OHHH TACO BELL YOU’VE DONE IT AGAIN! bouncing straight off the wild popularity of your wildly mediocre doritos locos tacos, you’ve done a complete 180 and gone for the jugular of gourmet food. it works perfectly, because whenever i think “taco bell”, i immediately think “gourmet violent explosive diarrhea”. let’s see if they can expand that special flavor of gourmet directly into their food!
this is the cantina bell menu. no, not the ill-fated “cantina tacos” that attempted to recreate mexican street tacos from 2010… no, this is a different ill-fated product. they just recycled the name. the NEW menu consists of a burrito, a salad, and some guacamole.
all this stuff was designed by lorena garcia, who has her own website, which is often a good indicator of how high quality a chef is. but let’s not be fooled; these recipes could have been written by the iron chef himself, and it still has to be reproduced in taco bell restaurants. by taco bell employees. so don’t imagine lorena is sitting back there in every taco bell, churning out burrito after burrito for you, prepared with free range organic chicken humanely slaughtered in-house. it’s still fast food.
i went with the chicken cantina burrito, which is the same price as the vegetarian version (prompting me to ask the well-thought-out question, why would anyone go with the vegetarian option??). the steak is like a hundred dollars or so more. i ordered chips and guacamole on the side, along with various other “traditional” taco bell items to ensure my collapse from gastrointestinal distress later on. the burrito looks similar to their grilled stuft variety, appearing to be both grilled and stuft. it is the inside that is different.
the burrito comes with chicken, cilantro rice, black beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, corn and pepper salsa, and a cilantro dressing. there is also romaine lettuce, which just seems odd to find in a taco bell burrito (IT LOOKS LIKE REAL LETTUCE). as you can see, something is oozing out from inside the thing, but it was unclear as to whether this is guacamole or dressing.
most of the ingredients seemed to be largely overshadowed by the rice and black beans, which is unfortunate. i have basically grown to hate black beans for some reason unknown to myself, and the rice was fine but had little cilantro flavor, and is kind of just filler in my opinion. occasionally you would get a burst of something that would taste “fresh” (piece of corn, pico de gallo, or the guac), and the dressing played into the overall flavor, but it was mostly just black bean. i was excited to try this new “citrus herb marinated chicken” that lorena keeps telling me about, but was devastated to find that my burrito, as far as i could tell, lacked it entirely. I DEMAND MY $0.00 BACK!
luckily for me, i had also purchased a chicken quesadilla, which made use of the same chicken. i don’t know if they are completely replacing their chicken with this new version, or if our branch just didn’t follow directions, but it reminds me of when the same thing happened with the quad steak burrito. and that didn’t last.
anyway, the chicken kind of weirds me out. it is noticeably more chickeny, both in flavor and texture. it actually tasted like real chicken, which is not something i’m used to at taco bell, and it behaved as though it were pulled from a larger piece of meat rather than whole chickens ground up live, mixed with newspaper, and formed into chicken-type chunks, as i imagine taco bell’s ordinary chicken is. there is a hint of citrus to it, which is nice.
the real winner here is the guacamole. whatever they did to it, it is actually quite good. they use hass avocados, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and “a little kick of lime”. the flavor is pretty solid, dominated almost entirely by the avocado, with just hints of onion lime and cilantro. the texture, on the other hand, is kinda… eh. it’s a bit slimy. i don’t know how they do the guacamole, whether they actually make it there or it comes in a bag (it comes in a bag), but its slimy nature is likely to be a result of bagging convenience. and i’m sure there are crazy preservatives in there. but, again, the flavor is solid.
my final ruling on the cantina bell menu: skip it. what’s the point? you’re getting a half-assed attempt at gourmet, which, honestly, is not something you are going to a fast food restaurant for in the first place. and you are certainly not going to get it there, even if you want it. the burrito was about five bucks, which you could be spending anywhere else; if you want gourmet, put your fiver towards something at a real restaurant. i wasn’t disgusted by any of this food, and the guacamole is not bad, but i enjoyed my chicken quesadilla and mexican pizza far more than the cantina burrito and chips. and that’s because when i go to taco bell, i want to eat taco bell.