, so go ahead and crawl on top of the pile. You deserve it!
BB: This was also my maiden voyage on the U.S.S. Taco Salad, and folks, the sailing was smooth. Beany breezes. Gentle swells of chunky salsa. Clouds of lettuce giving momentary respite from the blazing core of ground beef that heats our planet and makes life possible. Ahoy, shipmates! Red salsa at night, sailor’s delight!