Tampa Bay Food Monster

...eating food since 1985.

Taco Bell’s Cantina Bell Burrito

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.

cantina burrito

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.

cantina burrito innards

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!

citrus herb marinated chicken

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.

cantina guacamole

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.

USF Taco Bus

the taco bus thinks he’s so cool, doesn’t he? well, he’s not. he is a SELL OUT! i mean come on, a little taste of national recognition, and it all goes to his head. now, there are FOUR LOCATIONS, the most recent of which cannibalized its own sister store, taqueria monterrey. now everybody can enjoy delicious tacos, prepared the same way in four different places across tampa. and what does that say about me??! the place is popular!! that means it’s no longer cool to go there. THIS IS THE HIPSTER CODE.

god dammit.

extra parking

so, of course i went to stop by the new store for lunch the other day. it only opened the other week, so i felt the need to check it out and see if it was up to par. now, let me be clear, the original taco bus is pretty much my favorite restaurant. ever. when i am asked, that is my answer. so there’s a lot of love. but i also really enjoyed taqueria monterrey! they had special items unique to their menu. not that there were huge differences between it and the taco bus, but they were clearly separate restaurants. they even had their own salsa bar, which was really great. but now?

the bus

nope. the salsa bar was replaced by some bald guy. and now there’s a fake bus stuck in the wall, looking like something out of an elementary school play. the place was packed, and they had a dude taking our orders while we waited in line, which was nice. but it was then revealed to me that their menu no longer featured their unique items, including the al pastor, and the chuza taco. those meats were the reason i’d choose the go to taqueria monterrey over taco bus (when i did). and now they’re gone. gone. forever! nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo-


-oooooooooooooooooo. the seating area is similar to before, but slightly different. the little dining area has a couple long benches, and a bunch of booths. the entry area now features very few tables, which is unfortunate, as that was the very location at which we were able to first establish the “giant square”, a combination of four smaller square tables suitable for seating up to twelve people comfortably. ah memories.

i ordered what basically amounted to my usual, two tacos and a tostada, with assorted meats. my friend ordered some other meat styles, so you’re in for a visual tour-de-force of animal remains. also, i picked up an horchata, which i really enjoy, but was disappointed to find that the new taco bus’ offering was a watered down version of what i’d come to know and love, from either the taqueria or original taco bus. no telling on whether it was a result of being busy and having to stretch their reserves, or if this is how they’re serving it now, but it was noticeably less good.


my tacos were this time prepared with barbacoa and carne de res desebrada, and i added cheese to them. the meat served here is precisely as delicious as the meat at the original taco bus, so no complaints there. it is the same food, and it is great.


barbacoa… beautiful braised beefs.

carne de res desebrada

this is the carne de res desebrada, which i have never had before. it is a mexican shredded beef, which is prepared with chiles. it’s very good, though not really spicy at all.


the tostada uses a crunchy tortilla, and has refried beans on it. it is delicious, but i always look like an asshole when i eat it because i attack it like a pizza and end up with all the ingredients in my beard instead of in my belly. i am truly a wonder to behold.

cochinita pibil

i got the cochinita pibil on the tostada, which is the taco bus’ famous ancient shredded pork, prepared through a series of voodoo rituals. always good. but it’s not al pastor.

and my friend enjoyed the following meats:

carne asada
carne asada


so the new taco bus. it’s the same as the old taco bus. and they raped the corpse of taqueria monterrey, and by extension raped me. rape for everyone! i will be going back to the new bus, of course, but i do prefer the old one. and damn them if their horchatas remain the same watery ghost of a proper horchata that i experienced on this visit. DAMN THEM STRAIGHT TO TACO HELL!

Taco Bus USF on Urbanspoon

Dunkin’ Donuts Men in Black Promotional Goodies: Black Cocoa Creme Iced Coffee, Undercover Black Cocoa Donut, and Chocolate Lunarmax Donut

now daddy this is a very sensitive subject…

i recommend playing that through your entire reading of this review. it will allow you a higher appreciation of the products listed below, as well as life itself.

i was given a cordial invitation to sample various goods released by dr. dunkin’ d. donuts himself, william d. “dunkin’ d. donuts” smith. in fact, i think he invented them himself. is there anything that sexy man can’t do? i think not. no.

so, in support of his brand new movie, men in black 3: secret of the ooze, will smith unleashed upon us a brand new rap song, in the form of doughnuts and coffee (the best kind of rap song). if you’ll recall, the first movie made repeated reference to dunkin’ donuts, as the favored doughnut and coffee purveyor of the so-called “coffee aliens”, known by their technical name, graboids.

the second movie put dunkin’ donuts in a more central role to the plot, when it was revealed that the universe was doughnut shaped, and, in one of cinema’s most powerful moments, will smith’s character “jay” was forced to eat thousands of delicious dunkin’ brand bavarian cream doughnuts, resulting in his death. needless to say, the third movie’s plan to bring jay back as an actual doughnut is one of the great masterstrokes in cinematic history.

involving dunkin’ was a no brainer. and here is exactly what smith has crafted for us in honor of this momentous occasion:


what the hell is this thing?? some sort of space-nut? IT IS SHAPED LIKE A STAR HOW DID THEY MAKE IT SHAPED LIKE A STAR??! clearly, alien technology was involved. actually, it’s just a regular yeasty doughnut, the “undercover black cocoa donut”. yes, it’s shaped like a star, and it’s stuffed with a “brownie batter butter crème”. yeahhhhh. it’s pretty damn good, the brownie batter center does indeed taste much as advertised, a rich, deep, dark fudgey chocolate, almost gritty like a batter. it is to doughnuts what cookie dough ice cream is to ice cream.


next up is the chocolate lunarmax donut. anything with the “word” lunarmax in it has to be good. right? right. lunarmax, meaning lunar (lunar) and maximum (max), is in reference to the part of men in black 3 where piccolo destroys the moon, releasing its “maximum energy”. agent j is pissed off, then eats a doughnut. the doughnut is of the chocolate cake variety, glazed, and features MOON ICING (chocolate icing) and STAR SHAPED SPRINKLES. honestly, it’s a pretty normal doughnut. you could purchase similar items before the movie, you will be able to after the movie. but the kids love those sprinkles!

chco cream cookie coffee

last but not least, we come to the coffee. the black cocoa creme iced coffee is a chocolatey delight of an iced coffee, featuring COOKIES AND CREAM. oh. oh yes. i order it with sugar and cream, because there’s no such thing as too much deliciousness. this coffee is the greatest drink the universe ever crapped out. (which just so happens to be the related movie storyline.) honestly, this thing is amazing. sitting at the bottom of the cup are the crushed remains of cookie and cream cookies (oreos???), which sweeten the deal, and the coffee has a strong chocolate flavor. i seriously loved this thing, and have since gotten it at least five times (and i’m very likely going to pick another one up today).

this is one of the food monster’s patented limited time must eats, despite it not being a food that one would eat. the only set back here is that the quality of the drink depends on the location from which you purchased it. some are higher quality than others, so BEWARE! oh, and it’s like two bucks or something insane, AND IT’S HUGE, so compared to starbucks it’s a friggin’ steal.

in addition to the doughnuts and coffee, we were treated to some very nice conversation, and a few other items:

steak burrito
southwest steak burrito
sweet pot burro
southwest veggie burrito

will smith is best known for his love of southwestern cuisine, and staying true to that, dunkin’ donuts has released two southwest-styled breakfast burritos. the steak option features eggs, “fire-roasted” vegetables (peppers), potatoes and cheese, along with, of course, steak. the steak was decent, eggs fine. the veggie burrito contains sweet potatoes(!!), corn and black beans, and eggs and cheese. this was more interesting to me, specifically the sweet potatoes, which were just slightly sweet but could have had a greater presence. i am not a fan of the corn/black bean combo invading any aspect of my life, however, so the burrito didn’t really do much for me. both were pretty standard fast food chain breakfast fare, but of course they are overshadowed by the fact that doughnuts are already breakfast food! and lunch food. and dinner too. snacks. dessert. whatever. they do it all.

not pictured is baskin robbins’ lunar lander sundae, made from real life lunar cheesecake ice cream, which apparently was introduced in 1969 in celebration of the moon landings! that’s actually pretty awesome. the ice cream is lime flavored, with cheesecake chunks and marshmallow inside. then they throw some caramel sauce and graham crackers on there. it sounds gross, but actually tastes pretty good!

there was also delicious sweet tea, which is a southern regional thing among the dunkin’ donuts stores. they said the measure the sugar out in pounds when brewing the tea, which i can totally appreciate.

weekly world news MiB

they also gave us all little baggies, a copy of the weekly world news, and gift cards too. basically, they loved us. THEY LOVED US. and i love them. i am hopelessly addicted to their coffee, and they have doughnuts. what’s not to love?? so, if you’ll excuse me, i’m off to pick up some space-man cookie coffee and to dream about the greatest film release to grace theaters since the last men in black film.


Taco Bell’s XXL Grilled Stuft Burrito

oh ho! another exciting new concept from my fast food favorite/most deadly addiction, taco bell. god how i hate you, taco bell. i loathe thee. yet still… i need you. i need you inside me.

xxl grilled stuft steak burrito

SO this time around, taco bell has turned their ordinary grilled stuft burrito, deemed “too damned tiny” by hungry millions, into a gigantic monstrosity the size of your forearm. but, unlike the relative failure that was the XXL chalupa, instead of basically just making the burrito bigger (note: the burrito is a bit larger, but not so much that the original would seem dwarfed by comparison), they decided to throw everything they had in there. and i mean everything. this is the burrito every stoned taco bell employee has been quietly making for themselves all along.

inside this beast is rice, refried beans, sour cream, fiesta salsa, avocado ranch sauce, guacamole, a blend of three cheeses, and steak, beef, or chicken depending on your tastes. i went with the steak variety. now, i love taco bell, but i usually get the same things every time i go, so maybe i’m wrong about this, but nothing there has guacamole on it! i mean, none of the items that i can think of. have they always had this lying around? and if so, in their many stretches to make new items from pre-existing ingredients, why does guacamole never pop up? they need to take advantage of it, because it is always a welcome addition.

so anyway, the result of throwing all these toppings onto one burrito is greatness. it’s the burrito i would make myself, had i the talent or motor skills to do so. the flavors all blend into each other, amounting to a unique flavor that flexes all its muscles. and there is a nice balance struck between all parts, so that you’re not just eating a rice burrito, but a really cohesive meal all at once. no one part stands out, except maybe the meat (which is what you’d want). i’ve had it twice now, and the only ill i can speak of it is that if you leave it sitting out for too long, it mysteriously begins to smell like a hot dog. which really is kind of magical. oh and it’s a bit pricey. it’s around/over five bucks. which is stupid to me. at least it’s got more going on than the quad steak burrito, after which i vowed to never spend more than five bucks on a taco bell burrito. well, here we are.

all in all, good tasting burrito, and i will probably get it again against my better judgement. but if you are in range of any real mexican restaurant, your money will likely be best spent there.

Indian Flatbread and Sadie’s of New Mexico

okay, look – i’ve been BUSY, alright?? get off my goddamn back about it!! we all have lives, okay, and sometimes that real shit gets in the way all the other bullshit we just loooove to do. get it? GET IT?!?!

oh god, okay, don’t… don’t cry. come on. buck up. i didn’t mean to yell. i just… i got a lot on my plate right now. but i care, baby! i care about you. you know i love you. come here. lemme nibble on your ear. no? okay okay! i’ll… can i just hold you? let me hold you. it’ll be okay. we’ll be okay. you know what? i’ll give you a little update. just… a little taste of what i’ve been up to. don’t expect much.

recently, my adventures took me out to the great state of new mexico, with air so dry it makes florida feel like the sweaty armpit that it is. it’s a beautiful area, with beautiful landscapes and scenery. and of course, i had some excellent food during my stay. my “tour guide”, sleep, suggested we pick up some indian flat bread, something he’s loved since his childhood.

indian flat bread hut

set in a ridiculously beautiful, scenic locale, along a long road, lies a small hut selling freshly prepared indian flatbread. delicious, pillowy fried bread, steeped in tradition and history.

indian flat bread

it comes out plain, but powdered sugar or honey can be added if you so desire. it’s really good as is, though. i advise you not to go overboard on the sweets. they also offer a “taco” variant, featuring a whole bunch of toppings (beef, beans, lettuce, tomato, etc) on the bread itself. i do not recommend this. the beef is greasy, and the bread becomes soaked and drippy. it’s a real mess to eat, and you lose the flavor of the bread behind mediocre toppings.

we also went to a mexican restaurant called sadie’s. it’s a wonderful place, with a friendly staff, and delicious mexican food. if you’re ever in or near albuquerque, do yourself a favor and check it out.


this site
sadie's holds a proud history.

sadies interior

sadies salsa

sadie’s makes their own salsa, which is delicious. perfect amount of spice to it. enough to get your nose running. easy to blow through it all very quickly.

sadies combo plate

my meal was a delicious combo plate, featuring a taco, an enchilada, and a chile relleno. all excellent.

big honkin burrito

sleep got the most amazing burrito i’ve ever seen. if i’m feeling lonely at night, i look at this picture.

so yeah, been BUSY. going on trips. working jobs. doin’ shit. i was even in the paper. so relax, baby. we’ll get through this together. you know i love you. now lemme nibble on your goddamned ear.

Sadie's on Urbanspoon