Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Even NEWER Loaded Grillers from Taco Bell...REVIEWED!

Chipotle Ranch Chicken and Chili Cheese Fries variations join the much-beloved Taco Bell Loaded Grillers family, but are they flavorful enough to reap the same accolades bestowed upon their precursors? 

There's this old saying that goes "if something isn't broke, don't fix it." Well, with the Loaded Grillers, Taco Bell has a promotional item that is next to impossible to mess up, yet something that can be endlessly retooled. Such a simple, yet genius premise, really: you take a burrito tortilla, throw in some really unusual batter patterned after T.G.I. Friday's appetizer stalwarts, and voila: profits are virtually guaranteed.

I was a huge fan of the initial Loaded Grillers line-up, but in some ways, I think I was an even bigger fan of the one dollar price point. To be fair, the "loaded potato" griller has been a staple of my diet since its release, and while the product is indisputably yummy, methinks a large part of my attraction to said foodstuff can be attributed to its overall cheapness. After hiking up the price point of the menu items across the board last year (the chain's much-ballyhooed "Happier Hour" program was less than well-received by the masses, it should go without saying), the entire griller family has once again been re-priced at $1 USD. It's certainly a nice surprise from the Almighty Bell, but it's not the only unexpected bit of awesomeness I encountered during my last grillers run...

Do my eyes deceive me, or are there are a whole bunch of new fountain drink options at the eatery? Mango iced tea, pomegranate-flavored H20, a DIET iteration of the much-beloved Mountain Dew Baja Blast, PLUS an all new Sangarita-flavored MD iteration? Holy cow, what a way to kick off the new year!

While menu line-up changes are the norm in the fast food industry, very, VERY rarely does one see a major, national franchise like TB introduce so many new tap offerings at one time. Needless to say, with such a wide array of beverages and soft drinks -- including some proprietary ones -- being served, I may indeed find myself slinking into the local Bell even more than I normally do. Which, by the way, is still a lot.

And what of the new grillers themselves? Well, let's start off by examining the Chipotle Ranch Chicken permutation, no?

The product itself, not surprisingly, is quite oily. As soon as I opened my wrapper, a thick wad of orange goop emerged from the paper, resulting in a big, fat glob of half chipotle sauce/half ranch dressing goo splattering on my counter-top. Clearly, for those of you with a disdain for sloppy foods, you might want to pack an additional fork and quite a few extra napkins before you go to town on this one.

As far as the product taste, it was pretty good. Being a somewhat sincere pescatarian and all, I had to pull the chicken chunks out of the wrapper, which means that I more or less found myself ingesting a burrito loaded with nothing but assorted sauces. Surprisingly, it wasn't that gross, and I figure you could actually make for quite the enjoyable vegetarian-friendly product if you replaced the chicken with some black beans and shredded cheese. Overall, it had a fairly solid, top-tier "Hot Pockets" taste to it, which, as we all know by now, isn't a bad place to be in today's fast food world.

The chili-cheese fries variation was, thankfully, a lot less messy than its Chipotle Ranch Chicken kin. Of course, one's long-dormant OCD complexes will suddenly spring back to life as soon as you unpeel the burrito, though.

What you see is what you get, I suppose. Indeed, there were some crispy French fry chunks in the mixture, along with some slightly sub-par tasting chili. Strangely, despite having all the proper ingredients at their disposal, the Bell never really has been able to concoct a top-notch chili recipe, and sadly, their disappointing streak continues with this release. I guess the sauce was OK, but as a whole, this one just wasn't all that palatable for me. Hey, maybe Taco Bell just isn't cut out to be offering fries in any fashion, no?

Ultimately, I think I preferred the first wave of Loaded Grillers goods to this one, but that's not to say there isn't some potential with the two new menu items. Obviously, the Chipotle Chicken Ranch offering is probably the better overall product, but if you're eyeing something different for lunch, you could likely do worse than the chili cheese fries-stuffed grillers, as well. I suppose your mileage may vary depending on whether or not you're an omnivore, so I'll just recast all of that under this blanket statement: odds are, if you liked the first three grillers, you probably won't hate the two newest additions to the line-up.

So what else is there to say about the Loaded Grillers? They have an unique taste, they're quite filling, and they only cost one dollar a piece. Whether you're a frugal fast food connoisseur looking to stretch your wallet until the elastic snaps off or you're just an adventurous foodie with a gastrointestinal tract made of steel, you'll probably want to give the menu items a try at least once.

I mean, heck, it's only a dollar we're talking about here, right?


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