As promised, I went to Taco Bell on Saturday to sample the two new taco-sauce flavors and the new XXL Chalupa, seen here:
I should note that the in-person Taco Bell reviews have slowed here because I happen to live near the Worst Taco Bell in the World, in Elmsford, N.Y., a fact corroborated by JMU Chris in the comments section here not long ago and by some obviously stoned guy in the Taco Bell the first time I ate there.
I considered driving about 20 minutes past the local Taco Bell to Yonkers to try the new products. That’s how bad my local Taco Bell is. They haven’t yet produced a red shell for a Volcano Taco. I only ordered two items in this particular trip, and they managed to screw up one — I got a crunchy taco instead of a soft, which, is fine because crunchy tacos are still delicious — and it took the woman at the register about five minutes to figure out how to process my request to have my XXL Chalupa without the tomatoes and onions, something that finally happened only because I copped to knowing that the tomatoes and onions are in the Taco Bell computer as “Fresco Salsa.”
But that’s a subject for another day.
Anyway, now to the important stuff. First the Salsa Verde. Here’s what it looks like:
Not particularly appetizing, I know. But pretty tasty regardless. Apparently green salsa has been available in some forms in certain Taco Bells — especially out West — forever, and many claim you could find it even on the East Coast upon request. I can’t speak to that. I can say that added a nice sweetness to the taco, with that familiar green-chile tang I encountered first in Denver. Mild, but appealing. A nice complement to the existing array of sauces.
And the Fire-Roasted Salsa:
I guess I had pretty high hopes for this sauce, and at first taste I was impresed — it’s definitely smoky tasting. Probably more toward Liquid Smoke than if it were actually from smoked tomatoes, but I’ve always thought Liquid Smoke did at least a reasonable job capturing smoke flavor, and, you know, it’s Taco Bell. My beef with the sauce, though, was it wasn’t as spicy as I would’ve liked.
It seemed like they took mild sauce and added smoke flavor and a little color, and I would’ve preferred if they ramped up the hot sauce instead. Maybe I should mix it with Fire sauce next time for a spicier hybrid, but I think it speaks to my disappointment that when it came time to sauce my XXL Chalupa, I went back to old familiar Hot.
Speaking of, the main event:
Clearly not as neat as the one in the commercial, but I suppose a lot of things are messier for mortals than they are for Mariano Rivera.
My initial concern about the XXL Chalupa was that the proportions would be off and there would be too much beef, but that wasn’t the case. Everything came in about the right amount, I’d say, the only problem was the construction.
This might be an issue with a one-item sample or with the particular Taco Bell, but I imagine when you’re dealing with a chalupa of this magnitude you’re inviting a great deal of ingredient entropy. On a regular crunchy taco with the right amount of beef, cheese and lettuce, there’s a pretty good chance you get beef, cheese and lettuce in every bite. The XXL Chalupa is so unwieldy that no one topping covered the breadth of the shell, so my first taste was mostly nacho cheese and my last was almost entirely sour cream.
I should note that both of those, as well as every one in between, were unutterably delicious because everything I ate was from Taco Bell. But if you’re looking for a consistent Taco Bell experience, the XXL Chalupa probably isn’t for you. Unless you happen to go to the same Taco Bell that Mariano Rivera frequents, in which case you’re golden.
Also, a special nod to the crunchy red strips, perhaps the most wildly underrated and frequently overlooked Taco Bell ingredient. I really don’t understand why the crunchy red strips aren’t on everything. So crunchy, so red. Such a convenient way to add crunchiness to otherwise uncrunchy products, and thus a great way to make a driveable Taco Bell order crunchy.
I will reiterate here a campaign I have been waging since the debut of the crunchy red strips in the now-defunct Chicken Caesar Grilled Stuft Burrito way back when: Please, Taco Bell, put the crunchy red strips in more stuff. They are delicious. Thank you.