Frankly, we’re just as surprised we’re still be alive as any of you are. After an evening of Dollar Cravings and Tacos from Taco Bell, there was a fair chance that at least one of us would not return for a second go round, either because of organ failure or a sudden burst of common sense.
But now we’re back with the third in our four-part series exploring the larger-than-you-might-expect Taco Bell menu. Seriously. For a restaurant that sells foods in the $1-2 range, you could probably spend $100 if you legitimately ordered every single thing on the menu.
Greg Elwell - A big guy with an enlarged heart that is incapable of love. Also, he runs this site.
Brian Byrne - Not technically one of the original Beatles, but Mark David Chapman doesn’t like him. So huggable that scientists are fighting over posthumous possession of his body.
Spencer Hicks - Skinnier than is legally allowed for someone who subsists on whiskey and fast food. Hosts his own talk show.
Third course: The Burrito Menu
“Who knew eating 30 burritos could make you full?” asked an only mildly miserable Spencer Hicks.
Well, it wasn’t actually 30 burritos. It was 14. And we each ate about ⅓ of each burrito. But, yeah, it’s filling. So much tortilla. So many variations of mayonnaise. Brian drove away with his window down, a cigarette hanging from his mouth and a curse upon his lips.
“WHY DID YOU MAKE ME EAT ALL THIS FOOD, GREG?!”
I did it for you, reader. Because I want your sweet, sweet clicks and shares and whatnot.
14. Loaded Potato Griller
SH: I felt this was the blandest item we tasted on that windy Saturday afternoon. I almost spit it out in protest, but then Brian told me it should have had bacon. I tried to imagine what bacon would do for this burrito, but couldn’t. And let’s be honest, if we could trick our tongues into believing things tasted good, we would all be the healthiest versions of ourselves and the restaurant industry would collapse.
Perhaps we should have taken it back to the counter, perhaps I should have gone out to my vehicle and grabbed my emergency bacon… but we didn’t, and I didn’t.
BB: Let the record show that the Loaded Potato Griller we were served on Test Day was lacking a crucial advertised menu ingredient: Bacon bits. As such, I do not feel this is an accurate reflection of the true quality of the LPG, and enter this vote somewhat under protest. Let me be clear: I wholeheartedly endorse the Loaded Potato Griller.
GE: What a load. I don’t expect masterpieces at Taco Bell, though I’m happy when I find one. But this, like its spiritual Dollar Menu brother the Spicy Potato Soft Taco, is no masterpiece. Despite assurances from Dr. Byrne that a regulation LPG is a glorious treat, what was served to us did not live up to the hype.
Even if bacon bits had been included, I still think this iteration of a loaded baked potato would be, at best, half baked. The ratios were off and, despite the grilling — which is a welcome addition to any and all burritos — nothing here really stood out.
13. XXL Grilled Stuft Burrito
SH: Foster’s is Australian for beer. XXL Grilled Stuft Burrito is American for burrito. And like Foster’s, it’s not bad, but also not great. When was the last time you ordered a Foster’s? Case closed. For the money, I think it’s a great value.
BB: The XXLGSB has been a mainstay of my Taco Bell order for years now, but eating it alongside its burrito-retheren made me reconsider this idea. Its virtues:
… But I realized I’ve been focusing more on these virtues than the actual eating experience. And maybe it’s time to move on.Having said that, this is most definitely $5 worth of burrito, and you could do a lot worse.
GE: It’s enormous. If you’re interested in the quantity vs. the quality, I think you could make a worse choice. But in practice, this was a dud.
The beef flavor was overshadowed by the guacamole and the avocado ranch, but none of them really shone through. Rice and beans give it added heft, which I appreciate, but without a clearly dominant flavor, this became kind of a slog.
Also, and I’m alone in this, but I think Taco Bell’s guacamole is rank. There is just something about it that does not sit right with me. An artificially overripe taste coupled with a too-smooth texture. It very nearly ruins all that it touches. BEGONE, FOUL GUAC!
BB: You take that back you fucking monster.
12. Beefy 5-Layer Burrito
SH: I’m not sure why I enjoyed this burrito more than the 7-layer burrito. Maybe it was made with love. When I worked at Schlotzsky’s in high school, I used to hate making complicated sandwiches and always wondered if the customer could taste the disdain. So in my head, the Taco Bell artist, having to make a train of burritos probably enjoyed the process of making this one. Which is why I found it so great.
BB: Something important that Spencer pointed out: The Taco Bell menu is about 100-something items based on maybe 4 ingredients. It starts to become apparent during a 5K Food Race like this. I bring this up because the way TB’s 4 ingredients came together in the B5LB just didn’t distinguish itself much. Plenty of salty, meaty, cheesy soup in there to be sure, but nothing about it really stood out for me. Except how much I still enjoy salty, meaty, cheesy soup.
GE: Though they both proudly proclaim their “layers,” the Beefy 5-Layer Burrito and the classic 7-Layer Burrito don’t actually share much in common. Each has sour cream, beans and cheese, but the similarities end there.
The B5LB has both cheese and nacho cheese sauce, which gives the interior a very sloppy texture. Gone are the tomatoes, lettuce and rice of the 7-Layer, which add necessary structure to the entree. This was just a bore. The beef and cheese were one-note. The deluge of sauces made it seem muddied and indistinct. No thank you, sir.
11. 7-Layer Burrito
SH: How many layers does a burrito need? Is a 7LB more beautiful than a 5LB? I don’t care how many layers my burritos have. I’m woke. Fun fact, that song from RENT was inspired by naming off the ingredients to the 7LB.
BB: The last dozen or so 7-Layer Burritos I’ve had were kind of bland, but the one we were served on Test Day was really far above average, really the platonic ideal of the 7LB. All seven layers complimented each other in a way I’d not experienced since before the dark time … before the Empire.
GE: Overlooking the inclusion of Taco Bell’s horrific take on guacamole, I found this 7-Layer Burrito to be one of my favorites in years. Yes, I know that beans and rice are cheap fillers. I do not care. It’s not like I’m at Taco Bell because it’s part of a balanced diet or as some fiendish way to get the most meat in my diet. I eat what tastes good and, in this case, it tastes good. I would probably alter this to a 6-Layer Burrito or swap out the guac for red sauce, but I like this more than I have in a long time.
9-10. (tie) Cheesy Potato Burrito
SH: Imagine a loaded baked potato at a very fancy, 5-star restaurant, like Rib Crib… You get some cheese, butter, sour cream, meat topping; now imagine that potato cut into cubes and rolled in a tortilla. Sure, it’s not brisket, but there is some protein in there to offset the carbs. I think this is a great snack burrito, but probably wouldn’t want to make a meal out of them.
BB: This was a very fine mess of intact chunks of potato and straight-outta-the-can nacho cheese, with a fine amount of taco beef in there as well. Simple and effective. The Honda Fit Sport of the Taco Bell lineup.
GE: This is an instance where the addition of Taco Bell’s famous (infamous?) picadillo-style beef vastly improved a dish. This is, essentially, a larger version of our least-favorite burrito, sans grilling, but with beef. Beef and potatoes are a classic pairing and this makes a great case for more of this cheap starch on dishes with Taco Bell’s cheap meat. This isn’t going to crack my usual order, but if there’s one left over after everyone has demolished the rest of the bag, I wouldn’t mind squirting in some hot sauce and giving it another go.
9-10. (tie) Black Bean Burrito
SH: This was a fine burrito, and if you are vegan or vegetarian, this is probably a staple. I just wasn’t that impressed. Granted, we were in the middle of a flavor journey, and this one felt like a speedbump. So when compared to the other burritos, it just didn’t do it for me. But by no means did I hate it.
BB: This was a darn fine surprise, if nothing else for the novelty of a Taco Bell menu item with recognizable ingredients in it. There they are! Beans! Black ones! They even eat like beans, resisting a little before being ground into paste! These were most definitely beans, so they were! Also I swear I saw individual melted shreds of cheese in it, but maybe I was high on antacids. Anyway, this is a nice thing, but I probably wouldn’t order it again.
GE: I loved this. My rating helped pull it to its current spot of prominence and I’d vote the same way again. I’m a fan of the classic bean burrito (which we’ll see more of soon), but this one added rice and swapped out the dried bean flake for actual black beans. The texture drove my fondness more than the taste, which is fairly comparable to the standard bean burrito, but the difference was palpable. I’d like to run this guy through his paces with a few additions — sour cream, nacho cheese, some pico de gallo or diced onions — because I think it has the potential to be an every-order star.
8. Shredded Chicken Burrito
SH: This was a fantastic burrito. I mean, I feel bad that a chicken had to be “shredded” to be a part of this, but ya wanna know what? God gave us dominion over the animals, so do whatever the hell you want, Taco Bell. In fact, I think you should take a play out of Burger King’s playbook, and bully your chicken. Maybe even take it a step further and enroll your chicken in school. Give it a good upbringing and then, during puberty, when it is trying to figure out its place in the world, that’s when you shred it.
BB: I was pleasantly surprised by the SCB, not least because it’s pretty close to being a burrito form of the Mini Chicken Quesadilla (which the unusually ill-advised among you may remember being a surprise contender in our previous outing). Some good-ass chicken flavor happening, although it would benefit from the Mini Chicken Quesadilla’s weird mayonnaise-y magic sauce. Also it occurred to me that the SCB would be an excellent candidate for a secret augmentation Taco Bell will totally do for the low low price of Just Asking: GRILLIN’. Taco Bell will 100 percent grill nearly any burrito you ask them to, people. I urge you to experiment with this power.
GE: This was good, but not where it needs to be. Much like the right honorable Mr. Byrne, I liken this to the Mini Chicken Quesadilla, but I think the issue is less the weird avocado ranch sauce instead of the spicy mayonnaise and more the size. The quesadilla worked because each bite was sacred and beloved, knowing that, all-too-soon, it would be gone. This was tasty, maybe needed more heat and definitely could benefit from grillin’, but I like the form factor (and the $1 price tag) of the quesadilla better.
7. Bean Burrito
SH: Ye Ole Bean Burrito. It’s been there for us since day one and will be there for us after the nuclear war rids the Earth of most of us. You wouldn’t think there is much variation on the taste of bean burritos, but this one was fantastic. It should get bonus points for loyalty. (Hey, maybe we can name KD’s old restaurant after it?)
BB: God, this brings me back. Taco Bell bean burritos sustained me through years of high school lunches, back when we could leave campus and I had $2.15 to spend. This was an exceptionally good bean burrito, by the way: The ingredients melted together enough to blend the flavors, but not so much that they didn’t come through on their own. The TBBB is a damn workhorse—a workhorse you can eat! Without bankrupting your farm! And earning you societal disapproval!
GE: The least controversial burrito among the three of us, it was actually voted seventh best independently by all three Burrito Boyz. I love a bean burrito. I usually order mine with extra red sauce or a squelch of that caulking gun full of sour cream they keep on the line in the kitchen. But the real secret to this burrito’s longevity is the onions. That ever-so-slight kick of heat and the devil-may-care crunch give this otherwise homogeneous cylinder of starch the much-needed boost.
If you order this without onions, you are History’s Greatest Monster.
6. Combo Burrito
BB: I can not for the life of me decipher from my notes why I liked this so much more than the 5-Layer Burrito, as they seem to be incredibly similar in retrospect. The only clue I have are the words “Awesome Beefiness,” so I guess I’ll leave it at that.
GE: Earning a combined score of 6.66, Taco Bell’s Combo Burrito is truly Satan’s choice for the best. Not ours, though. We put it at sixth and here’s why: It’s a bean burrito with taco meat in it. Done. That’s it. Simple and elegant, like the first guy to put a dryer sheet down the back of his pants to absorb the smell of his post-Taco Bell flatulence. Grab some Fire Sauce if you want to crank this bad boy up to more epic proportions.
5. Beefy Nacho Griller
SH: This little beauty took me by surprise. Don’t let its meager size fool you. This burrito came to play! It’s like Mugsy Bogues, tiny compared to its XXL brethren but it got to where it’s at by outworking the competition. The crunchies nestled inside provide a great respite to the otherwise “soft” fillings of the other burritos.
BB: I want to be clear here: I didn’t actively dislike any of these burritos, and the BNG is no exception. While I did dig the crunch of the Dorito bits, the whole thing was a little dry for my tastes. Maybe I’ve been conditioned by the magical cheesy, saucy mess inside every other burrito on the list.
GE: This was my number 1. I didn’t think it would be. We’d been through so many burritos before this ever came out, but I was smitten immediately, like when I accidentally see my reflection in the mirror in my cage.
Why did this rank so highly in mine eyes? It’s the very soul of simplicity. Beef. Nacho cheese sauce. Crushed tortilla chips. I fear Brian was given the short end of the burrito, because what I had was a gooey, cheesy delight. The cheese sauce is 10W-30 grade. The beef is that saucy, slightly oozy taco meat we’re all familiar with. The chip bits might as well have been dumped from the bottom of a bag of tortilla chips, but the added texture was perfect. Also, they done grilled it, which adds a nice sear and outer crunch to the whole proceedings. Bravo!
4. Chipotle Chicken Loaded Griller
SH: I like big burritos and I cannot lie. You other brothers can’t deny, that when a ‘rito walks in with a itty-bitty waist and some chicken in your face, you get sprung. During the tasting I mentioned that it had a slight hint of alfredo. So, Taco Bell, if you’re reading this, make a Chicken Alfredo Burrito™ (Patent Pending). Maybe I was high on burritos, either way, I’d eat an alfredo burrito.
BB: Reviewing just now, I’m pretty sure this is exactly what would happen if you grilled a Shredded Chicken Burrito, and the results are just excellent.
GE: I, too, would eat a chicken alfredo burrito. And I would eat this, but it’s not going to be my first choice. The Loaded Griller collection has some hits and misses, but I’m a fan overall. The chipotle sauce is just spicy mayo and it mixes with the sour cream in a nice way. Texturally not my favorite, but certainly a deserving contender.
3. Burrito Supreme
SH: I believe this is the first time I tried the Burrito Supreme. It was an impressive machine. Everything under the hood was fine tuned and chrome covered. On second thought, I think I became delirious with burrito and was eating a car. Regardless, it was a fantastic burrito that is a meal all by itself.
BB: The Burrito Supreme is truly the Most All-Around Senior of the Taco Bell menu board. It’s what should be in the dictionary when you look up “Taco Bell Burrito Supreme.” Much like the 7-Layer Burrito we ate, this was a particularly well-assembled burrito, a factory spec TBBS, and the flavors just balanced each other out marvelously.
GE: I love a Burrito Supreme. Even more than the Combo Burrito, a Burrito Supreme is what happens when you shove the innards of a Taco Supreme inside a bean burrito. For me, the fresh ingredients are the stars.
Look up and down this list and you’ll see no shortage of seasoned beef, sour cream and sauces a-plenty. So why does this (and the next entry) stand out? It’s the lettuce, the tomato and the onions. The sour cream may get a lot of glory here, but it would be nothing without the smattering of salad ingredients ably supporting it. Yes, Jimi Hendrix was a star, but without the able members of Experience backing him up, he wouldn’t have been so great. Same thing here.
Granted, this is a first-out-of-the-bag burrito. You cannot reheat a Burrito Supreme and expect anything near the same joy.
2. Power Menu Burrito
SH: This monster tried to wrestle away my love of the Quasarito, and almost succeeded. Luckily, I had just finished listening to the audiobook version of “IT,” and knew this demon was playing mind games with me. It has guacamole, which means it’s very healthy. And as the name implies, after eating it, I no longer suffered from Low-T.
BB: My notes read “Almost kinda fresh!” This is the kind of praise I don’t often have the opportunity to heap on Taco Bell, as for better or worse I don’t go there for freshness. But it was almost like a burrito you’d receive at a slightly better restaurant and not immediately send back! I was impressed by the PMB(C), and would recommend it for a cabinet position.
GE: Dump the guac and this thing could have been the champion. It reminds me, quite favorably, of Taco Bueno’s Chicken B.O.B. (Big Ole Burrito) because of a wealth of fresh ingredients. Unlike the Burrito Supreme, which must deal with that glory hog seasoned beef, the chicken in the Power Menu Burrito has all the meaty texture with none of the diva tendencies. Instead of simply tomatoes, you get a more flavorful pico de gallo, and the romaine lettuce has a bit more backbone than Taco Bell’s other shredded lettuce. The power in this burrito will be in its ability to push the Burrito Supreme out of my usual order and take the top spot ad infinitum.
SH: The Quesarito might be my favorite thing on the TBell menu. I remember first trying one during a promotion to win an XBOX. I never won the game machine, but did come away with a new favorite. And to think we almost started the burrito bonanza with this item. Once you try the Quesarito, there is no going back.
BB: Spencer warned us that this was the best burrito on the menu, and my god was he ever not kidding. I feel like a rank Taco Bell amateur for going so long without knowing this! The Quesarito is overwhelmingly meaty and cheesy and bacony(!) and just a roller coaster ride in my digestive tract from start to finish. (I realize this description unfairly implies a dangerous bathroom situation of some sort took place, and I would like to emphasize that this was not the case.)
GE: In many ways, the ultimate champion Quesarito won by ignoring all the rules. There’s way too much sauce. The ground beef is nothing special. The only texture comes from the rice and that’s largely lost to a deluge of chipotle sauce, sour cream and nacho cheese sauce. But what it lacks in diversity it makes up in sheer power. The Quesarito is an all-out cheesy assault on the senses and it will take a better man that any among the Burrito Boyz to withstand it.