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Taco Bell is a disgrace to tacos

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UPDATE: I’m bringing this back up to the top because it’s been getting a bunch of comments recently as Taco Bell has rolled out these Cantina Tacos nationally. We even got a link on SFGate.com today.

ORIGINAL POST, 11/19/09: As we all know by now, I’m something of a taco fiend. When I say that, I mean I’m into hole-in-the-wall taco spots and not-so-well-lit taco trucks. But that didn’t mean I had anything against Taco Bell. Until now.

Have you heard about Taco Bell’s new “cantina tacos?” I’ve started to see and hear the commercials the last couple days.

Basically, it’s Taco Bell’s effort to make a “real” taco. They’re selling carnitas now — as well as steak (at least they didn’t call it “carne asada”) and chicken.

While I’m a taco snob, I’ll admit that I eat at Taco Bell sometimes. And when I heard about these new tacos, I figured it was something me and my taco taste buds needed to investigate.

So I headed over to my neighborhood Taco Bell the other night. I was surprised that from the poster, they looked pretty good. Corn tortillas, cilantro … the good stuff. I ordered the carnitas and the steak — they’re $1.69 each or two for $2.99 — and wondered whether Taco Bell would continue to surprise me.

That didn’t last long. From first taste, it was all bad. The steak was, I’m pretty sure, the same chewy stuff they use in some other dishes already. And the carnitas was a mushy, soggy, flavorless mess that almost made me feel like I was eating wet dog food.

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Beyond that, the tacos came on the same flour tortilla that TB uses for its soft tacos. Just two of them. And there wasn’t even another salsa option, just the same ol’ Taco Bell hot sauce packets.

Considering the cost and considering this is Fresno (and we got some really good tacos here), taco eaters could do much better any number of places.

Honestly, I didn’t think these cantina tacos were going to anywhere close to my favorite taco spots. But I thought maybe they’d give Chipotle (or heck, even the so-so Baja Fresh) a run for their money.

Not even close. Taco Bell = Taco Fail!

Responses to "Taco Bell is a disgrace to tacos"

brodiemash says:

I tried the chicken one the other day and ordered it without onion thinking the cilantro would still be on it. Guess the two are pre-mixed together so all I got was tortilla & chicken. It tasted like I was eating cardboard. No bueno!

Heather says:

It’s odd TB would even attempt something like this. Usually Taco Bell knows its place — that place existing at the intersection of fried potatoes covered in processed cheese and black-shelled crunchy tacos.

Mike Oz says:

As I alluded to, I saw it as them trying to go at Chipotle a little bit

Michael says:

I tend to stay away from Taco Bell’s tacos, the “ground beef” is just gross. As for fast food tacos, Del Taco or El Pollo Loco’s are better, but that’s not saying much.

Given both Oz’s and Brodiemash’s reviews of these, I doubt I’ll try them.

kumar says:

no corn tortillas even though they’re corn in the pic?? maybe those are just stock photos that they found online.

floydy says:

i’ll have 2 kanye estrada tacos.

Heather says:

Floyd. Come on. If you come at us with something like “Kanye Estrada tacos,” you better link to a picture you’ve created of Kanye on a CHiPs bike.

We’ve come to expect a certain level of genius from you.

deaddays says:

I’m a vegetarian now, but even I was curious as to whether or not these tacos made the grade. Thanks for quelling my curiosity and confirming my suspicions. :D

Mike Oz says:

Because somebody’s bound to ask, here’s my current list of top taco places around here:

1. Guadalajara
2. La Elegante
3. Los Toritos (Selma taco truck)
4. Tacos Tijuana
5. Mi Casita (Visalia)

After that, in no order, these are all good too:
- Tacos El Palmar
- Sanger Colimas
- Chris Meat Market
- El Taco Rapido
- Tacos Colima (Fresno)

pk says:

Have to add a shout out for
Rosalinda’s “Selma” Taco…..
chunks of tender beef in an awesome taco with the works! (and you can just get it ala carte, and
‘to go’ for that ‘taco stand’ experience!)
Can’t resist!

http://www.rosalindascuisine.com/

Mike Oz says:

Is one of the locations better than the other?

Mel says:

Don Pepe’s across from Fresno State is pretty tasty too!

Mike Oz says:

I have an odd thing with Don Pepe — I know people love it and I get why, but I really don’t care for their carne asada taco. That’s generally what I compare.

I know they do a good job with fish dishes and whatnot, but when Joan Obra and I did our taste test of the Valley’s carne asada tacos a few years back, we both agreed that Don Pepe didn’t score very well.

Thanks for the quick review Mike, I was debating trying these but definitely not now.

Calvin Sman says:

PLEASSSSE. I don’t like Taco Bell but it draws it’s own customers. If people didn’t’ like the fare,they would not buy it.

I guess your idea of a proper taco is just the thoughts of some two-bit writer in a backwoods paper while Taco Bell makes profit.

Too bad. So sad.

Kristen says:

I love me some bean burrito and crunchwrap supreme, probably for the same reason I love blue box mac and cheese. Over processed, fake tasting cheesey goodness. Hey, sometimes you just gotta slum.

Dave says:

who cares? too much time on your hands–get a real job

pk says:

Haven’t been to the Selma location in a long while as the Fresno location is closer….but it was the original, and if you are in the area, absolutely worth it….we were just tickled when they opened in Fresno…..

adam says:

Mike, I have to say I’m sorry for you that your job is not real. As for all the other places you listed with delicious tacos, I’m so, so sorry that they are not turning a profit.

Calvin, Dave, do you have any other “arguments”?

Smokey Behr says:

Those that think Taco Bell is real Mexican food probably think that Chef Boyardee is real Italian food.

Have you tried Lola’s Tacos? They moved into the old DerWienerschnitzel at Belmont and Blackstone, adding to their location at KC and Cedar. They’re a good as Al Rico’s was.

lattlay fottfoy says:

Dave | November 19, 2009 7:54 PM | Reply
who cares? too much time on your hands–get a real job

+1

m. gomes says:

I probably eat at Pepe’s twice a week, but I almost never stray from the seafood.

spicy fish tacos forever

ulysses says:

Okay, for starters, carne asada tacos are just about as Mexican as taco bell tacos. Unless you are in Rosarito, Cancun, Cabo or some other spring break-resort town, you will not find carne asada in the streets of Mexico. The traditional taco is “Al Pastor,” the one’s they make from the big ol’ piece of meat on the rotisserie. Either that or a myriad of different ingredients, never carne asada. California is home to the carne asada taco.

ulysses says:

Try Tacos Don Pepe’s on First & McKenzie, (i think it’s mckenzie. between tulare & olive) It’s a little hole in the wall that makes the best adobada and tacos al pastor. They always give you a side of chicharron (crunchy pork rinds) with every order. And NO, they are not affiliated with that “other” bootleg don pepe. (pretty good asada too, Mike)

Mike Oz says:

Actually, you had me at adobada … I’ll put that place on my list. I’ve driven past it before it and wondered about the affiliation with the others. Thanks for the info.

elguapo says:

If you want real tacos you need to go to Don Pepes there’s one right across the street from the save mart center. It’s behind that starbucks by the Save Mart Center on Woodrow. Those are real mexican tacos made by real mexicans. This is a real taqueria.

They are not overpriced like Chipotle or Chevy’s or all those fake white owned places.

ben galvan says:

i will mention it again mr. mike. colima in parlier. beats sanger colima [i think they're the same owner]. also, when given an option, always go with the al pastor.

floydy says:

yeah, maybe. we’ll see.

Sirdrinksalot says:

Here is my list
1. Taco’s Tijuana Chestnut Mckinley
2. accross from wal greens at the corner of shields and Cedar.

George (Duke) says:

Mike…I tried the TACO BELL Cantina… how can they sell this OVERPRICED like it is…they are tiny tortillas (as these Ricos should be) but to charge $1.69 for one??….I go to Ashlan and Marks RICO’s and get 2 for $1.50…ten times better than these psuedo tacos…hell I would rather eat the 2 for 99 cents mystery meat tacos at Jack in the Box….something strange when you are hungry and only have a buck and get two tasty tacos there.

MY FAVE TACOS: Just about any TACO TRUCK
RICO’s previously mentioned
The new one (girls name) at Belmont and Blackstone…$1.50 for two
OXACA Belmont near Chestnut
and the cafeteria under the Post Office downtown at Tulare and M street…….made once a week.

George (Duke) says:

How could I have forgotten…

DON PEPE on Blackstone
ALBERTOS on Blackstone
Robertitos on Blackstone

METALCHRISTI says:

lol the fake “white owned” places. now thats not racist! geeeeeez.

we got your point without the “white” thrown in there dude. NOT APPROPRIATE!

Steve Weber says:

Mike, comparing Taco Bell to real Mexican food is like comparing La Rocca’s to real Italian food or McDonalds to real American food. All Taco Bell food comes in a heat and serve bag. It’s fast food, not real food. What did you expect. The food is as good/bad as it was 30 yrs ago but served much faster.

Ben Dover says:

The BEST taco and burrito I have found are in Orange Cove. The Monterry has not changed in the 20 years I’ve been eating there.
I always order 1 carne asada burrito (with salsa)
and 1 carne asada flour salsa.(its also rolled like a burrito).
Get it to go.
You wouldn’t take a date there , its not a fancy place. But the flavor is the best I’ve found…

Kandace says:

Are you guys all serious? Oh my goodness, I freaking love there new tacos! They are delicious! I thought it was really smart of Taco Bell. They have been in competition with El Pollo Loco for quite some time now and now they can take El Pollo customers away (have you tried there Tacos? They taste just like the Cantina ones). Way to go Taco Bell!

Emily says:

ILOVE TACO BELL.
you guys can suck it.

Heather says:

Word the hell up.

L. E. S. says:

I tried the chicken cantina taco and I loved it!

Troy says:

Cantina Tacos……..worst value ever at Taco Bell. Overpriced, small in size, poor in taste. Stay away from these!

John says:

Mike Oz You are a moron for even comparing Taco Bell to a Mexican Food restaurant. Plus why even listen to you as you can’t even tell the difference between a corn tortilla and flour tortilla. The Cantina Tacos are served on two corn tortillas with Real Cilantro,Onions and a lime. As for the rest of you, You guys are too snobbish. I mean it’s Taco Bell for goodness sakes and actually they aren’t too bad.I’ve eaten at alot of these so called authentic Mexican food restaurants and some of their tacos have alot to be desired. Too much cabbage and not enough meat or some of the Burritos are filled with more beans and rice than meat.

Mike Oz says:

In fact, sir, I can tell the difference between a corn tortilla and a flour tortilla, which I why I criticized them for advertising a corn tortilla and giving me a flour one. Did my local Taco Bell probably just eff up? Likely. But still …

Jo says:

ok first off the tortillas they are using for the cantina tacos are corn so maybe some of you just dont know the difference between corn and flour. Second, taco bell decided to go with this new idea as a healthier choice for customers. Adding not just one, but two corn tortillas, onions, cilantro, and meat for more protein. Notice there is no sauce, cheese, sour cream or nothing like that added because they are trying something more healthier. And if you ask me i think cantina tacos are DELICIOUS! i love it especially how they are given out with a slice of lime, i think that just makes it 100 times more delicious. Once you bite into a cantina taco, your going to want to have the taste in your mouth over and over again.

Blake says:

im kind of angry with the author for bashing them SO hard. i must also say: obviously, not all taco bells are the same. i say this because i went there tonight and my cantina tacos in Valrico, FL came on two very soft CORN tortilla shells, were filled with cilantro, onions and chicken, wrapped in foil and served with a fresh lime wedge. i was so ecstatic to see taco bell serving real mexican food. So either, a) you arent really a taco snob at all and dont know what a soft corn tortilla looks like, or b) your taco bell blows and doesnt have REAL mexicans working there and they didnt make yours right like mine did. Living in florida results in me being exposed to tons of authentic mexican food. I know my authentic mexican, and these tacos weren’t half bad at being that. if your going to bash a companies product, do so on a well-informed basis and try more than one restaurant before you attack a companies attempt at being authentic.
im still not happy with this review. it didnt do them ANY justice

Jodi says:

I agree with Blake…tacos were amazing, I had chicken with onion and cilantro…was so happy to see something that looked healthy (crossing fingers that it is…nutritional info not available yet) and tasted so good…way to go Taco Bell.

CF says:

Uh, yeah, so when did Taco Bell’s marketing department find this old story? I bet if you check the IP every one of those posts comes from Irvine.

DJ says:

Ok pal, you’re a dipsh*t of course Taco Bell is going to use the same Alpo-grade steak they use in everything else that’s steak, its a business. And The Carnitas really is nasty, I’ll give you that, but for 42 cents (at the Taco Bell I run) you can add a cup of chunky salsa the same stuff we put in with the beef taco salads. The lime wedge that The Cantina Tacos come with adds flavor to the Carnitas I actually like it with lime juice on it, and fyi, those are not flour tortillas, we actually got corn tortillas especially for this promotion. Taco Bell has promotions all the time, some are good, yet some are Epic Fails and I’m predicting the Cantina Tacos to be one of those Epic Fails, But you’re still a dipsh*t.

Anonymous says:

Okay, one, the article was written back in November 2009.

Two, you’re calling him a “dipsh*t” for a Taco Bell screw-up that happened in November.

Three, you run a Taco Bell.

[insert a moment of silent laughter]

S. Ryan says:

Who would go to great lengths to argue what a great product a fast food joint has (or doesn’t have?)? That’s insane.

Then again, I wish Taco Bell had chili cheese burritos and it pisses me off they took them away.

I’m a hypocrite..

And, there is nothing wrong with running a Taco Bell. If it pays decent and has decent benefits, it’s just as noble of a job as any other.

I actually wish my job was more ‘hands on’ and involved physical labor. I’m in an office but – it pays well and has awesome benefits.

Frustrating.

AutobotNate says:

MikeOZ iz da Devil.

Jaime says:

This is hilarious.

Coop says:

I don’t know what you’re talking about. These are tasty! and that is definitely a corn tortilla.

james says:

I don’t agree with Blake’s review of Mike’s review. It doesn’t do him ANY justice.
Also, I find an interesting irony in the idea of trying multiple locations to test authenticity – doesn’t authenticity imply uniqueness?

Deepfin says:

Hi I used live in Cali. San Diego drove to Tijuana often. I’ve had my share o “real tacos” like tacos de cabeza…. Be brave and go try some. Here in Minnesota Taco Bell is using the real corn tortillas and the steak was pretty good for TB. Kudos to them for making an effort to abandon the fisher price food they have been serving for years. Let’s keep supporting this trend to get away from the over processed crap they try to pass for Mexican food.

JML says:

I agree that Taco Bell isn’t going to come anywhere near your local Taqueria in terms of taste & quality, but for what it is, I think it’s one of Taco Bell’s best offerings so far. When you’re in a pinch, they deliver.

I’ve gotten them twice so far, 1st time the carnitas were delicious. The corn tortillas we soft and pliable. The steak (which they do describe as “carne asada”) was a bit bland, but ok.

The 2nd time i got them i got carnitas which failed to impress me the 2nd time around, looks almost as if i got the bottom of the barrel, there was alot of fat and cartilage. The chicken taco was very good, although a bit dry.

As far as nutrition goes, they are better for you than anything else on the menu, the steak & chicken tacos have only 3 WW points, and the carnitas has 7.

Steven says:

I tried the chicken and steak tonight. They were seriously the worst thing i’ve had from Taco Hell. The tortillas were soggy and falling apart. The chicken was normal TB chicken but that’s all i could taste…bland, soggy tortilla and iffy chicken. The steak was only slightly better due to the fact that TB steak tastes better than TB chicken.

Rally says:

Yep, while this is an old article, obviously these were being marketing in California before the nationwide roll out.

At any rate, I had two chicken ones last night and they were excellent, I am going back for lunch today.

Amanda says:

YUMMY! It was yummy…well the pork!!! Maybe its how they made it where I got mine… Fresh on (corn)tortillas. I LOVE it I am thinking of going to get some in a bit. But if I didnt live in Dublin Va where I can NOT find real mexican food like MN in St.paul ….I miss that food!!! Anywho It helps with my cravings not the (real) thing but better then nothing at all!!!!

mdub420 says:

haha, why you bringing up old sh!t? last night i went to taco hell and i ordered the usual disgusting enchiritos. i saw the sign for the cantina tacos and was going to order them but i was hungry and the enchiritos hit the spot, literally. anyways, i’ll have to go try them out the next time i hit up taco hell.

Christy says:

Mike, thanks for reposting this. I welcome any suggestions for all things taco. I came to Fresno 5 years ago from San Jose (downtown area) where there’s a taqueria on every corner. I’ve been wondering where all the good taco places were around here. I’ve been so homesick for decent tacos (and good Mexican food in general). Al Rico Tacos is the best I’ve found thus far. Although, I’m sure that’s about to change once I visit your fave spots! ;D I live in Northwest Fresno (Herndon/Polk area near Casey’s), and boy is it slim pickins out here. The only taqueria nearby (Brawley/Figarden) sucks. But there’s sure no shortage of Taco Bell’s. There are 3 located within 2 miles of my house in every direction! Looks like I’ll have to head southeast/downtown Fresno for the good stuff.

Pustoolio says:

They are made with corn tortillas. I tried them last week and really liked the steak version. Remember, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Just make sure you don’t spout one if you haven’t tried it first.

Chris says:

hmm… I thought they were pretty good.

Joe Moore says:

There’s a ton of great taco places in Fresno, though not so much in North Fresno. Check out Guadalajara’s many locations for great carne asada, but one of my favorites that Mike got me into is La Elegante in Chinatown. Mike, as well as some local taco fans did a radio feature on the search for Fresno’s best taco for 90.7 KFSR’s program “The Flavors of the Valley”, which is archived online here:

http://www.csufresno.edu/kfsr/flavors/flavors002.html

Sirdrinksalot says:

The best tacos come from Al Ricos Marks and Ashlan or any place that has a true mexican name on the outside of the building. mmmm iam getting hungry. He Oz you should lead a Fresno Taco Tour.

Michael Medrano says:

We should be having a discussion on supporting our local businesses rather taking pot-shots at a mega-conglomerate like Taco Bell, I mean Pepsi. ;) Taco Bell has been prostituting the Latino community in the name of Chihuaha mascots, mock versions of authentic street food, and made up spanish words like “Enchirito”, etc. I refuse to give TB my money because I know they will not invest in my community. Support local–real food/real investment in the community.

JDub says:

Michael Medrano – Building a restaurant from the groundup that creates jobs is investing in a community.

Michael Medrano says:

JDub: Yes, TB employs local employees, but that is the extend to their contributions. I mean Pepsi owns TB. They’re only concerned w/ profits. Do TB employees receive benefits other than upper level mgmt? The dollars we spend at TB does not reciprocate back to us. The only way to do this is to spend at the local leve. This is part of the reason why Downtown Fresno is in the economic state that it’s in. Look at River Park with all the chain restaurants, retail stores, etc. Not only that, but, because we’ve gotten used to this sameness, we are becoming less and less exposed to local businesses.

When I was a student at Fresno State I went on a field trip to SF Mission District to see the murals, I followed my professor to the Pupuseria for Salvadoran food while a great majority went to McDonald’s, Burger King, and yes, even Taco Bell.It’s not that the students were ignorant, they just didn’t know better. :)

JDub says:

Michael, while most of what you say makes sense, it doesn’t support your statement that tb doesn’t invest in the community. Building a restaurant requires workers to build it, who end up spending that money in the community. When the business opens the employees also spend money in the community. Whether they get benefits or not has nothing to do with it. I am willing to bet most locally owned employers with similar pay do not offer benefits either.

All businesses main concern is to turn a profit whether they are corporately owned or not. That is the point of being in business. Do you feel that locally owned restaurants give up profit in order to support their community? Please provide some examples of this happening here?

I live downtown and fully understand why it is in the state it is. People don’t spend money here, people don’t live here, and people don’t start businesses that people want to spend money at and live close to. It’s not the evil corporations fault.

You are right that there are many who don’t know life beyond chain stores and restaurants, but that has nothing to do with your argument.

Watts says:

@Michael Medrano: Taco Bell has not been owned by Pepsi since 1997. The fast food restaurants (TB, KFC and Pizza Hut) were spun off as an independent company called Tricon, which has been known as Yum! Brands since 2002, after they bought the company that owned A&W and Long John Silver’s.

I’m making no comment about Taco Bell quality in general, the “Cantina tacos” in particular (I haven’t tried them yet, although the reviews of the carnitas here aren’t making me want to run out and try ‘em), but you’ve mentioned Pepsi as the parent company twice and I figure it’s worth setting the record straight.

(I live in the SF Bay Area myself, and followed the link from the SF Chronicle as I gather a fair number of other people have. When I’m next in Fresno, I’ll at least know a few local taqueria names now!)

TomL_12953 says:

Are pink tacos next? They’re messy but tasty.

Rin D says:

Good tacos cost substantially more money than Taco Bell’s offerings – obviously. So you can’t expect the same quality, or even close to the same quality from 3 tacos for 3$ at Taco Bell in a snap, as you do from a substantial meal edging around 10$ at a sit down restaurant.

Let’s not be pig-headed and elitist here. Not everyone wants the “top of the line Tacos” here. It’s just idiotic to trash Taco Bell for making an economy selection for people who are too occupied with their lives to consider themselves “above” a food.

I personally rarely eat any fast food – as I prefer the later with cheaper local places – but please… Taco Bell and such is not the bane of the eating world. They provide a cheap and fast Taco-like food to people who don’t mind eating it. It’s not a disgrace, it’s an alternative. Get off your high-horse and stop being smug about what you eat.

SOPA says:

I’ll fulfill all your weeshes with my TACO flavored keeshes…

Heather says:

Yeah, Mike, stop eating at all those upscale, top-of-the-line $10 taco places and eat where the salt-of-the-earth types get their tacos — at the Bell.

Anonymous says:

i followed this link from sf paper, I grew up and live in the Mission District of SF, I am Mexican, so you can believe that I grew up with real authentic food. But I must say, Taco bell is coo’, is it Mexican food? You all know the answer to that. And I tried these tacos, all 3 on Saturday, and they were NOT bad. Do they compare to MY TACOS I make at home or my favorite taco truck? Hell na. But they are pretty good considering. Bout time TB! ;)

<3 tee tee

Bell Employee says:

As a Taco Bell employee I feel I should say something, though not in defense of the fast food industry.

1. We didn’t use the same shell as the soft taco for the cantinas, we used to corn tortillas. Soft tacos are made with 6 and 1/2 inch flour tortillas.

2. The cilantro and onions are pre-mixed, and are depicted as such in the poster; it’s unreasonable to suggest that we would cut up and waste cilantro for a few customers that want to be picky.

3. I do agree that taco bell has some bad stuff and these were probably some of the worst to come through; but we surprisingly had a lot of people order them but it was probably cause they wanted to try something “new”.

4. The carnitas is tasteless and undesirable