have been on quite the health kick lately. No, really. Down to eating salads for lunch. The frozen pizza aisle at the grocery store was not targeted by health terrorists who detonated a lard bomb leaving me with no other choice but to munch on some leaves. I’ve been actively seeking salad. Granted, my favorite kind so far is topped with “crispy noodles” and drenched in peanut sauce but still, in my mind, I’m a regular Jack LaLanne.
Or at least, I was.
Cut to a couple of days back when staff writer Justin Horwath approached me with a look that reflected both shock and curiosity and said, “Did you hear? Taco Bell has a new breakfast menu.” Yes, I’d heard. I had also put blinders on every time I drove by either of their Santa Fe locations. It was akin to telling someone in recovery “Have you checked out the new bar in town? Their Happy Hour is killer.”
Alas, the flesh is weak and the waistline in my Deadline Monday sweatpants loose, so what the hell. We resolved to meet outside the one in the 1200 block of Cerrillos Road the following morning for a comprehensive taste test.
For impartiality’s sake SFR’s official taster, Joey Peters, was also invited.
I took in the sights as I waited for the Minnesota Twins. There were signs with messages like: “Finally a reason to wake up for breakfast,” and “You’re not dreaming” emblazoned on the establishment’s windows.
Horwath showed up sans Peters, so I rang the latter up. “Man,” he says, his voice still groggy with a pre-10-am haze. “I’ve had it and it’s terrible.”
Unflinchingly, we walked in and ordered like regular Rockefellers. “Two of these, one of each of that, extra everything!”
I drew the line at ordering the “Cinnabon delights”—a 12-pack of “warm, golden bite-sized pastries filled with Cinnabon® frosting and covered with Makara® cinnamon sugar.”
“It’s like a testicle, essentially, with cream in it,” Horwath noted.
Eric, the young man behind the cash register tells us the nadir of everything that’s wrong with America, the waffle taco ($1.99), is his favorite. “It’s great with syrup,” the hype man said.
We order the bacon and sausage versions of it, as well as a bounty of “AM Crunch Wraps,” ($2.49-$2.99) a concoction called the “AM Grilled Taco” ($1) and a couple of orange juices ($1.49) to wash it down.
Eagerly, we take our bounty to SFR’s conference room. Like a hound, Peters sniffed out the buffet and joined us. Art director Anson Stevens-Bollen also joined the festivities and began to chow down.
The group is asked the first word that comes to mind after taking an initial bite.
“It’s a lot like McDonald’s but without the bun,” Stevens-Bollen says. “Breakfasty,” Peters interjects. “I can’t believe I’m sick and I’m about to put this in my mouth,” Horwath adds.
I told you, expert opinions.
Word got out fast of our little experiment and soon sales reps and Doris, our administrative assistant, joined the feast. “Oh my God, that’s not bad,” account executive Anna Maggiore said, biting into a steak crunch wrap. Peters agreed. “This is definitely the best item,” he said of the sausage variation of the wrap—a flattened flour tortilla pouch stuffed with a sausage patty, scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, creamy jalapeño sauce and a hash brown.
The waffle taco was nothing to write home about. It was smooshed, sloppy and more like the “before” image of a makeover photo shoot (compare inserted image to the one up top to see what I mean.) Moreover, the promised delicious syrup—which could have perhaps saved the dish—was not included in our order (neither was the “AM Taco” and our juices for that matter).
The term “Taco Bell Roulette,” (wherein à la Forrest Gump you never know what you’re gonna get after you order) was coined.
Still, we rejoiced in what we got. Across the board, bacon variations were our bronze medal holders. The “bacon” at the Bell is more like bacon bits from a middle-of-the-road salad bar than what Mom used to make on the griddle.
“I don’t think the bacon is bacon…it’s something else,” Horwath expertly noticed.
The final verdict? Ditch the waffle taco, always double-check your order and stick with the standout crunch wraps—they bring people together. Sayonara, salad!