Taco Bell's army of food scientists may be the most creative minds currently at work in the back rooms and laboratories of the fast food industry. Following the staggering, game-changing success of its Doritos Locos line of tacos, Taco Bell hopes to raise its status as an innovator even further into the realm of "diabolical genius," on par with the kinds of criminal masterminds who make their homes in underground caves and plan elaborate hot air balloon heists featuring armies of trained flightless birds. How, you may ask? With two bold new additions to the drive-thru menu.
Grilled Stuft Nacho
The Pitch: "The Grilled Stuft Nacho is nacho flavors all wrapped up and grilled to perfection in the shape of a giant nacho chip, with seasoned beef, warm nacho cheese sauce, our new zesty nacho sauce, crunchy red strips, and cool reduced-fat sour cream."
Available: Now, for a limited time
Once again, the Grilled Stuft Nacho makes an effort to solve a problem we didn't even know we had: that it's ridiculously inconvenient to eat a full plate of nachos in your car, especially one-handed. Oh, sure, you can DO it, but if you're eating nachos with the requisite amount of enthusiastic abandon, you're bound to get hot yellow cheese sauce on your sun visors and ground beef sprayed across the headliner.
Taco Bell hopes to fix this by applying a genuinely inspired level of creativity. Rather than serve nachos on a plate, the nacho is turned in on itself, filling a giant, triangular, nacho-shaped flour tortilla with the ingredients that usually go on top of chips, with a healthy dose of red corn chips for added crunch. Brilliant, right?
Unfortunately, it's an idea that works better when diagrammed in exhaustively thorough detail onto Taco Bell researchers' whiteboards.
Few of the happiness triggers of nachos are here: The once-crispy red tortilla strips completely break down under the weight and moisture of all that cheese sauce, reduced-fat sour cream and "new nacho sauce," leaving a big, floppy packet of goo that is satisfying in the same way grammar school cafeteria food is satisfying, but isn't actually reminiscent of eating nachos.
The nacho sauce is a surprisingly welcome addition, and will be warmly received by anyone who was a fan of the much more spicy, now mostly discontinued Lava Sauce. If only the Grilled Stuft Nacho's engineers had taken a page from the Crunchwrap Supreme handbook and included a full-sized crispy tortilla in the middle of all those competing goops to provide structure and crunch, they could have had a winner.
Sigh. If only. At just $1.29, it's a pretty low-risk decision, but for now, we'd recommend the Grilled Stuft Nacho merely as one small novelty piece of an enormous Taco Bell order that contains many other more reliable favorites.
The Pitch: "CINNABON® DELIGHTS™ are golden, bite-sized pastries filled with warm Cinnabon® frosting, dusted with the famous Cinnabon® Makara® cinnamon sugar and served warm."
What happens when two giants of the disposable-food industry join forces to invent new ways to transform the kind of calorie-laden, messy food that should only be eaten in an airport food court into a delightfully portable, popable snack? CINNABON® DELIGHTS™ happen, dude.
Finding a way to shoehorn "dessert" into its menu is a problem that has plagued Taco Bell since the early days of those explode-y shards of cinnamon corn puff things that came six or seven to a bag and that nobody liked. And while we're somewhat loath to admit it, these new CINNABON® DELIGHTS™ may have finally introduced an item of note to the dessert menu.
Served warm, each golden-fried puff is about the size of a golf ball (or an adult male testicle, which may work better as a reference point, depending on how you like to spend your vacation days), covered in granulated sugar and Makara® cinnamon, and filled with insanely sweet CINNABON® Creamy Frosting Gak™.
There's a slight crunch on the very outside, and then a flow of hot liquid sugar that is completely reckless and irresponsible but undeniably delicious, if you're into that sort of thing. At $1.49 for a bag of four, you have to admit that their very existence is problematic for the general health of our nation, but you have to also acknowledge that they are fantastic.
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Even if Taco Bell only gets it right half the time, it's still one of the few fast food chains that continues to try to innovate and build on existing successes. Where Burger King lamely puts onion rings on everything, McDonald's dicks around with chicken wings that nobody wants, and Wendy's greatest contribution to the fast food world seems to be figuring out how to make round hamburger patties into squares, it's refreshing to see one of the giants of the industry continue to try new ideas.
See also: This Week in Self-Loathing archives