Monday, January 14, 2013

Taco Bell’s New Loaded Grillers Review!

Ever wondered what it would be like to eat a Hot Pocket stuffed with tater tots and sour cream? Apparently, Taco Bell got your memo…

One of the great, unreported tragedies of 2012 was Taco Bell’s ill-advised decision to discontinue the half pound cheesy bean and rice burrito. For broke-ass college kids across America, that value-priced offering was the equivalent of a 1-up mushroom from “Super Mario” - you could be on the verge of death, and with about two bucks in change, you could be rescued from the clutches of starvation via a flour tortilla and at least six or seven ounces of melted cheddar. It saved my half-famished derrière on numerous occasions, and with it officially axed from the line-up, I was almost ready to begin a nationwide boycott.

I never, ever send in consumer complaints, but by golly, as soon as I found out that the half pound cheesy bean and rice burrito was no mas, I sure as heck did. And apparently, so did every other American in the 18-34 age range, because Taco Bell was super-quick to trot out a new line-up of value-priced, oversized burritos, called “Loaded Grillers.”

The more I think about it, the more I think that these “Loaded Grillers” are the most criminally insane (but genius) ideas ever trotted out by a fast food organization. The basic concept of the items is relatively simple: “Hey, you know how people go to places like T.G.I. Friday’s and Applebee’s, and order appetizers like mini chicken wings and potato wedges?” I imagine the madman/visionary that dreamed up these new burritos pitching to the main menu guy at Bell HQ. “Well,” he must’ve continued, “how about we take all of that shit and dump it into a tortilla, and hawk it for 0.99 cents a piece?”

It’s an idea that’s one part incredibly gross, and one part undeniably appealing. It’s cheap, it’s greasy, it’s oversized, and it you just KNOW it’s going to be filling. It’s such a brazenly stupid idea that it kinda’ turns the corner halfway and starts looking like the marketing strategy of the century - in other words, it appears as if we’ve found ourselves the spiritual successors to our beloved half pound cheesy bean and rice burritos, all right.

To begin with, there are actually three -- count ‘em, THREE -- value-priced burritos being offered here, all of which are modeled after your standard appetizer staples, like chicken wings, tater tots and nachos. And yes, I know that making a nacho-flavored burrito is a little redundant, but if you’re complaining about a chunky, cheese and sauce stuffed burrito for less than a dollar, than you sir, must be a communist.

The price point is absolutely inarguable. For about $7.92, you can pick up eight burritos - you know, the kind of deal that almost makes you think you’re kicking it, 1992 style. Not only is it the products’ strongest selling point, it’s pretty much the products’ ONLY selling point. The tagline for these things might as well be “because they’re cheap and they won’t kill you,” and they would still sell like hotcakes.

Now, I want you to pay REAL CLOSE attention to his menu placard. As you can see, the “Loaded Grillers” are supposed to look like you’re standard burritos - that is, a piece of tortilla with stuff of fluctuating color, texture and smell flowing out of it. Needless to say, the final product I ended up with looked…well, let’s just say, a wee bit different than what I was advertised.

Even though these new items are loaded with more animal byproducts than Revlon’s lipstick factory, I simply HAD to give these things a taste-test, anyway. You just know these things will never become a permanent menu item, and truthfully, it’s probably only a matter of time before the FDA cracks down on the Bell for releasing such a gloriously unhealthy product. No shit: when I ordered my burritos, the cashier kept asking me if I really wanted to go through with it. When the check out boy is trying veto your lunchtime decision, you simply KNOW peculiar things are afoot at America’s favorite synthetic Tex-Mex eatery.

Although the contents of the burritos are all fairly different, I think it’s important to note that, as far as externalities go, these things are practically identical. You get a flour-wrap tortilla that’s mildly blackened, to insinuate actually grilling - but come on, this is Taco Bell we’re talking about here. We know better.

So, uh, yeah, the burritos don’t look too much like the items you see on the window cling-ons. I guess the most obvious deviations is that the burritos are of the “closed flap” variety, so no cornucopia of sour cream will ooze out of your meal when unwrap them. I’ve got to say, though, the folks at the local Bell did a bang-up job on sealing these things shut; I’d surmise that prying open King Tut’s sarcophagus with a crowbar would require less effort than completely de-shelling a “Loaded Griller.”

For those of you in need of up-close burrito biopsy images, well, here you go, people. The “Loaded Potato” burrito was far and away my favorite of the bunch, an absolutely scrumptious smorgasbord of nacho cheese, sour cream, tater tots and bacon bits. It sounds gross - and it kinda’ is - but it’s the “homiest” kind of gross you can think of. It’s so simple yet flavorful, and it has a nice, lingering taste that definitely makes it stand out from the 800 quesadilla variations you’ll find on the Taco Bell menu. It’s fantastic, and you need to try one.

The “Spicy Chicken” burrito, however, was a little less thrilling. True to the nomenclature, it was indeed rather spicy, and the goulash of cheese and buffalo sauce - this smoky blend that was sort of like chipotle sauce, only a little less zesty - was quite tasty. The problem is, the chicken tastes like plastic, and it has this weird, way-too-moisturized texture that makes it feel like the meat has been marinating in lukewarm water for a couple of hours. And let’s not even talk about those pathetic little black bean chunks. I mean, seriously, that’s what passes for bean chunks nowadays?

The “Beefy Nacho” burrito was unquestionably my least favorite of the trio. I haven’t tasted Taco Bell beef in well over half a decade, and good lord, was I shocked - SHOCKED, I SAY - by how gross the stuff tasted. I sorta’ take back calling the Taco Bell chicken “plastic” tasting, because I’m at least partially convinced that the Taco Bell beef isn’t made out of normal, god-made animals. If you ask me, chowing down on one of these things is like gulping down a handful of Silica beads, only doused in chili seasoning and cheese sauce. If you’re wondering what those little red things are, they’re supposed to be tortilla strips - and if you’re not mildly concerned by how much the inside of one of these things resembles a diarrheic explosion, heaven help you, son.

So, what to say about the “Loaded Grillers?” Well, one out of three ain’t bad, but all in all, wouldn’t it be much, much better if the Bell was to eliminate the chicken and beef ones and replace both products with a returning half pound cheesy bean and rice burrito? I mean, the savings in inventory costs alone would be worth it, and the revenue brought in from making the potato burrito a full time offering would only sweeten the pot. Your mileage will certainly vary here, but compared to some of the Bell’s previous menu stunts - snack food flavored tacos and wannabe Chipotle’s, anyone? - it’s hard for me to be anything but disappointed in this latest annexation to the Taco Bell lineup.


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