When it comes to encouraging rabid fast food fetishism, the humble Del Taco chain very often fails to get the respect it deserves. It's hard to imagine why; when it comes to the world of dirt-cheap Mexican food that you can order by the sack without ever leaving your car, most of the conversation instead seems to revolve around Taco Bell, Del Taco's bathsalts-addicted half-brother.
Oh, sure: Tacos made of Doritos and waffles stuffed with scrambled eggs may grab all the headlines, but it's Del Taco that keeps quietly chugging along, blurring the lines between fast food and fast-casual with typically higher quality ingredients, more attention to detail, and more of a resemblance to actual food - provded you don't delve too deeply into the vagaries of the dollar menu.
After decades of putting an emphasis on quality, however, Del Taco is finally joining the modern-day fast food landscape, and making up for lost time by spinning off a few wackadoo ideas of its own.
Name: Del Taco "Epic Surf and Turf Burrito"
The Pitch: "With epic size, taste and value, Del Taco's Epic Surf & Turf Burrito is loaded with crispy golden shrimp, freshly grilled carne asada steak, lime rice, crunchy cabbage, and is topped with creamy ancho sauce, freshly chopped pico de gallo salsa and Del Taco's secret sauce."
Available: Now, for a limited time.
Regardless of whether you think this is a good idea (you don't), or whether you've ever found yourself wishing you could enjoy fast food fried shrimp chunks and fast food beef chunks in the same burrito (you haven't), you have to admire Del Taco's inventiveness. Fried shrimp tacos have already reappeared at the chain for Lent, making this nothing more than a clever reassembly of ingredients the store already had on hand, to appeal to even the most jaded Top Chef-obsessed stoned teenage boys.
Does it work? Surprisingly, the answer is yes, due mostly to Del Taco going surprisingly above and beyond in terms of ingredients. Just the name, "Surf and Turf Burrito" would have been enough to get this monstrosity written up in all of the most widely-read scientific fast food journals, without any further effort or attention to detail needed. Del Taco could have enjoyed a brief hype-driven bump in March sales, and we all could have gotten on with our lives.
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Instead, however, the Del Taco food lab went a little further. The cabbage holds up to the heat of the other fillings, staying crunchy and paying homage to the the burrito's fish taco roots. The lime-scented rice adds lightness, and the creamy ancho sauce provides a spicy-yet-cooling contrast to the crunchy battered shrimp.
These unexpected touches of quality generally not found in the fast food world bring balance to the burrito, and elevate it from just another dopey idea dreamed up by the overpaid marketing department, to a burrito you'll actually want to eat. Provided, that is, the whole sordid concept doesn't make you feel kinda yarfy.