It's no secret that Taco Bell is the industry leader when it comes to fast food innovation. The chain's Doritos Locos line, a natural coupling (and teenager's fever dream) that finally paired "Doritos" and "tacos" in eternal matrimony, has been an unqualified hit for the chain, generating over a billion dollars in sales and creating over 15,000 sour cream gun-wielding jobs nationwide. The chain followed the success of the Doritos Locos line with an innovative new breakfast selection that has earned Taco Bell favorable reviews and sent other fast food franchises scrambling to keep up.
But the restaurant's recent horrifying misstep may be enough to shake customers' newfound faith in the franchise to its very foundation.
Name: Spicy Chicken Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos
The Pitch: "A Taco Supreme® made with our Marinated all-white-meat shredded chicken, new Fiery sauce, crisp lettuce, diced juicy red ripe tomatoes, real cheddar cheese and topped with cool reduced-fat sour cream, in a shell made from Cool Ranch® Doritos® Chips."
At first, it's difficult to tell exactly what went so terribly wrong. Presumably, the burrito artists at the Taco Bell Test Kitchen got wind that customers were swapping in "wet chicken" for the "totally 80% beef slurry" mixture that comes by default in the Doritos Locos Tacos. Combine the chain's proclivity for rearranging existing ingredients into new forms, and the known popularity of the combination of "chicken" and "ranch" flavors, and a Spicy Chicken Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco seems like a no-brainer.
Add a variant on the chain's discontinued (but cult favorite) "lava" sauce, a complicated name that amounts to little more than a mouthful of completely meaningless corporate syllables, and another success was all but guaranteed.
Here's the problem:
This is not a doctored specimen. This taco wasn't intentionally destroyed or otherwise molested in any way. Instead, this is an accurate representation of every Spicy Chicken Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco we've ever ordered, moments after taking it out of the bag and freeing it from its blue cardboard sleeve.
Your eyes aren't deceiving you, and this isn't a one-off. Instead, it's a fundamental engineering misstep that could potentially knock the Taco Bell scientists out of their tortilla towers of higher math and obscure Aztec religious literature, possibly forever.
What's the issue? What could have brought our society to this terrible fate, what could shake our faith in an institution of higher food technology like Taco Bell? These ingredients are all too fucking wet.
It makes sense, really, when you take the design of the Spicy Chicken Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos out of the pages of speculative science, and bring it into the real world. When you fill a dry, crunchy, fragile (albeit Dorito-flavored) pressed corn shell full of sopping wet shredded chicken, whatever it is that composes "fiery" sauce, and reduced-fat sour cream, there are bound - nay, guaranteed - to be some serious issues with structural integrity. The resulting taco is a sloppy mess that can't even survive its trip through the drive-thru window.
It's a shame, really. The flavors are all there. The combinations are as delightful as you would expect. But wet, sloppy, broken tacos that need to be scooped off of your lap with the piece of cardboard they came in simply do not make for a quick lunch option.
If you have an hour to spare and nowhere to go, by all means, eat an entire box of these off of the roof of your car, the spicy chicken juice running down your chin onto your tracksuit in fiery red rivulets. If, however, you have any kind of life to lead, have anywhere at all that you have to be, we suggest sticking with Taco Bell's other, saner options.
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Malcolm Bedell blogs about cooking and food weirdness at From Away and Spork & Barrel, and is the co-author of Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.